Revisiting Philippine history

WE ARE NOW tackling historical, colonial, and nationalist experiences of Southeast Asia and naturally one has to revisit history through the eyes of scholars.

I learned quite a lot from the books Southeast Asia Past and Present by D. R. SarDesai and The Making of Southeast Asia International Relations of a Region by Amitav Acharya.

According to SarDesai, “Filipinos carry the distinction of being the first people in Asia to successfully launch an anticolonial nationalist movement for independence.”

That’s truly a first! I can’t help but be proud of my heritage. We really have it in our blood – the blood of warriors. SarDesai explained that the first three centuries of Spanish rule brought at least thirty revolts, major and minor.

These were marked by opposition to colonial injustice, racial discrimination in appointment to clerical positions, and agrarian exploitation by the friars. These included the revolts in Bohol in 1744 (Now, I am even more proud being a Boholana myself!), in Pangasinan, and the Ilokos in the 1760s. While it is true that we were under colonial Spain, we resisted being discriminated against; maltreated; and exploited.

Let me regale you a bit about the Bohol revolt. According to, the life of Francisco Dagohoy is a timeless Philippine treasure. A native of Bohol, whose real name is Francisco Sendrijas, he holds the distinction of having led the longest revolt in Philippine history.

Boholano historian Dr. Jes B. Tirol narrates that on July 4, 1744, Dagohoy, then a Cabeza de Barangay in the hinterland barrio of Inabanga, Bohol, successfully started an 85-year-long revolution in the province against Spain.

SarDesai added that the Bohol revolt started as a protest against the refusal of a friar to grant a church burial to Francisco Dagohoy’s brother – a Filipino constable who died before receiving the sacraments. Dagohoy thereupon led an anti-friar movement. His following numbered thousands, keeping the colonial government troops engaged for decades. The revolt ended on Aug. 31, 1829.

Rizal Lights the Torch of Freedom

SarDesai explained that neither Jose P. Rizal nor his Filipino fellow students were advocates of revolution; their aim was reform. This was illustrated when Rizal published Noli Me Tangere in 1887. In the novel, he attacked the “friarocracy” and the defective education they imparted because it recognized in the Filipinos only the “imitative and atrophied virtues of the lower animals”.

Meanwhile, the Katipunan led by Andres Bonifacio urged the end of Spanish rule through violent means. When the Katipunan began an armed revolt in August 1896, Rizal was accused of sedition, tried, and sentenced to be executed on Dec. 30, 1896. The event shocked the nation.

Rizal’s patriotic poem “Mi Ultimo Adiós”, continued to inspire and move Filipinos. The patriot succeeded in creating a national consciousness among the people.

US Intervention

The US terminated Filipino independence. However, the Filipino Resistance continued. Politically, Filipinos advanced more rapidly than most other colonies of any other Western power, the scholar added. 

Constitutional Liberalization

Victory of the Democratic Party in the 1912 U.S. presidential elections facilitated the Filipinization process. President Wilson chose Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison (1913-21) to implement the new liberal policy. Harrison was partly instrumental for the passing of the Jones Act in 1916. It became the cornerstone of Philippine constitutional development. (SarDesai, 2010, p. 146)

Moving forward, the 1930 election of a Democratic Congress and of a Democratic president in 1932 made the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act in March 1934 easy. The Act created the Commonwealth of the Philippines and provided for the grant of complete independence in 1946. It also authorized the Philippine legislature to call a convention to draft a constitution. (SarDesai, 2010, p. 147)

Japan and the Philippines

Within a few days of the Pearl Harbour attack on Dec. 7, 1941, Japan swiftly attacked the Philippines. President Manuel Quezon fled the country and set up a government in exile in Washington. Philippine guerrillas resisted the Japanese in many areas, particularly in northern Luzon and all of Mindanao, for the next three years.

In October 1944, Philippine liberation began with MacArthur’s forces retaking Leyte. However, even before the war ended, the Philippine Commonwealth government had been re-established not under Quezon though, who had died two months before the Leyte liberation, but under Vice President Sergio Osmeña. Full independence was granted on July 4, 1946, making the country the first colony in Asia to be freed of Western rule. (SarDesai, 2010, p. 148)



There’s a municipality in Bohol named Dagohoy, in honor of Bohol’s greatest hero, but he’s not from the place.


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