The Philippines – Then and Now

The Philippines is located in the southeastern portion of Asia. Her neighbor on the north is the Republic of China (Taiwan or Formosa), while on the west is Communist Vietnam. Further west is Thailand. Immediately to the south of the Philippines is Indonesia and to the southwest are Malaysia and Singapore.

The Philippines is separated from her nearby Asian neighbors by several bodies of water. They are the Pacific Ocean on the east, the South China Sea on the north and west, and the Celebes Sea and the coastal waters of Borneo on the south.


The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands and islets. The biggest islands are Luzon, with a land area of 40,530 square miles (105,000 square kilometers); Mindanao, 36,670 square miles (95,000 square kilometers); Palawan, 5,749.86 square miles (14, 896 square kilometers); Negros, 5,278.55 square miles (13,675 square kilometers); and Samar, 5,183.59 square miles (13,429 square kilometers). She has a rugged land mass and, similarly, she has an irregular coastline, which is twice as long as that of the continental U.S.A. This irregularity has resulted in numerous fine harbors and landlocked straights that can accommodate large ships. They can also be a refuge of ships in distress during stormy weather.

The land surface is 115,800 square miles (300,000 square kilometers). Land forms include hills, plains, valleys, and mountains. Her mountain ranges, which are volcanic in origin, are drained by small river systems. There are seven major mountain ranges. The largest and longest is Sierra Madre, which faces the Pacific Ocean on the eastern coast of Luzon. The highest peak is Mt. Apo, a volcano in Davao del Sur Province. It has an elevation of 9,691.60 feet (2,954 meters).

Three Major Islands. The three major geographical groups in the country are Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Luzon comprises the northern portion of the archipelago. The Visayan region has about 6,000 islands including Leyte, Cebu, Samar, and Bohol. Mindanao is the second largest land and encompasses about 400 small islands.

These islands are divided into provinces, which are run like states in the United States. Each province is ruled by a governor, a vice governor, and members of the provincial board. Each province is composed of cities, towns, and barrios.

Several “Pinatubos.” There are several volcanos in the Philippines. These have been one of the natural causes of destruction to life and property for centuries. At least 10 are considered active. The most famous are Iraya on Batanes Island; Taal in Batangas; Banahaw in Quezon; Mayon in Albay; and Hibok-Hibok on the Camiguin Islands; Makaturing in Lanao; Apo in Davao, and Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales.

Mt. Pinatubo has gained notoriety as being the most destructive volcano in the world. It lay dormant before it erupted in June 1991. It directly and indirectly caused damage to public and private property in the provinces of Zambales, Bataan, and Pampanga, including the Clark Air Force Base in Angeles City, Pampanga Province. Its ashes spread all over the world, causing global warming, damage to the ozone layer, and adverse effects on communications.

After six years of eruption, the lahar deposits along the volcano still cascade down the slopes after heavy rains. They continue to take lives, destroy bridges and roads, and defy billion-peso dikes built to contain lahar flows. These lahar flows are expected to last for five or more years, according to volcanologists. The Philippines lies within the Pacific seimic belt, which is why she experiences severer earthquakes.

Christian Groups. The people of the Philippines number about 73,265,584 (July 1995 estimate).

There are several ethnic groups and more than 65 so-called cultural minorities in the Philippines, which speak their own dialects or languages. Among these ethnic groups are the Tagalog, the Ilocano, the Pangasinanian, the Pampangue?o, the Bicolano, the Cebuano, the Ilongo, and the Waray-Waray. They comprise more than 90 percent of all Filipinos and are the Christians. About 84 percent of Filipinos are Roman Catholics.

The Tagalogs live in Manila and in central and southern Luzon. Although they speak Tagalog, they have intonations of their own, as do the Batangue?os from Batangas Province. The Tagalogs mostly live in such provinces as Nueva Ecija (the Ilocanos also live in some towns in the northern part of the province), Bulacan, Rizal, Batangas, Quezon, Laguna, and Mindoro (Oriental and Occidental). The Tagalogs dominate the people in Manila. There are, however, many people in the city who have come from different parts of the country, including Luzon, to live in the big city. Many also have come from the Bicol region and the Visayan islands.

The Ilocanos live in the Ilocos region in northern Luzon, particularly Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, but many of them have migrated in large numbers to central Luzon, and, of course, to the United States. Most of the oldtimers in the United States in the late 1920s and early 1930s came from the Ilocos region. The Ilongos live in western Negros, in southern Mindoro, and on the island of Panay. The Cebuanos predominate in Cebu, western Leyte, Bohol, eastern Negros, and in some coastal areas of Mindanao.

The Bicolanos are in the southeastern Luzon and nearby islands, including the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, etc. The Pampangue?os or Kapampangans live in central Luzon, particularly in Pampanga Province. The Pangasinanians live in the Lingayen Gulf region of Luzon, including Pangasinan Province; however, many Pangasinanians have migrated into other towns in central Luzon. The Waray-Warays are in the provinces of Samar and eastern Leyte.

Other Groups. Chinese and other groups also live in the Philippines. The Chinese comprise 1.5 percent of the population, and are active in business.

Cultural Minorities. There are more than 65 cultural minorities, similar to the Indian tribes in the United States, who live in reservations and in the mountains.

They include the Muslim groups, which are comprised of the Maranao, the Samal, the Maguindanao, the Tausug, etc. They live in the Sulu Archipelago and southern Mindanao.

There are also the so-called upland tribal groups who live in the mountain regions of the country, such as in the Mountain Province of Luzon. In northern Luzon, the other ethnic groups include the Bontoc, the Kalinga, the Ifugao, the Kankanay, the Ibaloi, the Isneg, the Ilongot, the Tinguian, and the Gadang.

The Mangyan group lives in Mindanao and the Batak and the Tagbanua live in Palawan. In Mindanao there are groups known as the Tiruray, the T’Boli, the Bagobo, the Mandaya, the Bukidnon, the Subanun, and the Manobo. The Negritoes, popularly known as the Agta or the Aeta live in the mountainous areas of Luzon, Negros, Panay, and Mindanao.

“I love You! Iniibig Kita!” Yes, “I love you” is said in about 87 dialects or languages in the Philippines. These include Tagalog, Kapampangan, Ilocano, Cebuano, Pangasinanian, Bicolano, Hiligaynon, Chabacano, and the different dialects spoken by other ethnic groups such as Muslims and cultural minorities.

The Filipino dialects belong to the so-called Malayo-Polynesian language family, which is said to be the largest language family throughout the world. Pilipino (not Filipino), which is based on Tagalog, is the national language in the Philippines, but both English and Pilipino, are the official languages in schools, in government, and in private institutions, especially in urban places. English serves as the official language used in communications and in business meetings, especially by Rotarians, Jaycees, and other organizations. That is, English and Pilipino both serve as the media of communications among the people who also speak their own dialects.

It is common that when a Filipino in the Philippines and a Filipino in America write to each other, they communicate in English. But in daily conversation, English and Pilipino are combined, which is called Taglish (meaning Tagalog (Pilipino) and English. For instance, one may say, “Pupunta ako sa Maynila, to enroll at the University of the Philippines, (I’ll go to Manila to enroll at the….) or “Okeng, okey ka, you’re so sweet!” (You’re okay and you’re so sweet!”)

So whenever you meet Filipinos in the United States, they may be speaking their own dialects when not speaking in English. However, these groups know Pilipino. So if you want to know a Filipino language, it should be Tagalog or Pilipino so that you’ll have more people whom you can converse with.

Government.The Philippines has a democratic form of government, like that of the United States. The government is divided into executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Have Pesos and Enjoy! If you have the dollar, you can have it changed to the Philippine peso. The dollar when this book was about to go to press was equivalent to forty pesos (P40.00). The Philippine currency consists of the peso (P) and the centavo. One hundred centavos equal P1. Coin denominations are 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 centavos, and P1, P2, and P5. Bill denominations consist of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 pesos. Foreign currency may be exchanged in banks, hotels, and most large department stores, which have authorized money-changing shops.

Charge It! Charge It! Most large hotels, stores, restaurants, and resort areas accept major credit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. At hotels and other large stores, traveler’s checks are accepted, preferably American Express.

How’s the Weather? The weather in the Philippines is tropical, the country having only two seasons, the dry and rainy seasons. It’s usually hot from April to July. The dry season is between November and June and the rainy season is between July and October. Filipinos consider December, January, and February as the cool months. But they may not be considered as winter without snow as in the United States; maybe it’s milder or like spring or fall.


The Philippines, scientists believe, once was a part of Mainland China. According to the scientists, during the Ice Age, the waters surrounding the Philippines dropped to about 156 feet below the present levels, exposing large bodies of land. These became land bridges connecting the Philippines to the Asian mainland.

The Philippines, Out from the Bottom of the Sea? In February 1976, Dr. Fritjof Voss, a German scientist who studied the geology of the Philippines, questioned the validity of this theory of land bridges. He maintained that the Philippines was never part of mainland Asia. He claimed that it arose from the bottom of the sea and, as the thin Pacific crust moved below it, continued to rise. It continues to rise today. The country lies along great Earth faults that extend to deep undersea trenches. The resulting violent earthquakes caused what is now the land masses forming the Philippines to rise to the surface of the sea.

Dr. Voss also pointed out that when scientific studies were done on the earth’s crust from 1964 to 1967, it was discovered that the 35-kilometer-thick crust underneath China does not reach the Philippines. Thus, the latter could not have been a land bridge to the Asian mainland.

When They Came, How They Came. The traditional teaching of Philippine history in Filipino schools today has early Philippine habitants coming in waves.

In 1962, it was concluded that about 250,000 years ago, primitive men came to the Philippines from the Asian mainland. Then about 25,000 years ago came the pygmies, the small, black-skinned, squat-nosed, thick-lipped, and kinky-haired people from the south over the still remaining land bridges. (They are considered the ancestors of the Negritoes, who are, in turn, regarded as the aborigines of the Philippines.)

Around 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, another Negrito (or Aeta) migration occurred. They reached Luzon from Borneo over land bridges in Palawan and Mindoro. The submergence of the land bridges when the ice melted with the passing of time did not prevent other people from inhabiting the Philippines.

5,000 to 6,000 Years Ago? The first Indonesians arrived by boat from Southeast Asia some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. Much later, around 1500 B.C., a second wave of Indonesians arrived. Then came the Malays in two successive waves, the first between 800 and 500 B.C. and the second, between 300 and 200 B.C. From Borneo, they traveled by sailboats and settled in the three major islands of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Subsequent peoples who came from the start of Christianity until the present time include the Indians (Hindus), the Arabs, the Chinese, other Eastern Asians, the Europeans, and the Americans.

Who Came First? The matter of who the first settlers were has not been really resolved. This is being disputed by anthropologists, as well as the theory of Professor H. Otley Beyer that the first inhabitants of the Philippines came from the Malay Peninsula.

The Malays now constitute the largest portion of the populace and what Filipinos now have is a Malayan culture. Anthropologist F. Landa Jocano of the University of the Philippines contends that what fossil evidence of ancient men show is that they not only migrated to the Philippines, but also to New Guinea, Borneo, and Australia. He says that there is no way of determining if they were Negritoes at all. However, what is sure is that there is evidence the Philippines was inhabited as early as 21,000 or 22,000 years ago. In 1962, a skull cap and a portion of a jaw, presumed to be those of a human being, were found in a Tabon cave in Palawan Province.

The discovery proved that man came earlier to the Philippines than to the Malay Peninsula; therefore, the first inhabitants of the former did not come from the latter.

Jocano further believes that present Filipinos are products of the long process of evolutions and movements of people. This not only holds true for Filipinos, but for the Indonesians and the Malays of Malaysia, as well. No group among the three is culturally or racially dominant. Hence, Jocano says that it is not correct to attribute the Filipino culture as being Malay in orientation.

According to Jocano’s findings, the peoples of the prehistoric islands of Southeast Asia were of the same population as the combination of human evolution that occurred in the islands of Southeast Asia about 1.9 million years ago. The proofs of this are fossil materials found in different parts of the region and the movements of other peoples from the Asian mainland during historic times.

He states that these ancient men cannot be categorized under any of the historically identified ethnic groups (Malays, Indonesians, Filipinos) of today.

Some Filipino ethnic groups were pagans while others were Muslims. The pagans were converted to Christianity by the Spaniards. The Americans later arrived and introduced further cultural changes, which made the Filipinos more and more different from the peoples of other Southeast Asian countries.


The Filipinos lived in settlements called barangays before the colonization of the Philippines by the Spaniards. As the unit of government, a barangay consisted from 30 to 100 families. It was headed by a datu and was independent from the other groups. (The Tagalog word barangay came from the Malay word balangay, a boat that transported them to the islands.)

Usually, several barangays settled near each other to help one another in case of war or any emergency. The position of datu was passed on by the holder of the position to the eldest son or, if none, the eldest daughter. However, later, any member of the barangay could be chieftain, based on his talent and ability. He had the usual responsibilities of leading and protecting the members of his barangay. In turn, they had to pay tribute to the datu, help him till the land, and help him fight for the barangay in case of war.

In the old days, a datu had a council of elders to advise him, especially whenever he wanted a law to be enacted. The law was written and announced to the whole barangay by a town crier, called the umalohokan.

The People’s Commandments. Pre-college Filipino textbooks teach that the only written laws of pre-colonial Philippines that have survived are the Maragtas Code and the Code of Kalantiaw, both prepared in Panay. Some historians believe that the Maragtas Code was written by Datu Sumakwel, one of the chieftains from Borneo who settled there. As for the Code of Kalantiaw, it was said to have been promulgated by the third chief of Panay and possibly a descendant of Datu Sumakwel, Rajah Kalantiaw, in 1433. W. Henry Scott, however, has disputed the authenticity of the Code of Kalantiaw.

Classes of Society. There were four classes of society. They were the ruling class (datu), the freemen and notable persons (maharlika), the commoners (timawa), and the dependents and slaves (alipin). The alipin were of two kinds: the aliping namamahay, who were household servants, and the aliping saguiguilid, who were slave workers.

Clothing and Ornaments. The natives already wore clothes and personal ornaments. The men wore short-sleeved and collarless jackets, whose length reached slightly below the waist. The color of the jacket appeared to indicate the position of the wearer in society, e.g., red for the chief, and blue or black for those below him, depending on the societal class. For the lower part, they wore a bahag, a strip of cloth wrapped around the waist, passing between the thighs. Their thighs and legs were left exposed.

A piece of cloth wrapped around the head, called a putong, served as a head gear. The kind of putong one wore was important. For example, a red putong meant the wearer had killed a man in war while one who had killed at least seven people signified so by wearing an embroidered putong. They also wore necklaces, armlets or kalombiga, earrings, rings, and anklets, usually made of gold and precious stones.

The women’s upper garment was a sleeved jacket, called a baro. Over their skirts (saya or patadyong) was wrapped a strip of cloth called tapis. They also wore gem-studded bracelets, necklaces, rings, and gold earrings.

Tattoos were part of the body ornaments of pre-Hispanic Filipinos, men and women alike. These were also sported as war “medals.” The more tattoos, the more impressive was a man’s war record.

The Filipinos from the Visayas Islands were the most tattooed, which was why early Spanish writers referred to them as Pintados or painted people. The writers referred to their Islands as Islas del Pintados or Islands of the Painted People.

Rice and More Rice. Agriculture was the early Filipinos’ main means of livelihood. They also grew an abundance of rice, sugarcane, cotton, hemp, coconuts, bananas, and many other fruits and vegetables. Land cultivation was by tilling or by the kaingin system. With the kaingin system, the land was cleared by burning the shrubs and bushes. After that, it was planted with rice and other crops, which were watered by irrigation ditches.

The world-famous Ifugao rice terraces of Mountain Province, which have stone walls and run for thousands of feet on the mountain sides, are irrigated by a system of ditches. From afar, the terraces seem to be a giant stairway leading to the sky. From end to end, the length could be about 12,000 miles or halfway around the Earth.

There were public and private lands. Those along the mountainsides and less arable lands were public property. They were open to everyone who wanted to till them. Private lands were usually exclusively for nobles and datus.

Other Industries. Other industries were fishing, mining, lumbering, poultry raising, shipbuilding, and weaving. Fishing was particularly thriving for the settlements along rivers and seas.

Domestic trade existed among the barangays and the islands. The Filipinos’ foreign trade was with China, Japan, Siam (now Thailand), Borneo, Sumatra, Cambodia, and other islands of old Malaysia. The barter system was used in business transactions because there was no currency.

Their God. Bathala was the supreme god of the pre-Spanish Filipinos. They attributed to Bathala the creation of the heavens, Earth, and man. There were lesser gods and goddesses, like a god of death, a god of agriculture, a goddess of harvest, sea gods, river gods, and the like. It was also believed that things found in nature were full of spirits more powerful than man. Spirits of dead relatives were also revered. Sacrifices were offered to all of them.

The ancient Filipinos believed in the immortality of the soul and in life after death. Disease or illness was attributed to the whims of the environmental spirits and the soul-spirits of the dead relatives.

The pre-Spanish Filipinos also revered idols, called anitos in Tagalog and diwata in Visayan. These seem to be the counterparts of the present saints, to whom Filipinos offer prayers and food, much like their ancestors did.

How Islam Conquered Parts of the Philippines. The Islamization of Southeast Asia was generally accomplished by peaceful means through Muslim traders, missionaries, and teachers. They went to Java, Sumatra, Jahore, Malacca, Borneo, and nearby islands to conduct their mission. To speed up the conversion process, these proselytizers usually married into the families of the rich and ruling class.

By the 13th century, most of the lands in Southeast Asia were Islamized. From there, Islam filtered to Mindanao and Sulu, the southern part of the Philippines, in the 14th century. In 1380, an Arab teacher, Mukdum, arrived in Sulu from the Malay peninsula to preach Islam. He built the first mosque in Simunul, Sulu. Around 1390, he was followed by Raja Baginda, a minor ruler of Menangkabaw, Sumatra. About 1450, Abu Bakr, a Muslim scholar, came to Sulu and married Paramisuli, the daughter of Raja Baginda. After Baginda died, Abu Bakr established a sultanate form of government with himself as sultan. Islam then spread rapidly to all parts of Sulu.

Serif Kabungsuan was responsible for the spread of Islam in Mindanao. He led a force of Muslim Samals from Jahore that conquered the natives of what is now Cotabato and converted them to Islam. He also married into an influential family and founded the first sultanate of Mindanao, with himself as head.

On the other hand, Muslim Malay traders from Borneo spread Islam to the natives in Manila and in the provinces of Batangas, Mindoro, and Pampanga. When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines during the first half of the 16th century, many parts of Luzon, including the large native kingdoms of Manila and Tondo, had already been Islamized.

However, the further spread and influence of Islam were cut short by the conquest and Spanish colonization of the Philippines starting in 1665.

Chinese and Indians. Chinese influences on Filipino life were mainly economic. However, at the same time, cultural influences were inevitable. Many words in the Philippine language have Chinese origins. The Chinese also taught the ancient Filipinos the use of gongs, umbrellas, lead, and porcelain, as well as the manufacture of gun powder, and metallurgy and mining methods. Filipinos also adopted customs from the Chinese.

Many words in the Philippine language also appear to have Sanskrit origins. In addition, ancient religious beliefs of the Filipinos show Indian influence. It is said that some elements of the Indian culture reached the Philippines through the Hinduized Malays who settled in the country permanently.


The Philippines was colonized by the Spaniards for about 333 years and by the Americans for 48 years. Later, World War II broke out and the Japanese occupied the Philippines for three years. (See chapter 2: The Spanish Colonization of the Philippines (1565-1898); chapter 4: The Philippine-American War (1899-1902); and chapter 5: The Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, (1942-1945).)


After World War II, the bad relationship between landlords and farmers, who were seeking better conditions, became worse. The tenancy problem plagued the country, particularly in the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, and Tarlac in central Luzon.

There was too much tension when the landlords who evacuated to urban areas during the war came to the rural areas to ask for back “rent” for their lands from the farmers. With the help of their own armed bands, they tried to force the peasants to give to them what they owed them.

At the same time, the Huks, or Hukbalahaps who fought against the Japanese as U.S.-supported Filipino guerillas did, were reluctant to give up their arms.

As a result, General Douglas MacArthur put to jail Luis Taruc and Casto Alejandro, the leading Huk leaders. Furthermore, the U.S. forces were ordered to disarmed the Huks. Instead, the Huks fled to the mountains. Still armed, they supported the Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid-PKM (National Peasant Union) in its fight against the landowners.

By that time, the peasants’ movement represented about 500,000 members. The PKM, as part of the left-wing Democratic Alliance, which also included other groups, had supported Sergio Osme?a as the Nacionalista Party’s presidential candidate against Manuel Roxas during the 1946 election campaign. Osme?a was the president of the Philippine Commonwealth, who replaced President Manuel Quezon after he died in the U.S. in 1944.

Osme?a got the support of the labor movement. He promised the farmers that a new law giving 60 percent of the harvest, instead of the then 50 percent or less, would be passed. At that time, Taruc, who was released from jail, and five other candidates of the Democratic Alliance won congressional seats during the 1946 elections which elected Roxas to the presidency.

However, Taruc and the other Democratic Alliance winners were not allowed to be installed into their positions. They were accused of having used terrorist acts during the campaign. Violence by landlords with the help of the police worsened against peasant activities. In August 1946, Juan Feleo, a PKM leader was killed, resulting in the rebellion of the Huks in central Luzon. The People’s Liberation Army (Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan) became the new name of the People’s Anti-Japanese Army.


The United States, as provided in the Jones-McDuffie Law of 1934, granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946.

The Roxas Administration (1946-1948). Inaugurated as first president of the new republic was Manuel A. Roxas, who defeated then-President Sergio Osme?a, Sr., in the April 1946 national election. (Osme?a was elected vice president in 1935 and succeeded Quezon to the presidency after the latter died while in exile in the United States.)

President Roxas, a native of Capiz (now Roxas City) had to deal with the rehabilitation of the Philippines, tremendously ravaged by World War II.

Various agreements with conditions, in favor of the United States, were discussed and approved by the authorities. One such condition was that American investors be given “parity” rights. That is, the U.S. investors had the right to be treated as equals of Philippine nationals, not as investors from any other foreign country.

At the same time, there were absolute quotas of Philippine exports to the United States. On the contrary, there were no quotas for American exports to the Philippines. Moreover, the U.S. military obtained military bases in the Philippines without any rent for 99 years. The duration was later reduced. The lease was to end in 1991.

In February 1948, President Roxas pardoned those who had cooperated with the Japanese during the war. Those who had served the Japanese were called “collaborators.” Roxas himself had played a part in the Japanese-sponsored wartime “puppet government.”

It was during the Roxas administration that the Philippine Constabulary and landlord private armies had their days fighting the Huks and their farmer supporters over tenancy problems. The Huks had earlier fought the Japanese along with U.S-supported Filipino guerillas. But later, they supported the peasants in their fight with the landlords to improve the economic conditions of the land tenants.

At first, President Roxas held negotiations with the Huks. As a matter of fact, his administration created an Agrarian Commission that passed a law giving 70 percent of the harvest to the tenants. However, there were difficulties in implementing the law.

On the other hand, the Huks demanded that the winning congressmen of the Democratic Alliance be reinstated, among whom was Luis Taruc. They likewise demanded that the military police be disbanded and a general amnesty be given to those involved in the movement. Instead, President Roxas in March 1948 declared the People’s Liberation Army as a subversive organization.

Quirino Comes to Power (1948-1953). In April 1948, Roxas died of a heart attack. He was succeeded by Elpidio Quirino, his vice president. Quirino, a native of Vigan, Ilocos Sur won as president in the 1949 election against Jose P. Laurel, who was president in the Second Puppet Republic during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines. Quirino’s main goals in his administration were to obtain peace and order and minimize graft and corruption in the government. He believed that mass corruption existed during the Roxas administration. But Quirino also was severely criticized by the press and the public for alleged corruption.

It was during his administration that the Huks increased to a greater number. In the 1949-51 period, there were between 11,000 and 15,000 armed Huks. Although they were mostly in central Luzon, there were regional committees of the People’s Liberation Army in provinces now known as Southern Tagalog region, in northern Luzon, Visayan Islands, and Mindanao. Quirino appointed Ramon Magsaysay, a former guerrilla and a congressman from Zambales Province, as secretary of defense to fight the Huks. With the efforts of Magsaysay, the backbone of the Huk movement in central Luzon was broken.

The Magsaysay Era (1953-1957). In 1953, because of his popularity and his success in fighting the Huks, the Nacionalista Party lured Magsaysay to be its presidential candidate. He was then called as “Man of the People.” They also said, “Magsaysay Is My Guy.”

Born in Iba, Zambales, Magsaysay defeated Quirino of the Liberal Party in the November 1953 election. As a man of the people, he opened the Malacaang Palace, the White House of the Philippines, to the people. He also established special courts for landlord-tenant disputes and built roads, bridges, irrigation canals, and “liberty wells” in the rural areas. The Huk movement further weakened with the surrender of Luis Taruc in May 1954.

In 1955, Magsaysay worked for the redistribution of land. In that same year, Congress passed the so-called Land Reform Act. The law created the Land Tenure Administration that had the power to acquire private lands through either purchase or expropriation. Such lands would be sold by the government to farmers at reasonable prices.

However, the law was hampered by a lack of funds. Hence, Magsaysay, was not able to push through in Congress his full program for land reform. He died in March 1957 in a plane crash at Mt. Pinatubo.

The Garcia Regime (1957-1961). Carlos P. Garcia, Magsaysay’s vice president, succeeded him to the presidency. Garcia, a native of Talibon, Bohol Province, was himself elected president in the 1957 election. Diosdado Macapagal, of the opposing Liberal Party, won the vice presidency.

President Garcia immediately imposed import controls on manufactured goods from abroad. His objective was to jump-start the Philippine economy. His administration was known for its program of austerity and its “Filipino First” policy, with a view to creating economic independence for the Philippines. This led to a kind of industrialization. However, as in the time of President Quirino, Garcia’s government was plagued with graft and corruption.

The Macapagal Administration (1961-1965). With graft and corruption as the election issue for the 1961 election, Garcia was defeated by the Liberal Party’s Diosdado Macapagal. Calling himself the “Poor Boy” from Lubao, Pampanga, Macapagal lifted the import controls imposed by Garcia.

In 1963, Macapagal signed the Agrarian Land Reform Code into law. The code abolished tenancy by the institution of an agricultural leasehold system, which was intended to lead toward the eventual goal of ownership of the land by the farmers. However, when Macapagal’s term ended in 1966, the extent of the land area affected was not significant. Only about 29,150 hectares of the 405,000 hectares of rice and corn, were cultivated by tenants.

Macapagal was also known for his changing the Independence Day of the Philippines from July 4, 1946 (given by the United States) to June 12, 1898. It was on the latter date that President Emilio Aguinaldo had declared the Philippine independence in his hometown in Cavite from Spain.

Besides launching his version of Agrarian Reform, Macapagal promoted the stability of the peso and initiated a socio-economic program for the betterment of the poor.

The Era of Marcos: A President Who Became a Dictator (1965-1986). In the 1965 presidential election, Macapagal was defeated by Ferdinand E. Marcos, a former Liberal, who became the Nacionalista Party’s presidential candidate. In 1969, Marcos, a native son of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, won his reelection.

However, during the Marcos regime, corruption in the government reached unparalleled proportions. Thus, opposition to Marcos’s administration grew stronger and stronger. On September 21, 1972, President Marcos imposed martial law. He abolished Congress, clamped opposition print and broadcast media, and jailed thousands of his critics. He became an absolute dictator. His presidential proclamations became the laws of the land.

In 1973, his second and final term as president should have ended. However, with martial law, Marcos continued to rule as the absolute dictator in the Philippines. Plebiscites were held during the years 1973, 1975, and 1978. However, the will of the Filipino people didn’t prevail. All the plebiscites of disputable legitimacy gave approval to the extension of martial law.

In 1978, the Philippines held elections for the legislature (the National Assembly had replaced the former Congress). Marcos’ party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), or New Society Movement obtained three quarters of the seats in the national assembly. In 1981, Marcos formally ended martial law. However, as president, he had emergency powers. In June 1981, in an election during which many people didn’t vote, Marcos won another six-year term as president.

During the martial law era, both the administrations of U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter continued to give military and other economic aid to the Marcos administration.

In August 1983, Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., a staunch Marcos critic, went home to the Philippines from his exile in the United States. He was murdered at the Manila International Airport upon his arrival.

In February 1985, General Fabian Ver and 24 other soldiers were tried by a special court composed of what the opposition groups called “Marcos loyalists.” Ver and his soldiers were acquitted.

A so-called “snap” presidential election, proposed by President Marcos himself, was held in February 1986. Corazon Aquino, wife of the late Senator Aquino who was murdered, became Marcos’ rival candidate. Aquino, with the backing of the people, won a clear majority of the votes. However, Marcos had the National Assembly declare himself winner in the election.

A section of the military, led by Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos’ secretary of defense, and Fidel Ramos, chief of staff of the armed forces of the Philippines, rebelled against the dictator. Due to the mass demonstrations in Manila, called “people power,” Marcos was forced to escape aboard a U.S. Air Force plane to the United States. That ended the Marcos regime and started the rule of President Aquino. Marcos died in exile in the United States.

The Aquino Regime (1986-1992). Upon taking over the presidency, President Aquino, freed all political prisoners jailed by President Marcos. In the same year, all presidential decrees by Marcos were revoked, and the constitution, the fundamental law of the land, was adopted by a nationwide plebiscite in 1987.

During her administration, Aquino attempted to alleviate the economic conditions of the people. However, she was not successful. In fact, some criticized the weakness of her administration in dealing with economic problems. Furthermore, during her term, some elements of the armed forces, along with Marcos loyalists, revolted seven times against the Aquino government. The coup attempts were thwarted by loyal sectors of the military, led by Fidel V. Ramos, chief of staff of the armed forces and secretary of defense.

It was during the Aquino administration that the issue of extending the expiring leases of U.S. military bases in the Philippines came about. In September 1991, as Aquino objected to it, the Senate disapproved the extension of the leases of the bases. (Earlier, in June 1991, the nearby Mount Pinatubo damaged the Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga rendering it unusable.)

Former Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo said of Aquino, “Cory Aquino’s greatest legacy is the fact that we are all here today, talking freely.”

In the next presidential election, President Aquino didn’t seek reelection. She chose Fidel V. Ramos, as her candidate for president.

The Ramos Administration (1992-1998). Fidel V. Ramos won in the 1992 presidential election against six other candidates. In the last five years of his administration, he has changed the Philippines from being “the Sick Man of Asia” into “The Next Tiger of Asia.”

In September 1992, he lifted the ban on the Communist Party. Likewise, he eliminated foreign-currency restrictions to attract foreign investment to the Philippines. Ramos, besides courting foreign investment, has liberalized the Philippine economy to move toward industrialization.

He negotiated with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), headed by Nur Misuari, to bring peace in Mindanao, the southern part of the Philippines.

A peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Muslim group was signed on September 2, 1996, that ended the 24-year-old war in Mindanao. The agreement was signed by the government chief negotiator Manuel Yan, Nur Misuari, Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, and Secretary General Hamid Algabid of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

Later, Misuari ran for and won the governorship of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARM) in the September 9, 1996, elections.

Due to his economic programs and accomplishments, Newsweek Magazine, cited the Philippines as the “The Next Tiger of Asia.” The Ramos term ends this year, 1998. (See Ramos’ economic program as envisioned in Philippines 2000.)


Today, the Philippines, an independent nation of about 70 million people, is becoming one of the most progressive countries in Asia. The Philippines has rebounded from the economic debacle that former dictator Ferdinand Marcos had put her into. Investors from the United States, Japan, Malaysia, and other nations in Asia are bringing in millions of dollars as investment in factories, recreation establishments, and other businesses.

The “States” of the Philippines. A “state” in the Philippines is called a province. The Philippines has 72 provinces and 61 chartered cities.

Manila and Its Satellites. Metro Manila is the political, economic, social, educational, cultural and recreational hub of the Philippines. It comprises the city of Manila, Quezon City, Makati, and other suburban cities.

Malls, boutiques, flea markets, and other shops abound in Manila and its environs. You’ll be amazed at beautiful attractions in Manila itself, like the Intramuros, the old walled city, and Chinatown. Here you’ll see a number of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. When you’re inside the malls and you don’t concentrate on the crowd, you’d think that you were somewhere in America.

Manila: Where Admiral Dewey Met His Destiny. A long time ago, Manila was a small tribal settlement on the banks of the Pasig River near Manila Bay. On May 1, 1898, Dewey’s naval fleet destroyed the Spanish Fleet on Manila Bay.

It was on May 24, 1570, when Spanish Marshall Martin de Goiti’s expedition reached Soliman’s settlement. On June 24 of the following year, Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi founded the city of Manila, which he called the “distinguished and ever loyal city” of Manila. He proclaimed it as the capital of the islands.

During the old times, in the suburbs or arabales, such as Quiapo, Tondo, Santa Cruz, and Malate, the Filipinos, then known as indios, lived and worked together with the so-called mestizos (of mixed Filipino and foreign descent). The Chinese merchants called Sangleys, lived in a district called parian, which now comprises an area known as Binondo. Intramuros, which means within the walls, was the original Walled City. It was the site of the native settlement called Maynilad, ruled over by Rajah Soliman. It was at that time the center for the trade of goods from Asia. It was in this walled city where the Spaniards sought refuge when the American troops came during the Spanish-American war. It was also here that the so-called “mock battle” took place between the Spanish and American forces, where Filipino troops were excluded from participating.

Intramuros is now a tourist attraction. Local and foreign tourists have the option of enjoying walking tours from 30-minute to 2 hours. Among the attractions in Intramuros are Fort Santiago, Rizal Shrine, Casa Manila Museum, San Agustin Church, Intramuros Walls Museum, and San Agustin Museum.

Moreover, performances such as Serenata sa Fort Santiago and the Marian Procession are held in Intramuros. The Serenata sa Fort Santiago is performed as an open-air band concert in the tradition of the outdoor concerts in the paseo of the Old Luneta. It is held every Sunday from April to mid-May. On the other hand, the Marian Procession is held annually in December. This procession is in commemoration of the 400-year-old celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion. The activity is a grand display of various images of the Virgin Mary.

There are also other activities in Intramuros.

Where to Go. What to See. There are a lot of tourist attractions in the Philippines. Here are some suggested destinations by the Philippine Department of Tourism:

Boracay. Made up of three little communities, Boracay, a “paradise island,” is at the northwestern tip of Panay Island in the West Visayas region. The communities are Yapak in the north, Balabag in the middle, and Manocmanoc in the south. About a dozen beaches dot the island. Bamboo outriggers ferry visitors. There are also horses and bicycles for riding.

Night life is fun. Avail yourself of bars and discos up to the wee hours of the night. Or take a stroll in the beach by the moonlight. At Yapak, with an experienced guide, you may wish to explore the bat caves.

Windsurfing and parasailing gear are readily available in the 2,000-hectare area of Boracay. You can enjoy sailing with the help of local sailors to make your stay enjoyable and memorable.

Boracay is an international place. When you’re there, you’ll hear different languages: English, Pilipino, German, etc. Foreign cuisine such as French, Belgian, German, Thai, Spanish, and Australian are available, together with native cuisine. What a wonderful life!

If you’re going there from Manila, you can go to Boracay by taking a 50-minute Philippine Airlines flight to Kalibo, Aklan Province. From there, you’ll take another 2-hour inland ride via bus or jeepney to Caticlan. (Or you may take a flight straight to Caticlan). At Caticlan, you may be asked to complete forms with regard to travel information. From there, you you’ll reach Boracay via outrigger boats.

Banaue/Mt. Data, Saga-da. The natives of Banaue are called Ifugaos or rice eaters. The attractions there are the Banaue Rice Terraces, which were carved out of the mountain about 2,000 years ago. These rice terraces are called the “magnificent stairway to the god’s domain.” They rise up to 1,500 meters high and extend to over 20,000 kilometers. The ideal visiting time to see them is between March and June, when the terraces are green with shoots or golden with ripe rice seeds.


The Philippines 2000, is a strategy and a movement; it is the Filipino people’s vision of development by the year 2000. As envisioned, the Philippines by the year 2000 will have the decent minimum of food, clothing, shelter, and dignity. The major goal of Philippines 2000 is to make the Philippines the next investment, trade, and tourism center in Asia and the Pacific.

The Birth of Philippines 2000. The Philippines 2000, as a movement, started to gather momentum in the form of multi-sectorial consultations. These consultations were geared to pave the way for the Philippines’ entry into the 21st century. Today, involved in these endeavors are people from government, business and private sectors, labor, and other sectors forming a “strategic alliance” under the leadership of President Ramos.


In July 1997, as a result of the Hongkong stock market crash, all the currencies in Southeast Asia, including the Philippine peso, suffered steep falls in value against the U.S. dollar. The collapse of the stock market there was triggered by the jacking up of interest rates initiated by Hong Kong to protect its currency against any speculative attack.

(Excerpted from The Filipino Americans (From 1763 to the Present) Their History, Culture, and Traditions by Veltisezar Bautista.)