Following Magellan’s death his remaining crew abandoned the islands. The Spanish king, Charles I, sent successive expeditions to the islands. During one of these the islands were renamed as the Las Islas Felipinas in honour of Prince Philip, who was crowned king of Spain in 1556, following the abdication of his father. Early in his reign Philip ordered a fleet to sail for the east. Officially the expedition was one of discovery; in reality it was an expedition of conquest.
Over the next five years the conquistadores defeated the native kingdoms and established colonial rule. The repressive policies of the Spanish resulted in a succession of revolts by native islanders and the Chinese communities on the islands. Nevertheless, the Spanish managed to put down the rebellions and maintain control in the face of many invasions from other colonial powers.
The revolts of the nineteenth century took on a distinctly nationalist character and involved islanders of Spanish descent, called Insulares. These included emergent middle classes, well educated and versed in liberal ideas, called the Ilustrados(“erudite” or “learned”). The Ilustrados came into conflict with the Peninsulares, the Spanish-born ruling class, over the issue of secularization of Philippine churches whereby native-born priests would take over church affairs in place of clergy belonging to religious orders.
The 1869 liberal victory in Spain resulted in the assignment of Carlos María de la Torre as Governor-General of the islands. He instituted a series of liberal reforms, but opposition from the Peninsulares friars led to his recall to Spain and his replacement with the more hard-liner, Rafael Izquierdo. When Izquierdo dismantled the reforms and managed to alienate the islands’ soldiery by subjecting them to personal taxation. Consequently, some of Fort San Felipe garrison mutinied, hoping to spark a national uprising. Nevertheless, the Cavite Mutiny of 1872 was unsuccessful and Izquierdo took the opportunity to deportation many nationalist leaders.
The repressive measures did not end the nationalist cause. In 1892, radical members of La Liga Filipina (“The Philippine League”) founded the revolutionary group known as the Katipunan led by Andrés Bonifacio, Ladislao Diwa, Teodoro Plata, Valentín Díaz, and Deodato Arellano. They elected Andrés Bonifacio as the leader of a rebel army. The Katipunan managed to publish two issues of a newspaper called Libertad (“Freedom”) before the colonial authorities suppressed it and arrested a number of their leaders. Threatened with arrest the remaining leaders decided to go on the offensive and in August 1896 the revolution began when they tore up their Cedulas (“tax certificates”) shouting “Long live the Philippines!” in an act that became known as “Cry of Pugad Lawin”.
In spite of a major defeat at San Juan del Monte in Manila, the revolutionaries inspired revolts in neighbouring provinces. Overcoming factional differences the revolution grew in strength, achieving a series of victories. Nevertheless, the arrival of Spanish reinforcements forced the revolutionaries to sign a peace treaty called the Pact of Biak-na-Bato in 1897, which required the exile of the leading revolutionaries in return for a general amnesty and monetary compensation.
The following year the outbreak of war between the United States and Spain gave the revolutionaries the opportunity they had been waiting for. In May, a U.S. fleet destroyed the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay and set up a blockade. On 12th July 1898 the revolutionary forces of General Emilio Aguinaldo made a declaration of independence at his ancestral home at Cavite el Viejo (now called Kawit). Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista read The Act of the Declaration of Independence, which he had written. Ninety-eight people then signed the Declaration, including an American military officer who acted as witness. As part of the ceremony they raised the National Flag of the Philippines, made in Hong Kong by Mrs. Marcela Agoncillo, Lorenza Agoncillo and Delfina Herboza, after which they performed their national anthem, the Marcha Filipina Magdalo.
Philippine independence did not last for long. In December 1898 the Spanish and Americans signed the Treaty of Paris, by which Spain surrendered the Philippines to the United States. Despite the establishment of an elected government by the revolutionaries the American government appointed a military governor to rule the islands resulting in the Philippine–American War of 1899–1913. On 4th July 1946, the Philippines finally achieved full independence following the liberation of the islands from Japanese occupation.
An English translation of The Act of Declaration of Philippine Independence is available to read on filipino.biz.ph.