Sunday, December 18, 2011

Spanish Colonization of the Philippines

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Was the colonization by the Spanish Conquistadors a benefit for the Philippine Society?


Synopsis


The Philippines was under the Spanish ruling for 77 years. The influence of the Spanish upon the natives during this extensive period was profound. Every aspect of their society, politics, religion and culture revolutionize irrevocably. The content of this essay will include the varying opinions of sources that concern the colonizing of the Philippines by the Spanish empire from 16th March 151.


This essay will address the question analyzing the context of which the source was composed. By examining imbalances of perspectives, the question can then be answered through the validity of available sources. That is, a viable and accurate answer can be deduced through the sources. In order to answer the focus question, this essay will “redress the imbalance” of the sources that are utilized. With references to primary sources such as Jose Rizal’s book “Noli Me Tangere” as well as to secondary sources, such as Renato Constantino’s “Philippines A Past Revisited”, various sources could then be compared and evaluated. There are differing arguments to the question, as observed in the context of the sources. One aspect that has become apparent is the segregation that the Spanish colonization was a benefit for the Philippine society. In contrast, is the dispute that the colonizing was a disadvantage for the natives of the islands. The purpose of obtaining an extensive variety of sources is that the more sources that are available the greater the insight and to broaden the field of objectivity.


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The investigation area includes the contrasting approaches to this historical issue and discusses a minor level of diverging historical views. This incorporates the contrasting approaches to a historical event and focuses on the key questions from the syllabus that apply to my project such as ‘How has history been constructed over time?’ and also ‘Why have the approaches in the construction of history changed over time?’


It is in modern times that one can distinguish the contrasting views between historians that are supporting the Hispanization of the Philippines, to those who are opposed to the matter. Historians must therefore examine the causes and reflect on the potential influences on the construction of facts that is presented.


It is futile to contemplate on the character of the Asian society prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. It is difficult to understand the type of constitution that may have been established by the natives of the archipelago if the laws of development taking effect within the social divisions, that were then existing, had not been radically adapted by colonialism. It is nevertheless crucial that as the composition of Spanish society at the time of the conquest is questioned, the nature of the indigenous societies and their height of social development at the moment of confrontation with Spanish colonialism should likewise be examined.


There is limited knowledge accessible concerning the earlier period of the Philippines, as there is lack of written historical records. The feature that impedes contemporary historians from gaining an insight to the pre-Hispanic Filipinos is that the use of writing suggests that they had been unfamiliar in recording historical records; perhaps they did not think that such records would be of any use to themselves, as its basic purpose, then, was for personal communication and composing literature. The natives at the time had a system of writing, as evident with Magellan’s own observation of the natives, the majority of inhabitants knew how to read and write . The earliest records about the Philippines are in archeological forms such as an ancient clay pot that was uncovered in a cave on the island of Palawan.


Also, there is proof that the islands had been in contact, through commerce, with countries, such as the Chinese and Arabs. Written records from Chinese traders of the Chou Dynasty (7ACE) and in the annals of the Han Dynasty (06ACE) describe its trade route and supplies that were imported and exported; Chinese interaction can be verified with the discoveries of Chinese porcelain in burial graves. Arabian interaction can be verified with the introduction of Islamic religion from Arab and Indian traders and missionaries c. 180ACE.


Prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the Philippines had the Barangay system of government in which laws were enacted and enforced by the datus or chieftains. Filipinos, before the Spanish, practiced the backfiring of land in order to produce fertile plantations for their agriculture. There are also evidences of weaponry, weaving cloth (lampotes), fishing and rearing animals and pearls. The early natives had both written and oral laws which were communicated orally from generation to generation . The importance of the factors above was that there is proof that the early inhabitants of the Philippines were civilized and cultured. The fact is; upon the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, this consequently resulted in the disruption of the cultures and way of life of early inhabitants of the Philippines.


A chief Hong Kong paper recently interpreted an editorial from Manila Comercio that provides a Spanish point of view of the insurrection in the Philippines, a perspective that is rarely implemented by other foreigners who have lived in the country. The article was written and published in 186. The article is a primary source that details the Spanish settlements and portrays it as having been “earnest and intellectual of the natives.” The article describes how Spain provided the archipelago a sensible society an ample administration and established judicious laws that have been emulated by various nations in their colonies.


The flaw of this source includes the fact that the language has been interpreted, therefore presenting an implication to the historian. Since various characteristics of the past are being chosen, by the writer, with specific recognition and emphasis on the benefit of the Spaniards upon the Filipinos. The unknown journalist persists in criticizing the country of “the incredible ingratitude obtained by the generous country which with a precipitancy, blameworthy because of its magnanimity, instituted laws designed to elevate these islands to the ranks of the most civilized countries.” The source juxtaposes the expression of Spanish placidity throughout the article, to the events that took place at the time that the article was published. During this period, a civil revolution, organized by the Katipunan, took place against the Spanish government.


The writer is ignorant to the fact that in reality the foremost aim of the Spanish government was to profit financially from the islands. The rebellions of the Filipinos are a result of the extortions imposed by the Spanish government, such as tax, tributes and labor. The bias that requires acknowledgment in this article is that the writer has perpetrated personal thoughts and assumptions into the article with the purpose of communicating their perspective to a wide audience.


In contrast to the article is Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. Rizal’s book, which was first published in Berlin in March 1887, exposes the transgression of the Spaniards. It was not necessarily Spain itself but the Spanish friars (priests) in the Philippines that he believed were the exact barriers to reform. As Renato Constantino agrees ,


Rizal depicts the Spanish friars as underhanded, rapacious and corrupt.


Jose Rizal was born in 1861 in Calamba, located in the Laguna province, south of Manila. Rizal was an ilustrado as he was highly educated, intellectual and a Spanish speaking Filipino. Rizal came from an affluent family background and attended prestigious schools and colleges. He furthered his studies and had accomplished a where he graduated as doctor of medicine and philosophy. He traveled and studied around Europe and resided in Madrid, where he composed Noli Me Tangere. The book was controversial in the Philippines and constantly attacked by the religious clergy. As evident in a Madrid newspaper dating January, 180, written by Vincente Barrantes. He describes the book as “anti-Catholic, Protestant, socialistic.” Rizal was consequently banished for the crime of telling the truth.


The Spaniards replaced the native system of communal landownership to the Spanish landholding system based on private ownership. The local people were required to pay taxes to the Spanish government and to support the church. The royal endowments that were being granted to the friars to own land produced feelings of oppression upon the natives. As the bequest meant that the “natives were being dispossessed of their ancestral lands.” The Spanish friars competed with other Spanish officials in accumulating wealth and land.


Rizal, himself, describes the nature of his the Noli Me Tangere as, “The novel is the first impartial and bold account of the life of the tagalogs. The Filipinos will find in it the history of the last ten years…” The first chapter of the book describes the “racial spectrum of Filipino society as externally compatible, but beneath the surface there smoldered a mixture of resentment and suspicion” . By August 0, 1887, it was declared by a committee that Noli Me Tangere was “heretical, impious and offensive to the government of Spain”. The purpose of Rizal’s book is vital in interpreting the context that the book serves.


There are possible factors that led to Rizal’s contempt against the Spanish. One aspect involves the arrest of his mother, Teodora Alonso. She had been charged of involvement in a murder but was ultimately released. Rizal’s witnessing of his mother’s arrest by representatives of the Spanish government left a permanent impression on his view of the Spanish. A second vital factor was his brother Paciano. He guided the juvenile Rizal to a reformist vocation. Paciano had studied under Fr. Jose Burgos who was an activist in reformation against the Spanish friars. The third factor of influence was the Cavite mutiny.


Rizal’s perspective was based upon his intense patriotism and his veneration that the Philippines was something more than what the Spanish had made it to be. Rizal claims that the decomposing of his country was not because of the Filipino’s indifference or apathy as claimed by the Spaniards, but because of the negligence of the Spanish government over the country. To demonstrate his purpose he disproved the allegations of such prejudiced Spanish authors against the Filipino race. He had commented on the book composed by the Spaniard Antonio Morga, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas. The book delves into detail the components of the 16th century Philippine culture. Rizal had commented, “Filipinos had developed culture even before the coming of the Spaniards”. This contradicts the North�China Daily News, Impartial not Neutral article as the article describes the Spanish being “earnest” in endowing the natives with a moral and intellectual education.


The impact that these factors had on Rizal is consequently reflected in his book. This source is primary in investigating the Hispanic influence upon the people, especially from a Filipino perspective. The historical implication is that Rizal communicated personal ideas that were a result of his ideology towards the Spanish. Rizal has constructed his personal version of history as it has affected him. Rizal’s views therefore have an effect on contemporary historians who may view his perspective in various ways and intersect personal views with Rizal’s philosophies.


Elizabeth Medina’s A Hispanized Philippines A Good Option? Is a written response to the question of why she believes that the Hispanization was feasible and beneficial for the Philippines. Medina states in her article that Spain was responsible in the development and establishment of the culture of the Philippines. Medina discusses the importance of Hispanic culture in order to “recognize” the Filipino social customs and practices. The implication is the Spanish culture is the basis of what makes up the Philippine identity. This directly conflicts with Rizal’s philosophy that the Filipinos had developed culture prior to the Spanish arrival.


Medina, who resides in Santiago, Chile, has based her opinion on the “few” sources she had gathered from Filipino academics and their writings, her personal inquiries and those of independent researchers. Medina states that she was speaking as a non-expert and based her views on what she was able to gather. She displays emotive assumptions in saying that the Spaniards are responsible in “producing” such a diverse culture for the Filipinos. She constructs history by judging the opinions from those who are experienced on the subject matter and concluding from her sources that the hispanisation of the Philippines was a benefit for the country.


Professor Fraser Weir , states in his email that “at the time of Spanish conquest, the whole world was horrified by the cruelty of the Spanish conquistadors who plundered Mexico and Peru.” This is in direct contrast to the Comercio that implies the success of Spanish colonies and Medina’s perspectives of the impact of the Spaniards. Weir also states that the Spaniards were not as abusive in the Philippines in comparison to Spain’s other colonies, such as the Aztecs of Peru . Weir describes the negative factors that the Spaniards had established during their ruling. He traces modern corruption of the government to the Spanish colonial rule.


In relation to Rizal’s book, Weir states that wealth was measured by landownership. The Spanish leaders did not expand power and stature through commerce, but from taxes and tributes that they collected from the tenants who rented the land. Taxes, tributes, extortionate rents and forced labor increased tension among the villagers. An example of this was in 1745, when Bulacan villagers protested against the clergy claiming that they have been cheated from their lands and the unjust denial imposed upon them that restricted them from fishing in the rivers.


Weir’s context is similar to that of Rizal’s. The Spanish had brought and established corruption and extortion among the indigenous society of pre-Hispanic Philippines. Although, Weir was more passive in describing how the Spaniards “converted by gentle persuasion rather than coercively by threat or force” and that “Spanish were not as rapacious”.





Based on the employed sources, one may agree that the Spanish colonization of the Philippines was a benefit in one way, such as the fact that the Spanish established a part of their culture to the culture of the people and economically advanced the country and brought about diversification. Although, the method in which the Spaniards used their power is unjust such as the heavy burden of tax collection, forced labor and corruption within the government as well as the ecclesia. The utilized sources are subjective and are bias interpretations of the nature of Philippine history. Therefore the reliability in constructing the past from these sources is diminutive. The perception of the history of Philippines from these sources can be utilized to validate contemporary events of the country. Identification of ideological characteristics in the source representations exhibits moral principles in relation to the topic. This investigation aimed to question the sources’ motives and approaches that have influenced the construction of the Philippine history. It is also aimed to understand more clearly the nature of the Spanish colonialism and the consequences that it had imposed upon the nature of the Philippines. As evident, there are various opinions on the Hispanization of the Philippines.


The events of Philippines’ history belong to the past. All that remains of them is the recorded impression it has made on observers. The past must be scrutinized not only to become acceptable to those in the present but also for the reason that the past has became the present with all the misinterpretations of past historical sources. ¨


Carr, Raymond Spain A History. London, Oxford University Press, 000.


Coates, Austin Rizal Philippine Nationalist and Martyr. Hong Kong, Oxford


University Press, 168.


Constantino, Renato The Philippines A Past Revisited. Quezon City, Philippines, Tala


Publishing Services, 175.


Corpuz, O.D The Roots of the Philippine Nation. Quezon City, Philippines,


Aklahi Foundation inc. 18.


Cushner, Nicholas P. Spain In The Philippines From Conquest to Revolution. Quezon


City, Philippines Anteneo de Manila University, 171.


Mahajani, Usha Philippine Nationalism. QL Australia, University of Queensland,


171.


Manuel, Dolores de Book Review Southeast Asia. The Journal of Asian Studies


Volume 6 (4) pp 4-50, 00.


Phelan, John K. Hispanization of the Philippines. London, University of


Wisconsin Press, 16.


Rizal, Jose Noli Me Tangere. Manila, Pambansang Suriang Pangkasaysayan,


Republished 10.


Southgate, Beverley History What and Why? London, Routledge, 001


Sullivan, Margaret The Philippines Pacific Crossroads. New York, Dillon Press,


1.


Trager, James The Chronology of Philippine History in the (Western) World


Context. New York, Rinehart and Winston, 17.


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