The Philippines is an archipelago comprising of more than 7,100-islands. It is thought that the earliest inhabitants of the islands arrived 40,000 years ago. Folks from Borneo, Sumatra and Malaya migrated to the islands; the original people were ancestors of the people known today as Negritos or Aeta.
In the tenth century, Muslim traders came from Kalimantan (Indonesia.) Later, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to visit the Islands, in his expedition around the world on behalf of Spain (1521.)
Other Spanish expeditions followed, including one from New Spain (Mexico) under López de Villalobos, who in 1543 named the islands ‘Las Islas Felipenas’ (Islands belonging to Philip,) for Felipe, the Prince of Asturias (Spain) (title given to the heir to the Spanish throne;) he later became Philip II of Spain. (The name Philippines stuck.)
The Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th-century and were under Spanish control for the next 330+ years. Spanish called natives Indios.
Natives called themselves based on where they are geographically located, like Cebuanos of Cebu and Tagalog of Manila. The Philippine islands are scattered; there was no unity. The reference of being a Filipino, back then, was more of a geographic name than united citizens of a nation. (Abenaza)
Then, conflict arose – there was opposition to Spanish colonialism in the Islands. In steps José Protacio Rizal.
According to historians, there was no ‘Filipino’ before Rizal. Prior to Rizal people were simply protecting their territory, pushing their own personal interests. They were just people of their own lands. None of them fought for the Philippines, nor fought as Filipinos. This is what makes Rizal the First Filipino. He was first in seeking unity in the Philippines. (Abenaza)
Rizal was born on June 19, 1861, in the town of Calamba, Laguna. He was the seventh of 11 children (2 boys and 9 girls.) Both his parents were educated and belonged to distinguished families (his father was Filipino, his mother Chinese.) (Montemayor)
In 1877, at the age of 16, he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree with an average of “excellent” from the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. He passed the Surveyor’s examination on May 21, 1878 (but because of his age, 17, he was not granted license to practice the profession until December 30, 1881.)
In 1878, he enrolled in medicine at the University of Santo Tomas but had to stop in his studies when he felt that the Filipino students were being discriminated upon by their Dominican tutors. On May 3, 1882, he sailed for Spain where he continued his studies at the Universidad Central de Madrid and received a degree in medicine. (Montemayor)
In 1886, he studied at the University of Heidelberg and wrote his classic novel Noli me Tangere, which condemned the Catholic Church in the Philippines for its promotion of Spanish colonialism.
Immediately upon its publication, he became a target for the police who even shadowed him when he returned to the Philippines in 1887. He wrote a second novel, El Filibusterismo (1891), and many articles in his support of Filipino nationalism and his crusade to include representatives from his homeland in the Spanish Cortes. (LOC)
“During the years 1890-93, while traveling in the archipelago, I everywhere heard the mutterings that go before a storm. It was the old story: compulsory military service; taxes too heavy to be borne, and imprisonment or deportation with confiscation of property for those who could not pay them; no justice except for those who could afford to buy it … these and a hundred other wrongs had goaded the natives and half-castes until they were stung to desperation.” (Worchester; Anderson)
Dr. Rizal returned to the Philippines in 1892 and created the La Liga Filipina, a political group that called for peaceful change for the islands. Implicated in the rebellion, he went into exile for four years.
Meanwhile, Katipunan (Supreme Select Association of the Sons of the People) became an offshoot of La Liga Filipina and things started to get rough. Rizal quickly denounced the movement for independence when it became violent and revolutionary.
Although Rizal did not participate with Katipunan, in 1896, he was captured, convicted and executed by firing squad (December 30, 1896 – he was 35-years old.)
The insurrection continued for two years after his death; Spain fought to maintain its empire not just in the Philippines but also in Cuba and Puerto Rico. In 1898, this led to the Spanish-American War, when the US officially entered the conflict by declaring war on Spain (with emphasis and concerns mostly directed at conflicts in Cuba, in their war for independence.)
William McKinley was US president and the causal event was the explosion of the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor, Cuba on February 15, 1898. However, many in America suspected that the US had colonial aspirations of its own. The Spanish‐American War ended 5-months after it began resulting in the US gaining the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and Hawaiʻi.
After its defeat in the Spanish-American War of 1898, Spain ceded its longstanding colony of the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris.
On February 4, 1899, just two days before the US Senate ratified the treaty, fighting broke out between American forces and Filipino nationalists who sought independence rather than a change in colonial rulers.
The ensuing Philippine-American War lasted three years, into the spring of 1902. President Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed a general amnesty and declared the conflict over on July 4, 1902, although minor uprisings and insurrections against American rule periodically occurred in the years that followed. (State Department)
In 1907, the Philippines convened its first elected assembly, and in 1916, the Jones Act promised the nation eventual independence. The Philippine Islands became an autonomous commonwealth in 1935, and the US granted independence in 1946. (State Department)
While it is not clear if Rizal ever made it to Hawaiʻi, here are some ties of these events to the Hawaiian Islands.
US foreign policy advocated the taking of the Caribbean Islands and the Philippine Islands for bases to protect US commerce. Meanwhile, Hawai’i, had gained strategic importance because of its geographical position in the Pacific. Honolulu served as a stopover point for the forces heading to the Philippines.
On August 12, 1898, the United States ratified the Hawaiʻi treaty of annexation. At the time, there was no assigned garrison in the Islands until August 15, 1898, when soldiers landed in Honolulu for garrison duty. They set up camp in the large infield of the one-mile race track at Kapiʻolani Park.
Their camp was named ‘Camp McKinley,’ in honor of the president. Camp McKinley remained in existence until Fort Shafter was opened in late June, 1907. The garrison was either artillery or coast artillery troops during this period.
In Hawaiʻi, shortage of laborers to work in the growing (in size and number) sugar plantations became a challenge. Of the large level of plantation worker immigration, the Chinese were the first (1852,) followed by the Japanese (1885,) then, the Filipinos (1906.)
After the turn of the century, the plantations started bringing in Filipinos. Over the years in successive waves of immigration, the sugar planters brought to Hawaiʻi 46,000-Chinese, 180,000-Japanese, 126,000-Filipinos, as well as Portuguese, Puerto Ricans and other ethnic groups.
Comprising only 19-percent of the plantation workforce in 1917, the Filipinos jumped to 70-percent by 1930, replacing the Japanese, who had dwindled to 19-percent as the 1930s approached. (Aquino)
To commemorate José Rizal, statues and monuments have been erected in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere.