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Brief History of the Philippines

First Sighting:

The Philippines first came to the notice of the Western world when a Portuguese explorer by the name of Ferdinand Magellan “accidentally” landed in Homonhon Island in Cebu on March 16, 1521 while sailing for Indonesia. Then, a Spanish conquistador by the name of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi came in 1565, and successfully established a colony in the islands. This was the start of the so called Spanish era which lasted for more than 300 years.

Broken Ties

The Philippines declared its independence from Spanish rule on June 12, 1898 and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo became the first President of the Philippines. After the Treaty of Paris in 1898, wherein the Spanish government supposedly handed ownership of the Philippines to the U.S., the Filipinos rebelled against the Americans and started the Filipino-American war. The capture of Emilio Aguinaldo on 1901 ended the war. Thus, starting the American occupancy of the Philippines.

Starting Over

When Herbert Hoover became president of the United States in 1933, the Tydings-McDuffie Act was passed. This paved the way for the founding of the Philippine Commonwealth. Under the Commonwealth, the Philippines would have it’s own governance, albeit certain political decisions still require approval from the United States.

A New Enemy

Japan suddenly jumped to the scene when Japanese forces attacked Clark Airbase in Pampanga, Luzon on December 8, 1941. Faced with superior numbers, the Filipino and American forces would latter surrender on April 1942. Under the Japanese rule, a Filipino Republic was declared. This was headed by President Jose Laurel. But since the Japanese still calls all the shots, this was often called a “Dummy Government” wherein Laurel was often called “Dummy President”. Even the money circulated then was called “Mickey Mouse Money”.

True Independence

On September 2, 1945, Japan issued its unconditional surrender. Japanese rule in the Philippines ended, and in April 1946, Manuel Roxas became the president of the Republic of the Philippines.

A new hope?

Ferdinand Marcos won the presidency in 1965. He started numerous national projects and reforms that made the Philippines an economic giant in South East Asia. The Filipino people seem to have embraced Marcos’ leadership, for he was elected a 2nd term, the first for a Filipino president.

Martial Law

Although it has economic strength, the Philippines was plagued with corruption under Marcos’ 2nd term. Eventually, economic growth slowed down, and Marcos was faced with many political enemies. It was a turbulent time wherein violence has erupted all over the country and anti-government militia such as the New People’s Army and Moro National Liberation Front fought against the government. This prompted Marcos to declare Martial Law on September 21, 1972. Amidst Martial law and rampant corruption of the government, unbelievably, the economy recovered and what’s even more unbelievable is that by 1980, the Philippine economy had a GNP of 193 billion pesos, almost four times of the value in 1972.

Pressing for freedom

Martial Law was officially lifted on January 17, 1981. Yet the government’s abuse of authority has not waned, for this was only superficial. The only reason Marcos stopped Martial Law was to save face to the catholic church, as the Pope (Pope John Paul II) was to visit the country. The 1983 assassination of senator Benigno Aquino sparked a dissent on Marcos and Marcos was forced to hold a snap election on February 1986. Marcos went up against Benigno Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino. Marcos won. The result was rejected by most Filipinos, citing fraudulent and rampant cheating. In February 1986, the Filipino masses started the now infamous “People Power Revolution” or “EDSA revolution”. People rallied on the street, but it was a peaceful revolt, wherein the civilians even handed the soldiers flowers and ood. This successful revolution led to Marcos’ downfall.

Freedom Earned

Corazon Aquino became president on February 25, 1986. Various Political and constitutional amendments were quickly ratified. Aquino’s government was plagued by numerous problems. She had three coup d'├ętat’s. The economy was down spiraling. Aquino even won the moniker “Queen of Brownouts” since power outages were very common across the country. Most political figures viewed her as a weak president. But the people supported her, for she was the Image of the Edsa Revolution and was considered worldwide as an icon of democracy, earning Time Magazine's "Woman of the Year" award in 1986. She died on August 1, 2009 after a 1 and half bout against colorectal cancer.

Seeking for peace

In 1992, Fidel Ramos, former Defense Secretary of Marcos, won the presidential Elections. He wanted to bring peace to the country and actively sought the support of the anti-government groups. He offered amnesty to all militants and rebels. It is widely acknowledged that it was during his presidency that propelled the Philippines back into the international scene by revitalizing the economy, something the President Aquino's regime lacked. Hailing from the Military himself, he got full support from the armed forces and the national police. He was not without critics though, and was often cited for frequent trips to other countries. Still shaking from the nightmare of the Marcos regime, amendments on the constitution that would have allowed Ramos to secure a 2nd term were quickly and vehemently protested against.

Champion of the Poor

A very popular actor in the Philippine cinema, Joseph “Erap” Estrada became president on 1998. His slogan of being the “Champion of the Poor” handed him an overwhelming victory. Yet, a handful of critics, economist, and political leaders doubted his capabilities as president. Estrada’s education and intelligence was blatantly questioned and ridiculed, giving rise to a flood of “Erap Jokes”. But haphazard leadership and rampant corruption, not his lack of knowledge, eventually became his downfall. An impeachment process began, which resulted to “EDSA II”, wherein people rekindled the EDSA spirit that brought down Marcos. EDSA hiway was again filled with protesters.

I am Woman, Hear me roar

Joseph Estrada was forced to leave the presidency amidst the EDSA II revolt. Then vice-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took over the reigns. Her presidency became official when she won in an election held four months after Estrada was ousted. Multitudes of corruption allegations (Garci tape, Jose Pidal Account, Bolante Fertilizer Scam, ZTE deal), withdrawal of support from prime political figures, numerous civil and military protests, and a succession of impeachment complaints failed to force her out of the office. She stepped down from the Presidency after completing her term in June 2010, but not without winning a congressional seat in her province of Pampanga. Critics has also cited her political move of appointing close political allies and friends to Government offices (most notably the Ombudsman) to ensure that there will be no political backslash against her after stepping down.

Family Ties

Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, or simply Noy-noy Aquino, is the son of former President Corazon Aquino and Filipino Icon, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. With a powerful line of political blood running through his veins, he swept thru the national elections with an overwhelming victory. His presidential speech emphasized a renewal of the Philippine political system, stating that with his leadership, he will lead the nation thru "Matuwid na daan" or "Straight Road", as opposed to the crooked path of the past. His first months of presidency were riddled with tumultuous problems such as the Military "pabaon" scandal, wherein a powerful political and military figure (Hon. Angelo Reyes) committed suicide amidst the investigation. There's also criticism about his romantic life, his purchase of a Porsche car, and his stand on the rising cost of petroleum products.

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