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Conversely, one cannot fully understand Rizal’s thought without understanding the
social and political context of the 19thcentury. Social scientists marked the 19th century
as the birth of modern life as well as the birth of many nation-states around the world. The
birth of modernity was precipitated by three great revolutions around the world: the
Industrial revolution in England, the French Revolution in France and the American
Industrial Revolution
The industrial revolution is basically an economic revolution which started with the
invention of steam engine and resulted to the use of machinery in the manufacturing
sector in the cities of Europe. It has changed the economy of Europe from feudalism—an
economic system which relied on land and agriculture--to capitalism which relied on
machinery and wage labor. The merchants of Europe who became rich through trade
became the early capitalists of this emerging economy. Farmers from rural areas
migrated to the cities and became industrial workers while their wives remained as
housekeepers at home in what Karl Marx’s characterized as the first instance of the
domestication of women.
The Industrial Revolution that started in Europe had repercussions to the Philippine
economy. A radical transformation of the economy took place between the middle of the
eighteenth century and the middle of the nineteenth; something that might almost be
called an agricultural revolution, with a concomitant development of agricultural industries
and domestic as well as foreign trade (De la Costa 1965: 159). The economic
opportunities created by the Industrial Revolution had encouraged Spain in 1834 to open
the Philippine economy to world commerce. As a result, new cities and ports were built.
Foreign firms increased rapidly. Foreigners were allowed to engage in manufacturing and
agriculture. Merchant banks and financial institutions were also established. The British
and Americans improved agricultural machinery for sugar milling and rice hulling and
introduced new methods of farming. The presence of these foreign traders stimulated
agricultural production, particularly sugar, rice, hemp, and—once the government
monopoly was removed in 1882—tobacco. Indeed, the abolition of restrictions on foreign
trade has produced a balanced and dynamic economy of the Philippines during the
19th century (Maguigad & Muhi 2001: 46; Schumacher 1997: 17).
Furthermore, the fast tempo of economic progress in the Philippines during the
19th century facilitated by Industrial Revolution resulted to the rise to a new breed of rich
and influential Filipino middle class. Non-existent in previous centuries, this class,
composed of Spanish and Chinese mestizosrose to a position of power in the Filipino

community and eventually became leaders in finance and education (Agoncillo 1990:
129-130). This class included the ilustrados who belonged to the landed gentry and who
were highly respected in their respective pueblos or towns, though regarded as
filibusteros or rebels by the friars. The relative prosperity of the period has enabled them
to send their sons to Spain and Europe for higher studies. Most of them later became
members of freemasonry and active in the Propaganda Movement. Some of them sensed
the failure of reformism and turned to radicalism, and looked up to Rizal as their leader
(PES 1993:239)
Lastly, safer, faster and more comfortable means of transportation such as railways and
steamships were constructed. The construction of steel bridges and the opening of Suez
Canal opened shorter routes to commerce. Faster means of communications enable
people to have better contacts for business and trade. This resulted to closer
communication between the Philippines and Spain and to the rest of the world in the
19th century (Romero 1978: 16).
The French Revolution
If the Industrial Revolution changed the economic landscape of Europe and of the
Philippines, another great Revolution changed their political tone of the period—the
French Revolution. The French revolution (1789-1799) started a political revolution in
Europe and in some parts of the world. This revolution is a period of political and social
upheaval and radical change in the history of France during which the French
governmental structure was transformed from absolute monarchy with feudal privileges
for the rich and clergy to a more democratic government form based on the principles of
citizenship and inalienable rights. With the overthrow of monarchial rule, democratic
principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity--the battle cry of the French Revolution--
started to spread in Europe and around the world.
Not all democratic principles were spread as a result of the French Revolution. The
anarchy or political disturbance caused by the revolution had reached not only in
neighboring countries of France, it has also reached Spain in the 19th century. Spain
experienced a turbulent century of political disturbances during this era which included
numerous changes in parliaments and constitutions, the Peninsular War, the loss of
Spanish America, and the struggle between liberals and conservatives (De la Costa 1965:
159). Moreover, radical shifts in government structure were introduced by liberals in the
motherland. From 1834 to 1862, for instance, a brief span of only 28 years, Spain had
four constitutions, 28 parliaments, and 529 ministers with portfolio (Zaide 1999: 203). All
these political changes in Spain had their repercussions in the Philippines, cracking the
fabric of the old colonial system and introducing through cracks perilous possibilities of
reform, of equality and even emancipation” (De la Costa 1965: 159).
Because of this political turmoil in the motherland, the global power of the “Siglo
de Oro of Spain” in the sixteenth century as the mistress of the world with extensive
territories had waned abroad in the nineteenth century. Her colonies had gained

momentum for independence owing to the cracks in political leadership in the motherland.
In fact, Cuba, a colony of Spain, was waging a revolution against Spain when Rizal
volunteered to discontinue his exile in Dapitan to work as volunteer doctor there in order
for him to observe the revolution. The divided power of Spain was triggered by successive
change of regimes due to the democratic aspiration created by the French Revolution.
This aspiration had inspired colonies under Spain and Portugal to revolt in order to gain
independence from their colonial masters in the 19th century.
The American Revolution
Finally, the American Revolution, though not directly affecting the local economy
and politics of the Philippines in the nineteenth century, had important repercussions to
democratic aspirations of the Filipino reformist led by Rizal during this period.
The American Revolution refers to the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th
century in which the 13 colonies of North America overthrew the rule of the British Empire
and rejected the British monarchy to make the United States of American a sovereign
nation. In this period the colonies first rejected the authority British Parliament to govern
without representation, and formed self-governing independent states. The American
revolution had given the world in the 19thcentury the idea that colonized people can gain
their independence from their colonizers. The Americans were able to overthrow their
British colonial masters to gain independence and the status of one free nation-state. This
significant event had reverberated in Europe and around the world and inspired others to
follow. Indirectly, the American Revolution had in a way inspired
Filipino reformists like Rizal to aspire for freedom and independence. When the
Philippines was opened by Spain to world trade in the 19th century, liberal ideas from
America borne by ships and men from foreign ports began to reach the country and
influenced the ilustrados. These ideas, contained in books and newspapers, were
ideologies of the American and French Revolutions and the thoughts of Montesquieu,
Rousseau, Voltaire, Locke, Jefferson, and other political philosophers (Zaide 1999: 214)
Aside from the three great revolutions in Europe, the birth of social sciences such
as sociology, history and anthropology, also had a significant influence to the intellectual
tradition of the 19thcentury. The reliance on human reason and science rather on dogmas
of the Catholic Church has its roots in the intellectual movement called The
Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment or simply The Enlightenment is a term used to
describe a time in Western philosophy and cultural life centered upon the eighteenth
century, in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for
Enlightenment philosophers such Michel de Montaigne, believed that human
reason could be used to combat ignorance, superstition, and tyranny and to build a better
world. Their principal targets were religion (embodied in France in the Catholic Church)
and the domination of society by a hereditary aristocracy.

The reliance on human reason rather on faith and religion has paved the way to
the birth of social sciences in the 19th century to study scientifically the changes and
conditions of Europe during this period. The massive changes in society brought about
by the three great revolutions has resulted to dissatisfaction
In addition to the three great revolutions, the weakening of the grip of the Catholic
Church of the growing secularalized society of Europe and Spain has implications to the
Philippines.Conversely, the Catholic Church in Europe was a most powerful institution in
Europe. The union of Church State has identified the Church with the monarchy and
aristocracy since the Middles Ages. Since it upheld the status quo and favored the
monarchy, the Church in the nineteenth century had been considered an adversary to the
new Republican states and the recently unified countries. The French saw the Church as
a threat to the newly formed republican state and Bismarck of Germany also saw it as a
threat to the unified German Empire. In Spain, the liberals considered the Church as an
enemy of reforms. Thus they sought to curtail to influence of the Church in political life
and education. This movement against the Catholic Church called anti-clericalism had
gained strength in the nineteenth century not only for political reasons but also of the
materialistic preferences of the people generated by the economic prosperity of the period
(Romero et al 1978: 17-18).
The declining influence of the Catholic Church in Europe and Spain has little effect,
however, to the control and power of the local Church in the Philippines. Despite the anti-
clericalism in Spain, the power of the friars in the Philippines in the 19thcentury did not
decline; instead, it became consolidated after the weakening of civil authority owing to
constant change in political leadership. This means that Filipinos turned more and more
to the friars for moral and political guidance as Spanish civil officials in the colony became
more corrupt and immoral. The union of the Church and State and the so-called “rule of
the friars” or “frailocracy” continued during this period. In the last decades of the
19th century, the Spanish friars were so influential and powerful that they practically ruled
the whole archipelago. The Spanish civil authorities as well as patriotic Filipinos feared
them. In every Christian town in the country, for instance, the friar is the real ruler, not the
electedgobernadorcillo. He was the supervisor of local elections, the inspector of the
schools, the arbiter of morals, and the censor of books and stage shows. He could order
the arrest of or exile to distant land any filibustero (traitor) or anti-friar Filipino who
disobeyed him or refused to kiss his hands (Zaide 1999: 209).
One of the aims of Dr. Rizal and the propagandists in order to prepare the Filipino
people for revolution and independence was to discredit the friars. Exposing the abuses
and immoralities of the friars is one way to downplay their power and influence among
the people and thus can shift the allegiance of the Indiosfrom the friars to the Filipino
reformists and leaders. The strengthening power of the friars in the 19th century has
encouraged the nationalists to double their efforts to win the people to their side.

The Opening of the Suez Canal
Aside from these three great revolutions and the declining influence of the Church
during this period, there were also other factors that facilitated the growth of nationalistic
aspirations of Dr. Jose Rizal and other Filipino ilustrados. Foremost among them is the
opening of the Suez Canal to international shipping on November 17, 1869. This canal is
103 miles long and connects the Mediterranean with the Gulf of Suez and hence with the
Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Its significance could not be underestimated. With the
opening of this canal, the distance of travel between Europe and the Philippines was
significantly shortened and brought the country closer to Spain. In previous years, a
steamer from Barcelona had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, and reached Manila
after a hazardous voyage of more than three months. With this canal, the trip was reduced
to only 32 days (Zaide 1999: 215).
The opening of the Suez Canal facilitated the importation of books, magazines and
newspapers with liberal ideas from Europe and America which eventually influenced the
minds of Jose Rizal and other Filipino reformists. Political thoughts of liberal thinkers like
Jean Jacques Rousseau (Social Contract), John Locke (/two Treatises of Government),
Thomas Paine (Common Sense) and others entered the country (Maguigad & Muhi 2001;
62). Moreover, the shortened route encouraged more and more Spaniards and
Europeans with liberal ideas to come to the Philippines and interact with Filipino
reformists. The opening of this canal in 1869 further stimulated the local economy which
give rise—as already mentioned above--to the creation of the middle class
of mestizos and ilustrados in the 19th century.
The shortened route has also encouraged the ilustrados led by Rizal to pursue
higher studies abroad and learn liberal and scientific ideas in the universities of Europe.
Their social interaction with liberals in foreign lands has influenced their thinking on
politics and nationhood.
The Democratic Rule of Gov. Gen. Dela Torre
The first-hand experience of what it is to be liberal came from the role modeling of
the first liberal governor general in the Philippines—Governor General Carlos Ma. Carlos
Dela Torre. Why Govenor Dela Torre was able to rule in the Philippines has a long story.
The political instability in Spain had caused frequent changes of Spanish officials in the
Philippines which caused further confusion and increased social as well as political
discontent in the country. But when the liberals deposed Queen Isabela II in 1868 mutiny,
a provisional government was set up and the new government extended to the colonies
the reforms they adopted in Spain. These reforms include the grant of universal suffrage
and recognition of freedom and conscience, the press, association and public assembly.
General Carlos Ma. De la Torre was appointed by the provisional government in Spain
as Governor General of the Philippines (Romero et al 1978: 21).

The rule of the first liberal governor general in the person of General de la Torre
became significant in the birth of national consciousness in the 19th century. De la Torre’s
liberal and pro-people governance had given Rizal and the Filipinos during this period a
foretaste of a democratic rule and way of life. De la Torre put into practice his liberal and
democratic ways by avoiding luxury and living a simple life. During his two-year term,
Governor De la Torre had many significant achievements. He encouraged freedom and
abolished censorship (Maguigad & Muhi 2001: 63). He recognized the freedom of speech
and of the press, which were guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution. Because of his
tolerant policy, Father Jose Burgos and other Filipino priests were encouraged to pursue
their dream of replacing the friars with the Filipino clergy as parish priests in the country
(Zaide 1999: 217).
Governor De la Torre’s greatest achievement was the peaceful solution to the land
problem in Cavite. This province has been the center of agrarian unrest in the country
since the 18thcentury because the Filipino tenants who lost their land had been
oppressed by Spanish landlords. Agrarian uprisings led by the local hero, Eduardo
Camerino, erupted several times in Cavite. This agrarian problem was only solved without
bloodshed when Governor De la Torre himself went to Cavite and had a conference with
the rebel leader. He pardoned the latter and his followers, provided them with decent
livelihood and appointed them as members of the police force with Camerino as captain
The Cavite Mutiny and the Martyrdom of GOMBURZA
Two historical events in the late 19th century that hastened the growth of
nationalism in the minds of Rizal, reformists and the Filipino people is the Cavite Mutiny
and the martyrdom of Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora or popularly known as
GOMBURZA. The Cavite Mutiny is a failed uprising against the Spaniards due to
miscommunication. On the night of January 20, 1872, a group of about 200 soldiers and
workers led by Lamadrid, a Filipino sergeant, took over by force the Cavite arsenal and
fort. Before this, there was an agreement between Lamadrid and his men and Filipino
soldiers in Manila that they would join forces to stage a revolt against the Spaniards, with
firing of rockets from the city walls of Manila on that night as the signal of the uprising.
Unfortunately, the suburbs of Manila celebrated its fiesta on that very night with a display
of fireworks. The Cavite plotters, thinking that the fighting had been started by Manila
soldiers, killed their Spanish officers and took control of the fort. On the following morning,
government troops rushed to the Cavite arsenal and killed many mutineers including
Lamadrid. The survivors were subdued, taken prisoners and brought to Manila (Zaide
1999: 218-220).
This unfortunate incidence in Cavite became an opportunity, however, for the
Spaniards to implicate the three Filipino priests who had been campaigning for Filipino
rights, particularly the right of Filipino priests to become parish priests or “Filipinization”
of the parishes in the country. These three priests, especially Father Jose Burgos, the
youngest and the most intelligent, championed the rights of the Filipino priests and were

critical of Spanish policies. The Spanish government then wanted them to be placed
behind bars or executed. To do this, it magnified the event and made it appear as a
“revolt” against the government. Thus, after the mutineers were imprisoned, Fathers
Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora (GOMBURZA) were arrested and
charged falsely with treason and mutiny under a military court. To implicate them, the
government bribed Francisco Zaldua, a former soldier, as the star witness. With a farcical
trial, a biased court, and a weak defense from their government-hired lawyers, the three
priests were convicted of a crime they did not commit. Governor Izquierdo approved their
death sentence and at sunrise of February 17, 1872, Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora
were escorted under heavy guard to Luneta and were executed by garrote (strangulation
machine) before a vast crowd of Filipinos and foreigners (Ibid.).
The execution of GOMBURZA had hastened not only the downfall of the Spanish
government but also the growth of Philippine nationalism. The Filipino people resented
the execution of the three priests because they knew that they were innocent and were
executed because they championed Filipino rights. Among those in the crowd who
resented the execution was Paciano, the older brother of Jose Rizal, who inspired the
national hero to follow the cause of the three priests. Rizal dedicated his novel Noli Me
Tangere to GOMBURZA to show his appreciation to the latter’s courage, dedication to
Filipino rights, and sense of nationalism.
Discontent with Spanish Institutions
Spain introduced into the country mechanisms or institutions to enable the colonial
government in the country to comply with its obligations of supporting the Church’s
mission of Christianizing the natives and to contribute to the Spanish King’s economic
welfare. These institutions include the encomienda, the polo or forced labor and
the tributo or tribute. The tribute consisted of direct (personal tribute and income tax) and
indirect (customs duties and the bandala), taxes, monopolies (rentas estancadas) of
special crops and items as spirituous liquors (1712-1864), betel nut (1764), tobacco
(1782-1882), explosives (1805-1864), and opium (1847) (Agoncillo 1990: 81). These
colonial systems also became the major sources of discontent of many indios during the
Spanish period. Because of the oppressive nature of these systems, many revolts and
uprisings erupted in various parts of the country which contribute tod the weakening of
the Spanish rule in the 19thcentury.
The Tribute or Tributo
As a sign of vassalage to Spain, the Filipino paid tribute to the colonial government
in the island (Zaide 1999: 107). In July 26, 1523, King Charles V decreed that Indians
who had been pacified should contribute a “moderate amount” in recognition of their
vassalage (Cushner 1979: 101). In theory the tribute or tax was collected from the natives
in order to defray the costs of colonization and to recognize their vassalage to the king of
Spain (Ibid). From the point of view of the Catholic Church, tribute could be extracted from
the natives only if it was used primarily for the work of Christianization like the building of

churches in the colony, support for missionaries, and so on. But from the point of view of
the natives, the payment of the tribute was, however, seen as a symbol of acceptance of
their vassalage to Spain.
Miguel Lopez de Legazpi was first to order the payment of tribute, both in the
Visayas and Luzon. His successors followed this practice. As mentioned above,
the buwis (tribute) during this period consisted of two types: the direct taxes which came
from personal tribute and income tax, and indirect taxes which were collected from
customs duties and bandala taxes, monopolies (rentas escantadas) of special crops and
items (Agoncillo 1990: 81).
The tribute or buwis was collected from the natives both in specie (gold or
money) and kind (e.g. rice, cloth, chicken, coconut oil, abaca, etc.). The King of Spain
preferred the payment of gold but the natives paid largely in kind. That was why King
Philip II was annoyed upon knowing that most of the tributes in the colony was paid in
kind (Cushner 1979: 104). In the 1570s, the tribute was fixed at eight reales (1 real=121/2
centavos) or in kind of “gold, blankets, cotton, rice, bells” and raised to fifteen reales till
the end of the Spanish period. Until the mid-nineteenth century, the Filipinos were
required to pay the tribute of 10 reales; 1 real diezmos prediales (tithes), 1 real town
community chest, 3 reales of sanctorum tax for church support or a total of
15 reales (Agoncillo 1990: 1-82).
In addition, a special tax called bandala was also collected from the natives.
Coming the word mandala ( a round stack of rice stalks to be threshed), bandala is an
annual enforced sale or requisitioning of goods, particularly of rice or coconut oil, in the
case of Tayabas. If not paid, outright confiscation of goods or crops if this tax is not paid
or paid only in promissory notes. This type of tax is so oppressive that it sparked a revolt
in 1660-61. In November 1782, bandala was abolished in provinces of Tondo, Bulacan,
Pampanga, Laguna, Batangas, Tayabas and Cavite since natives refused to plant rice
and other crops because of this tax (Agoncillo 1990: 82).
By 1884, the tribute was replaced by the cedula personal or personal identity paper
which resembles with the present community or residence tax today. Everyone, whether
Filipino or other nationalities, over eighteen years of age, was required to pay this kind of
tax (Ibid.: 83).
The intended effect of the tribute was primarily to advance the Christianization of the
natives in the archipelago. The unintended effect however was exploitation of the natives
at the hands of some abusive Spaniards in the collection of this tribute. Due to its lack of
uniformity and fixed policy in collecting tribute in the beginning, many natives complained
of paying taxes beyond legal prescription. Says Renato Constantino, “The tribute-
collectors—alcaldes, mayors, encomenderos, gobernadorcillos, and cabezas—often
abused their offices by collecting more than the law required and appropriating the
difference” (Constantino 1975: 51).

The Encomienda
Another colonial system that is intimately connected with the tribute is
the encomienda system. The word “encomienda” comes from the Spanish “encomendar”
which means “to entrust.” The ecomienda is a grant of inhabitants living in particular
conquered territory which Spain gave to Spanish colonizer as a reward for his services
(Zaide 1987: 76). It is given by the king of Spain as gesture of gratitude to those who
assisted him in colonizing the Indies. In the strict sense, it is not a land grant but a grant
to exercise control over a specific place including its inhabitants. This includes the right
for the encomendero (owner of encomienda) to impose tribute or taxes according to the
limit and kind set by higher authorities (Agoncillo 1990: 84). In exchange for this right, the
encomendero is duty-bound by law to (1) defend his encomienda from external
incursions, (2) to keep peace and order, and (3) to assist the missionaries in evangelizing
the natives within his territory (Ibid).
The encomiendas during the Spanish period were of two kinds—the royal and
private. The royal encomiendas which consisted of big cities, seaports, and inhabitants
of regions rich in natural resources were owned by the king. The private encomiendas
were owned by private individuals or charitable institutions such as the College of Santa
Potenciana and the Hospital of San Juan de Dios (Zaide 1987:76). By 1591, a total of
257encomiendas with a total population of over 600,000 were created by the Spanish
king in the Philippines (31 royal and 236 private). The encomienda system lasted a little
longer and finally ended in the first decade of the 19th century (Zaide 1987: 77).
Like the tribute, the encomienda system is one of the major sources of discontent
of the natives against the Spanish rule. This system has empowered the
Spanish encomiendero to collect tribute or taxes according to his whim or desire.
Because there was no systematic taxation system in the colony, the encomiendero has
the option to collect the tribute in gold, cash, or kind. When gold was abundant and money
was scarce, he demanded cash or reales; when reales were plentiful and there was
scarcity of gold, they asked for gold, even when the poor Filipinos were coerced to buy
them. During bumper harvests, he demanded products like rice, tobacco or even all of
the Filipino possessions, and they were forced “to travel great distances” to try to buy
them at high rates. The encomiendero has indeed become abusive because of his
discretionary power to collect taxes within his jurisdiction. Filipinos who resisted his power
were publicly flogged, tortured or jailed. These unjust collections of taxes within
the encomienda system became one of the causes of intermittent uprisings in the
Philippines during the Spanish period (Agoncillo 1990: 84-85).
The Polo or Forced Labor
In addition to the tribute, the Polo or forced labor is another Spanish that had
created discontent among the indios during the Spanish times. The word “polo” is actually
a corruption of the Tagalog pulong, originally meaning “meeting of persons and things” or
“community labor”. Drafted laborers were either Filipino or Chinese male mestizos who

were obligated to give personal service to community projects, like construction and repair
of infrastructure, church construction, or cutting logs in forests, for forty days. All able-
body males, from 16 to 60 years of old, except chieftains and their elder sons, were
required to render labor for these various projects in the colony. This was instituted in
1580 and reduced to 15 days per year in 1884 (Constantino 1975: 51).
There were laws that regulate polo. For instance, the polista (the person who
renders forced labor) will be paid a daily wage of ¼ real plus rice. Moreover,
the polista was not supposed to be brought from a distant place nor required to work
during planting and harvesting seasons (Ibid: 52). Despite restrictions, polo resulted to
the disastrous consequences. It resulted to the ruining of communities the men left
behind. The promised wage was not given exactly as promised that led to starvation or
even death to some polistas and their families. Moreover, the polohad affected the village
economy negatively. The labor drafts coincided with the planting and harvesting seasons;
forced separation from the family and relocation to different places, sometimes outside
the Philippines; and reduction of male population as they were compelled at times, to
escape to the mountains instead of working in the labor pool (Agoncillo 1990: 83).
During the Spanish period, there was a union of Church and State. The Catholic
religion became the State religion. Both civil and ecclesiastical authorities served God
and king. Thus, the functions of the government officials oftentimes overlapped with those
of the clergy in the Church. Under the arrangements between the Pope and the Spanish
King called the Patronato Real de las Indias, civil and Church authorities must coordinate
to Christianize the natives in the colony. Since evangelization of the natives is the only
reason, according to the Church, that gave Spain the right to colonize the Philippines and
to extract tribute, civil authorities should support the material needs of the missionaries in
building Churches and catechizing the inhabitants. Thus, the government provided
salaries to the Spanish missionaries and the clergy, making them technically government
The union of Church and State also implies the non-payment of all forms of tribute
or taxes by the Catholic Church and members of its clergy. The Church did not pay any
personal or income tax to the government. Instead, the government contributed a huge
amount of the taxes or duties collected from the colony went to the Church for its
evangelization work. Owing to this union, the clergy and friars enjoyed political influence
in the country. In the town, for instance, the parish priest holds immense power compared
to the gobernadorcillo or town mayor. He represented the Spanish King in his area of
responsibility. He supervised local elections, education, charities, morals and taxation.
Until 1762, members of the Church hierarchy like bishops and archbishops acted as
governor generals in case of vacancy in the gubernatorial office. Among them were:
Archbishop Francisco Francisco de la Cuesta (1719-21), Bishop Juan de Arrechederra
(1745-50), Bsihop Lino de Espeleta (1759-61) and Archbishop Manuel Antonio Rojo
(1761-62) (Zaide 1999: 111).

With today’s doctrine of Separation of Church and State introduced by the
Americans, it is unthinkable for bishops and priests to hold public office or exercise
government power owing to the ban imposed by the Pope to the clergy. With vast
powers both spiritual and political in their hands, Spanish friars and the clergy held
absolute powers in the colony during the Spanish period. This had attracted the attention
of the reformists and ilustrados led by Jose Rizal that resulted to a nationalist desire for
reforms in the country and eventually independence from Spain.
Abuses and Immoralities of the Friars
Although not all friars are bad, abusive and immoral friars became a source cause
of people’s disenchantment with the Spanish rule. The Filipino reformists led by Dr. Rizal
hated the abusive friars and wanted them to be expelled from the country as attested by
their “Anti-Friars Manifesto of 1888”:
The bad friars were portrayed by Rizal in his two novels Noli Me Tangere and El
Filibusterismo and by Graciano Lopez Jaena as Fray Botod (Zaide 1999:211). These bad
friars were arrogant, abusive and immoral. They impregnated native women and sire
illegitimate children.
The reformist Marcelo H. Del Pilar parodied the Ten Commandments to ridicule
the friars:
1. Thou shalt worship and love the friars above all.
2. Thou shalt not cheat them of their stipends.
3. Thou shalt sanctify the friar, Sundays or holidays.
4. Thou shalt pawn thyself to pay for the burial of thy father and mother.
5. Thou shouldst not die if thou hast not the money to pay for thine interment.
6. Thou shalt not covet his wife.
7. Thou shalt not steal with him.
8. Thou shalt not accuse him even if thou be called a liar.
9. Thou not refuse him your wife.
10. Thou shalt not deny him your property (Del Pilar in Agoncillo 1990:136-137).
Racial Discrimination
Another area of animosities between Filipinos and Spaniards that led to discontent
of the Spanish rule is racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is a form of social
exclusion where people are prevented from having access to public goods by virtue of
their physical traits. It is an abusive behavior of one race against another. In colonization,
the white colonizers who are Caucasians often down on their colonized people or natives

as inferior by virtue of their skin, height, nose, or physical traits. In the Philippines, the
Spanish authorities regarded the brown Filipino as an inferior people and derisively called
them “Indios” or Indians. This racial prejudice against native Filipinos existed in the
government offices, in the armed forces, in the universities and colleges, in courts of
justice, and in high society (Zaide 1999: 211). Although the laws applied in the colony
recognized no difference between various races, documentary evidence on racism in the
Philippines is abundant. A description of Pardo de Tavera illustrates this racial
discrimination in social etiquette:
The townspeople were obliged to remove their hats when a Spaniard passed, and
this was especially the case if he occupied some official position; if the Spaniard
happened to be a priest; in addition to the removal of the hat the native was obliged to
kiss his hat. No Indian [i.e.,Filipino] was allowed to sit at the same table with a Spaniard,
even though the Spaniard was a guest in the Indian’s house. The Spaniards addressed
the Filipinos [i.e., Spaniards born in the Philippines] by the pronoun “thou”, and although
many of the Spaniards married pure blood native women, the wives were always looked
down on in society as belonging to an inferior class (de Tavera in Agoncillo 1990: 121).
The friars and some Spanish writers the Filipino race in their writings. They
maligned the indios and degraded them as “neither a merchant nor an industrial, neither
a farmer nor a philosopher”. The Franciscan Fr. Miguel Lucio y Bustamante opined in his
Si Tandang Basio Macunat (Manila, 1885) that the Filipino could never learn the Spanish
language or be civilized: “The Spaniards will always be a Spaniard, and the indio will
always be an indio…The monkey will always be a monkey however you dress him with
shirt and trousers, and will always be a monkey and not human” (Ibid).
To prove that indios were not inferior people, some talented and intelligent
Filipinos excelled in their chosen fields. Juan Luna excelled in painting. Fr. Jose Burgos
in Theology and Canon Law. Jose Rizal, by surpassing the Spanish writers in literary
contests and winning fame as a physician, man-of-letters, scholar, and a scientist, proved
that a brown man could be as great or even greater than a white man (Zaide 1999:211).