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Opinion

British invasion of the Philippines

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces -

In his 1948 monograph on “The Contribution of the Basque Men to the Philippines”, Eulogio B. Rodriguez (then a director of the National Museum of the Philippines) described Simon de Anda y Salazar as “one of the best Spanish governors the Philippines ever had . . .” Governor de Anda was born in the Basque province of Alava on October 28, 1701. His rise to prominence in the islands was due to his actions during the British invasion and subsequent occupation of the Philippine islands from 1762-1764. Dr. Rodriguez writes, “. . . in 1762 when the English attacked Manila (then, under the administration of Archbishop Rojo, Anda did not like to submit under the authority of the English . . . he moved to Bacolor, Pampanga (organized the capital there), where he proclaimed himself governor and recruited men for his army . . . he continued to fight them (the English) for more than a year and a half.”

At the end of the British occupation, Simon de Anda was recalled to Spain, “He told the king about the injustices of the friars to the Filipinos emphasizing that the Islands needed better government and better rulers. Anda returned to the Philippines as governor in July 1770” (Rodriguez). Many of Anda’s goals and objections to the estate of the Philippines would be echoed by Emilio Aguinaldo when he declared Philippine independence over a century later. Thus, Anda’s time as governor-general is considered one of the more progressive in our history.

The British invasion was part of a larger European conflict called The Seven Years War (1756-1763); which pitted Britain against Spain and France. The British East India Company would take advantage of the situation and use it as an excuse to invade the Philippine Islands. They arrived in Manila bay with 13 ships and over 6,000 troops.

The battle for Manila should be the stuff of legend and not forgotten: “The loss of the Spaniards during the siege included three officers, two sergeants, 50 troops of the line, and 30 civilians of the militia, without reckoning the wounded; the Indians had 300 killed and 400 wounded. The besiegers lost about 1,000 men, of whom 16 were officers. The fleet fired upon the city more than 5,000 bombs, and more than 20,000 balls.” Because of Simon de Anda and the people of the Islands, the British were never able to extend their control beyond Manila and Cavite. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the British left the Philippines at the end of March 1764. However, it would take almost 20 years for the city of Manila to fully recover.

Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong in the mid-1800s, wrote a book entitled A Visit to the Philippines Islands. He believed the Islands had great potential, of which the British should take advantage. Is it any wonder that Britain had sought to control this territory? A note on page 35 of A Visit to the Philippines Islands reads, “In 1762, the city of Manila had reached to wonderful prosperity. Its commercial relations extended . . . in a word, to all places between the Isthmus of Suez and Behring’s Strait.” Manila was one of the most important trading cities in Asia during this time. Another writer by the name of Jean Baptise Mallat wrote: “Manila might easily become the center of the exports and imports of the entire globe.”

The Philippines would remain a focus for British merchants: “in 1855, the British trade with the Philippines exceeded in value that of Great Britain with several of the States of Europe, with that of any one State or port in Africa, was greater than the British trade with Mexico, Columbia, or Guatemala . . .” (Bowring, 213). Then the Philippines was rich in natural resources and Manila was one of the premier ports in all of Asia.

It seems that at more than one point in our history we were one of the shining lights of Asia and a sought after territory for trade and business. It is sad to see where we stand today. Other nations have long-recognized the potential of the Philippines. Two claimed it as their own, while others (such as the British and Dutch) tried to possess the Islands. None were ever able to capitalize on our promise. One day we hope we do.

Our history remains one of the most interesting in the world, it deserves even greater study.

A VISIT

ANDA

ARCHBISHOP ROJO

BRITISH

ISLANDS

MANILA

ONE

PHILIPPINES

PHILIPPINES ISLANDS

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