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Biala, Christine Joyce G.


24 February 2015

Philippine Communities During Spanish Colonial Period

There were only a few Spaniards who landed in the Philippine archipelago in
the first few Spanish expeditions, compared to thousands of natives living in the
same island the Spaniards landedCebu. But how were these Spaniards able to set
up a community for them to administer? According to Susan Russell from the
Department of Anthropology in Northern Illinois University in her study on the
Christianity in the Philippines, Rajah Humabon happened to have an ill grandson
when Magellans ship arrived. Magellan or one of his men was able to cure Rajah
Humabons grandsons illness, so afterwards Rajah Humabon gratefully allowed 800
of his followers to be 'baptized' Christian in a mass baptism. This permission and
non-argument between two became a portal for these colonizers to establish power
and ownership of the archipelago while searching for spices.
In their attempt of Christianization among animists and Muslims in the
northern and central part of the Philippines, Spaniards set up a community for them
to move in, along with the implementation of Reduccion. The act of relocation
among early Filipinos from small, scattered communities to larger towns was
enforced. Through reduccion, Spaniards were able to easily administer resettled
Filipino population, and the ability to control and observe them through their
movements and actions. It was also more convenient for Spaniards to convert
Filipinos into Christianity and collect taxes easily, especially that Christianized
Filipinos pay larger amount of taxes compared to indios.1

Aside from Catholic churches which have been a remarkable contribution of

Spaniards and Christianity to Philippine culture and especially architecture, Spanish
era has introduced many structures which enclosed activities which may or may not
have been part of Philippine culture even until now. According to my lecture notes in
my Philippine historical architecture class, walled cities such as Intramuros was built
for counterattacks and defense, especially from other colonizers who attempted to
take over the land. Accessoria is an apartment dwelling in a form of cheap housing
for migrant workers. Many civic architecture were introduced during the Spanish
era. Within cities or towns, government complex, or casa del ayuntamiento, was
planned for easy access of Spanish administration to the people, especially when it
comes to tax collection. Palacio del gobernador general or palacio general was the
residence of the highest official of the land. Malacanang palace during Spanish era
was a vacation house. Aduana was the customs house, and hacienda publica, the
treasury. Municipio, which was also called casa municipal or casa real, was the
smaller version of ayuntamiento.2
With the attempt of Spaniards to influence us with their culture and language,
until the culture of the early Filipinos fade away into something almost
irrecoverable, trying to make sure the Filipinos would not have an alien
communication of rebellion against them, the upbringing of children were shaped in
the schools the Spaniards built, and there were two types. First was the colegio or
universidad, such as Manila Ordinary School for Schoolmistresses, San Juan de
Letran Manila (founded between 1830 and 1850 by Juan Geronimo Guerrero, a friar;
it belonged to a Dominican order and a small church of the same name), and
University of Santo Tomas. Second was escuela primaria in pueblos, such as in
Bulacan and Vigan.2

Healthcare during the Spanish period comes with its structures compared to
the babaylans or other healers who cure patients in their houses. Hospital de San
Lazaro is the oldest functioning hospital in the orient which was specialized for
lepers. The Hospital de Santa Ana was founded in 1596 by the Franciscan Juan
Clemente, was later to become the Hospital San Juan de Dios. 2
Aside from the very well-known calesa which was a very popular mode of
transportation, and still is, in Vigan, railroad systems were introduced during
Spanish era before Imelda Marcos did. A 192-kilometer locomotive-driven railroad
system between Manila and Dagupan opened in 1892. The estacion de ferrocarril
was a railway station designed by Juan Ervas. Other infrastructures were also built.
Puente de manila, which exemplified Spanish bridge engineering, was built in 1875.
Another example was the puente de colgante, a suspension bridge connecting
Quiapo with Arroceros district. Farolas or lighthouse were built, such as one in
The business and trading which started way back centuries before Spaniards
arrived, and it evolved into a larger scale while Western countries were under
Industrial Revolution. Chinese merchants finally fixated a convenient location for
buyers and merchants like them. Parian was a term used for Chinese business
districts in large municipalities like Manila, Cebu, Vigan, and Malolos. Alcaicera de
San Fernando was a silk market with an octagonal plan in Binondo which was
established in 1758. Mixed-use commercial buildings emerged, wherein shops and
stores were located in first floor, while residences were on second floor, as
exemplified by ones in Escolta and Rosario. Other mixed-use commercial buildings
were sari-sari store, carinderia, real estanco, which was the administration for the
monopolies, sugar refinery, wine refinery, matadero or public slaughterhouse, and

large markets: La Quinta, or more popular as Quiapo, and Divisoria. Other accessory
buildings for business and trading were almacen (warehouse), fabrica (factories),
camarin (storehouses), and tabacalera, or tobacco and cigar factories, such as La
Insular cigar factory.2
The Spaniards would had been bored in the Philippines if they hadnt brought
entertainment with them. Structures housing leisure and recreation include teatros
al aire libre or open-air theaters, camarin teatro or barn theater, such as Teatros
Circo Zorilla, sabungan or cockfighting arenas, which are also called rueda,
fumadero de opio or opium den, and burdel or brothels.2
During the period of colonization of Spain, the Spanish community had
always been migrating to the Philippines. During the 19 th century, when awareness
came across Filipinos to strongly revolt against
The Spaniards, Spain attempted to strengthen its economic hold within its colonies,
until they lost sovereignty, and migration was limited in population until it stopped.
Even until present time, the situation where the present-day Spanish community in
the Philippines finds itself is represented by the institutions and organizations that
monitor relations and provide protection for its fellow Spanish members, such as
Sociedad Espaola de Beneficencia (health care), Hospital Espaol de Santiago
(medical services), Cmara de Comercio Espaola (business and trade), and Casino
Espaol (social recreation).3









Feb 2014)

ARCH 117 Lecture Notes: Spanish Colonial Architecture Domestic. (DISCLAIMER:

The note taker and the lecturer does not claim ownership to the information

Dr. Isaac Donoso Jimnez. History of the Spanish Community in the Philippines.




2012. (Retrieved 23 Feb 2014)

Supporting References:
Fenella Cannell. Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. 1999.
David J. Steinberg. The Philippines: A Singular and a Plural Place. Boulder, CO:
Westview Press. 1982.