Timeline: Philippines History, Part I

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
Philippine flag

Part I: Magellan, Rizal, and Philippine independence

by David Johnson and Shmuel Ross
B.C. 1521 1521 1886 1901 1934 1946 Next: 1965-present
About 25,000 B.C.

The ancestors of the Philippines' aboriginal inhabitants—the Negritos or Aeta—come from the Asian mainland, crossing shallow seas and land bridges. (Archaeological evidence suggests that the Philippines may have been inhabited many thousands of years before then, but that can't be stated with certainty. The oldest human fossil found so far is 22,000 years old.)

About 3000 B.C.

New inhabitants come from Indonesia. This is repeated around 1000 B.C.

About 200 B.C.

The first of several waves of Malayan settlers arrives from South China.

1300s A.D.

Extensive trade is being conducted with India, Indonesia, China, and Japan. Arab traders from Indonesia introduce Islam to the Filipinos.


Ferdinand Magellan explores the islands now known as the Philippines


Spanish military party claims islands for Spain; names them "Philippines" after Prince Philip, later King Philip II of Spain; Philippines becomes part of Spanish Empire


José Rizal publishes anti-Spanish novel, Noli Me Tangere (The Lost Eden); popularizes independence sentiment


Spanish execute Rizal for instigating insurrection; public outrage spawns rebellion


Treaty of Paris ends Spanish-American War, cedes Philippines to U.S.

Filipinos declare their independence; Emilio Aguinaldo leads guerrilla war against U.S.


U.S. captures Aquinaldo; William Howard Taft arrives as first U.S. governor of Philippines


Insurrection ends; Taft improves economic conditions, settles disputes over church ownership of land, establishes pensionado program, allowing Filipinos to study in U.S., which helped modernize and westernize the country


U.S. government passes Jones Law establishing elected Filipino legislature with house and senate


U.S. approves Tydings-McDuffie Act promising Philippine independence in 1946; transition to independence begins


Filipino people approve constitution creating Commonwealth of the Philippines with Manuel Quezon y Molina as president


Japanese invade Philippines, and defeat Gen. Douglas MacArthur at Bataan and Corregidor; Quezon establishes government in exile


Quezon dies; Vice President Sergio Osmeña takes presidency; MacArthur reinvades Philippines


MacArthur liberates Manila; Osmeña establishes government


Philippines becomes independent nation; Manuel Roxas y Acuña elected first president

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