History of 1898 Philippine Independence Declaration

During the Spanish-American War, Filipino rebels led by Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines after 300 years of Spanish rule. By mid-August, Filipino rebels and U.S. troops had ousted the Spanish, but Aguinaldo’s hopes for independence were dashed when the United States formally annexed the Philippines as part of its peace treaty with Spain.

The Philippines, a large island archipelago, situated off Southeast Asia, was colonized by the Spanish in the latter part of the 16th century. Opposition to Spanish rule began among Filipino priests, who resented Spanish domination of the Roman Catholic churches in the islands. In the late 19th century, Filipino intellectuals and the middle class began calling for independence. In 1892, the Katipunan, a secret revolutionary society, was formed in Manila, the Philippine capital on the island of Luzon. Membership grew dramatically, and in August 1896 the Spanish uncovered the Katipunan’s plans for rebellion, forcing premature action from the rebels. Revolts broke out across Luzon, and in March 1897, 28-year-old Emilio Aguinaldo became leader of the rebellion.

By late 1897, the revolutionaries had been driven into the hills southeast of Manila, and Aguinaldo negotiated an agreement with the Spanish. In exchange for financial compensation and a promise of reform in the Philippines, Aguinaldo and his generals would accept exile in Hong Kong. The rebel leaders departed, and the Philippine Revolution temporarily was at an end.

In April 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out over Spain’s brutal suppression of a rebellion in Cuba. The first in a series of decisive U.S. victories occurred on May 1, 1898, when the U.S. Asiatic Squadron under Commodore George Dewey annihilated the Spanish Pacific fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines. From his exile, Aguinaldo made arrangements with U.S. authorities to return to the Philippines and assist the United States in the war against Spain. He landed on May 19, rallied his revolutionaries, and began liberating tows south of Manila. On June 12, he proclaimed Philippine independence and established a provincial government, of which he subsequently became head. In 1962, former President Diosdado Macapagal declared June 12, as Philippine Independence day based on this history.

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