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Ecological and Economic Consequence of the Conquest: Research
« on: December 05, 2007, 03:49:31 AM »
A number of factors explain how the Filipinos managed to survive those decades of strain and stress of the Hispanic-Dutch war. Underlying all these factors, however, is the comparative mildness and the gradualness of the ecological and demographic changes issuing from the conquest. In this fundamental respect the post conquest situation in the Philippines differs markedly from that in sixteenth century Mexico. The initial Spanish impact on the Philippines was unquestionably less painful than on Mexico. The conquest of the islands was relatively pacific. Few belligerents were killed in military and post military operations, a fact which contrasts with the massive loss of life in the conquest of Mexico. In addition, the Spaniards were never attracted to the Philippines in such numbers as they were to Mexico. There was a recourse the obstacle of distance, but there was also the absence of mining and hence the prospect of quick and spectacular wealth.

No mining industry ever developed in the islands. The mining of precious metals on a massive scale would have caused an intensive economic revolution, as it did in Mexico. There were precious metals in the Philippines, but they were not discovered and systematically exploited until the twentieth century. Had these mines developed in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, Spanish colonization might have assumed a fundamentally different character. As it happened, the small Spanish colony largely consisted of merchants, civil bureaucrats, soldiers and the clergy, for these activities corresponded to the only vested interests of Spain in the islands. Metallic wealth, on the other hand, would have attracted thousands of Spanish colonists. Vast numbers of Filipinos would have been conscripted to operate the mines, which in Mexico was one of the most grueling forms of exploitation the Indians had to endure. Thus the absence of mining in the Philippines intensified the evolutionary character of the transition from preconquest to the Hispanic periods.

An increased Spanish population in the islands as the result of a mining industry might have also caused miscegenation on a large scale, and the Philippines might have become a mestizo nation, as did Mexico.
Mestizaje was ordinarily confined to the Manila area, for few Spaniards except the clergy and a handful of bureaucrats settled in the provinces. Even in the capital Filipino women were more often the mistresses than the wives of Spaniards. In those days, mestizo and illegitimate were synonymous terms. In addition to informal unions between Spaniards and Filipinos, there were also various mixtures resulting from miscegenation with the Chinese community as well.

Evolutionary Character of Ecological Changes

The Spaniards invariably accused the Filipinos of indolence. A frequent complaint was that they would not voluntarily grow a surplus. Such an argument was, in part, a Spanish rationalization for coercion. Actually compulsion in the form of the polo and the vandala become necessary not because the Filipinos lacked industry but because the Spaniards would not adequately reward them for the toils of their labor. Although the preconquest Filipinos never were surplus farmers, they might easily have been induced to become so if the Spanish had paid them fair prices for their products. Since the Spaniards would not do so, they had to force the Filipinos to grow a surplus. The vandala was an ill-camouflaged form of confiscatory taxation. That it produced results may be partly attributed to the bureaucratic system of enforcement extending down tot he village level. Every cabeza de barangay, for example had his annual quota. There were yearly allotments for rice, fowl, coconut palms, and the abaca plants. When these quotas were not met, fines were imposed on both native chieftains and the Spanish officials by the Royal Crown. The pivotal regions that produced such crops were in the central heartland of Luzon as it was known as the 'rice basket' region by the Spaniards. In the Visayas, it was panay with its dense population that produced rice crop second only to that of central Luzon. Panay's surplus was apt to move southward rather than northward. Panay served as the base of operations for supplying the fleets and garrisons for Mindanao and the Moluccas farther to the south. Cebu with its mountainous terrain was plentifully supplied with game, but it had to import rice from the neighboring islands of Leyte, Samar and Bohol.

Although the Spanish regime sponsored a significant transformation of the Philippine agriculture, the basic pattern of preconquest food production, based on the cultivation of rice and root crops, fishing and the raising of fowl and swine, was not overthrown. The agricultural innovations of the Spaniards were more of a quantitative than of a qualitative nature. Notable changes occurred as the result of the introduction of new crops and weeds, many of which were first brought to the Philippines from Mexico on the Manila Galleon.

((more to come))

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Economic Engines of Bohol

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