With all the abuses and defects of a dictatorial form of government, Spain colonized the country and ruled her for over three centuries until 1898, when she left the Philippines enriched with the Christian faith and Catholic religious practices — the kind which she knew and practiced.
Spain gave the Philippines a central government, a united geographical identity, the Spanish language and a common identifying name –Filipinos.
The unity of Church and State entrusted power to the friars of Manila and throughout the country, to those were parish priests. The friars created many towns and introduced many trades.
But there were abuses, too. While the Jesuits used to have great sympathy for the Filipinos, the friars generally looked down on them. But it was no different from the attitude which an enlightened Jefferson, the American statesman who wrote the declaration that all men are created equal, had for the Black in America.
And yet, the Dominican friars founded a university in our land which antedates Harvard, the oldest American university. Up to now, it is a flourishing university which produced the very leaders who demanded basic reform as from Spain, and even separation from Spain and the United States.
Appraisal of Spanish Domination
It can be said that Filipinos under Spanish rule fared better than did the Malay and the Bornean under British rule, and the Indonesian under the Dutch rule.
We were more advanced, owing to the very education we received from Spain. During the tri-centennial celebration of the University of Sto. Tomas, William Howard Taft, the first American civil governor of the Philippines, praised Spain’s educational influence in the country. It is perhaps because of this advance in education that it was in the Philippines the cry for independence was first ever heard in Asia, and where the First Republic in Asia was born in 1899.
These benefits are more visible if we compare the fate of our race with that of the red Indian in America, due, I would think, to the fact that our people are less warlike and violent, and in our land, there has been a greater miscegenation between native and Spanish blood.
Nevertheless, granting all these benefits, the Spanish conquest and occupation of our self-governing ancestors, and the occupation of the country without the benefit of basic civil rights granted to the people constitute the first betrayal of democracy in our country. Perhaps the only justification for this occupation, with all its attendant evils, is the Spanish abuses in the were those existing even in Europe before the French revolution, and during that period, democracy was not practiced in any part of the world. As a matter of fact, during her occupation of the Philippines, Spain never had any pretensions to being a democracy — a sharp contrast to her successor.
From Salvador Araneta’s book “An American Double-Cross”.