Captaincy General of the Philippines

The Captaincy General of the Philippines (Spanish: Capitanía General de las Filipinas [kapitaˈni.a xeneˈɾal ðe las filiˈpinas]; Filipino: Kapitaniyang Heneral ng Pilipinas) also known as the Kingdom of the Philippines (Spanish: Reino de Las Filipinas; Filipino: Kaharian ng Pilipinas) was an administrative district of the Spanish Empire in Southeast Asia governed by a Governor-General. The Captaincy General encompassed the Spanish East Indies, which included among others the Philippine Islands and the Caroline Islands. It was founded in 1565 with the first permanent Spanish settlements.

For centuries all the political and economic aspects of the Captaincy were administered in Mexico City by the Viceroyalty of New Spain, while the administrative issues had to be consulted with the Spanish Crown or the Council of the Indies through the Royal Audience of Manila. However, in 1821, following the independence of Mexico, all control was transferred to Madrid. It was succeeded by the short-lived First Philippine Republic following its Independence through the Philippine Revolution.

Captaincy General of the Philippines

Capitanía General de las Filipinas
Kapitaniyang Heneral ng Pilipinas
Seal of Philippines
Motto: Plus Ultra
"Further Beyond"
Anthem: Marcha Real
"Royal March"
Location of Philippines
  • Cebu (1565–1571)
  • Manila (1571–1898)
  • Iloilo (13 August 1898 – 10 December 1898)
Common languagesSpanish (official)
Tagalog (common)
Philippine languages, Micronesian languages
Roman Catholicism (state religion), Philippine traditional religion, Islam
• 1565–1598
Philip II
• 1621–1665
Philip IV
• 1759–1788
Charles III
• 1870–1873
Amadeo I
• 1886–1898
Alfonso XIII
• 1565–1572
Miguel López de Legazpi
• 1644–1653
Diego Fajardo Chacón
• 1770–1776
Simón de Anda
• 1869–1870
Carlos María de la Torre
• 1898
Diego de los Ríos
LegislatureCortes Generales
• European settlement
April 27, 1565
March 15, 1646
September 24, 1762
January 20, 1872
August 19, 1896
June 12, 1898
December 10, 1898
CurrencyReal de a ocho, Peso fuerte
ISO 3166 codePH
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Tondo Kingdom
Confederation of Madja-as
Rajahnate of Cebu
Sultanate of Maguindanao
Sulu Sultanate
Sovereign Tagalog Nation(During Philippine Revolution)
First Philippine Republic
German New Guinea


Early explorations

Umatac Guam.jpeg
Magellan landing site in Umatac Bay

After a long tolling voyage across the Pacific Ocean, Ferdinand Magellan reached the island of Guam on March 6, 1521 and anchored the three ships that were left of his fleet in Umatac Bay, before proceeding to the Philippines, where he met his death during the Battle of Mactan. Antonio Pigafetta, the expedition's chronicler and one of only 18 original crew members to survive Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe, recorded all details of the voyage.

Miguel López de Legazpi, arrived in Umatac in 1565 and claimed the island of Guam for Spain, before proceeding to the Philippines, where in a short period of time they successfully incorporated to Spain's Empire Cebu, Samar, Mazaua, Leyte, and Bohol, before conquering Manila.

Later (in 1569), Miguel López de Legazpi transferred the Spanish headquarters from Cebu to Panay, where they found allies, who were never conquered by Spain but were accomplished as vassals by means of pacts, peace treaties, and reciprocal alliances.[1] On 5 June 1569, Guido de Lavezaris, the royal treasurer in the Archipelago, wrote to Philip II reporting about the Portuguese attack to Cebu in the preceding autumn. A letter from another official, Andres de Mirandaola (dated three days later, on 8 June), also described briefly this encounter with the Portuguese. The danger of another attack led the Spaniards to remove their camp from Cebu to Panay, which they considered a safer place. Legazpi himself, in his report to the Viceroy in New Spain (dated 1 July 1569), mentioned the same reason for the relocation of Spaniards to Panay.[2] It was in Panay that the conquest of Luzon was planned, and launched on 8 May 1570.[3] Two of Lepazpi's Lieutenant-commanders, Martín de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo conquered Luzon's northern region.

Several Pacific islands were claimed by Spain during the 16th century, including the Caroline Islands by Toribio Alonso de Salazar in 1526, Palau by Ruy López de Villalobos in 1543, Bonin Islands by Bernardo de la Torre in 1543, New Guinea by Yñigo Ortiz de Retez in 1545, Solomon Islands by Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa in 1568, New Hebrides by Pedro Fernandes de Queirós in 1606, Marquesas Islands by Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira in 1595, and Vanuatu by Pedro Fernández de Quirós, although Spain did not make any serious attempt to establish permanent settlements in them until the 18th century.

Spanish settlement and creation of the Captaincy

Jose Honorato Lozano Vista del Punete de Manila painting

In 1574 the Captaincy General of the Philippines was created as a dependency of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. In 1584, the Real Audiencia of Manila is established by King Felipe II, who appointed as its President the same governor of the Captaincy General of the Philippines. The Captaincy had its capital in Cebu from 1565 to 1595, and in Manila from 1595 until 1898.

As part of the extensive governmental reforms during the early Bourbon period throughout the overseas possessions, an Intendencia was established in Manila by Royal Decree of July 17, 1784 that handled issues regarding the government finances and to promote the economy. Ciriaco González Carbajal was appointed as Oidor of the Audiencia of Manila and was instructed to abide by the Royal Ordinance of Mayors of 1782, that had been enacted in Rio de la Plata. Carbajal proposed the establishment of more Intendencias in Ilocos, Camarines, Iloilo and Cebu, and although they were created on November 24, 1786, they were later abolished by the Royal Decree of November 20, 1787.[4] A month earlier, on October 23, the Intendencia of Manila had been attached to the Captaincy General of the Philippines.[5]

Until 1822, all General Captains were civilians, but after that year they were always chosen among the military. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, there were established many dependent local government offices and military settlements, very numerous due to a large number of islands and the extent of the districts.

Territorial divisions

Until the second half of the 18th century, there were 24 provinces, 19 alcaldías mayores and five corregimientos:[6]


Alcaldías mayores

Other administrative units established afterward

Established during the 19th century

Until the second half of the 19th century, there existed the administrative units:

Spanish rule in the Philippines ceased in 1898 after the war with the United States, which annexed most territories, although the administrative jurisdictions remained intact.

Most of the remaining territories in the Pacific Ocean were sold to Germany during the German-Spanish Treaty of 1899.

See also


  1. ^ Cf. William Henry Scott, Cracks in the Parchment Curtain, Quezon City: 1998, p. 4. Also cf. Antonio Morga, Sucessos de las Islas Filipinas, 2nd ed., Paris: 1890, p. xxxiii.
  2. ^ Cf. BLAIR, Emma Helen & ROBERTSON, James Alexander, eds. (1911). The Philippine Islands, 1493–1803. Volume 03 of 55 (1493-1803). Historical introduction and additional notes by Edward Gaylord BOURNE. Cleveland, Ohio: Arthur H. Clark Company. ISBN 978-0554259598. OCLC 769945704. "Explorations by early navigators, descriptions of the islands and their peoples, their history and records of the catholic missions, as related in contemporaneous books and manuscripts, showing the political, economic, commercial and religious conditions of those islands from their earliest relations with European nations to the beginning of the nineteenth century.", pp. 15 - 16.
  3. ^ Cf. BLAIR, Emma Helen & ROBERTSON, James Alexander, eds. (1911). The Philippine Islands, 1493–1803. Volume 03 of 55 (1493-1803). Historical introduction and additional notes by Edward Gaylord BOURNE. Cleveland, Ohio: Arthur H. Clark Company. ISBN 978-0554259598. OCLC 769945704. "Explorations by early navigators, descriptions of the islands and their peoples, their history and records of the catholic missions, as related in contemporaneous books and manuscripts, showing the political, economic, commercial and religious conditions of those islands from their earliest relations with European nations to the beginning of the nineteenth century.", p. 73.
  4. ^ Enciclopedia GER Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Biblioteca de legislación ultramarina en forma de diccionario alfabético. Pág. 621. Compilado por: José María Zamora y Coronado. Editor: Impr. de J. M. Alegria, 1845
  6. ^ Memorias históricas y estadísticas de Filipinas y particularmente de la grande isla de Luzon. Author: Rafael Díaz Arenas. Publicado por Imprenta del Diario de Manila, 1830
1881 Haiphong typhoon

The 1881 Haiphong typhoon was a typhoon that struck Haiphong, in Dai Nam (now Vietnam), and the northern part of the Captaincy General of the Philippines (now the Philippines) on October 8, 1881.


Adelantado (Spanish pronunciation: [aðelanˈtaðo]) (meaning "advanced") was a title held by Spanish nobles in service of their respective kings during the Middle Ages. It was later used as a military title held by some Spanish conquistadores of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

Adelantados were granted directly by the monarch the right to become governors and justices of a specific region, which they were charged with conquering, in exchange for funding and organizing the initial explorations, settlements and pacification of the target area on behalf of the Crown of Castile. These areas were usually outside the jurisdiction of an existing audiencia or viceroy, and adelantados were authorized to communicate directly with the Council of the Indies.

Cabeza de Barangay

The Cabeça de Barangay (Spanish: head of the barangay), also known as Teniente del Barrio in Spanish, was the leader or chief of a barangay in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. The post was inherited from the first datus who became cabezas de barangay when the many independent barangays became tributary vassals of the Spanish Crown. King Philip II of Spain, after whom the Philippines were named, decreed that the native nobility of the country should retain the honors and privileges they had before their conversion and subjection to the Spanish Crown. With the new form of government introduced by Spain, several existing neighboring barangays were combined to form a municipality and the Cabezas de Barangay participated in the governance of the new towns, forming part of the elite ruling class called the Principalía. From among their ranks the head of the town, the Gobernadorcillo or Capitan Municipal, was elected. Furthermore, only the members of their class could elect the Gobernadorcillo.The office of the Cabeza de Barangay was hereditary. The cabecería, i.e., headship of the barangays, was a more ancient institution of native nobilities that pre-dates the Spanish conquest and was doubtless hereditary. The increase of population during the Spanish regime consequently needed the creation of further cabecerías and election of new cabezas. The emergence of the mestizo culture (both Spanish mestizos and Chinese mestizos) had also necessitated this and even the subsequent creation of separate institutions or offices of Gobernadorcillos for the different mestizo groups and for the natives living in the same territories or cities with large population. When the office of the Cabeza de Barangay fell vacant due to the lack of an heir or the resignation of the incumbent, a substitute was appointed by the superintendent if the barangay was near the capital of the province. In distant areas, the appointment was done by the respective delegate, based on the recommendation of the Gobernadorcillo and other cabezas. The cabezas, their wives, and first-born sons were exempt from the payment of tribute to the Spanish Crown.With the change of government (from monarchy to democracy) when the Americans took over the rule of the Philippines, the post became elective and anyone could become the head of the barangay, which came to be called a "barrio." The former Cabezas de Barangay and the rest of the members of the Principalía and their descendants lost their traditional privileges and powers, but they remained as very influential elements in the political and economic life of a new democratic society.

Under the democratic rule, the head of the smallest unit of the Filipino society was no longer called "Cabeza de Barangay." Furthermore, the "Barrio Captains" (or Capitán del barrio as these local leaders were then called), though exercising the same leadership function, no longer retained the aristocratic quality that was associated with this office during the pre-conquest and the colonial periods. Nor since the American rule has the office of the Chief of the Barangay been exclusive to the families belonging to the Principalía, and is no longer hereditary.

From the presidency of Ferdinand E. Marcos onwards, the term "barangay" was re-adopted, but the Spanish title "Cabeza de Barangay" is not used. Instead, the term "Barangay Captain" in English, or Punong Barangay in Tagalog became the official designation to this leadership role.

Cartas de radio

"Cartas de Radio" or (Special Radius Permit) was an identity document that aimed to ensure public safety from strangers.

This was used by Filipinos under the Spanish colonial government.

The use of this as identification was implemented in 1854.

A Filipino travelling in another province was required to carry this identity document at that time.

Civil Guard (Philippines)

The Guardia Civil en las Filipinas (Spanish) translated to the "Civil Guard in the Philippines" was the branch of the Civil Guard organised under the Spanish colonial government in the Philippines and a component of the Spanish Army. It was disbanded after the Spanish–American War. After the Philippine–American War, it was eventually replaced by the American colonial government under the name Philippine Constabulary.

Council of the Indies

The Council of the Indies; officially, the Royal and Supreme Council of the Indies (Spanish: Real y Supremo Consejo de las Indias, pronounced [reˈal i suˈpɾemo konˈsexo ðe las ˈindjas]), was the most important administrative organ of the Spanish Empire for the Americas and the Philippines. The crown held absolute power over the Indies and the Council of the Indies was the administrative and advisory body for those overseas realms. It was established in 1524 by Charles V to administer "the Indies," Spain's name for its territories. Such an administrative entity, on the conciliar model of the Council of Castile, was created following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire in 1521, which demonstrated the importance of the Americas. Originally an itinerary council that followed Charles V, it was subsequently established as an autonomous body with legislative, executive and judicial functions by Philip II of Spain and placed in Madrid in 1561. The Council of the Indies was abolished in 1812 by the Cádiz Cortes, briefly restored in 1814 by Ferdinand VII of Spain, and definitively abolished in 1834 by the regency, acting on behalf of the four-year-old Isabella II of Spain.

Dios Buhawi

Ponciano Elofre (sometimes spelled Ponciano Elopre), later called Dios Buhawi (Hiligaynon: Tornado/Whirlwind God), was a cabeza (head) of a barangay in Zamboanguita in Negros Oriental, Philippines, and the leader of a politico-religious revolt in Negros in the late 19th century against the Spaniards.


Encomienda (Spanish pronunciation: [eŋkoˈmjenda]) was a Spanish labor system. It rewarded conquerors with the labor of particular groups of subject people. It was first established in Spain following the Christian conquest of Muslim territories. It was applied on a much larger scale during the Spanish colonization of the Americas and the Philippines. Conquered peoples were considered vassals of the Spanish monarch. The Crown awarded an encomienda as a grant to a particular individual. In the conquest era of the sixteenth century, the grants were considered to be a monopoly on the labor of particular groups of Indians (indigenous peoples), held in perpetuity by the grant holder, called the encomendero, and his descendants.Encomiendas devolved from their original Iberian form into a form of "communal" slavery. In the encomienda, the Spanish Crown granted a person a specified number of natives from a specific community, but did not dictate which individuals in the community would have to provide their labor. Indigenous leaders were charged with mobilizing the assessed tribute and labor. In turn, encomenderos were to ensure that the encomienda natives were given instruction in the Christian faith and Spanish language, and protect them from warring tribes or pirates; they had to suppress rebellion against Spaniards, and maintain infrastructure. In return, the natives would provide tributes in the form of metals, maize, wheat, pork, or other agricultural products.

With the ouster of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish crown sent a royal governor, Fray Nicolás de Ovando, who established the formal encomienda system. In many cases natives were forced to do hard labor and subjected to extreme punishment and death if they resisted. However, Queen Isabella I of Castile forbade Indian slavery and deemed the indigenous to be "free vassals of the crown". Various versions of the Leyes de Indias or Laws of the Indies from 1512 onwards attempted to regulate the interactions between the settlers and natives. Both natives and Spaniards appealed to the Real Audiencias for relief under the encomienda system.

Encomiendas had often been characterized by the geographical displacement of the enslaved and breakup of communities and family units, but in Mexico, the encomienda ruled the free vassals of the crown through existing community hierarchies, and the natives were allowed to keep in touch with their families and homes.The abolition of the Encomienda in 1542 marks the first major movement towards the abolition of slavery in the Western world.

Friars in Spanish Philippines

The Spanish Friars were the crucial elements in the Westernizing of the Philippine Archipelago, and in spreading the Christian faith in that part of the world. Journeying with the first European explorers to these islands in the Far East, they came with the intention of establishing Catholicism under the Patronato real of the Kings of Spain.

After the conquistadores brought the Filipinos under the rule of the Spanish crown, either by peaceful means of treaties and pacts or, alternatively, by war, Spain did not send large standing armies to maintain its empire in the East. The apostolic zeal of the missionaries followed the efforts of men such as Miguel López de Legazpi, and aided to consolidate the enterprise of Hispanizing the Philippines. The Spanish missionaries acted as de facto conquerors; they gained the goodwill of the islanders, presented Spanish culture positively, and in so doing won approximately 2 million converts.Commenting on the very small standing army that protected the Spanish government in the Philippines, an old viceroy of New Spain was quoted: "En cada fraile tenía el Rey en Filipinas un capitan general y un ejercito entero (In each friar in the Philippines the King had a captain general and a whole army"). French historian Par J. Mallat made a similar observation. He stated: "C'est par la seule influence de la religion que l'on a conquis les Philippines, et cette influence pourra seule les conserver ("It is only by the influence of religion that the Philippines was conquered. Only this influence could keep these [islands]").


The gobernadorcillo (Philippine Spanish: [ɡoβeɾnaðoɾˈsiʎo]) was a municipal judge or governor in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period, who carried out in a town the combined charges or responsibilities of leadership, economic, and judicial administration. The gobernadorcillo was the leader of a town or pueblo (people or population). In a coastal town, the gobernadorcillo functioned as a port captain. His appointment was through an exclusive nomination provided by the Spanish law. His term of office lasted for two years. The position of a gobernadorcillo was honorary and mandatory in order to afford him those valid exemptions signified in the Philippine law. At the end of his biennial term he would enter and form part of the principalía, and was entitled to enjoy the honors and preeminence inherent to this state. This "mayor", who was at the same time Justice of the Peace and port captain, was directly responsible to the governor of the province in the exercise of his office.In 1893, the Maura law was passed with the aim of making the municipal governments in the Philippine Islands more effective and autonomous. One of the changes that this law brought about was the reorganization of certain structures of town governments, among which was the designation of town head's title, that is, Gobernadorcillo, also as Capitan Municipal, effective 1895.

Governor-General of the Philippines

The Governor-General of the Philippines (Spanish: Gobernador-General de Filipinas; Filipino: Gobernador-Heneral ng Pilipinas; Japanese: フィリピン総督 (Firipin sōtoku);) was the title of the government executive during the colonial period of the Philippines, governed mainly by Spain (1565–1898) and the United States (1898–1946), and briefly by Great Britain (1762–1764) and Japan (1942–1945). They were also the representative of the executive of the ruling power.

On November 15, 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established as a transitional government to prepare the country for independence from the American control. The governor-general was replaced by an elected Filipino "President of the Philippine Commonwealth", as the chief executive of the Philippines, taking over many of the duties of the Governor-General. The former American Governor-General then became known as the High Commissioner to the Philippines.


The Ilustrados (Spanish: [ilusˈtɾaðos], "erudite", "learned" or "enlightened ones") constituted the Filipino educated class during the Spanish colonial period in the late 19th century. Elsewhere in New Spain (of which the Philippines were part), the term gente de razón carried a similar meaning.

They were the middle class who were educated in Spanish and exposed to Spanish liberal and European nationalist ideals. The Ilustrado class was composed of native-born intellectuals and cut across ethnolinguistic and racial lines—Indios, Insulares, and mestizos, among others—and sought reform through "a more equitable arrangement of both political and economic power" under Spanish tutelage.

Stanley Karnow, in his In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines, referred to the Ilustrados as the “rich Intelligentsia” because many were the children of wealthy landowners. They were key figures in the development of Filipino nationalism.

Laws of the Indies

The Laws of the Indies (Spanish: Leyes de las Indias) are the entire body of laws issued by the Spanish Crown for the American and the Philippine possessions of its empire. They regulated social, political, religious, and economic life in these areas. The laws are composed of myriad decrees issued over the centuries and the important laws of the 16th century, which attempted to regulate the interactions between the settlers and natives, such as the Laws of Burgos (1512) and the New Laws (1542).

Throughout the 400 years of Spanish presence in these parts of the world, the laws were compiled several times, most notably in 1680 under Charles II in the Recopilación de las Leyes de los Reinos de las Indias (Compilation of the Laws of the Kingdoms of the Indies). This became considered the classic collection of the laws, although later laws superseded parts of it, and other compilations were issued.

Manuel S. Guerrero

Manuel S. Guerrero (8 January 1877–4 January 1919) was a Filipino medical doctor who studied beriberi in infants in the Philippines.Guerrero was born in Ermita, Manila then became part of the Captaincy General of the Philippines in 8 January 1877. He achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Ateneo Municipal in the year 1894 and a Doctorate on Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas in 1902.He was also a writer for the publications "La Republica Filipina, La Independencia, and La Patria". in addition he was a staff member of the Revista Filipina de Medicina y Farmacia. Guerrero was also a member of the Colegio Medico-Farmaceutico, Asamblea de Medicos y Farmaceuticos de Filipinas, and the Sanggunian ng Kalusagan. He was also one of the founders of t La Infancia and Gota de Leche.Guerrero was also conferred with a silver medal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the Panama Pacific Exhibition.

Miguel Lino de Ezpeleta

Miguel Lino de Ezpeleta (sometimes spelled as de Espeleta) (Manila, June 1701 – Cebu, July 1771) was a Spanish Criollo born in Manila who served as the Bishop of Cebu from 1757 until his death in 1771. Consequently, he assumed the position as the governor-general from 1759 to 1761 during Spanish intervention to the Seven Years' War and prelude to the occupations of Manila and Cavite.

Real Audiencia of Manila

The Real Audiencia de Manila (English: Royal Audience of Manila) was the Real Audiencia of the Spanish East Indies, which included modern-day Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Micronesia and the Philippines. Similar to Real Audiencias throughout the Spanish Empire, it was the highest tribunal within the territories of the Captaincy General of the Philippines, a dependency of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

The Governor-General of the Philippines was appointed as its highest judge, although on many occasions his absence forced other members to rule the tribunal and assume temporary civilian and military powers.

Sangley Rebellion

The Sangley Rebellion was a Sangley rebellion which took place in Manila, Captaincy General of the Philippines, in October 1603.

Spanish East Indies

The Spanish East Indies were the colonies of the Spanish Empire in Asia and Oceania from 1565 until 1899. At one time or another, they included the Philippines, Marianas, Carolines, Palaos and Guam, as well as parts of Formosa (Taiwan), Sulawesi (Celebes) and the Moluccas (Maluku). The King of Spain traditionally styled himself "King of the East and West Indies".Administratively, the Spanish East Indies was part of the Captaincy General of the Philippines and the Real Audiencia of Manila. Cebu was the first seat of government, later transferred to Manila. From 1565 to 1821 these territories, together with the Spanish West Indies, were administered through the Viceroyalty of New Spain based in Mexico City. After Mexican independence, they were ruled directly from Madrid.

As a result of the Spanish–American War in 1898, the Philippines and Guam were occupied by the United States while about 6,000 of the remaining smaller islands were sold to Germany in the German–Spanish Treaty of 1899. The few remaining islands were ceded to the United States when the Treaty of Washington was ratified in 1901.

Spanish Filipino

A Spanish Filipino (Spanish and Chavacano: Español Filipino o Hispano Filipino; Tagalog: Kastila, Tisoy o Conio; Cebuano and Hiligaynon: Cachila) is a Filipino who has Spanish or Hispanic lineage, mostly born and raised in the Philippines.

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