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Home > Our Activities

Pinky Cupino met the French Students

Leslie Goovaerts

1 December 2011



November 24-25, 2011 Pinky Cupino, our Filipino partner and director of the Center for Positive Futures in Banaba, came back to Grenoble after 4 years to meet the French GCI participants and present them her country. She talked about the history of Philippines, from the ancient times to the colonization and decolonization. And she also talked about today’s issues.



The Philippines is an archipelago – a group of islands. The first settlers came from China, Vietnam and Indonesia about 5000 years before Christ (when there was no water between the 2 earths), looking for new food. These first settlers lived in caves, in separate tribes, by hunting and gathering fruits. But the Philippines were not yet a country.

In 1521, Magellan arrived in the Philippines. Magellan was a Portuguese who worked for the Spanish Crown (the country became the Philippines in honor of the Spanish king named Philip). Magellan was the first European to reach the islands. Lapu-Lapu, one of the Filipino heroes, was the natives’ chief; he was resisting from the colonizers. The legend says that Lapu-Lapu was the one who killed Magellan.

Most of the tribes accepted that the Spaniards were stronger. The Spaniards convinced most of the tribes to become Catholic. But, at that time, two main native groups were living in the Philippines: the Igorots and the Muslims. They were more organized than the rest of the Philippines and then more difficult to colonize. Pre-spanish people had a real culture: they created rice terraces in the mountains (these terraces are now a Unesco World Heritage) or hung coffins in mountain cliffs.

Little by little, the Spanish were confiscating lands from the Filipinos. They were forced to pay taxes, to give their production, forced to work and reduced to slavery.

José Rizal, another national hero

Rizal was a Filipino doctor (ophthalmologist) at the end of the nineteenth century. He studied in Europe (Spain, France and Germany) and realized during his stay that Europe had rather equal societies and he wondered why in his own country Filipinos were oppressed people. Through writing novels, he fought the Spanish and said his country should be liberated from slavery. He believed in a peaceful revolution and brought hope to the Filipinos. Rizal’s execution in 1896 marked the start of the uprising.

Andrés Bonifacio, leader of the Philippines Revolution

Bonifacio organized the Filipino for the revolution, which lasted two years: 1896-1898. The Filipinos won the war against the Spanish and the Spanish went away. But the United States, also in war with Spain at that time, came to the Philippines and said they would liberate the Filipino from the Spanish. They also promised education and finally colonized the Philippines for 50 years.

During World War II, the United States was opposed to Japan. The latter launched an attack on the Philippines in 1941 and then occupied the country. The occupation ended in 1946, when the Philippines became independent.

Philippines’ Presidents

In the Philippines, the presidents are very powerful and often corrupted.

1970’s: Marcos dictatorship (17 years). He implemented the Martial Law. Many people were killed or forced to go into exile. The opposition leader, Benigno Aquino was killed in 1983. Corazon Aquino was Benigno Aquino’s wife. She was elected President in 1986. Then 3 presidents were elected.

Today, this is Benigno and Corazon Aquino’s son who is the Filipino President.

Some contemporary issues:

-  The Philippines face a lot of floodings and typhoons, due to climate change.
-  In urban areas, there is a lot of poverty, people live in shanty towns. But the Filipinos are one of the happiest people in the world.
-  Family planning does not exist because it is not allowed by the Catholic Church, so people tend to have many children.
-  There are around 10 million Filipinos outside the country, working as seamen or housekeepers.