When Filipinos became British subjects


WITH our President ranting against the United States and the United Nations, some of our compatriots are thinking of how to expand our foreign relations and membership in different family-groups of nations. This way it becomes more difficult for President Duterte to isolate our country from our old friends around the world.

One such membership could be in the British Commonwealth. (British English speakers would prefer to use “membership of” instead of “in.”) This thought came to us after remembering that today, October 25, is the anniversary of when we Filipinos can be said to have become British subjects.

This is a thought that interests the increasing population of Filipinos in the UK. Wikipedia states that “according to the Manila Times, there were approximately 200,000 Filipinos living in the United Kingdom in 2007. In 2007, 10,840 Filipinos gained British citizenship, the second largest number of any nation after India, compared with only 1,385 in 2001.” These numbers must have doubled by now.

On Oct. 25, 1762, the Filipinos, with the British defeat of Spain, can be said to have taken their oath of allegiance to King George 3rd of England. This is the German King George of England who lost America when George Washington et al proclaimed the independence of the USA from the UK.

While the Filipinos can be said to have become British subjects 254 years ago, they did not defect wholesale to the British side. The British controlled only the old 18th-century Manila — and not the entire area of today’s Metro Manila.

In the provinces, either under their Spanish colonial army officers or under Filipino officers, Filipino soldiers fought British forces.

The British attacked Manila as a consequence of the Seven Years War in Europe between Britain and France, whose principal ally was Spain.

In 1762, Great Britain attacked and conquered Spanish colonies—Havana, Cuba, in the West Indies and Manila here in Southeast Asia. The UK’s General William Draper and Real Admiral Samuel Cornish led the British forces that sailed from Madras, India, into Manila Bay on Sept. 26, 1762. They easily defeated the Spanish forces in the Battle of Manila Bay—just as George Dewey would more than a hundred years later. In fact, the later US-Spain Battle of Manila Bay that led to the American colonization of our country is held by historians as a sham. It was a performance the US agreed to hold to help Spain retain some of its glory as the most powerful empire in the world.

But fighting between Spanish-Philippine forces and the British in the Philippines islands actually continued until after the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The British were supposed to withdraw fully from the archipelago in 1764 but a UK force remained in Sulu until 1773.

With Dawsonne Drake as the Governor-General of the Philippines, the British ruled their new colony from Intramuros as the Spaniards did.

During the 18-month British Occupation of the Philippines, some of the East India Sepoy soldiers deserted and mixed with the Filipinos or stayed on after the war. That is how some places in the Philippines acquired communities of Filipinos of Indian descent, as in Cainta.

The Brits were driven away after only 18 months by a resistance army of largely Filipinos under Don Simon de Anda y Salazar. Anda later become Spanish Governor General of the Philippines, famous for undertaking great public work programs. Manila’s Anda monument is at the rotunda of Roxas Boulevard Extension and Soriano (formerly Aduana) Avenue in Port-Area near Intramuros.

The easy British conquest of the Spaniards’ Philippine colony opened the eyes of the Filipinos to the vulnerability of the Spanish colonial government to an attacking army. Separate groups of Filipinos already thinking of rebelling against the Spanish colonial power were emboldened to plan and carry out wars of insurgency.

So, it can be said that Britain contributed to the Philippine liberation from Spain.


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  1. There should be more mention of the Scot involved in planning the invasion of Manila, of note he briefly took over as gov-gen from Drake. Of greater note if not for him there would be no British Empire, it is said after he was knighted Sir Alexander Dalrymple. As one of the plunderers of Manila, Dalrymple carted away priceless sea charts and logs that held the secrets of the Spanish empire.

    On returning from his Phil. Expedition Dalrymple was appointed first Royal Hydrographer of the British Admiralty, he set about charting the oceans and distant lands for the Crown and that started the rise of the British Empire to dominate world sea routes and global trade.

    Dalrymple was also one of the British Empires founding pillars of the science of meteorology, as a result you will notice British seamanship and weather forecasting evolved hand in hand, it was due to Dalrymple, who in turn gives credit in his book I read to a wise old Sulu fisherman name “Bahatol” who shared his weather wisdom, passed down from generations of Philippine islanders.

    Interestingly he credits the natives’ amazing mastery of reading the signs of clouds, in his famous book. Astonishing in the period for a white would to acknowledge any wisdom of Asiatic races they considered inferior… “at the risk of ridicule” in Dalrypmles own words.

    He also attempted to hold on to Mindanao for the British Crown, evidence of this is a beautiful caligraphy treaty signed between a Sultan of Maguindanao and Dalrymple, then an agent of the British East India Company.

    His fascinating role in 19th century Asian, Philippine, British and World History was downplayed maybe because he was a Scot instead of a proper Englishman. Perhaps if not for Dalrymple much of the world including the Philippines would still be speaking Spanish.