Spain’s use of the sword and the cross in pursuing its imperial agenda in the Philippines can be traced back to their connections with explorer Miguel López de Legazpi and missionary Andrés de Urdaneta.
It was Legazpi who successfully established Spanish colonial power by founding Manila (now a part of modern day Manila, Philippines) on June 24, 1571. And it was Urdaneta who first introduced Christianity to Filipinos whilst under Spanish rule.
The sword and cross prevailed throughout Spain’s occupation as they controlled both religious policy and military power over their newly-acquired territory.
This was mainly due to the influence of Miguel López de Legazpi, a Basque-born conquistador, who became the first Governor-General of the Philippines in 1565.
The Spanish habit of carrying out military campaigns alongside their missionary exploits is often attributed to a line from Book 6, Chapter 60 of the King James bible: ”
Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Matthew 28:19). This was also used extensively by other European colonial powers such as Portugal and France.
However, this approach has been challenged by some historians that call it an oversimplification as from its earliest days, Christianity had been carried out through peaceful means which was preferred by most Filipinos.
It is alleged that the sword was primarily used to capture and punish those who opposed the Spanish Inquisition, which is held to have started in 1566. Although the spread of Christianity has been attributed to religious orders such as Augustinians, Dominicans, Jesuits and Franciscans, they were also particularly interested in making converts and furthering their missionary goals.
On the other hand, some historians argued that despite its military campaigns and conquests, Spain was not always considered a “conquering empire” as it did not meet all of their criteria for an empire. Thus, in most of its territories conquest was not entirely necessary for the Spanish Empire to thrive and these territories were included merely as bases for expansion.
The Philippines were under Spanish rule from 1565 to 1898 when the country gained independence. During this period, the Philippines became one of three parts of the Spanish empire which consisted of Mexico and Central America, while South and Central America included Panama and Peru.
The Spanish colonial system in the Philippines was similar to colonial systems in other areas but with some key differences. The Spaniards introduced a “feudal” political system by imposing on their vassals certain obligations such as tributes to finance war campaigns, regular taxes or some form of military service.