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brief history of the philippines


Before the Spanish explorers came, Indo-Malays and Chinese merchants had settled here. In 1521 the Spaniards, led by Ferdinand Magellan, discovered the islands. The Spanish conquistadores established a colonial government in Cebu in 1565. Realizing its strategic position as a trading center and military outpost, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, head of the Spanish expedition, transferred the seat of government to Manila.  On June 24, 1571, Manila was declared the capital of the entire achipelago.  The Spaniards then proceeded to colonize the country.  Representatives of various Roman Catholic religious orders, such as the Augustinians, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Jesuits, came to the islands immediately after the successful Legazpi expedition and converted most of the population.  The monastic orders eventually secured the possession of large tracts of land, and they became wealthy and politically powerful.

Over the centuries, the Spanish rule was occasionally threatened by attacks from the sea and by internal uprisings. The Chinese, Dutch, and British all tried to lay siege on Manila but were unsuccessful. But the 1880's saw the birth of a reform movement led by Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Lopez Jaena and Jose Rizal (the national hero). This reform movement ultimately led to Asia’s first nationalist revolution in 1896. On June 12, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines independent from Spain and proclaimed himself president. After ruling for 333 years, Spain ceded the Philippines to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War.

The Filipinos’ desire for independence eventually led to the Filipino-American War in January 1899.  The insurgents were driven back almost at once and the Americans took over for the next 48 years.  1902 was the beginning of the American era, a period characterized by the expansion of public education, advances in health care and the introduction of democratic government. The outbreak of war in the Pacific in 1941 disrupted American rule. Manila was declared an open city and the Americans withdrew their defenses. For three years, Manila was occupied by the Japanese imperial forces. When the American troops entered Manila to liberate it, they had to bomb the city to dislodge the tenacious Japanese. Manila was devastated.

The Philippines finally attained independence on July 4, 1946.  The country adopted democracy and established a presidential form of government. Ferdinand Marcos’ 21-year rule ended in 1986 when a widespread popular rebellion forced him into exile and installed Corazon Aquino as president. Her presidency was hampered by several coup attempts, which prevented a return to full political stability and economic development. Fidel Ramos was elected president in 1992 and his administration was marked by greater stability and progress on economic reforms. In 1992, the US closed its last military bases on the islands.

Joseph Estrada was elected president in 1998, but was succeeded by his vice-president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in January 2001 after Estrada’s stormy impeachment trial on corruption charges broke down and widespread demonstrations led to his ouster. Macapagal-Arroyo was elected to a six-year term in May 2004. The Philippine Government faces threats from armed communist insurgencies and from Muslim separatists in the south.

In the early Marcos years the Philippines Peso was equal to the US dollar but over the years it has deteriorated to 55.086 to the US dollar (2005).  Inflation rate was 7.6% (2005 est.).

The Constitution of the Philippines, ratified by the Filipino people in 1987, provided for a democratic and Republic State and a presidential form of government. It declares that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.