BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ARMED
FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES
Sgt Mary Grace C Conmigo (Res) PA
The first recorded organized resistance
against foreign aggressor took place in the
Visayas during the Battle of Mactan on 27 April
1521 when native chieftain named Lapu-lapu,
the acknowledged father of the AFP fought
against the Spaniards led by Magellan in the
latter’s effort to subdue the former. Lapu-lapu
refused to pay homage to the King of Spain.
Underestimating the capability of the natives,
the foreigners lost in the battle and Magellan
Some islands of the archipelago were
successfully occupied by the Spaniards. In 1570,
they tried to land in Manila, however, the
Muslim leader Raja Soliman resisted their effort.
In 1571, Legaspi conquered Manila and made it
as the capital of the Philippines.
Pockets of rebellion took place. Notable of
which was the uprising led by Diego Silang
where he displayed his exemplary military
leadership style and tactics in defeating the
The Filipino soldiers were also organized to
fight for Spain and to support some expeditions.
Filipino forces were also sent to reinforce
Spanish troops during the Chinese revolt in
General Jose Prim dethroned Queen
Isabela II in 1868. the latter espoused liberal
principles of democracy. This paved the way for
the exposure of the Filipinos in foreign culture
leading to the development of strong sense of
nationalism among Filipinos.
The works of famous propagandists
Marcelo H. del Pilar, Graciano-Lopez Jaena and
Dr. Jose P. Rizal further nurtured the national
spirit. Andres Bonifacio, who is considered as
the Father of the Philippine Army, founded more
radical group called “Katipunan” on 07 July
1892. in 23 August 1896, the Cry of Balintawak
(Pugad Lawin) signaled the start of the
Philippine Revolution against Spain. This was
followed by pockets of rebellion which inflicted
so much loss to the Spaniards.
The Katipunan was gaining strength, two
factions emerged- the Magdalo led by Emilio
Aguinaldo and the Magdiwang led by Andres
Bonifacio. On 22 March 1897, the Tejeros
Convention was called to resolve the conflict
between the two factions. As a result, Aguinlado
won the presidency. The ocassion also gave birth
to the Philippine Army.
As the war broke out between the United
States and Spain on April 23, 1898, the
Americans convinced the Filipinos to cooperate
with them against Spain with the promise that
the US will grant independence to the
Philippines. Aguinaldo declared war against
Spain. In June 12, 1898, the Philippine
Independence from Spain was declared in Kawit,
Cavite. Later on, the Philippine Navy was created
on 22 June 1898 by the Revolutionary Army.
The occupation of the American forces did
not gain much acceptance from the Filipinos
because many restrictions imposed to the Filipino
forces as to access to some areas. The harsh
treatment by the Americans ignited the conflict
between them and the Filipinos. The latter were
defeated which led to the fall of the Malolos
With Treaty of Paris, Spain ceded the
Philippines to the US. Finding the archipelago as a
lucrative place for some economic activities, the US
strengthened their presence in the Philippines. This
prompted the Filipinos to again unite and fight for
the freedom they have just won.
Significant battles followed suit exemplifying the
fighting spirit and skills of the Filipino soldiers
against formidable opponents. The capture of Gen.
Aguinaldo by the Americans in Palanan, Isabela in
March 23, 1901 and the laying down of arms of
Gen. Miguel Malvar in April 6, 1902 ended the
organized resistance against the American forces.
To hasten the Philippine campaign to
establish peace and order, an insular police force
known as the Philippine Constabulary was
organized on August 8,1901 followed by the
establishment of the Philippine Military Academy
(PMA) on February 7, 1905.
On December 21, 1935, the National
Defense Act was enacted which officially created
the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The
Philippine Air Force (PAF) was later established
on July 1, 1947.
The Japanese Occupation
Consequent to the declaration of war by Japan with
the US, the invading Japanese Forces landed in
Vigan and Appari in Luzon on December 10, 1941.
Unable to withstand the very strong adversary and
to save more lives and properties from destruction,
the combined military forces of the US and the
implementation of War Plan Orange. Unabated
Japanese strikes caused the Fall of Bataan on April
9, 1942 and Corregidor on May 6, 1942. These
events ended the organized resistance against the
The defeat of the Fil-Am forces did not end the
armed sturggle in the Philippines. Those who
refused to surrender went underground and
waged a guerilla fighting against the Japanese.
The activities of the guerilla forces were very
instrumental in the successful come back of the
liberating US Forces under Gen. Douglas
McArthur who landed in Leyte on October 20,