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Marion Justin Jerico U. Duron

Ysabelle Q. Luat

Ma. Patricia Isabelle S. Manalo

Angelin Marian C. Reyes

1. Discuss the Agrarian problems in the Philippines during the 19th century.

Historically, land-related remedies extended by past regimes and administrators

proved to be totally unable to fulfill the promise of alleviating the quality of life of the
landless owners. The land laws have invariably maintained provisions that enabled
powerful landowners to circumvent the law, or even use the law to sustain and further
strengthen their positions in power. Land was not unequally distributed before the
Spaniards came to the Philippines. The notion of private property was unknown then. The
community (barangay) owned the land. In effect, communal ownership of land gradually
and slowly took the backseat.

Large tracts of uncultivated lands was not circumscribed within a given municipality
were granted by the Spanish monarch to deserving Spaniards. This kind of ownership
became known as encomienda. By virtue of the Royal Order promulgated on December
1503, encomiendas were granted to favor Spanish officials and clerics to look after the
spiritual and temporal developments of the natives in a colonized territory. Almost all the
grants that Legazpi extended to the Spanish officials and friars were confined to what
would eventually become the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Bulacan. In
time, the caciques were given the prerogative of collecting taxes as well.

Caciquism as an institution became deeply rooted in Philippine soil. This paved

the way to many present-day agrarian problems and unrests. This brought about colonial
uprisings during the 19th century, which tended to occur in the areas with much agricultural
activity such as Central Luzon. Agrarian-related problems were the only source of major
conflicts during this time. Land was available in the entire archipelago. The major sources
of conflict and rebellion were really the harsh Spanish impositions, such as: tribute, polo,
encomienda etc.

The worsening land conflict in the town of Calamba, Laguna between the hacienda
management and the group of tenants is known to be the main conflict in the Agrarian
aspect in the Philippines during the 19th century. Dominican order comprise not only the
lands but also the town of Calamba. Arbitrary increase of the rentals paid by the tenants.
Also haciendas owners never contributed a single centavo for town fiestas, and education
of the children and improvement of agriculture. Lastly, the hacienda management
confiscated their carabaos, tools, and homes if rentals could not be paid.

2. How can we trace the Agrarian problems in the selected writing and works
in Rizal?

In sum, the Spanish economy in this two-century period was summed up by

Cameron and Neal (2003): In spite of these favorable circumstances, the Spanish
economy failed to progress—indeed, from about midcentury it regressed—and the
Spanish people paid the price in the form of lowered standards of living, increased
incidence of famine and plague, and ultimately, in the seventeenth century, depopulation.
Although many factors have been adduced to the account for the “decline of Spain,” the
excessive ambitions of its sovereigns and the short-sightedness and unreasonableness
of their economic policies must bear a large share of the responsibility. (p. 133)

In addition, the not-so-promising collection of tributes due to the presence of

corrégimientós, renegade barangays, corruption, and persistent refusal to reforms
provoked Basco to impose additional endeavors that would probably make revenue
collection promising. Even Rizal has famously made this scenario in his El Filibusterismo
(1891): There was a family that cleared a piece of raw land. The job of cutting down the
trees and removing the stumps and stones and brush took years. But after the field was
planted and the first harvest ready, the nearby friar hacienda made claim to the land. The
family could not afford a court suit, and so the rent was paid. The rent rose every year,
from twenty pesos in the first to two hundred pesos in the third. The man of the family
was driven to be a tulisan. (as cited in Corpuz, 1997, p. 117)
The tobacco monopoly saved the Philippines from this “fate”: reversal of the flow
of the reál situado, which shows an estimate of revenues amounted to 2,263,415 pesos,
of which 1,073,153 were remitted to Spain, covering the period 1782–1881 (Corpuz,
1997). Population recovery coupled with the economic development of the period were
all under the eye of the Spaniards. In turn, the friars imposed more religious activities in
the name of Christianity, of course to their benefit. Even Rizal was aware of the money-
making ambitions of the Spaniards—whether the authorities or the friars—following the
mercantilist prescriptions. As Elias speaks in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere (1887): Do
you call those external practices faith? Or that business in cords and scapulars, religion?
Or the stories of miracles and other fairy tales that we hear every day, truth? Is this the
law of Jesus Christ? A God did not have to let Himself be crucified for this, nor do we
assume the obligation of eternal gratitude. Superstition existed long before this; all that
was needed was to perfect it and raise the price of the merchandise. (As cited in
Schumacher, 1991, p. 25)

As Rizal was faced by these problems most of his common works such as Noli Me
Tangere become known to the Spanish friars because of his involvement in the
investigation on the land problem in Calamba. Moreover, El Filibusterismo is known to be
the second novel that drive Rizal to conduct more historical research in Europe. Through
this, Rizal gathered important materials which he used as the source that enrich this
sequel. Rizal wrote many articles or essays published in La Solidaridad a reformist
Filipino Newspaper. One of the works includes Los Agriculture Filipino that encouraged
the development of the Agriculture.

3. What were the problems related to the Agrarian problems that time?

Since the Spaniards did not levy a land tax or a head tax (cedula), and few records
of land-ownership were kept, the Spanish government issued two Royal Decrees: decreto
realenga (1880) and the Maura Law (1894). These decrees ordered the caciques and
natives, to secure the legal title for their lands or suffer forfeiture. The Filipinos, either
ignorant of the processes of the law or of the Spanish-written instructions, were just slow
to respond. The landowners (caciques) were quick to react. They did not only register
their own landholdings but also took advantage of the ignorance of the peasants, by
claiming peasant lands adjacent to their own holdings.

It was estimated that 400, 000 Filipinos were left without titles. No option was left
for those dispossessed because documented titles to the land prevailed over verbal
claims. Hence, most Filipino land owners became mere tenants in their own lands. The
Royal Decree of 1894 (Maura Law) deprived many Filipino peasants of their own lands
through scheming and treacherous ways of both Spaniards and caciques.

Rizal learned that his family, relatives, and some tenants were in conflict with the
hacienda management were dispossessed of their lands. More tenants refused to pay
rentals which they also viewed as unreasonable. They faced persecutions from the
authorities in relation to the agrarian conflict in Calamba. Rizal wanted to move landless
Filipinos to North Borneo to occupy assigned lands that will be engaged in locative
agriculture that will enable them to rebuild their lives. Other strategies of dispossessing
Filipino owners of their landholdings were:

a. Outright purchase at a low price of real estates (realenga) by a Spaniard or a

cacique, from a badly-in-need landowners.
b. Mortgage system (pacto de retroventa); this is equivalent of today’s mortgage
system (sangla).

The mortgage system is equivalent of today’s mortgage system (sangla), where a

landowner who loaned some money and later became a landlord afterwards. This
happened simply because the system required the land to the collateral. While the
landowners had not paid back his loan, he paid the landlord rent for the use of his own
land. Another source of land-related conflict by the late 19th century was the “friar lands”.
Many farmers questioned the amount of land in grant given by the Spanish crown to the
religious orders (Augustinians, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Recollect orders. Tenants
(inquilinos) paid tax termed as “canon” to the friars.

Religious orders, mainly Dominc and Augustin became owners of vast tracts of
friar land which was leased to natives and mestizos. Meanwhile the colonial government
took the place of the datus. The datu was now called cabeza de barangay, but it was the
proprietors of the estates who held the real power in the barangay or community. Thus
“the most significant Spanish innovation concerning property rights was the introduction
of the concept of legal title to land, that is private ownership” (Riedinger, 1995).

4. How is the sense of nationalism and patriotism develop in the midst in the
Agrarian problems or situation in Calamba?

While he was active in the Propaganda Movement, Rizal had private doubts about
the objectives of the Propaganda Movement and he expressed them to his Austrian
confidante Ferdinand Blumentritt through private correspondence. Jose Rizal figured that,
regardless of what Filipino expatriates will peacefully do, the Spanish Crown and
government will not adopt the reforms necessary for the colony’s development. He further
shared that he would not want to involve himself in any secret and dangerous plot against
the colonial government but if it continues to oppress the Filipino people then he would
have to side with violence.

It was not just Blumentritt who got his message but Filipino expatriates as well like
Galicano Apacible, Edilberto Evangelista and Antonio Luna. In fact, there was a sizeable
faction in the Filipino expatriate community that sided with Rizal because of his sentiments.
Luna himself thought that there should not just be a propaganda movement in Spain but
also one at home; the former arguing for assimilation while the latter advocating for

Amazingly, even if Filipino assimilation into the Spanish nation was achieved he
would still be willing to return home as a separatist agent. Apacible was insightful enough
to think that propaganda for reform in Spain would prove that Filipinos were willing to use
peaceful channels to make their case for their people and that its failure would serve as a
justification for the separation movement. He also took the talk of separation up a notch
by advising Rizal to setup a headquarters for the revolution in Hong Kong or someplace
else to centrally muster support for the cause of independence. At this time, many
Filipino ilustrados (enlightened ones) supported Rizal on the understanding that he “was
a separatist and the more radical one,” Apacible claimed.
Unsurprisingly, this talk of independence from Spain, peaceful or violent, was
clashing with the program of Del Pilar and his reformist faction of La Solidaridad especially
after the tragedy of Hacienda Calamba. Hundreds of tenants, including Rizal’s family, of a
land-owning religious organization were evicted with support from the colonial government
after the Supreme Court in Madrid sided with the friars in a land dispute. For Rizal, who
guided the community and his family through the litigation, this made a lasting impact on
his political beliefs. It is safe to say that this critical juncture ensured his sure transition into
separatism and radicalism.

Rizal’s story on Cabesang Tales and his findings on the agrarian conflict in
Calamba brought to the core of the exploitative agrarian set up created by vast Dominican
friar estates. This led to be the source and the mirror of the reality that Filipino farmers
faced that time. It revealed the oppression poverty and peasant discontentment which
later became the spark revolution. It ignited a national revolt towards having equal
opportunities in owning agricultural lands in Calamba during the 19th century.

5. Compare and contrast the agrarian situation in the late 19th century and the
agrarian situation in the present.

During the 19th century the main problem in the agrarian situation it was only the
Dominican friar’s managed respective lands of the Filipinos. It led them to become
abusive in terms of collecting higher rents. On the other hand, the government today
provides regulation in terms of owning a land. The difference between this time, is that it
is more open in facilitating land reforms.

Throughout the issue of Hacienda Calamba, Rizal stepped in to investigate the

suspected perpetrators and eventually to defend the victims. He found out from his fellow
townsmen that the Dominican friars who owned the land of Hacienda Calamba have been
slowly and discreetly encroaching on the lands of Filipinos who eventually became their
tenants. Their greed was emphasized with their relatively high rent and their unchanged
tax liabilities to the Spanish colonial government even if their land holdings have
expanded. The justice of the peace of the locality ruled against the friars but they quickly
appealed to the Supreme Court in Manila which quickly sided with them. But Rizal would
not give up and appealed to the Supreme Court in Madrid. While this was taking place,
Rizal advised his family to not pay the rent to the friars with the justification that they did
not own the land and with moral conviction this was followed by most of the other tenants
as well. The friars tried to divide and conquer the coalition against them by offering a
compromise to the Rizal family which they rejected.

But the Spanish colonial government was just as adamant as Rizal in reaching its
goal of regulating its people and restricting Rizal’s influence and so rejected his daunting
operation with the rationale that workers are needed in the colony’s agricultural sector.
And so he failed to become a savior but at least he tried.

We can only speculate what else Rizal had in mind for the colony in a foreign land
besides resettlement and the continuation of Filipino agricultural life and work but we can
presume that he desired to create a new society that transcended the corrupt colonial
system back in Spanish Philippines. An agricultural society that was self-sustaining and
self-governing that not only had power emanating from its members but also ensured
individual freedom for all. To take it up a notch, some historians have even gone as far as
to speculate that the colony was also meant to be a military base of operations for the
coming Revolution.

6. In the present context in the midst of the problems of our agricultural

problems right now, as an economics student, can nationalism and
patriotism to grow and develop? How?

Nineteenth century Philippines is regarded as the foundation of major economic

institutions which are still in place today: Schumacher (1991, p.10) even calls it a
“formative century”. The Philippines began to be a part of a global economy, formally
speaking, which have been also influenced by economic movements in Continental
Europe: the industrial revolutions and the birth of mathematical economics that predated

In fact, historians would even argue that much of Andres Bonifacio’s initial
readings were coming from the enlightenment period of the age. These remained
unchecked as the British and the Americans began to set up businesses in Manila, which
officially became an international port in 1835 with no restrictions on censorship of goods,
and other customs. Schumacher (1991, p. 127) added that: For this growth of the
agricultural export economy not only made it possible for an ever increasing number of
young Filipinos to go abroad for higher education, but allowed them to live on in Europe
for years.

This mercantilist framework may be the reason for the perpetuation “export-
orienteers” of the Philippine economy, even until the present. However, the positive trade
balance was only realized at the beginning of 19th century, far from the objectives of
creating the Manila–Acapulco Galleon trade. This perspective of international relations is
also a manifestation of the agricultural boom in the period coupled with the effect of the
opening of the Suez Canal, and the macroeconomic forces (on gold and silver
depreciation towards the end of the century).

More particularly, this is an observation posed by Boncan (2012), the imitation of

Spaniards to other successful international trade models of the nineteenth century. This
explains the shift of trade from “low bulk, high priced” (as in the Manila–Acapulco galleon
trade), to the “high bulk, low priced” (the emergence of the “cash crops”). Also, this paved
way for the significant documentation of methods of agriculture and forestry, taxonomy of
flora and fauna, geography and the environment, and other pertinent documents that will
guide the administration of the planned expansion in international agricultural trade.

In addition, being shared by Schumacher (1991, p 18), that economic development

in the nineteenth century had largely came from “non-Spanish initiatives.” However,
institutional factors and global events have contributed much to the general composition
of Philippine imports and exports. Undeniably, the boom of the export agriculture
economy and the improvement of the domestic economy paved way for such
composition: exports mainly composed of sugar, tobacco, and Manila hemp (abaca) while
imports were textiles (mostly cotton), and later, rice. This in fact is another manifestation
of economic development patterns.

Even with these limitations, economic historians experience a great deal in

reconstructing the past through the use of these method and analysis. It is undeniably
obvious that knowledge in history is important, and necessary, for the previous errors will
not be committed again.

As an economic student, past experiences and difficulties should have shed some
light and insight in how current economic policies must be formulated and implemented,
while institutions continue to adapt and evolve given an array of socioeconomic and
political factors. From the pedagogical reasons of Schumpeter (1954) up to the
uniqueness of experience of the Philippines as in Corpuz (1997), the roots of our
institutions relevant to trade and international relations needs to be continuously revisited.
Finally, it is always a painstaking work to reconstruct history from the perspective of
economics, given limitations in data, archives, and the contemporary theory being used
in literature. (Davis, 2013; Blaug, 2001). Nonetheless, the archival work done in
secondary sources may perhaps shed a different perspective on such reconstructions in
Philippine economic history.


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