When Britain Left Manila

A Curious Enquiry: The British Invasion of Manila (Part 4)

A Curious Enquiry: What if Britain decided to keep the Philippines under its governance?

Whenever a nation invades another, the invading party would usually – either forcefully or peacefully – impose its political, religious, and cultural programmes or policies, thus establishing their dominance.

Not long after the Philippines was first introduced to the west as a Spanish colony, some of Europe’s mighty empires attempted to take it from Spain’s powerful grip. The Portuguese and the Dutch tried their luck. Spain was too strong for them at that time.

Then the Brits came, saw, and conquered. The Filipinos witnessed Spain’s first defeat from another foreign power. Spain’s talons had just been declawed rather easily. And those who were already sick and tired of Spanish abuses realised that it can be done! According to an Editorial from THE MANILA TIMES,

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.

Most likely, the Filipinos may have taken oath of allegiance to King George III of England during the transitional phase of political authority.

Filipinos who were (or still are) loyal to Spain’s heritage were morally outraged at the pillage, the looting, the grave-robbing, and the privateering committed by the British. Of course these actions were unmistakably wrong. We should be curious why these loyalists failed to see that Spain committed a much prolonged cruelty against the Filipinos. And we endured it for nearly 334 years. After the British left, the Spanish grip was tighter than before. But 134 years later, the Philippines was once again stolen from Spain’s long held grasp, this time for good, when another western power came.

Related Story: When Britain Sailed to Manila

The Legacy of the Invasion

However cruel or objectionable was the experience of being under the yoke of imperialism, legacy still persisted. According to Yuchengco Museum’s on-line article entitled The British Occupation of Manila and Cavite 1762- 1764,

The British invasion and two-year occupation of the capital of the Philippines during Spanish colonial times had profound effects on our history. It brought new political ideas to the Philippines, and helped open the country to foreign commerce.

Related Story: When Britain Conquered Manila

The article added,

After the British left in 1764, the defensive perimeter of old Manila had to be completely redesigned. Wide open spaces were created around the walls of Intramuros and along the original moat. Today, we still enjoy these open spaces in the form of parks, public gardens, wide avenues, and formal sites for public buildings.

A Curious Enquiry: Answers to ‘What Ifs’

It was said that Britain never intended to keep Manila. Britain just wanted Manila as leverage against Spain for the final settlement in the peace process. What if Britain changed its mind and decided to keep the archipelago as colony? This is one of those ‘what if’ questions that gives no real answers. Speculative imagination is the only realm where we can playfully answer such.

Related Story: When Britain Ruled Manila

If the Philippines were a British colony, what would you think be the cultural impact? Allow me to share an imaginary alternative history:

  1. While Singapore has Singlish, we have ‘Fillish’ in British accent.
  2. Perhaps the country will shift to Protestantism? I have doubts. Britain never imposed religion. Just look at Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia.
  3. Definitely Railways! Lots of them.
  4. Right-hand drive automobiles.
  5. Commonwealth membership. Our passports would probably look better too!
  6. Want a cup-a-tea?
  7. Good old-fashioned pubs. English style.
  8. Parliamentary form of government. Perhaps Westminster style.

So what’s on your mind?

READ PREVIOUS: When Britain Ruled Manila


Header Image:

  • A New Map of the Philippine Islands, map from Continuation of the Complete History of England, Volume 5., published by Tobias George Smollett, MD (1721 –1771), London, 1765 [1763], Thomas Kitchin, hand-colored copper engraving, 23 x 17 cm, Gallery of Prints collection.

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