Captaincy General of the Philippines

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Captaincy General of the Philippines
Capitanía General de las Filipinas
Colony of the Spanish Empire


Flag Coat of arms
Capital Manila
Languages Spanish and other
native languages
Government Monarchy
 -  1565-1598 Philip II of Spain
 -  1886-1898 Alfonso XIII of Spain
Maria Christina of Austria (Regent)
 -  1493-1500 Miguel López de Legazpi
 -  1898 Diego de los Ríos
 -  European settlement April 27, 1565
 -  U.S. annexation December 10, 1898 1898
Currency Real de a ocho, Peso fuerte

The Captaincy General of the Philippines (Spanish: Capitanía General de las Filipinas) was an administrative district of the Spanish Empire. The Captaincy General encompassed the Spanish East Indies which included the modern country of the Philippines and various Pacific Island possessions, such as the Caroline Islands and Guam. It was founded in 1565 with the first permanent Spanish settlements.

For centuries all economic aspects of the Captaincy were administered in Mexico by the Viceroyalty of New Spain, while administrative issues had to be consulted with the Spanish Crown or the Council of the Indies through the Royal Audience of Manila. However, in 1821, after Mexico became an independent nation, all control was transferred to Madrid.


Early explorations[edit]

Magellan landing site in Umatac Bay

After a long and tolling long voyage across the Pacific Ocean, Ferdinand Magellan reached the island of Guam on March 6, 1521 and anchored the 3 ships that were left of his fleet in Umatac Bay, before proceeding to the Philippines, where he met his death during the Battle of Mactan. Antonio Pigafetta, the expedition's chronicler and one of only 18 original crew members to survive Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe, recorded all details of the voyage.

Miguel López de Legazpi, arrived in Umatac in 1565 and claimed the island of Guam for Spain, before proceeding to the Philippines, where in a short period of time they successfully incorporated to Spain's Empire Cebu, Samar, Mazaua, Leyte, and Bohol, before conquering Manila. Two of his Lieutenant-commanders, Martín de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo conquered Luzon's northern region.

Several Pacific islands were claimed by Spain during the 16th century, including the Caroline Islands by Toribio Alonso de Salazar in 1526, Palau by Ruy López de Villalobos in 1543, Bonin Islands by Bernardo de la Torre in 1543, New Guinea by Yñigo Ortiz de Retez in 1545, Solomon Islands by Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa in 1568, New Hebrides by Pedro Fernandes de Queirós in 1606, Marquesas Islands by Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira in 1595, and Vanuatu by Pedro Fernández de Quirós, although Spain did not make any serious attempt to establish permanent settlements in them until the 18th century.

Spanish settlement and creation of the Captaincy[edit]

In 1574 a General Captaincy is created dependent of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. In 1584, the Real Audiencia of Manila is established by King Felipe II, who appointed as its President the same governor of the Captaincy General of the Philippines. The Captaincy had its capital in Cebu from 1565 to 1595, and in Manila from 1595 until 1898.

As part of the extensive governmental reforms during the early Bourbon period throughout the overseas possessions. An Intendencia was established in Manila by Royal Decree of July 17, 1784 that handled issues regarding the government finances and to promote the economy. Ciriaco González Carbajal was appointed as Oidor of the Audiencia of Manila and was instructed to abide by the Royal Ordinance of Mayors of 1782, that had been enacted in Rio de la Plata. Carbajal proposed the establishment of more Intendencias in Ilocos, Camarines, Iloilo and Cebu, and although they were created on November 24, 1786, they were later abolished by the Royal Decree of November 20, 1787.[1] A month earlier, on October 23, the Intendencia of Manila had been attached to the Captaincy General of the Philippines.[2]

Until 1822, all General Captains were civilians, but after that year they were always chosen among military. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, there were established many dependent local government offices and military settlements, very numerous due to the large number of islands and the extent of the districts.

Territorial Divisions[edit]

Until the second half of the 18th century, there were 24 provinces, 19 alcaldías mayores and 5 corregimientos:[3]


Alcaldías mayores[edit]

Other administrative units established afterward[edit]

Established during the 19th century[edit]

Until the second half of the 19th century, there existed the administrative units:

Spanish rule in the Philippines ceased in 1898 after the war with the United States, which annexed most territories, although the administrative jurisdictions remained intact.

Most of the remaining territories in the Pacific Ocean were sold to Germany during the German-Spanish Treaty of 1899.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Enciclopedia GER
  2. ^ Biblioteca de legislación ultramarina en forma de diccionario alfabético. Pág. 621. Compilado por: José María Zamora y Coronado. Editor: Impr. de J. M. Alegria, 1845
  3. ^ Memorias históricas y estadísticas de Filipinas y particularmente de la grande isla de Luzon. Author: Rafael Díaz Arenas. Publicado por Imprenta del Diario de Manila, 1830