Spanish Era

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Government During the Spanish Period

The Philippines was under the Spanish government for more than three centuries. Without any freedom and independence, Filipinos had to adjust and adapt to the new form of government as well as to different culture and traditions. The laws implemented in the country were all from the King of Spain passed through his representative who was called the Governor-General, “who was the source of civil power for the various levels of administration” (Agoncillo, 2008, p.75). The Philippines was divided into different levels of administration and each level has its own leader. Almost all of the members of the government were Spanish and only a few Filipinos were allowed to have a position in the society for they think that they were naïve and foolish. Most of these authorities took advantage of their powers and many Filipinos were abused, may it be women or children.

The different levels consist of the central or national, which is headed by the Governor-General, and the provincial, headed by the alcalde mayor, while the military zones were governed by corregidores. Only a Spaniard can be an alcalde mayor or a corregidores and they have the power to collect taxes, be an inspector and chief of police and they also has military authority in their respective areas of responsibility. The residencia and visita are Spaniards sent from Spain to check if royal officials are abusing their powers and if they are fulfilling their duties to the people. On the municipal level, Filipinos are allowed to hold the position of gobernadorcillo and cabeza de barangay. Gobernadorcillo is the highest position a Filipino could ever get and like the parish priest, his role was considered very important in the town. Filipinos, during those times, coined the term Frailocracy or rule of the friars because the Spanish friars ruled highly even in government matters. They were known to be very abusive and cruel. Although there are gobernadorcillos and cabeza de barangays, the friars were still the rulers of the municipals and as Agoncillo (2008) described it, “in fact, the whole government of the islands rested on them” (p.79). But the most persistent complaint that Filipinos had against the friars is that they own most of the lands in the country and so many suffered since most of them were forced to give up their lands to the friars.

Political System as Depicted in Noli Me Tangere
Noli Me Tangere was our national hero’s first novel and served as a wakeup call to the abuses of the government and the friars. The book showed the devastating experiences of the society under the Spaniards. Based on some of Rizal’s own experiences, he was able to show the life of the Filipinos during those times and the kinds of cruelty the government and the church had done.

There are different characters in the novel that depicted the royal officials in the Philippines during the Spanish era. Some of these characters were portrayed as good people but most of them, especially the friars, were described as rude and corrupt. First, the Governor-General in the novel was characterized as someone who is kind and sympathetic especially about the death of the father of Crisostomo Ibarra, the protagonist of the story. The Alferez, who is the chief of the Guardia Civil, was seen as someone who doesn’t take things very seriously but he is definitely someone who everyone respects and feared. Another person who is very powerful in the novel was Fray Bernardo Salvi, the Franciscan curate of San Diego who secretly lusts Maria Clara and tolerates the cruelty of the Sacristan Mayor to the young sacristans represented by Crispin and Basilio. In addition, Fray Damaso, the former curate of San Diego, is an arrogant and ill-mannered priest who is respected by people out of fear and has so much power in the municipality.

The friars still played a major role in the government, Sichrovsky (1987) stated, “…The government does not plan for a better...
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