Battles before Colonization

The beginnings of the Filipino land forces dates back before the Spanish and American colonial period. In that time, clans and barangays from different regions form their own armed groups primarily composed of hunters and land fighters. They served as defenders of the tribes or as warriors sent on strike missions against other barangays. On occasions, some clan forces would form alliances to attack more powerful opponents. Conventional weaponry during the pre‐colonial era includes Kris and Kampilan, Blowguns, and Lantaka. War-fare instruments of the Filipino forces continued to develop over time.


The Forces’ First Test (1521)

On April 27, 1521, the Filipino land forces were put to test. The Spaniards’ arrival in the 16th century in Mactan, Cebu ignited the Battle of Mactan as Lapu-Lapu defied to render loyalty to Magellan. The incident demonstrated the combined might of Filipino land forces complemented by early naval elements. Lapu-Lapu’s force was not “formally organized” as a Filipino Army during that time but the present‐day Philippine Army traces its beginnings to this brave and proud force of warriors of the Philippine Islands.


The Fight for Freedom (1892-1898)

The three century rule of the Spaniards led the Filipino warriors to form resistance movements to fight for their freedom. The Filipino people were clamoring for reforms and an end to the foreign rule because of the growing restiveness in the colony. On July 7, 1892, Andres Bonifacio founded the Samahang Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, or simply “Katipunan” to muster freedom loving Filipinos for armed revolt. The Katipunan formed the nucleus of the Revolutionary Philippine Army.

Almost a year after the outbreak of war between the members of the Katipunan and the Spanish troops, another freedom fighter from a prominent clan ‒ Emilio Aguinaldo ‒ was elected President of the Philippine Revolutionary Government at the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897 in Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabon in Cavite. Artemio Ricarte, a Katipunan leader of numerous Filipino battles against Spain was also elected as Captain General of the Ejercito en la Republica de las Islas Filipinas or the Army of the Philippine Republic.

After years of fighting for freedom, of On June 12, 1898, the Filipino people achieved their awaited freedom as General Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippine’s Independence from Spain.


Philippine Army’s Rebirth (1898-1935)

The Filipino troops were to enjoy only a brief sense of victory and respite from combat when American forces came in to establish rule in the islands by virtue of the Treaty of Paris, which Spain co-signed with America on December 10, 1898. The treaty ceded the Philippines to the United States.

The Filipino-American War erupted on February 4, 1899. Due to the superiority of American arms, the Filipinos fell from one position to another until they were forced to disband. Even after the official cessation of hostilities and as the Americans have established government in 1901, the Filipino revolutionaries continued their struggle for freedom.

Aguinaldo was captured by American forces on March 23, 1901. The surrender of one of the most prominent leaders of the Philippine Revolution, General Miguel Malvar, on April 16, 1902 marked the official end of the “Philippine insurrection.” When the Philippines was established as a Commonwealth Republic of the United States of America on 15 November 1935, its President, Manuel Luis Quezon signed Commonwealth Act No.1, popularly known as the National Defense Act, which paved way for the birth of the new Philippine Army.


In World War II (1941-1945)

The onset of World War II in 1941 tested the might of the Commonwealth Philippine Army. Its two regular and ten reserve divisions undertook the defense of the Philippines. These divisions were incorporated into the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) under the command of General Douglas McArthur. Four military areas were activated after the war. The National Defense Forces organized under the National Defense Act was reorganized into the Armed Forces of the Philippines along which came the birth of four major services.

The post‐WWII Philippine Army was to be seen fulfilling the Philippine government’s commitment as a member of the United Nations to help bring peace in war‐ torn neighbor states. The Philippine Army spared five battalions which formed the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) to carry out the campaign for democracy. The Philippine Civic Action Group to Vietnam (PhilCAGV) was sent to South Vietnam on a mission of peace, where army engineers helped build communities and army doctors and nurses provided medical services to the people.


Building the Headquarters; Expanding Horizons (1957- Early 70’s)

On July 10, 1957, the Philippine Army established its headquarters under the leadership of Brigadier General Leoncio S. Tan. The onset of the sixties ushered an expansion of the army's roles, which include participation in the socio-economic programs of the country, among others. To achieve greater flexibility and effectiveness, infantry divisions took the place of the military areas in the seventies.


The Army as a Nation Builder (1972-1986)

On September 21, 1972, the Martial Law era began. During the decade, military operations supported by civic action blocked the escalation of insurgency. The 1980s saw the Philippine Army in increasing peace and development roles and in a period of transition after the EDSA‐People Power Revolution, which spurred various initiatives toward transformation and reforms in internal security operations. The Philippine Army became more cognizant of its role not only as protector of the Filipino people, but also a partner in nation building.


Continued Sacrifice, Bravery and Patriotism (2000s)

On September 9, 2013, the Philippine Army prevented members of the Moro National Liberation Front to take over Zamboanga City which led to three-week fight. Twenty five government soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice in order to save innocent civilians and regain peace in the city.

On May 2017 to October 2017, a five-month long siege brought casualties and displaced individuals from their homes in Marawi, Lanao del Sur. The Battle of Marawi was one of the largest and longest urban warfare of the Philippine Army. One hundred sixty five government forces lost their lives to liberate the city from conflict. The Philippine Army continue play an important role in rebuilding the city.


The Philippine Army Today

Today, the Philippine Army supports the government’s whole-of-nation approach against insurgency led by the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict. The Army provides efficient instrument and structure for the employment of the whole-of-nation approach and also assists in the implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program offered to former rebels. These efforts complement the Army’s sustained anti-terrorism operations on the ground.

Moreover, the Philippine Army’s mandate led to a breakthrough with the framing of the Army Transformation Roadmap 2028, which was implemented in 2010. Capability upgrades, modernization initiatives, and campaigns for good governance and performance excellence in the transformation program ushered the Philippine Army to welcome paradigm shifts and optimistic milestones, which continue to fire up the enthusiasm of members of the force to fulfil the Army’s purpose to serve the nation and secure our people and territory. With continuing and steady successes in its strategic initiatives and base camps, the Philippine Army is confident that it will realize its 2028 vision to be a world class Army that is a source of national pride.