German Involvement in 19th century Philippines

Jacobo Zobel
Photo courtesy of Filipinas Heritage Library
Only few in the Philippines today would know that Germany also had intentions of having the Philippines as his first colony in the Asia-Pacific region.

Due to the effect of a royal decree, Manila was opened to international trade on September 6, 1834. Or maybe it should be said that Manila was opened to European trade because Manila had been trading with her Asian neighbors even before Spanish colonization. By 1859, 15 commercial houses were established in Manila by foreigners, and one of them was German.

One of the prominent Germans in the Philippines in the latter half of the 19th century was Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz, whose family was the owner of the only German commercial house in Manila, the Botica Zobel. Zobel would later establish the first tramcar service in the Philippines, in 1880, and be the ancestor of the rich Zobel de Ayala family.

In 1874, Zobel was implicated in a suspected Filipino rebellion against the Spanish colonial government. He was imprisoned, as well as the Chief of Police in Manila who failed to produce evidence that Zobel was the mastermind of the planned rebellion. No wonder the Chief of Police had no evidence to show, for Zobel was not the mastermind of the planned rebellion. Why? Because the evidence to nail down Zobel to jail was fabricated in Madrid. It was said that Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the unifier of modern Germany, interceded himself for Zobel to be freed. However, the Spanish fear of German intentions did not end with Zobel.

Jose Rizal
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
In 1876, Hermann Schuck, a German captain, established German ties with the Sultan of Sulu. Despite denials from Bismarck, Spain saw this as the beginning of German maneuvers to take the Philippines. It was said the Schuck even planted a German flag in Jolo. In 1885, the Germans invaded the Caroline Islands, which was under the Spanish colonial government in Manila. It all seemed that the Philippines was his next target, so Manila decided to build her first ironclad cruiser in Hong Kong, the Crucera Filipina. When the Germans stopped menacing the Pacific once more, the project was dropped due to lack of resources.

The coup de grace that made Spain keep Germany in mind as one of the candidates to colonize the Philippines was Doctor Jose Rizal, who is now one of the national heroes of the Philippines. It was said that when Rizal climbed Mount Makiling in Laguna, 1887, with his bodyguard Jose Taviel de Andrade, he planted the German flag on its peak This was not proven yet though, but what was proven was that Rizal climbed Makiling to fulfill his childhood dream to do so. After this feat, rumors began to surface that he was a German spy, or an agent of Bismarck, and the flag he planted was claiming the mountain for Germany. German Foreign Affairs would later use Rizal's preference of Germany over America as the new colonizer of the Philippines.

USS Olympia, the flagship of George Dewey's squadron
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia 

The last of the series showing German intentions into annexing the Philippines, or at least making it a protectorate, was in 1898, when the German squadron of Vice Admiral Otto von Diedrichs menaced Manila Bay even if it was the American squadron of Commodore George Dewey who blockaded it to starve Manila of any aid from Spain. The German squadron was stronger than the American, six warships of greater tonnage than five. That made Dewey worry of German plans about the Philippines. Soon enough, von Diedrichs withdrew without warning, which was the impolite way of a neutral fleet leaving a blockaded body of water. Thus, it ended German dreams of ever annexing the Philippines during the 19th century.

See the references here.

German Involvement in 19th century Philippines German Involvement in 19th century Philippines Reviewed by Al Raposas on Monday, December 17, 2012 Rating: 5

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