Reading books about Philippine history doesn't just teach us about our past; it also helps us move forward as a nation. As our national hero, Jose Rizal, once said, “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.” More than a century after his death and the wisdom behind this popular quote still rings true.
Choosing a history book to read can be quite a daunting task. There are a lot of things that you should consider like the period in history you want to read about and which books give credible accounts. In this article, we've created a list of Philippine history books you can purchase online and crafted a buying guide that can help you decide which one to bury your nose in this weekend.
Our recommendation articles are carefully researched and crafted by the mybest Philippines team of writers and editors. To stay true to our company’s mission and vision to help users’ selection process easier, we also collaborate with experts from various fields to ensure that our content stays factual and useful.
Table of Contents
Here are some key points to consider:
For more detailed information, read through our buying guide below.
Our history spans hundreds and thousands of years, and it would help to narrow it down to different periods you want to read about. Here is a breakdown that can help you out.
Precolonial history refers to the time when indigenous peoples took part in healthy trade with different cultures and economies in the region. The earliest settlers in our country are believed to have reached the country through land bridges. Choose this if you want to learn about our earliest ancestors and their way of life before we were colonized by Spain.
The Spanish colonial rule lasted for 333 years - from 1521 to 1898. These accounts start with Magellan’s arrival at the island of Homonhon and end with the establishment of the first republic of the Philippines. Choose these books if you want to read about the history of Christianity and the birth of many revolutionary heroes.
Just as we were establishing our independence from Spain, the United States took possession of our country after winning the Spanish-American war. This is the time of the First Philippine Republic and its transition to a Commonwealth government, World War II, and our liberation from American rule. Purchase these books if you want to learn about the events from 1898 to 1946.
What happened after we gained independence from the Americans? If you've been wondering about the real state of postcolonial Philippines, you should read up on history books tackling Philippine history after 1946.
This was a time of postwar Philippines, the Huk Rebellion, and programs aimed at developing and diversifying the economy. Buy these books if you want to know more about the things that happened from 1946 to 1965.
There are many dependable historians who chronicled the events that happened during Ferdinand Marcos’ presidency. His first term as president started in 1965, and he was re-elected in 1969. To stay in power, he declared Martial Law in 1972. If you want to read credible sources on what really happened at this time, look for history books with factual stories from 1966 to 1986.
The best books about Philippine history are those written by highly respected authors and historians. One of the easiest ways to know about the reliability of a historian is to check if they work at an academic institution. It is best to choose history books written by those who are knee-deep in the academe because they have a scholarly reputation to uphold that ensures their credibility.
Meanwhile, books that are acknowledged by esteemed institutions validate their credibility, as it shows the high-quality reading that awaits you. Also, check for reviews from reputable publications. If they have written a favorable review, then the book is definitely worth buying.
Depending on your preference, there are different types and formats of books that you can choose from. Here are some of them:
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Patricio Abinales and Donna Amoroso
State and Society in the Philippines
An Updated Account of Philippine History
The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos
Firsthand Accounts From the Dictator's Inner Circle
Culture and History
Merging History With Self-Examination
A History of the Philippines
Learn How Philippine Class Structure Shapes History
Ambeth R. Ocampo
Rizal Without the Overcoat
Humanizing the Philippine National Hero
Luis H. Francia
A History of the Philippines
Putting Colonial Rule Under a Magnifying Glass
A Nation Aborted: Rizal, American Hegemony, and Philippine Nationalism
Exploring Philippine Nationalism During and After the American Colonial Era
In Our Image
How American Imperialism Still Exists Long After They've Left
Jose F. Lacaba
Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage
Transporting Readers to the First Quarter Storm
James M. Scott
A Closer Look at the 29-Day Battle of Manila
This is the second installment of the State and Society in the Philippines (2005), packed with additional resources and new information. This second edition is longer than the first one, exploring the precolonial Philippines up to the first year of the Duterte administration. It's the latest and most reliable and well-written history book you should have on your shelf!
The book's uniqueness relies on its detailed examination of the country's institutional weakness and the strategies employed by the state to overcome it. Abinales and Amoroso also did a deep dive into societal contexts and social actors to help readers better understand the conditions of Philippine society in various periods.
This book was highly controversial when it was released during Martial Law - it was even banned in the Philippines. This tell-all book was written by a journalist who also became President Marcos' media adviser. In the book, he explains why he chose to defect from the dictator and details the excesses and atrocities that happened during that time.
This is an important book to read, especially for the younger generation who are unclear about what happened during this dark time in our history. Primitivo Mijares disappeared shortly after he testified in the US Congress about the abuses during Marcos' time. His body is yet to be found, but his book continues to inform us about the oppressions he witnessed firsthand.
This book is a collection of essays from National Artist Nick Joaquin that is rich with historical facts and thought-provoking ideas. It can be uncomfortable to read at times, especially when Joaquin bluntly spews his insights about what being a Filipino is about. It is brilliantly laced with historical events that lay the groundwork for his thesis.
Many readers say this book is one of the best they've read. These are not the history lessons you learned in school. Get ready to grapple with his perception of pre-colonial Filipinos who were romanticized in every Social Studies class you took in school. This is an important book to pick up to have a deeper understanding not just of history but of who we are as a people.
This history book focuses on the oppression of Filipinos during the Spanish and American eras. It highlights how class differences brought about these struggles the nation suffered. Renato Constantino is known for his leanings to the left, and it is apparent in this book. He gives a scathing analysis of how the Philippine class structure shapes our history.
Constantino, just like his contemporary Teodoro Agoncillo, played an important role in taking back the Philippine narrative at a time when what was available were mostly Westernized versions of our nation's history. This book exposed myths and prejudices from Spanish and U.S. historians that Filipinos were taught in school.
We have all heard the stories about Jose Rizal that put him on a pedestal, all meant to cement his status as our national hero. Rizal enthusiast Ambeth Ocampo does a superb job of debunking myths and humanizing Rizal. Our beloved Pepe gets angry, jealous, and can be petty, just like us.
This book is a collection of essays that undresses Rizal as we know him. Ocampo shared that his father pointed out Rizal's overcoat as seen in his photos and statuesーwhy wear that in a tropical country? In seeing Rizal without the trappings of heroism, readers are inspired to think that anybody can aspire to do great things that can shape our nation's history.
Our history as a nation is marked with long stretches of colonization that undoubtedly shaped how we think, act, and speak today. This book expounds on the gruesome details of imperialism. It shows how our colonizers need not be present in our country for them to continue holding power over us.
From pre-colonial Philippines all the way to the 21st century, this book is a comprehensive telling of our history. It challenges the reader to find a more rooted sense of nationalism, finding the heart and soul that is uniquely ours. It makes you re-examine how you look at society, with the different classes, religions, and indigenous tribes experiencing continued oppression.
The Spaniards may have had the longest hold on us, but American influences proved to be more dominant. In this book, Floro Quibuyen explores the terrible state of Philippine nationalism due to American colonial rule. Focusing on the trajectory of our country's nationalist movements, he explored its formation and deformation from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.
The author lays down facts and arguments through 4 interesting sets of dichotomies: Ibarra versus Elias, Rizal versus Bonifacio, Ilustrados versus Masses, and Reform versus Revolution. He encourages the readers to rediscover our history and vision, reread Rizal and rethink his project, and, ultimately, revise Philippine nationalism.
The United States has long made us believe that when we say freedom, what we want is to be like them. This book provides an eye-opening narrative of how the US took advantage of our country, only to leave as soon as WWII ravaged the nation's capital and the economy in ruins.
The book paints a clear picture of how the US laid the foundation for making the Philippines dependent on them for the long run. Parallelisms are also drawn with what the US did in Vietnam in a war their veterans still remember. It shares a clear depiction of how the Philippines was gravely victimized by the fragile white male ego.
A collection of the author's published articles on the protests happening in the 1960s and the 1970s, this book gives you a front-row seat to the First Quarter Storm. Pete Lacaba is an activist who painstakingly chronicled what it was like to be out on the streets protesting against a power-hungry President. This is frontline reporting that deserves to be revisited today.
Read about how the government tried to control its people by denying them permits to hold rallies, dispersing them with guns, water cannons, in some cases arrests and torture, and the extreme disappearances. This is an important book that gives hard facts about a period our country is being forced to forgive and forget.
Named as one of the best books of 2018 by editors at Amazon, Kirkus, and Military Times, this book meticulously chronicled the horrors of the Battle of Manila. It paints a picture of Manila during its prime - a bustling metropolis with swimming pools and golf courses, a city destroyed by war with its glory never again to be restored.
But more than the city, this story is a story of people. The Battle of Manila was merciless; outside the battlefield, there are stories of violence, starvation, and disease. This is a compelling book that reads like a war novel, only this work is non-fiction.
Below are some of the most asked questions on the web answered by the mybest team.
History reveals truths, lies, rights, and wrongs. That's why Philippine history is important: we understand the present conditions we are in and recognize the things we should improve on. To learn history is to create a better present and future for all of us!
If there's something that will and should always remain relevant, it should be our own history! Our country's past is still the key to most of the societal problems we have today. Take Dr. Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere which reflected the Philippine society under Spanish colonial rule: published in 1887, but the lessons it contains are still relevant to the contemporary state of our country.
Start them young! It's always best to let your child have a grasp of our country's history as early as first grade by encouraging them to read a book about Philippine history. There are history books made for children that you can use to train them in reading and speaking in Filipino and English!
Are you looking for more books to beef up your home library? Here are some recommended titles that could help you diversify your collection at home.
Author: Laura Mercado
Editor; Re-editor: Ayeza Mangulabnan, Ronadine Amata
Our buying guide was carefully researched and crafted by the mybest team of writers and editors. We used the buying guide as a basis for choosing and ranking the product recommendations, and we looked at reviews and ratings from E-commerce sites like Lazada, Shopee, and more.
No. 1: Patricio Abinales and Donna Amoroso | State and Society in the Philippines | Second Edition
No. 2: Primitivo Mijares | The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos
No. 3: Nick Joaquin | Culture and History
No. 4: Renato Constantino | A History of the Philippines | From the Spanish Colonization to the Second World War
No. 5: Ambeth R. Ocampo | Rizal Without the Overcoat
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