The Ilustrados and their Contribution to Philippine Nationalism

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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The Ilustrados and their Contribution to Philippine Nationalism

This essay will discuss the Ilustrados, a group of educated Filipinos in the late 19th century, and their significant contributions to the Philippine nationalist movement. It will explore their advocacy for reforms, involvement in the Propaganda Movement, and influence on the Philippine Revolution against Spanish rule. The piece will examine how their education and exposure to liberal ideas in Europe shaped their vision for the Philippines. You can also find more related free essay samples at PapersOwl about Colonization.

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The Filipinos at the time of 19th century has been the victim of too much social construction and terrific grind division by the Spanish authorities. In the 19th century, the Spaniards had dominated moreover controlled Filipino people. The Filipinos turned out to be a servant or a mercenary to the Spaniard. They took their taxes and they were working in accordance with their command. Those Spanish authorities and officials transferred to different location so the necessities and demands of the Filipinos were neglected.

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Just like in the movies when there is a villain there is a hero. So it was here that the rise of ilustrados began. What are the ilustrados? Who are the ilustrados? During the Spanish colonization period in latter part of 19th century, the Ilustrados formed the Filipino well educated class. They belong to the middle class that had been raised in Spain and introduced to the liberal ideals of Spanish. They are called ilustrados because they are that people who have the knowledge and explicitness of thinking of liberalism as well as nationalism. The Filipino ilustrados of the Spanish period are in a prominent position in the society. They are that people who have the courage to speak up for the Filipinos’ interests and want a more humane approach to Philippine politics and economics. The ilustrados has shown frustration with their depiction of those Spaniards as uncivilized plus their violence at any form of culture by writing books and articles on their own language, methods and spiritual beliefs, as well as on cultural matters just prior the Spanish conquest. The most well-known ilustrados are Graciano Lopez Jaena, Marcelo H. Del Pilar and Jose Rizal. These Filipino elites have a major part in the past of our beloved Philippines because of their heroic acts. Those ilustrados were pioneers from that Propaganda Movement; their writings encourage neither prompted the Filipinos which result in Philippine Revolution. Through them the idea of oneness plus individual identification were primarily addressed. From this paper, rise of Filipino nationalism will be discussed through their thoughts and concepts by way of triumvirate notable ilustrados.

Let’s first address Graciano Lopez Jaena he was recognized moreover viewed being a Philippine orator prince. At a very young age he was already parted from his parents. His parents sent him to Colegio Provincial de Jaro and he was supervised by Father Francisco. Father Francisco already caught sight of Graciano’s knowledge and oral skills. Contrary to her mother’s desire to be in a seminary, he wanted to be in the field of medicine and this is what he pursues. But because of his parent’s financial situation he returned to his province and there he continue to used what he had just learned in San Juan de Dios to treat people. Since then people started to raise their needs and their grievances that they experienced from that Spaniards. Due to people’s complaints he had this courage to write a story entitled “Friar Botod” or “Fray Botod” that revolves around the violence as well as inhumanity from priests. The priests have been exasperated by his writing even if it is not released because some copies were spread. It was the beginning in which his life was being threatened. Despite of this he is determined to fight for justice and he left to go to Spain.

Once Lopez Jaena came from Spain, he continued his studies and he put his desire in writing in line with independence of our country. He is considered for instance an exemplary essential part of the revolution in the country because of his writings and orations. One of his remarkable contributions is the creation of a newspaper entitled “La Solidaridad”, Jaena was the first editor of this paper. This paper played a large part in the propaganda movement that motivated the people of the Philippines that led to revolution. Sadly, on 20 of January 1896, Graciano López Jaena died because of tuberculosis. The second ilustrado is Marcelo H. Del Pilar, his education is much like Rizal because their first teacher is their mothers. Del Pilar was a lawyer, he is an advocate and activist in the Philippines. He attempted to sustain and preserve the Filipino ilustrados nationalist attitude against Spanish colonization. Marcelo Del Pilar was definitely watchful by character. He finds out promptly that the Filipino people were not being treated by the priests and authorities. He was triggered by the doings and maltreats of the priest, Del Pilar exposed their unfairness and injustice to Filipino people. Del Pilar belong to the first newspaper which is bilingual, “Dyaryong Tagalog” is what they called it. The Dyaryong Tagalog was used as a weapon to voice out the mistreats and abuses caused by the Spanish in accordance to much-needed reforms, in addition to support Filipino nationalism. One of Rizal’s remarkable works is “El Amor Patrio” Del Pilar laid it out as Tagalog were he termed it “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa”. In 1886 of October a letter to Rizal’s sibling exposed that Rizal cannot transform the word liberty into Tagalog so Rizal needed the help of Del Pilar to translate this word. Rizal only recognized this word through the written works of Del Pilar. In this case, it shows that Del Pilar arouse the sense of nationalism. Del Pilar was a schemer and it is easier for him to use Tagalog than Rizal. His skills and capabilities allowed him to bring the gap within ilustrados and the people.

One of the creator of La Solidaridad Mariano Ponce illustrate that Del Pilar was a speechmaker so he was capable to change his way of speaking depends on the audience. According to Gregorio Zaide, of all the pioneers of Philippine revolution, it was Del Pilar who influenced most of Bonifacio. Andres Bonifacio imitates Del Pilar’s writings and it acted as a reference to his acts. As an indication of Bonifacio’s admiration for Del Pilar, his name was used as a lead editor of KKK. He is not only renowned by being a propagandist but also because of the masonry community in the Philippines. When Del Pilar arrived in Spain he continued to write the “La Solidaridad” after Graciano Lopez Jaena. The last ilustrado is José Rizal. Filipinos identified Rizal as the national hero of the country. He is an exquisite student and he knows several languages. He learns the English alphabet at the age of three. He even knows how to write and read at the age of five. His mother Teodora Alonso was the major impact of what he had become. She is her first teacher the one who guides him. She is the one who inspires him and exposes him to what the world he is living in including the unfairness and inequality. His parents decided to bring him to Manila to study. He is already a graduate in Ateneo at the age of 16. After his schooling he decided to pursue his interest in medicine at University of Santo Tomas but he did not finish it because of the Dominicans unfair treatment. He moved to Spain in 1882 to pursue his medicine studies, and later received his license. While he was in Spain everyone is stunned by his brilliance and his proficiency by knowing several studies. Rizal was a multi skilled man. Not only is he good at writing but he is also expert in structural design, history, theory and reasoning as well as sports such as fencing and martial arts. By this time, Rizal started writing his novels. Rizal had his first novel published entitled “Noli Me Tangere” or “Touch me Not” in latin. The novel provides an overview of the Philippines at all level under the Spain colonization. It was written by Rizal to expose the miseries of the Filipino people, he presumed that this novel could be his weapon for the integration and explanation of why the Philippine community is not progressing. It intended to change the system in the society. Rizal addresses what Filipinos have become like as they are under the Spanish colony.

The novel also discusses the vices to which Filipinos are used, and the influence and power of the Church has over the local authorities. Rizal uses characters in this novel for the people to relate and to forecast the social issues in the society. This novel created a commotion within the Filipinos. It is historical and it serves as a tool in upbringing the Filipinos to their oneness and national identity. In 1890, he also makes a notation on the Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas written by Spanish conquistador Antonio de Morga. Rizal claims that before the arrival of the Spanish in the Philippines we are already wealthy and we are economically substantive. He knew that the explanation for the backwardness of our country is not because of the ignorance, differences and indolence of the Filipinos but because of the Spaniards. In this context, Rizal gives importance to education to lift the country and to develop the rationality of the Filipinos. The Spanish authority depraved, mistreats and underprivileged the Filipino people. As years passed by, Rizal published his second novel in 1891 which is a continuation of Noli Me Tangere. His second novel is entitled ‘El Filibusterismo’ which portrays the last days of Spanish rule in the Philippines. This addresses the further adjudication by Rizal on Philippine policies and state under Spanish authorities, his dissatisfaction and despair that he faced. Because of his bravery in disclosing the Spaniards mistreatment, when he returned to Philippines the government authorities confronted him because of his novels. Jose Rizal paid a terrifying price for his books, he was deported to Dapitan. The officials lack evidence so they make up allegations to mess him up. While he was deported to Dapitan he keeps himself busy by teaching children and engaging in some activities. When he was locked up in Fort Santiago he wrote a poem but it has no title but later on it was titled by Mariano Ponce one of Rizal’s acquaintance. It is now known as “Mi Ultimo Adios” or his last farewell before he was executed at Bagumbayan. Rizal serves as a steering conscience and a martyr for the Philippine revolution.

What if there were never any ilustrados? Do you think we will able to achieve freedom? Are these ilustrados successful in building up the Philippine nation? What are the Philippines going to be like if the ilustrados have not taken action? The ilustrados has an enormous impact in the Philippines. The Philippines would still be a colony without their help and knowledge. It turned out that their political ideas were an analysis and a use for change. Their writings awakened Philippine nationalism. These ilustrados believe that writing is more effective than violence. They used their words as weapon. They believe that the best thing to do to attain one’s freedom can be achieve without violence. Their writings led to Philippine revolution because it acts as an eye opener for the Filipinos to fight for their freedom and to identify their identity. They used their brilliance and intelligence for a good cause. They had sacrificed themselves for our country’s independence and for uniting every Filipino. They have made us realize that education is the key for us to success and to escape ignorance that will lead to slavery. Their values will lead us to any place in life. Recalling their values made me realize how to be like them in a manner that makes a difference to the world. History is a powerful tool for bringing peace and development, because we might be able to explain social change not only by evaluating our history. But the history and the lessons therein must be learned. A hero reflects an exception to society. The need for them demonstrates the incapacity of the government to fix the problems in society. Often, at the expense of the people, in illustrados time, the government was the one who created the issues, profiting from them. For the government of the Philippines today and in the years ahead, let it be a reminder that the service they provide to the Filipinos is not for their personal interest; but a genuine obligation to always be truthful and selfless. For us younger generations and the future of the country, doing this prolific task is a sort of duty and not just activities that we need to be pass or finished. Let this paper revive our inactive thinking by reliving the past and associating it with the present.


  1. Marcelo Del Pilar. (n.d.) Retrieved from
  2. Philippines in the 19th century. (2014, July 27). Retrieved from
  3. Graciano López Jaena. (n.d.) Retrieved from
  4. Rizal’s own story of his life. (2015, March 8). Retrieved from
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The Ilustrados and Their Contribution to Philippine Nationalism. (2021, Oct 16). Retrieved from