What Was Life Like in the Philippines During the War?

In the past, some countries had made severe mistakes in the name of power, religion, and grabbing the lands. Wars have drastically impacted human lives, and unfortunately, our history is full of conflicts. If you’re a history lover, you must have a good knowledge of the wars, atrocities, crimes, and tragedies against humans to gain religious or political motives. 

Human loss during a fight is a thing, but other than lives, many countries lost their cultures, economies, identities, and pride too. There is no win or loss in war; only bloodshed and misery impact human lives badly. Humanity faced wars and war crimes that led to genocide and had severe long-term problems.  Let’s now discuss one of the wars against the Philippines and what life was like during the war.

Spanish Colonization

In the 10th century, coastal villagers welcomed Chinese commerce and settlers in the Philippines, followed by Muslim traders from Borneo. The inhabitants of the Philippines were Mongoloid descent which is predominant nowadays. Islam was spreading gradually there, which was interrupted by the arrival of the Spanish Christians. The Philippines were under Spanish for 333 years, which is a considerable time to colonize any country.

The human cost of the war was approximately 20,000. The Spanish killed Filipino combatants, and more than 200,000 civilians perished due to combat, hunger, or disease. 4,300 Americans lost, some 1,500 were killed in action, while nearly twice that number succumbed to the disease.

The Spanish wanted to acquire better contact with Japan and China, share in the favorable spice trade, and convert the population into Christianity. Church and state became inseparably linked in carrying out Spanish objectives with Spanish colonies and sought to restore Christianity. The traditional village organization used traditional local leaders to rule the civil administration indirectly for Spain.

A new cultural community developed through these efforts, but Muslims and upland tribal people remained detached and estranged. Snatching the right to show the muscles against any nation is absurd. During the wars, the Philippines suffered a lot, and another occupier made their lives more miserable. Here we are talking about Japan!

Japanese Atrocities


The United States helped the Philippines get their lands from the Spanish, but why did the US want the Philippines? Surprisingly Japan launched an attack on the Philippines ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They initiated aerial bombardment on both north and south of Manila, followed by landings of ground troops. The Japanese destroyed aircraft of the United States and Philippines reign and ordered to leave, and finally, japan succeeded to occupied Manila.


They forced 80,000 prisoners of war captured at Bataan to take them into the infamous “Death March,” a prison camp towards the north. Approximately 10,000 men, weakened by malnutrition and disease and treated harshly, died before reaching their destination. The Japanese began organizing a new government structure in the Philippines, although they had promised independence for the islands after occupation. 

They initially organized a Council of State through which they directed civil affairs until they declared the Philippines an independent republic. The collaboration of the Philippines elite with Japanese-sponsored politics became a major domestic political issue later due to personal gains. The deadliest and inhuman activities of the Japanese army left scars on the heart of the Philippines people. 

Women and children were affected most in wars, and in this war, the Japanese held women and young girls in a “comfort station.” They kept them there as sex slaves and named it shamelessly comfort station. These sufferings and tragedies are considered normal in wars, which is not normal!

The Guerrilla Mission


When WWII broke out, Filipinos instantly joined the army or the communists to resist the occupation of the Philippines. Some fled Manila for refuge in the provinces. Filipinos were killed, beaten, slapped, tortured, and forced to bow in front of sentries, leading to anti-Japanese sentiment— the awful stories of rape, disappearances, looting, and murder. Most men left to join the guerrilla movement; women were left to fend for themselves and their families and tend to the home.

The Japanese faced strong opposition, like the country’s previous colonizers from the guerrilla warriors. Filipinos chose not to wait for American help and joined or supported the guerrilla movement against the Japanese from all walks of life to continue the resistance. Men, women, children, and older citizens all were part of this movement. There might be more women; many were probably not recognized because of their gender and the non-combatant nature of their services. Many women served as medical aides or nurses for Filipino and American guerrillas and prisoners of war.

If you want to learn more about the life in the Philippines during the war, it’s also a good idea to watch the top movies set during the Filipino-American War.

Women Roles during War

As everybody knows, wars destroy the economy, and when this war broke out, schools and establishments were closed, and the majority of the people lost their jobs. It was the duty of women to find food and other resources outside the home. Many of them bought and sold various items like jewelry, clothes, and foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and dried fish. Meanwhile, in a campaign to create a Greater East Asian Sphere, Japan encouraged the civilian population to give what they could.

Japanese started educating women on how they can contribute to the economy by assuming traditional tasks and jobs not traditionally taken on by women. Food was getting scarce in the cities; many families went to the provinces where they survived farming and fishing, producing food for themselves and the Japanese soldiers who sequestered the country’s agricultural resources and the guerrillas who fought in the mountains. 

Women served their country in many other ways; Filipina nurses and doctors continued to help prisoners of war, civilians, soldiers, and guerrillas despite the scarcity of food and supplies and the loss of hospitals. Keeping the economy alive in an agricultural country fell mainly upon the women. Since the beginning of time, the women were tilling the land, especially during the war; they were made to work in plantations that Japanese companies were running and left to tend to their family’s farms.

The three-year Japanese occupation and World War II in the Pacific of the Philippines caused loss of lives and massive devastation throughout the country. Filipinos and Filipinas faced patriotism and loyalty, coping and survival, and cultural identity issues. But no matter what their age, class, or gender Filipinas did their share in keeping family, society, and country together during the war. 

Women kept themselves busy in whatever means of livelihood was available to them to provide food for their children. They rendered charity and social work and joined the guerrilla movement as soldiers, spies, and nurses. Women continued to document and write the nation’s ordeal, and after the end of the war, former comfort women came out with their stories of survival and victimhood and continued to fight for justice.

The Wars proved to be an equalizing measure for rich or poor, man or woman; Filipinos lost livelihood, lives, and property. The poor and privileged women and men alike contributed to the war effort.


Whether it’s Spanish, Japanese, or US occupation, the consequences of wars destroy the generations, economy, land, and identity. But after the bloodshed, some brave nations stood up and fought for their culture and land. Till today, some war-hungry countries are destroying humanity for the sake of power, but every end has a new beginning. Every nation should voice up for the sovereignty of their land just like the Philippines did. They fought well, rose again, and developed their country.