The nexus of nationalism and internationalism: the journey of a “diplomat” after the galleons

Yusuke Takagi


After the galleons, Benito J. Legarda’s masterpiece on socioeconomic transformation after the galleon trade, has enriched our knowledge of the semi-open colonial economy in the 19th-century Philippine Islands, which witnessed the rise of nationalism at the end of that century. In this paper, I shed new light on the nature of the Ilustrados’ nationalism and their international activism by revisiting the life of the country’s “first diplomat”, Felipe Agoncillo, who battled in vain to achieve independence through a diplomatic channel. While class politics tends to be a focal point of the scholarly debate over the Ilustrados’ nationalism, this paper highlights the international dimensions of their advocacy. Agoncillo’s mission in the United States and Europe seems a reasonable option from our perspective, which has been shaped by the norm of modern diplomacy, but it was a risky adventure considering the overwhelming influence of imperialism. Why did Agoncillo conclude they had to send a mission? What kinds of negotiation strategies did they have? Combining Legarda’s global insights on the Philippines’ colonial economy with Agoncillo’s ideational and actual travel, this paper reveals how Philippine nationalism and internationalism created a nexus whose legacy exists in current Philippine diplomacy, one of whose achievements was the award of the arbitration case over the South China Sea in 2016. 

JEL classification: N40, N45, F50, F54, F68


nationalism, internationalism, Felipe Agoncillo, diplomacy

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