Cities and towns first developed in the Philippines as a product of Spanish rule and Roman Catholic mission activity. In this context a new three tiered hierarchy of settlements was established above the preexisting village level. Elements of social and spatial segregation derived from Mexico were imposed in these settlements. Due to a lack of economic base, the towns set up to serve as regional centers soon declined. Substantial provincial urbanism appeared only with the rise of commerce and commercial agriculture during the nineteenth century. Manila achieved early predominance as a combined result of its ecclesiastical-administrative position and its role as the principal entrepot in the trade of Mexican silver for Chinese goods. Despite the collapse of that trade, Manila retained its primate position by becoming the chief point of import and distribution for Western manufacturers as well as a major collecting area for the export of agricultural commodities

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