Friday, June 17, 2011

History of Mindanao Part I: General Rufino Deloso of Oroquieta, Insurrecto

Rather than undertake the herculean task of a history of Mindanao presented in chronological order I thought it a tad bit more interesting, for myself and for my readers, if I trotted out entries in the form of vignettes, or excerpts from published works. The following is a chapter from the seminal, "The Great White Tribe in Filipinia" [sic], by the American expat Paul T.Gilbert (Cincinatti: Jennings and Pye) and (New York: Eaton and Mains) (1903). Written at the cusp of the 20th Century, with Spain having been vanquished 4 years before Gilbert wrote his book (5 years before actual publication).The phrase "White Tribe" is a double entendre that was supposed to pique interest becaused of a Mindoron legend that spoke of a white tribe living in Mindoro's then, and to a minute degree still, inaccessible interior. On the other hand Gilbert was also referring to Americans such as himself who for whatever reason had recently made their homes in the islands.

The book deals with Luzon and the Visayas as well as Mindanao with Mindanao perhaps getting the least attention but at that time it was still a forbidding place (most think it is still). Many of the tribes we now call "Lumad" still practiced human sacrifice fairly regularly, slavery was endemic and the rule of law was nearly non-existent. "General Rufino," in the words of Gilbert was one of the last of the "Insurrectos" to surrender to the Americans. Insurrectos of course were the valiant Filipinos who casting aside ethnic and tribal rivalries first expelled Spain before declaring the Philippines an independent nation. Unfortunately for these brave Filipinos the Americans had other ideas.

The Americans heavy handed arrival in turn led to a new war of liberation, one with far more tragic consequences than the original uprising. General Rufino Deloso was tasked with acting as a liason to the Maranaw (Maranao) tribal leaders living along the edge of Lake Lanao. The Maranaw are an Islamicised Tribe and then, like now, there was very little interaction between Muslim and non-Muslim Filipino. In fact, it is interesting to note that the areas inhabited by Muslims were perceived by the Philippine Government in Exile as well as the Christianised Filipinos themselves as being extraneous to the Philippines. The general argument is that the Islamicised areas were legally annexed by Spain and then by Spain's legal successor,the United States. The truth of the matter is quite different; I will discuss that very important subject in a future entry.

Ordered by the junta in Hong Kong,to proceed to Lake Lanao from the Northwestern Mindanowan city of Oroquieta (today it is Oroquieta City), Rufino was instructed to pay an absolute fortune to the Maranaws so as to keep them from attacking Insurrecto forces as they battled Americans on the borders of the Maranaw lands. The Maranaw were quite happy to accept what amounted to protection money but didn't have the ability to prevent any other Maranaws from attacking, even if they cared to do so, and they almost never did.

Harried by the Americans on the long march into Lanao, Deloso ended up losing more than half his force on the two week march, almost all from desertion. Insurrectos weren't professional soldiers. They were truly a people's army. As is so often the case when bullets begin to fly, untrained soldiers turned heel and ran home. Accompanying General Deloso were 2 American junior officers who had deserted from the 40th Infantry Regiment, US Volunteers (known as the 40th US Volunteers in shorthand). The 40th was a battle hardened element stationed near Oroquieta, primarily biouvaced in Cagayan del Misamis, today's Cagayan del Oro City. General Deloso remarks that the 2 deserters had been in Company I, or I COY. I COY,under its CO (Commanding Officer) Captain Walter B.Elliot was deployed along the Agusan and Surigao Circuit, where some of the most effective Insurrecto guerilla units did business. The 2 men would have had their share of combat, certainly by the time they defected to the Insurrectos. The 40th's first course of action upon its arrival on Mindanao was to invade Cagayan de Misamis on March 31st,1900 under Col.Edwin A.Godwin. After taking the town the 40th set up shoppe next to the Church of San Agustin, which was destroyed in WWII, towards the end of the war. However, a cathedral bearing that same name was built more or less on the same spot. It was this element that fought Insurrecto General Capistrano's huge force in a mostly hand to hand battle lasting hours (though the Americans maintain it lasted an hour), in April of that same year, 1900 (roughly 3 weeks after the 40th ensconced).

General Deloso was credited, by the Americans, with more than 20 armed contacts in just 23 months. In terms of insurgency that is an incredible number. He normally commanded in the area of 400 men, a very large number for a guerilla force.On March 7th, 1902 Deloso surrendered to a post of the newly created Philippine Constalbury in Oroquieta and by 1903 was stepping into colonial politics as he ran, and won, the position of"Presidente" (akin to today's"Mayor") in the Insurrecto bastion of Oroquieta. In seeking that position it is fair to say that at least initially he was playing both sides of the fence. It is also worth noting that in 1908 he was jailed for having registered to vote in the neighbouring municipality of Jimenez while still campaigning in Oroquieta. It may in fact have simply been ignorance of the system.As the American judge was keen in telling him in his verdict, "Ignorance is no excuse." Typical colonial mismanagement on the part of the Americans. Taking a charismatic and powerful leader of the insurgency and tossing him in the gaol over such a trivial issue is almost criminal in and of itself.

I included a very short glossary for the Spanish terms at the bottom of this page.

Chapter XV "General Rufino in the Moro Country"

Rufino's Narrative: We left Mt.Liberdad [SIC] on June 1, 1901 with eighteen officers and privates to the number of four hundred and fourty two. Our destination was the town of Uato, on the shore of Lake Lanao, where, in obedience to our instructions from the Filipino junta at Hong Kong, we were to arrange a conference with the leading dattos in regard to an alliance of the Filipino and the Moro forces to conduct a joint campaign against the American army of invasion.

Among our officers were two deserters from I Company of the Fortieth United States Volunteers, Morgan and Miller, who were mere adventurers, and who desired to clear the country and embark for Africa. Morgan was supposed to have been wanted for some criminal offense in the United States. He claimed to have deserted as a consequence of punishments received by him which he considered to be undeserved. His comrade Miller followed him; but I have heard that Morgan took it hard because his friend had followed such a questionable lead. An understanding had been previously arranged between our officer and Morgan so that when the latter left the lines at Oroquieta we received him and his comrade at Aloran, six miles north.

Our first stop was to be at Lintogout, a station on the river by the same name, that flows into the long estuary that divides our country from the Moro territory. As you can see, our march was very rough. The mountain chain, of which Mt.Liberdad, Mt.Rico and Mt.Esperanza are the most important peaks, is very wild and hazardous. A few miles from the coast the country breaks into ravines and hills. There are no villages; no depots for supplies. The trails are almost imperceptible, and can be followed only by the most experienced Montesco (HIGAON-ON LUMAD) guides. Back in the mountains there are many natural strongholds, which are practically inaccessible. The mountain wall, with its Plutonic canyons and precipitous descents, wrapped in a chilly fog, continually towered above us on the west.

To add to our embarrassments, we were harassed by a detachment of United States troops that had been pursuing us. Their plan was to close in upon us in two sections, from the front and rear. Near Lintogout we came to an engagement with Lieutenant Patterson's command. My army was by this time seriously crippled. We had lost one hundred and forty men the previous day by desertion. The deserting men, however, did not take their arms. Lieutenant Patterson's command must have been quite exhausted, for they camped at night on a plateau along the precipice where an attack by us would have been inadvisable. The troops were new and untried; the experience for them was something they had not anticipated. Yet they kept at it stubbornly, slinging their carbines on their backs, and climbing up hand over hand in places where they had lost the trail. Their guides were evidently somewhat of a puzzle to them, as the Montese idea of distance is indefinite. "When I have finished this cigar we will be there," they say; and "poco distancia" with them often means many miles.

We were not inconvenienced much by the engagement. Our American lieutenants superintended [SIC] the construction of entrenchments, back of which we lay, and fired a volley at the enemy. At their advance our army scattered,and a number of our soldiers, taking inexcusable advantage of the opportunity, deserted. On the next day we set out, reduced in numbers to two hundred and fifty-two. None of our men were killed or wounded in the fight.

We then proceeded overland to Lake Lanao, the journey occupying sixteen days, during which time the army had no rice, but had to exist entirely on the native fruits. Our tardiness in reaching Lake Lanao was caused by two attacks by Moros,June 15th. In order to avoid this enemy we made a detour, coming dangerously near the coast at Tucuran. At Tucuran three men deserted. Thence our march led inland to Bacayan, following the south shore of the lake (LAKE LANAO). Before we reached Bacayan we were met (June 29th and 30th) by Dattos Casiang and Pindalonan, with their combined forces. Our side lost two killed, three wounded (who were taken captive); and the Moros, thirteen killed, three wounded. Arriving at Bacayan July 1st, we waited there twelve days.

Then we set out along the south shore (OF LAKE LANAO) to Uato on the lake, which place we reached without engagement on the nineteenth of July. We stopped at Uato ten days, there borrowing $500 "Mex" from Datto Bancurong. We were obliged to leave Captain Isidro Rillas with the datto for security. The very money that we now were borrowing the Moros had received from us for their protection during our campaign, and for them promising not to molest us all the time that we were in their territory. Having loaned us money,they now sold us rice,in which negotiation,just as in the former one, they took advantage of our hopelessness. The deal, however, was a necessary one, because the army had been for a long time without funds or rations. Leaving Uato we proceeded to Liangan, on the north coast, opposite Tudela (on the Jolo Sea). We left the Moro country on the recommendation of the two American deserters, who had been dissatisfied for some time at the turn affairs were taking.

We were attacked the first day out of Uato by the combined forces of three powerful dattos, who had previously borrowed rifles from us on the pretext of desiring to kill game. The engagement lasted until sunset. Of the Moros, ten were killed and many were wounded. Night coming on, the enemy withdrew for re-enforcements [SIC]. They returned the next day several thousand strong, and would have utterly annihilated us (for we were worn by fever and starvation) had it not been for Datto Bandia's advice, which finally discouraged the attack.

We reached Liangan July 31st with two hundred and thirty-nine men. Here we purchased rifles from the Moros, crossed the bay at night, and reached Tudela August 5th. Procrastination on the part of the conferring dattos made a failure of the expedition.We had spent about $10,000 gold for rations, good will, and protection.

Morgan and Miller, when the army was disbanded, lived around Langaran for awhile. One day while they were bathing in the sea,they were cut down by natives, I do not know why. Morgan was killed while arguing with his assailants. "We have done a lot for you" he said; but those were his last words. Miller, attempting to escape by running through the shallow water,was pursued by bancas and dispatched. The bodies were found later in a marsh.
Montese: Spanish, "Of the Mountains," the Spanish term for the Higaon-on Tribe

Poco Distancia: Spanish, "Short Distance" or "Not Much Distance"

Banca: Generic term of the Central and Southern Philippines for "skiff" or "small boat"

I will continue next time with the rest of the chapter which is comprised of the narrative of Captain Isidro Rilla who had been left as a hostage for the $500 gold General Rufino had borrowed back on Lake Lanao.

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