Tuesday, July 5, 2011

History of Mindanao, Part XI: After the Departure from Maguindanao, 159

In History entry #X I discussed the Second Spanish Expedition to Mindanao under Captain cum Governor Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa. At the time Buayan was the strongest centre of power in Central Mindanao, under its leader, Rajah Silongan. After Buayan had managed to fight the Spanish to a stalemate the colony's third Governor, Don Juan de Ronquillo had asked for permission to abandon the settlement and instead settle in what is today Zamboanga City. However, after sending that dispatch north to Manila the Spanish managed to decimate Buayan, and its allies from Ternate, at the Battle of Tampakan. It seems that de Ronquillo had spoken too soon.

Sending forth a second dispatch de Ronquillo assured the Governor-General that he would await a reply to that second dispatch before abandoning the settlement. However, after receiving the reply to the first dispatch, in which the Governor-General gave his assent to Ronquillo's plan for abandoning the settlement in favour of a small garrison in Zamboanga, or as the Spaniards referred to it, La Caldera. After burning their settlement and fort on the Pylangi River the Spanish departed and established themselves at Zamboanga.

In that entry I included two excerpts from Doctor Antonio de Morga, an official in Manila during the period in question, who authored a two volume work, "Sucesos de la Filipinas," or in English, "Successes of the Philippines," published in 1609. The second excerpt had been plucked from Chapter VI, which contains additional bits and pieces about the expedition after its departure from the Pulangi River (Rio Grande de Mindanao). Here I will offer additional portions revolving around Mindanao, also from Chapter VI.

Chapter VI:

At the departure of Don Juan Ronquillo and his camp from the Mindanao River, the people of Tampakan (MAGUINDANAO) were so disheartened, and the spirit of Buayan so increased that, in spite of the friendship that they had made (MEANING FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN BUAYAN AND MAGUINDANAO), and the homage they (BUAYAN) had rendered, they became declared enemies. Matters returned to their former state, so that, not only did the inhabitants of Buayan not dismantle their forts, as they had promised to do, but they repaired them and committed other excesses against their neighbors of Tampakan. They would have altogether broken into open war, had they not feared the Spaniards would return better prepared and in larger number (AS THAT IS WHAT RONQUILLO HAD EXPRESSED TO BUAYAN), as they had left a garrison at La Caldera with that intention. Thus they let matters stand, neither declaring themselves fully as rebels, nor observing the laws of friendship toward the men of Maguindanao and other allies of the Spaniards.

Near the island of Mindanao lies an island called Jolo, not very large, but thickly populated with natives, all Muslims. They number about three thousand men, and have their own lord and king. When Governor-General Francisco de Sande was returning from his expedition to Borneo (BRUNEI), he sent Captain Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa to Jolo. He entered the island and reduced the natives to his Majesty's rule as related earlier in this volume. The natives were appointed to Captain Pedro de Osseguera for his lifetine, and after his death to his son and successor, Don Pedro de Osseguera. He asked and collected for several years what tribute they chose to give him, which was but slight, without urging more, in order not to make a general disturbance. While Don Juan Ronquillo was with his camp in Mindanao, the men of Jolo, seeing Spanish affairs flourishing, were willing to enjoy peace and pay their tribute; but at the departure of the Spaniards, they became lukewarm again. Captain Juan Pacho, who commanded the presidio at La Caldera in Don Juan Ronquillo's absence, having sent some soldiers to barter for wax, the Joloans (TAUSUG) maltreated them and killed two of them. Juan Pacho, with intention of punishing this excess of the Joloans, went there in person with several boats and thirty soldiers. As he landed, a considerable body of Joloans descended from the king's town (SULTANATE CAPITOL), which is situated on a high and strongly-fortified hill, and attacked the Spaniards. Through the number of the natives and the Spaniards' inability to make use of their arquebusses, on account of a heavy shower, the latter were routed, and Captain Juan Pacho and twenty of his followers were killed. The rest were wounded and in flight took to their boats and returned to La Caldera.

This event caused great grief in Manila, especially because of the reputation lost by it, both among the Joloans, and their neighbors, the people of Maguindanao. Although it was considered necessary to punish the Joloans in order to erase this disgrace, yet as this should be done significantly and just then there wasn't sufficient preparation, it was deferred until a better opportunity arose. Only Captain Villagra was sent immediately as commander of the presidio at La Caldera, with some soldiers. Having arrived there, they spent their time in pleasure, until their provisions were consumed, and the garrison suffering. They were maintained and supported because of the slight protection that the people of Tampakan felt, knowing that there were Spaniards. On the island, and hoped for the arrival of more Spaniards, as Don Juan Ronquillo had promised them, and for punishment and vengance upon the men of Jolo.

The Spanish garrison left in La Caldera, was suffering for lack of provisions; for neither the Maguindanowans at Tampakan could give them to the Spaniards, nor would the Joloans furnish any on account of the war declared upon them. Therefore the garrison urgently requested that Governor-General Don Francisco Tello eiher to aid their presidio with provisions, soldiers, and ammunition, or to allow them to retire to Manila- a thing that they desired very much- since they had gained nothing other than famine, and of incarceration in the presidio, with no way in which to support themselves. The Governor-General, in view of their insistence in the manner; and having but little funds in the colonial treasury with which to satisfy La Caldera's pressing needs, he turned to the Audiencia (I HAVE BRIEFLY EXPLAINED ABOUT THIS ENTITY IN THE NOTES FURTHER ALONG IN THIS ENTRY) as well as with other leading personages in Manila, and asked their opinion on the matter. While asking this however, Governor-General Tello first offered his own opinion as if merely seeking confirmation of his decision. The Audiencia advised him not to abandon La Caldera, but rather re-enforce the presidio as needed , and to deal both with the situation on Jolo as well as the abandoned colony at Tampakan (ON THE PULANGI RIVER) as soon as possible as well. Indeed, the Audiencia counselled that the Governor-General should do this even if it meant a re-allocation from some other part of the Philippine colony. The reasoning offered was that should the colony be perceived as weak either by Jolo (SULTANATE OF SULU) OR Buayan, one or the other very well may increase their forays into the Visayas Region (CENTRAL PHILIPPINES) or even Luzon itself, threatening the very existence of the colony. Ignoring this advice Governor-General Tello ordered Captain Villagas to abandon La Caldera after first destroying it, and to return en masse to Manila. Captain Villagas had hoped for exactly that answer and so very quickly destroyed the presidio and departed. The Joloanos, learning of this development, took it to mean that Spain had abandoned its interests in the entire region and so forged an alliance with the Buayan. In this fashion they deployed a fleet and began ravaging the Central Philippines just as the Audiencia had predicted. Moreover, the Maguindanowans at Tampakan lost all confidence in the Spanish and so they forged an alliance with Buayan and thus a tripartite alliance formed between the Sultunate of Sulu, Sultunate of Maguindanao and the Sultunate of Buayan. Rajah Silongan, the leader of the Buayan was the co-leader of the fleet, the other being Datu Sali of Jolo. The fleet embarked in July of 1599 with 50 watercraft containing a total of 3,000 men armed with arquebus, kampilans, and karasas, along with culverins (small shipboard artillery) and set a course for Panay and Oton (IOLIO) in the Visayas. Passing Negros they entered Panay's main river and travelled 20km inland to the island's major population centre and destroyed the town, raping and pillaging another 20km upriver, before enslaving survivors. Travelling back down river they burned all other watercraft so as to escape unhindered and then targetted other smaller islands before sailing for home. They had taken at least 800 slaves, all Filipino, and began making plans for another raid to take place in 1600.

The raid was extremely problematic for the Spaniards, they had forbade Filipinos from possessing weapons while also neglecting to install sufficient garrisons so as to protect their helpless subjects. The Filipinos were terrified and so the attack could end up costing the Spanish a whole lot more in that it could spark civil unrest, with the Filipinos turning against them. Indeed that is exactly what happened and more and more villages were abandoning the coasts and heading inland, to the hills and out of reach of the Spaniards.

As soon as the weather was suitable the tripartite fleet returned in 70 watercraft carrying 4,000 men, led by the same two men, Rajah Silongan, ruler of Buayan, and Datu Sali, a lesser ruler on Jolo. Again they struck in the Visayas, sacking the Spanish town of Arevalo on Oton (AREVALO IS TODAY A BARANGAY IN IOLIO CITY). The Alcalde-Mayor (PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR) of Oton, Captain Juan Garcia de Sierra had been granted fore knowledge that the fleet was en route and so gathered all Spaniards inside the town's wooden fort. Leaving women, children, and valuables behind its walls he armed 70 Spaniards with arquebus and hankered down to await the assailants arrival. Again the fleet passed Negros and anchored near Arevalo's outlying Filipino villages. 1,500 Muslims came ashore fully armed but totally ognored the Filipino settlements and instead made a beeline directly for Arevalo proper. The Spaniards moved offensively, in platoons and under directed fire forced the Muslims to retreat, and finally to take refuge back aboard their vessels. The Spanish were extra-aggressive, so much so that Alcalde-Mayor de Sierra's horse had its front legs cut off at the knee, at the water's edge in heavy hand to hand combat. In fact, de Sierra was one of only a few Spanish deaths in that engagement; as his horse toppled over de Sierra himself was hacked to pieces. The fleet cast off rapidly but regrouped off of the island of Guimaraez, within sight of Arevalo. From there they sailed for Mindanao having taken a great many losses with nothing to show for it.


In May of 1598, the Audiencia was formally re-established in Manila after an almost 7 year absence. Governor-General Gomez Perez Dasmarinas had done away with the office but as is so often the case in the Philippines, then as now, the Church emerged triumphant. The Audiencia is usually described as a Royal Court of Law and in a very basic way that is indeed an apt description. The Audiencia did in fact try civil and criminal cases but it was actually a way in which to mitigate the awesome power enjoyed by the Governor-General. The re-established Audiencia in Manila was responsible for all Spanish subjects in all of Eastern Asia. It would also serve as point of contention with all Governor-Generals post re-establishment in 1598 (though it was ordered so in 1596). In terms of the region at large, Spain, via its Philippine colony, was still intervening in mainland affairs, especially in Cambodia. As noted in History entry #VI, Blas Ruiz and Belloso had helped restore the Cambodian Monarchy. Doctor de Morga notes that in the Summer of 1598 he himself received a letter from the Cambodian King who made note of Spain's contribution to his recent ascencion in lieu of his father who had died in exile. The King notes that Belloso had been made the petty ruler of Bapano Province (TODAY IT IS BA PHNOM,A DISTRICT IN PREY VENG PROVINCE) and Blas Ruiz of the province of Tran (TODAY IT IS A DISTRICT IN TAKEO PROVINCE). de Morga also received a letter from Blas Ruiz himself, in it he trasked Captain Gallunato who was in command of their expedition and says were it not for Gallinato's poor decisions most of Cambodia would by then be Christianised and growing in the way of the Philippines. While I personally find Diego Belloso, Blas Ruiz's counterpart, to be on of the more fascinating people of the era, I owe a debt of gratitude to Gallinato IF Blas Ruiz's observations to de Morga are at all correct. Imagining the Cambodia I know and love to have gone the way of the Philippines? Of course, with people like Pol Pot and the current dictator Hun Sen there might have been something worthwhile in Blas Ruiz's thought on the matter.

More interesting perhaps is Blas Ruiz's "explanation" about the slaughter of Chinese that precipitated his and Bello's murder of the pretender to the Cambodian throne but I covered these and other geopolitical aspects in that aforementioned earlier History entry, #VI, "Spanish Geopolitics in Southeast Asia, Late 16th Century." I won't include the explanation, contained in that personal letter to Doctor de Morga because it is unrelated to Mindanao, but it is an interesting read for anyone truly interested in Philippine History as a whole, as well as Southeast Asian History, and so on.

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