Thursday, July 21, 2011

History of Mindanao, Part XVI: The Lake Lanao Expedition, Spring of 1902

In previous "History" entries, numbers I, part 1 and 2, I discussed the American arrival on Mainland Mindanao with the 23rd Infantry Regiment landing at Cagayan del Misamis, today's Cagayan del Oro City in Misamis Oriental Province, in March of 1900. In that entry I included excerpts from two different Insurrecto, or Filipino Independence fighters, who told of their own unsuccessful expedition to Lake Lanao, in today's Lanao del Sur Province. Under orders from the Philippine Junta, ensconced in Hong Kong, Isurrecto General Rufino Delfino set out from the Isurrecto capital on Mindanao, Oroquieta, today's Oroquieta City. Paying the Maranaw (Maranao) leaders a fortune in gold to buy at least their neutrality, they ended up borrowing much of it back and having to leave Captain Isidro Rillas as hostage to boot.

Though in the end Isidro was freed, and both he and Rufino lived to surrender to the Americans, the Maranaw of the Lake Region remained just as aloof as they ever had, guarding their own petty self interests far above the concern of their constituencies and certainly far above that of any johnny come lately colonial power like the Americans. As had been the case throughout Muslim-dominated Mindanao, the leadership was initially happy to be rid of the Spanish. Aside from the Spaniards unceasing attempts at political and cultural domination they also stifled economic growth. Keeping the island under a "Bamboo Curtain" the Spaniards limited inbound and outbound shipments and investment and so the Americans, at least initially, were a breath of fresh air.

While Cagayan de Misamis became the American capital in non-Muslim Mindanao, Parang, in what is today Maguindanao Province, served in the same capacity with regard to Muslim-dominated areas. In only a couple of months however that administrative capital was moved to Malabang, in what is today Lanao del Sur Province and with it came a close proximity to the Maranaw Tribe. Much has been said about the Maranaw political structure and its unique approximation of the Sultunate system. A confederation of 4 tribal blocs, each with several lesser duchys, and yet unable to forge a unified direction in any pursuit. The confederation merely attempted to keep the dozens of territories from incessantly warring with one another and more often than not failed miserably. As soon as a strong external force appeared, like the Americans, any semblance of unity or shared destiny evaporated and disappeared.

On the northern end of Lake Lanao the petty rulers were at worst aloof, unemotional and calculating spectators waiting to see which way the wind blew. On the southern periphery of the Lake it was a tad bit different with the petty leaders there always jockying for an advantage and not at all hesitating to play a fellow petty leader against another, or against the external force, in this case the Americans. Indeed, it was the southern end of Lake Lanao that we saw in the aforementioned entries about General Rufino and Captain Rillas. In fact, it was Kota Pandapatan, the Bayan Fort that sits at the centre of both the Insurrecto AND American expeditions to the Lake.

The following excerpt is taken from the book, "The Battle of Bayan and other Battles" by the journalist James Edgar Allen and John J.Reidy (Manila:E.C.McCullogh) (1903). Allen, the primary author, was a war reporter who was embedded with US Forces on the expedition and who sat down months later to write this book.

The expedition was under the command of Colonel Frank Baldwin. A career officer Baldwin is one of the few men in American Military History who have won not only one Medal of Honor, but a second one as well. That he lived through both experiences is amazing. The first incident took place in the American Civil War while the second one was during the Cheyenne Campaign during the (American) Indian Wars. The first two battalions of the 27th Infantry Regiment, the 1st and the 3rd, arrived on Mindanao in mid-February of 1902 and ensconsed themselves in the administrative capital of the Muslim-dominated portion of Mainland Mindanao, what is now the town of Parang in Maguindanao Province. On March 30th the 2nd Battalion arrived at Malabang in what is today Lanao del Sur Province. The next day, March 31st, 1902, the administrative capital was moved to Malabang.

On March 9th, Private Frank P.Lewis was waylaid 1.5 kilometers from the Parang encampment. Chopping his body into pieces his attackers stole his Krag rifle, an extremely valuable firearm in that place and time. Then, on March 30th, the same day that the 2nd Battalion arrived at Malabang, Privates Lester J.Lewis and Joseph I.Whittemore were attacked nearly 2 kilometers away from the Malabang encampment, even as the camp was still being erected, for the move to Malabang. 6 local men chopped Lewis to death and badly disfigured Whittemore. Interestingly, Allen and Redidy list the second fatality as a "Private Mooris." Both fatalities were surnamed Lewis.

Then, on April 15th, a Lieutenant Forsyth of the 15th Calvary, with 17 mounted calvarymen, was out on reconaissance, appraising a foot path known as the "Ganassi Trail." The primary Hearts and Minds objective at Malabang was to clear and widen the path to create a wagon road that would allow farmers in the Lake Region to get their produce and livestock to a wider customer base, an archaic version of today's "Farm to Market Roads." As night fell Forsyth's detachment was attacked by 200 Maranaw Tribesmen. One calvaryman was killed but several horses had to be abandoned and they became just as much of a sticking point as the three dead American soldiers.

The "Lake Lanao Expedition" was not, as some claim, a punative action. Indeed no less than the commander of the Philippine Division, Major General Anda R.Chaffee personally appealed to the Maranaw leaders at the southern edge of Lake Lanao to surrender the American horses, the two stolen rifles, and the killers of US servicemen. Chaffee did so in Bahasa Malaya, the lingua franca of all Filipino Muslim tribes in that era, written in the phonetic Arabic script utilised by all Filipino Muslim leaders. His requests were first ignored, and then replied to with insults and direct challenges.

Colonel Baldwin led a Provisional Battalion composed of the 27 Infantry Regiment's A, B, and D Companies, under subordinate command of Captain Moore, two troops from the 15th Calvary, and 4 small mountain gun batteries from the 25th Mountain Gun Field Artillery Regiment under command of Captain W.S.McNair, leaving Malabang on April 19th, 1902.


Chapter I: It does not seem that several months have elapsed since General Chaffee issued an ultimatum to the Sultan of Bayan and other leading Moros of the Lake Region, demanding the surrender of several Moro Tribesmen for the murder of Privates Lewis and Mooris of the 27th Infantry, in March last (1902) and for the return of several horses which had been deliberately stolen from Lieutenant Forsyth, 15th Calvary at Buldoon (BULDON,MAGUINDANAO PROVINCE), a small village in the mountains along the south coast of Mindanao.

When General Chaffee visited the little town of Malabang in the early part of April (1902), and inviting the Sultans and Dattos of the Lake Region to come in and hold a friendly conference with him, little did he dream that he was taking the first step in what was to be the most aggressive campaigns ever inagurated. But when instead of complying with the terms of the ultimatum the Moros indolently replied to it and defied the Americans to come and fight, General Chaffee realized that the situation was grave indeed and accordingly telegraphed Washington immediately for permission to proceed ro the Lake Region and administer a lesson to the recalcitrant Sultans and Datus.

But it was not until after much delay that the War Department reluctantly gave permission to proceed against the Moros, and General Chaffee was cautioned not to go to the extreme of warfare until every peaceful method had been exhausted.

"The First Advance": Preparations were at once began; an expedition was formed and got in readiness and on April 17th, 1902, six companies of the 27th Infantry, two troops of the 15th Calvary, and the 25th battery of field artillery started for the interior of Mindanao, which had, as yet, never been explored by white men. The troops constituting that column were, for the most part, raw materiel, having been organized but a short time previous to the time of which I write, and had as yet seen but little of active service. But it must not be imagined that they were all inexperienced in warfare, for in its ranks were many who had either transferred from other organizations, or who had voluntarily enlisted in these organizations, and who had seen service in more than one war.

It is needless to narrarate how the column marched over the first great mountain range which follows along the southern coast in a parallel line and then to the enemy infested region about Lake Dapao (NEAR PUALAS,LANAO DEL SUR) which is but a forerunner of a more impregnable region and which is now gradually resuming its former peaceful aspect and which in time will develop into one of the most productive regions in the Philippine Archipelago.

"The Enemy Encountered": Suffice it to say that after three days of hardships and privation, those troops, constituting what was known as the "Lake Lanao Expedition" encountered the enemy on a bit of rising ground at a place known as Gadungan and after two engagements fought, one there and one at a place known as Fort Pulaos, a camp was established in the vicinity and negotiations with the Moros were renewed. These were but preliminary engagements and were merely forerunners of what was to come. After a useless delay and fruitless attempts to restore peace, the column again advanced, this time for the Bayan Forts.

On May 1st (1902) the little army of American troops arrived at a point on the southeast shore of the Lake Lanao, overlooking the Lake and in sight of the enemy's stronghold. At this juncture Brigadier General George W.Davis, commanding the 7th Separate Brigade and who had been designated by General Chaffee to personally accompany the expedition, arrived from Malabang after making a flying trip (MOVING RAPIDLY) across the mountains.

A temporary camp was established and General Davis prepared messages in Arabic writing, which were immediately sent to the Sultan of Bayan demanding bhis surrender by noon of May 2nd, or suffer the consequences.


I will continue in a future "History" entry, labeled "XVI, part 2."

No comments:

Post a Comment