The Early History of the Philippines, Part 2
The Spaniards found the Straits of San Bernardino and the Mindoro Sea swarming with the fleets of Mohammedan Malays from Borneo and the Jolo Archipelago. To a race living so continuously upon the water, piracy has always possessed irresistible attractions. In the days of Legaspi, the island of Mindoro had been partially settled by Malays from the south, and many of these settlements were devoted to piracy, preying especially upon the towns on the north coast of Panay. In January, 1570, Legaspi dispatched his grandson, Juan de Salcedo, to punish these marauders.
Salcedo had a force of forty Spaniards and a large number of Bisaya. He landed on the western coast of Mindoro and took the pirate town of Mamburao. The main stronghold of the Moros he found to be on the small island of Lubang, northwest of Mindanao. Here they had three strong forts with high walls, on which were mounted small brass cannon, or “lantakas.” Two of these forts were surrounded by moats. There were several days of fighting before Lubang was conquered. The possession of Lubang broughtthe Spaniards almost to the entrance of Manila Bay, Meanwhile, a captain, Enriquez de Guzman, had discovered Masbate, Burias, and Ticao, and had landed on Luzon in the neighbourhood of Albay, called then, “Italon.”
Reports had come to Legaspi of an important Mohammedan settlement named “May-nila,” on the shore of a great bay, and a Mohammedan chieftain, called Maomat, was procured to guide the Spaniards on their conquest of this region.For this purpose Legaspi sent his field-marshal, Martin de Goiti, with Salcedo, one hundred and twenty Spanish soldiers, and fourteen or fifteen boats filled with Bisayan allies. They left Panay early in May, and, after stopping at Mindoro, came to anchor in Manila Bay, off the mouth of the Pasig River.
On the south bank of the river was the fortified town of the Mohammedan chieftain, Raja Soliman; on the north bank was the town of Tondo, under the Raja Alcandora, or Lacandola. Morgatells us that these Mohammedan settlers from the islandof Borneo had commenced to arrive on the island only a few years before the coming of the Spaniards. They had settled and married among the Filipino population already occupying Manila Bay, and had introduced some of the forms and practices of the Mohammedan religion. The city of Manila was defended by a fort, apparently on the exact sight of the present fort of Santiago. It was built of the trunks of palms, and had embrasures where were mounted a considerable number of cannon, or lantakas.
The natives received the foreigners at first with a show of friendliness, but after they had landed on the banks of the Pasig, Soliman, with a large force, assaulted them. The impetuous Spaniards charged, and carried the fortifications, and the natives fled, setting fire to their settlement. When the fight was over the Spaniards found among the dead the body of a Portuguese artillerist, who had directed the defence. Doubtless he was one who had deserted from the Portuguese garrison far south in the Indian archipelago to cast in his fortunes with the Malays. It being the commencement of the season of rains and typhoons, the Spaniards decided to defer the occupation of Manila, and, after exploring Cavite harbour, they returned to Panay.
A year was spent in strengthening their hold on the Bisayas and in arranging for their conquest of Luzon. On Masbate was placed a friar and six soldiers, so small was the number that could be spared.
With a force of 280 men Legaspi returned in the spring of 1571 to the conquest of Luzon. It was a bloodless victory. The Filipino rajas declared themselves vassals of the Spanish king, and in the months of May and June the Spaniards established themselves in the present site of the city.
At once Legaspi gave orders for the reconstruction of the fort, the building of a palace, a convent for the Augustinian monks, a church, and 150 houses. The boundaries of this city followed closely the outlines of the Tagalog city “Maynila,” and it seems probable that the location of buildings then established have been adhered to until the present time. This settlement appeared so desirable to Legaspi that he at once designated it as the capital of the archipelago. Almost immediately he organized its governing assembly, orayuntamiento.
In spite of their ready submission, the rajas, Soliman and Lacandola, did not yield their sovereignty without a struggle. They were able to secure assistance in the Tagálog and Pampanga settlements of Macabebe and Hagonoy. A great fleet of forty war-praos gathered in palm-lined estuaries on the north shore of Manila Bay, and came sweeping down the shallow coast to drive the Spaniards from the island. Against them were sent Goiti and fifty men. The protective mail armour, the heavy swords and lances, the horrible firearms, coupled with the persistent courage and fierce resolution of the Spanish soldier of the sixteenth century, swept back this native armament. The chieftain Soliman was killed.
Goiti continued his marching and conquering northward until nearly the whole great plain of central Luzon, that stretches from Manila Bay to the Gulf of Lingayen, lay submissive before him. A little later the raja Lacandola died, having accepted Christian baptism, and the only powerful resistance on the island of Luzon was ended.
Goiti was sent back to the Bisayas, and the command of the army of Luzon fell to Salcedo, the brilliant and daring grandson of Legaspi, at this time only twenty-two years of age. This young knight led his command up the Pasig River. Cainta and Taytay, at that time important Tagálog towns, were conquered, and then the country south of Laguna de Bay. The town of Cainta was fortified and defended by small cannon, and although Salcedo spent three days in negotiations, it was only taken by storm, in which four hundred Filipino men and women perished.From here Salcedo marched over the mountains to the Pacific coast and south into the Camarines, where he discovered the gold mines of Paracale and Mamburao.
At about this time the Spaniards conquered the Cuyos and Calamianes islands and the northern part of Paragua.
In 1572, Salcedo, with a force of only forty-five men, sailed northward from Manila, landed in Zambales and Pangasinan, and on the long and rich Ilocos coast effected a permanent submission of the inhabitants. He also visited the coast farther north, where the great and fertile valley of the Cagayan, the largest river of the archipelago, reaches to the sea. From here he continued his adventurous journey down the Pacific coast of Luzon to the island of Polillo, and returned by way of Laguna de Bay to Manila.
He arrived in September, 1572, to find that his grandfather and commander, Legaspi, had died a month before (August 20, 1572). After seven years of labour the conqueror of difficulties was dead, but almost the entire archipelago had been added to the crown of Spain. Three hundred years of Spanish dominion secured little more territory than that traversed and pacified by the conquerors of those early years. In spite of their slender forces, the daring of the Spaniards induced them to follow a policy of widely extending their power, effecting settlements, and enforcing submission wherever rich coasts and the gathering of population attracted them.
Within a single year’s time most of the coast country of Luzon had been traversed, important positions seized, and the inhabitants portioned out in encomiendas. On the death of Legaspi, the command fell to Guido de Lavezares.
The explanation of how so small a number of Europeans could so rapidly and successfully reduce to subjection the inhabitants of a territory like the Philippines, separated into so many different islands, is to be found in several things.
First. The expedition had a great leader, one of those knights combining sagacity with resolution, who glorify the brief period when Spanish prestige was highest. No policy could ever be successful in the Philippines which did not depend for its strength upon giving a measure of satisfaction to the Filipino people. Legaspi did this. Heappears to have won the native datos, treating them with consideration, and holding out to them the expectations of a better and more prosperous era, which the sovereignty of the Spaniard would bring. Almost from the beginning, the natives of an island already reduced flocked to his standard to assist in the conquest of another. The small forces of the Spanish soldiers were augmented by hundreds of Filipino allies.
Second. Another reason is found in the wonderful courage and great fighting power of the Spanish soldier. Each man, splendidly armoured and weaponed, deadly with either sword or spear, carrying in addition the arquebus, the most efficient firearm of the time, was equal in combat to many natives who might press upon him with their naked bodies and inferior weapons.
Third. Legaspi was extremely fortunate in his captains, who included such old campaigners as the field-marshal Martin de Goiti, who had been to the Philippines before with Villalobos, and such gallant youths as Salcedo, one of the most attractive military figures in all Spanish history.
Fourth. In considering this Spanish conquest, we must understand that the islands were far more sparsely inhabited than they are to-day. The Bisayan islands, the rich Camarines, the island of Luzon, had, in Legaspi’s time, only a small fraction of their present great populations. This population was not only small, but it was also extremely disunited. Not only were the great tribes separated by the differences of language, but, as we have already seen, each tiny community was practically independent, and the power of a dato very limited. There were no great princes, with large forces of fighting retainers whom they could call to arms, such as the Portuguesehad encountered among the Malays south in the Moluccas.
Fifth. But certainly one of the greatest factors in the yielding of the Filipino to the Spaniard was the preaching of the missionary friars. No man is so strong with an unenlightened and barbarous race as he who claims power from God. And the preaching of the Catholic faith, with its impressive and dramatic services, its holy sacraments, its power to arrest the attention and to admit at once the rude mind into the circle of its ministry, won the heart of the Filipino. Without doubt he was ready and eager for a loftier and truer religious belief and ceremonial. There was no powerful native priesthood to oppose the introduction of Christianity. The preaching of the faith and the baptism of converts proceeded almost as rapidly as the marching of Salcedo’s soldiers.
Such conditions assured the success of the Spanish occupation, provided the small colony could be protected from outside attacks. But even from the beginning the position of this little band of conquerors was perilous. Their numbers were small and of necessity much scattered, and their only source of succour lay thousands of miles away, across the greatest body of water on the earth, in a land itself a colony newly wrested from the hand of the Indian. Across the narrow waters of the China Sea, only a few days’ distant, even in the slow-sailing junks, lay the teeming shores of the most populous country in the world, in those days not averse to foreign conquest.
To be continued…