Wednesday, May 23, 2007

History of the Muslims in the Philippines
2nd Edition, By Salah Jubair

The Moro-Spanish War

Indeed, the defeat of Rajah Sulaiman in Manila represented the first chapter in the long years of Moro-Spanish confrontations in the Philippines. The next and final chapter is what we are now about to start.

After the Brunei expedition, Spanish eyes focused on the Sulu sultanate, which was suspected to be in alliance with Brunei. In fact, the two royal houses were related by a series of intermarriages. In the same year, Spain put up a large expedition under the command of Capt. Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa, who also commanded the

Brunei campaign, to attack Sulu. Sultan Buddiman Pangiran, then the reigning sultan, resisted the invasion and although the attack was partly successful on the part of the Spaniards but its implication was far-reaching. This was the virtual declaration of war by Spain against the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu. As a matter of fact, this was the official beginning of the Moro-Spanish War which was to drag on and remain undecided for 320 long years or until the Spaniards were ejected from the Philippines by the Americans in 1898.

For the Spanish Crown, the war was to subdue a pagan people, to curb "Piracy," to stop the Moros from sealing alliances with other foreign European powers, and to forestall the entry of rivals into the field of the spice trade. Conversion to Catholicism was evidently not in the priority list, knowing too well that the Moros would prefer death to conversion. For the Moros, the war was in defense of Islam, people and homeland. It was a sacred obligation, with an assured place in heaven as a recompense.

The instructions of Gov. Gen. Francisco de Sande to Capt. Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa on the siege of Sulu in June 1578 and Mindanao in April 1596 were the following:

You shall order them Moros] that there be not among them anymore preachers of the doctrines of Mahoma (Muhammad) since it is evil and false and that of the Christian alone is good. And because we have been in these islands so short a time, the lord of Bindanao: [sic] has been deceived by the preachers of Borney, and the people have become Moros. You shall tell that our object is that he be converted to Christianity; and that he must allow us freely to preach the law of the Christian, and the natives must beallowed to go to hear the preaching and be converted, without receiving harm from the chiefs. And you shall try to ascertain who are the preachers of the sect of Mahoma, and shall burn or destroy the house where that accursed doctrine has been preached, and you shall see that it be not rebuilt.

Gov. Gen. Francisco de Sande gave similar instructions to Captain Gabriel de Rivera earlier on January 15, 1579.

Both the Figueroa and Rivera missions 'to Sulu and Maguindanao, respectively, did not accomplish significant successes. Figueroa merely made the Sulu sultan sue for temporary peace, while Rivera failed to establish contact with the chief of the Pulangi (River).

In the meantime, the Spanish government in Manila adopted an official policy to colonize Mindanao. For the purpose, the colonial government and Capt. Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa signed an agreement whereby the latter, in exchange for enormous material benefits and a position to be inherited by a son or heir, would pacify the island of Mindanao and establish a colony in the Pulangi at his own expense.

Accordingly, on April 1, 1596 Figueroa left for Mindanao with fifty war vessels, 214 Spaniards and 1,500 native allies. After three weeks of sea voyage, the fleet reached the mouth of the Pulangi or what the Spaniards called Rio Grande de Mindanao and they started cruising upstream which was tough and exhausting. The river current was swift. They landed at Tampakan, and immediately Figueroa lined up his troops in battle array and delivered a stirring speech:

Soldiers of Felipe! We stand upon the newest soil of Spain. To subdue this dark forest and rid the soil of the infidel Moslem is our aim. They submit as vassals and converts or fall before the Spanish blades. Forward to our duty for King and country."

Few moments later, the jungle shook with the fierce battle that followed. Leading the Maguindanao warriors were the brothers, Rajah Silongan and Datu Ubal. On the Spanish side was Figueroa, aided by Juan de Lara. Clad in body armor, Figueroa sallied forth and barely hat] he taken a few steps when his head was cleft in two by a kampilan, a long and straight-edged Moro cutlass, wielded by Datu Ubal. The loss of their leader demoralized the Spaniards and more so when Juan de Lara, the next in command, hurriedly left for Manila "to report."

The news spread like a prairie fire in Manila. The Spaniards were furious over the death of Figueroa, but the Jesuits were the most aggrieved for they had varied interests in the conquest of Mindanao. They branded the Moros "traitors."

In 1599, the Moros, aware that defensive war was the beginning of defeat, decided to bring the war over into the enemy territory and staged counterattacks. This was what hostile writers fondly called "Moro piracy." The reprisal scheme was to cripple the enemy power base, exact tribute, and to take advantage of the critical situation faced by Spain due to the threat posed by the Dutch.

Quite absurd was the charge of piracy. If there had been incidents of piracy against the natives prior to the start of the Moro-Spanish War in 1578, those were so small in number as to be negligible. However, whatever may have been said on this subject, the truth stands that it was Spain that started the confrontation and it was natural for the Moros to defend themselves and hit back, if and when possible. On the issue of piracy, the Spanish double-standard was bared: If she attacked the Moros she called it "holy war," but if the latter hit back it was "piracy."

The year-round raids conducted by the Moros engulfed the natives in the Spanish-held territories with fear, despair and anxiety. The raiders netted tens of thousands of prisoners, jewelry, precious ornaments, cannons, and other valuable materials. By this time, the Spaniards were already beginning to realize the high price of the bloody venture they had indulged in and if ever they thought of backing out, it was already too late. But the losses of the masters were easily dwarfed by those of the subjects, who were caught between oppression from their masters and attacks by their masters' foes. They were simply sandwiched between two evils.

In one of these raids, where a Jesuit priest, Melchor Hurtado, was captured in 1603 by Datu Buisan of Maguindanao, a very interesting dialogue took place between him and the datus of Leyte. Buisan asked the datus whether they and their people as well as. those of Panay, Mindoro, and Batangas, all Spanish subjects, had been protected by the Spaniards. Of course, the Leyte datus did not need to confirm what was obvious. He urged them that if they joined hands with the Maguindanaos, it would be easy to thwart off the Spanish yoke. As a result, Buisan and the datus entered into a blood compact and they became "ritual brothers."

In another raid in 1627, a Sulu fleet of more than thirty boats of various sizes and about 2,000 men personally led by Sultan Bungsu attacked the Spanish shipyard in Camarines. The garrison was overrun and the raiders captured artillery, guns, ammunition, iron and brass pieces, and 300 prisoners, including a Spanish lady named Dona Lucia. 11 The raiders, after divesting the garrison of all valuables, burned the shipyard.



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