Cebu played a prominent role in the first contact with the Spanish, in the guise of Portuguese conquistador Ferdinand Magellan. As you probably know, Magellan was the first sailor to circumnavigate the globe. Well, not quite. His ships went on without him after he was killed in Mactan, Cebu.
On August 10, 1519, Magellan and 256 men set sail from Seville with five ships, aiming to discover a westward route to the Spice Islands, current-day Indonesia. To cut a long story short, Magellan spied the mountains of Samar (an island east of Cebu) on March 16, 1521. Some historical accounts put the date as March 17, but March 16 is correct. Magellan's ships proceeded to the uninhabited island of Homonhon, in the gulf of Leyte, on March 18.
What happened thereafter is a matter of dispute. Officially, the Iberians went on to Limasawa island and came into contact with a splendid little local kingdom. Actually, they sailed to a place called Masao, in Agusan del Norte. The official version was installed by then First Lady Imelda Marcos, who hails from Limasawa, and preferred Philippine history to read that the first Mass on Philippine soil was said in Limasawa. Never happened.
The local chieftan in Masao quickly directed Magellan to the center of commerce in the region, Cebu - or Sugbu, as our city was known back then - and the expedition arrived here on April 7, 1521. That same day a traditional blood compact was made between Magellan and Rajah Humabon, the ruler of Cebu.
On April 14, 1521, a Mass was said in Cebu, and Magellan had a wooden cross planted, known as Magellan's Cross. This has since become a principal tourist attraction in Cebu today (see Sightseeing). The Spanish later portrayed this event as a mass conversion of Rajah Humabon and 800 of his followers, but since the Cebuanos are unlikely to have comprehended the significance or nature of the ritual, that is probably mere propaganda. However, it is nonetheless true that this event heralded the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.
Crucially for modern Cebuanos, the Portuguese seafarer gave a gift of a doll representing the infant Jesus to Rajah Humabon's wife (whom he, incidentally, christened Queen Juana). This doll, which later miraculously survived a fire unscathed, is none other than the Santo Nio, the most revered saint and icon in the Philippines. It is probably the most valuable artefact in this country, though no-one has ever tried to put a dollar value on it.
While Magellan and his crews were largely welcomed by the easy-going Cebuanos, one leader, chieftan Lapu-Lapu of Mactan, wasn't enthralled by the foreigners. Some accounts say that Magellan was asked to intervene in a local conflict between Lapu-Lapu and another chief called Zula. In any case, Magellan and sixty of his conquistadors proceeded to do battle with Lapu-Lapu and his warriors. The result was that Lapu-Lapu slew Magellan, and that is why Lapu-Lapu is revered as the greatest Cebuano hero of all time.
What led to Magellan's defeat? For one thing, he was vastly outnumbered. However, superior armor, weapons, and training have always helped Iberians defeat other native forces even when outnumbered, so there's more to the story. Apparently Magellan was a bit too cocky for his own good; previously, he had demonstrated the workings of Spanish armor to local chieftans, so Lapu-Lapu and his men knew that the chinks were vulnerable. That is probably the main reason Magellan went down. I've been told that the Mactan warriors used the tide to their advantage, but it is unlikely that the seafarers would have been unaware of the tide.
In any case, Magellan met his maker on Mactan's shores, on April 27, 1521. On May 1, about two dozen surviving members of his expedition behaved badly at a local banquet back in Cebu, and were killed by Rajah Humabon and his men. Some textbooks state that the inebriated Spaniards raped local girls; it is more likely that their raucous behavior, frowned upon by Cebuanos of yesteryear and today alike, led to a culturally-based misunderstandings and the ensuing argument resulted in a fight.
Kicked out of Cebu, the downsized expedition sailed on towards the Spice Islands, and eventually completed the first circumnavigation of the globe.
Now, it is a fact that the Philippines was colonized and ruled by Spain, but this is misleading. While the Philippines did eventually come under the hegemony of the Spanish crown, the actual conquest and much of the administration was carried out by New Spain, or Mexico. Many of the governors referred to as Spanish in traditional history textbooks were actually Mexicans. This is the story right from the start.
Following the success of Magellan's voyage, five successive expeditions were launched, three of them from Mexico, to claim the Philippine archipelago for Spain. The Loaisa, Cabot, Saavedra, and Villalobos expeditions all failed. The fifth, under the captaincy of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, succeeded.
Legazpi sailed from Natividad, Mexico, on November 21, 1564, and anchored off Cebu on February 13, 1565, some 44 years after Magellan. Apparently, the famous mass baptism had had little effect and mostly bitter memories had remained in Cebuanos' hearts and minds, for Legazpi was denied permission to land. The expedition went to Samar, and eventually Cebu's neighbor Bohol. On March 16, 1565 Legazpi concluded a blood compact with the local chieftan, known as Sikatuna in most records.
(Actually, his name was probably Katuna; si is a term which precedes proper names in Cebuano. Hence, in reply to a query about his name, the response would have been, "Si Katuna" [That's Katuna], leading to Spanish misinterpretation of the name as being Sikatuna.)
Using Bohol as a base, Legazpi attacked Cebu on April 27, 1656. The Cebuanos, led by Rajah Humabon's son Rajah Tupas, resisted but lost the battle, and Cebu was burned to the ground. Rajah Tupas and his followers fled to the hills.
Since Cebu was the most powerful and significant kingdom in the region, the islands were as good as in Spanish hands when Cebu was taken. Legazpi established a Spanish settlement, and founded Cebu City on the ashes of Sugbu, and thus Cebu was born as the oldest Spanish city in the Philippines. Legazpi named the main street Colon, in honor of the first Westerner to come across the Americas, Christopher Colon aka Columbus. Today Colon is a gritty and dilapidated, but still the premier shopping destination of lower class Cebuanos.
A treaty was negotiated between Rajah Tupas and Legazpi, and on June 4, 1565, Rajah Tupas agreed to recognize Spanish sovereignty over his fiefdom.
Meanwhile, Augustinian friars in Legazpi's expedition had commenced missionary activity. On March 21, 1568 Rajah Tupas entered the Christian world, with his erstwhile foe serving as godfather.
Apparently there were some food shortages in Cebu at the time. Since Cebu has always been a trading hub, rather than a bread basket, it is likely the case that the Spanish conquest interrupted normal trading activity, leading to a disruption of the distribution of supplies. In any case, the shortages caused Legazpi to move to Panay, in Capiz Province. Using Panay as a base, the conquistadors and friars quickly spread Spanish hegemony. Captain Luis Enriquez de Guzman took Masbate, Ticao and Burias. Juan de Salcedo, Legazpi's grandson, took Mindoro.
The Fall of Manila
Martin de Goiti and Salcedo, accompanied by 120 Spanish/Mexican conquistadors and several hundred Visayans, led a force to Manila, called Maynilad at the time. Maynilad's young chieftan, Rajah Suliman [asa Soliman, Sulayman] rejected Spanish overtures, and Goiti's men captured Manila by force on May 24, 1570.
The Spaniards did not, however, stay to occupy the city, but returned to Panay. Legazpi was briefed about the existence of a kingdom made rich by trade with China, Siam and Borneo. A second, larger expedition was organized and reached Manila Bay one year after the initial conquest. The threat of force was enough this time, and on May 19, 1571, Maynilad fell bloodlessly to Spain.
While Rajah Suliman and two of his uncles, chieftans Lakan Dula and Rajah Matanda, opted to submit peacefully to the Spanish crown, Bambalito, a Pampango chieftan based in Macabebe, organized an attack on Goiti's forces. This attack was crushed in a naval battle in Manila Bay, and Bambalito was killed in action.
On June 24, 1571, Legazpi proclaimed Manila the capital of the archipelago which eventually became known as, in honor of King Philip II, as the Philippines.
The most significant consequence of Spanish rule was the conversion of almost the entire Filipino populace to the Roman Catholic religion. Christianization of the indigenous population, as was the case in Latin America, allowed a small band of Spaniards - initially less than a 1,000 - to subdue an entire country, and keep it subdued.
The conversion of the Philippines to Catholicism, and the maintenance of that religion, was the work of Spanish friars. It is perhaps because friars, have undertaken a vow of celibacy, needed to be replenished with fresh monks from the mother country that Spain successfully maintained control over religion and society in the Philippines for a period of more than three centuries. The new arrivals, all of them Spanish nationals, undertook their work with a zeal and and unflinching belief in the superiority of Spanish ways which would have been impossible for native-born individuals.
Simultaneously, the obstinacy and lack of cultural enlightenment on the part of the friars also caused problems; in fact, cruelty and corruption by the orders was a primary cause of revolts against the Spanish authorities.
The secular administration, meanwhile, was subject to the authority of the Mexican viceroy, who governed the Philippines on behalf of the Spanish throne, via a governor general appointed to Manila. Non-Filipinos were shipped to Mexico City for trial, and until 1595, the Bishopric of Manila was a diocese of the Archbishopric of Mexico.
Interestingly, the New Spain helped keep the colonial government of the Philippines solvent. An annual royal subsidy was sent by the Mexican viceroy to Manila to compensate for the deficit in the government's current account; often this amounted to a considerable sum. The average was said to be 250,000 pesos. This is conjecture on my part, but I'd guess subsidy was necessary despite burgeoning trade and a wealth of natural resources because of corrpution in the Mexican administration. Taxes were kept low so that the Mexican taipans remained content; the only loser in the arrangement was the Spanish monarch.
A significant amount of trade took place between the Philippines and Mexico, in the form of what became known as the Manila galleon - although, in the early years, several galleons sailed from Cebu. The Manila galleon was a ship packed with valuable artefacts and commodities from all across Asia - China, Japan, Siam, Malaya, the Moluccas, and Arabia - which sailed from Manila to Acapulco and back on a regular basis. On the return trip, the ships would be bursting at the seams with silver bullion, as payment for the Asian goods. The Manila galleon was the stuff of legend - with a cargo rich beyond the wildest dream of any pirate, a single ship carried the fortunes of innumerable merchants and investors. The legend lives on today; quite a few of the ships sank, and if you're ever lucky enough to find the wreckage of one, you'll have it made for life.
Incidentally, the Manila galleon led to the demise of Cebu as a trading hub. Although a few early galleons sailed from Cebu, Manila quickly became the single center for administrative and commercial activity, and Cebu languished as a result. In retrospect, that was perhaps a good thing, for today Cebu City is far smaller and more livable than the giant metropolis from Hell, Manila.
The Manila galleon started to peter out in the early 19th century, probably due to sagging demand as Mexican society became embroiled in revolutionary turmoil. In 1802, three galleons returned to Manila with their cargo unsold. In 1821, following the Mexican Revolution, the Philippines came under direct rule from Spain, and all intercourse between the Philippines and Mexico came to a halt.
Revolts, Rebellions, and Insurgencies
Spanish rule was by no means peaceful. Insurgencies against the Spanish crown can be divided into largely two categories.
The Muslim area - Moroland, comprised of Sulu as well as Mindanao - fought the Spanish with the express aim of overturning Spanish sovereignty. Muslim resistance was hardly ever absent during Spain's presence in the Philippines, and the series of wars, battles and rebellions is known collectively as the Moro Wars. (Moro being the Spanish term for the Muslims.)
Meanwhile, pockets of rebellion kept erupting throughout the rest of the archipelago, for a variety of reasons. These were largely the result of local frustration with Spanish injustice, and are thus fundamentally different in charactor from the Moro Wars.
Jolo, the capital of Sulu, first fell to the Spanish in 1578, when a Spanish force commanded by Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa vanquished Sultan Pangiran Budiman. A subsequent Spanish invasion of Mindanao, however, failed. In fact, the Moro mounted their own invasion, and raided coastal settlements in the Visayas. Such raids would continue on and off for the next two hundred years. On some occasions the raids extended as far north as Manila.
Meanwhile, Jolo would spin out of the Spanish orbit soon after being subdued. A force by Juan Gallinato besieged Jolo in 1602 but failed. Subsequent expeditions by Cristobal de Lugo, in 1627, Lorenzo de Olaso, in 1628, and Pedro Tousino, in 1630, also came to nothing. As a result, the Spanish built Fort Pilar, thus founding the fort city of Zamboanga.
Even in the Christianized parts of the colony, sporadic revolts kept erupting throughout the 333 years of Spanish sovereignty. The longest was the Dagohoy Rebellion which lasted for 85 years, and took place on the neighboring island of Bohol.
It should be noted that most of the rebellions were not concerted attempts to overthrow Spanish rule, but expressions of frustrations with injustice or oppression. Many of the early revolts were the result of abusive practices by the encomenderos - Spanish nationals given a grant (an "encomienda") by the crown which permitted the encomendero to exact tribute (in the form of taxes or goods) from the hapless inhabitants within the encomienda.
[TO BE CONTINUED]