On November 21, 1564, the fifty Spanish expedition to the Philippines
sailed from Mexico. Aboard four ships under the command of Miguel
Lopez de Legazpi were five Augustinian friars, 380 men and a
fair amount of food, ammunition and trinkets. The expedition
was not the best nor the worst ever fitted for its destination,
which at the start had been guessed as New Guinea.
Whether it was good sailing weather, or
the combined forces of the Spanish King's trusted, tactful Legazpi,
the conscientious Fray Andres de Urdaneta, ship's chief navigator,
the experienced Marshall Martin de Goiti and the courageous,
adventurous Captain Juan de Salcedo - this expedition landed
in the Philippines, if not with complete security then at least
with more than even changes of survival.
Sealed orders which Legazpi opened at mid
sea carried King Phillip's instructions to sail to the Philippines
and "labor diligently to make and establish sound friendship
and peace with the natives - represent to them His Majesty's
affection and love, giving them a few presents - and treating
The true intent of the order did not escape
Legazpi. He was on a voyage of colonization, a peaceful colonization
if possible, but colonization, above all. Urdaneta understood
the message, too, and reluctantly did his job. He was willing
enough to proceed to the Philippines to spread the word of God,
but he was well aware that there were other motives than the
planting of the cross.
This was not an undiscovered, isolated
region where credulous natives gave friendship in exchange for
a looking-glass, or accepted the affection and love of a king
several thousand miles away without questioning his motives.
More than forty years past, the red-lipped, pink-powdered young
wife of Cebu's Rajah Humabon had been baptized and gifted an
image of the Child Jesus by Magellan. There had been rejoicing
at the conversion, the avowals of friendship, and what appeared
to be the easy conquest of the islands. Two weeks later, in the
nearby island of Mactan, Magellan's army of Spaniards and assisting
Cebuans were felled by Lapulapu and his men. Magellan was killed,
and although there is little truth to the story that his Achilles
heel had been located in his armor-uncovered knee, his death
discovered for the Filipinos the vulnerability of the Spanish.
A few days later, 27 Spaniards were killed
by recently friendly Cebuans. The hostility survived the years,
nourished by the various rumors of other expeditions attempting
to reach Cebu. Legazpi landed in Cebu on February 13, 1565. The
gifts of glass, beads and mirrors were received - and cinnamon,
wine and gold were given in exchange. This then, in effect, was
barter. The Cebuans might have felt freed from the duties of
hospitality and made no effort to disguise their hostility.
The Philippines then was made up of many
little kingdoms with chieftains who were friendly or hostile
to each other, but who recognized each other's independence.
Trade and commerce was carried on among themselves and with foreigners.
The Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Siamese, Sumatrans and other neighboring
traders had brought to the country their various customs and
cultures, without attempting to bring the authority of their
The independence of rule and thinking of
the various kingdoms were a help to Legazpi's troops. If they
were not wanted in one place, they were still welcome in another.
Bohol's chieftain, Sikatuna received them warmly. The policy
of attraction - a combination of earnest piety, genteel diplomacy
and abundance of beads - worked.
Many years later the painter Juan Luna
somberly and stiffly immortalized the blood compact, the casi-casi
in which the protagonists Sikatuna and Legazpi drew blood from
themselves and with the mixed brew signed the pact of brotherhood.
This ritual of minimum bloodshed was certainly preferable to
violence and Legazpi filed it away in his mind, to draw on for
With his new ally Legazpi headed back to
Cebu, and took the kingdom by force, over the protests of Fray
Urdaneta. Tupas, the chieftain of Cebu retreated to the mountain
with 2000 warriors, to come down eventually and made the first
documented surrender of freedom when he concluded a treaty with
Legazpi providing that "they make submission and place themselves
under the dominion of the royal Crown of Castilla and of his
Majesty, as his natural vassals, promising to be faithful and
loyal to his service, and not to displease him in any way."
There was more than one thing to make Legazpi
rejoice. An image of the Holy Child Jesus believed to be the
same one Magellan gave Queen Juana was found in one of the unburned
houses in Cebu. In what might be precursor to another later even
in Philippine history, Legazpi knelt in front of the image, and
supplicated "that Thou enlighten and guide me so that all
that we do here may be to Thy glory and honor."
To his credit, Legazpi did not make any
reference in his prayers to doing good for the people sitting
in darkness. Instead he asked that the Lord punish "the
offenses committed in these islands against Thy Majesty."
There were a goodly number of these, by
then, not the least of which were committed by the Spanish soldiers
who had discovered the wines and women of Cebu, and the gold
that lay buried in the graveyards. Also, and what might have
been an offense in his eyes were the attacks launched by Portuguese
soldiers soon after the establishment of the Spanish settlement
in Cebu. A fort, a church and houses had been constructed which
angered the Portuguese Captain Pereira who claimed the island
as rightfully belonging to his King. Legazpi did not argue but
stated that what had forced them to the island's shores would
necessarily keep them there, until ships came to carry them away.
An exchange of letters followed. The union of Spain and Portugal
in 1580 resolved this conflict between Spain and Portugal.
But in the meantime, Cebu was no longer
safe. Both Portuguese and the Cebuans threatened their security
and in 1569 Legazpi decided to move his forces to Panay. Only
when reinforcement arrived from Spain did he return to Cebu,
now as governor with the new title of Adelantado. A more important
message had arrived with reinforcements. Legazpi was ordered
to take full possession of the Philippines.
Cebu was organized as a city government
with a new governor, and the land divided into encomiendas,
large estates which like rich slices of cake were given as rewards
to those who had served King and Adelantado bravely and well.
Years later, because of the evils and abuses it brought about,
the encomienda system would be abolished. The bad taste it had
left in the mouth would linger for as long as the abusive habits
nourished by their sudden wealth remained.
Legazpi went on to follow orders.
The reception given the Spaniards varied.
Tupa was initially hostile. Tondo's Lakadula was friendly, while
Soliman was firm. Legazpi's men faced native armies equipped
with Panday Pira's artillery, or large supplies of spear and
lances and unbending resistance.
The separate kingdoms did not exact alliance
from each other, except when they were banded together into a
confederation such as that of Sumakwel's Confederation of Madyaas
in 18th century Panay. But the barangays were largely independent
and although Soliman would seek the advice of his elder relative
Lakandula, he was not bound to obey, and did not, when the latter
cautioned him to befriend the Spaniards.
Legazpi's voyage of conquest and colonization,
riding on a policy of attraction which more than once had to
don the accoutrements of war, became a unifying force and marked
an epochal change in the government of the territory.
This unification was brought on by more
than the fact of administration from the government set up by
Spain. The friendliness which even the gentlest chieftains offered
changed to disillusionment and wrath with the abuses of debauched
soldiers and arrogant officials. With every resistance and native
dissatisfaction, as with every conquest, fusion of the nation
in physical and spiritual terms took place.
The first expedition to Manila in 1570
was led by Martin de Goiti and Legazpi's 18-year old grandson,
Juan de Salcedo. The latter would provide a glamorous, dashing
figure to the Legazpi chapter in the Philippines.
Rajah Soliman, chieftain of Manila, and
Goiti entered into a blood compact. But that was nullified when
Goiti fired a short, ostensibly to recall a boat he had sent
off on an errand in the bay. Fighting ensued, Soliman and his
men were overpowered.
The young chieftain retreated to the mountains.
But Goiti did not underestimate his routed opponent. Salcedo
had earlier proceeded to other points having taken on the work
of colonization of the entire island of Luzon except for Central
Luzon and some regions nearby for which Goiti was responsible.
When Soliman's men clashed with the Spaniards, Salcedo was in
Balayan, recuperating from a wound received in battle.
Legazpi led the next expedition to Manila,
in 1571. As the Spanish ships approached, Soliman set fire to
his rebuilt kingdom, retreated inwards to stronger fortifications,
and continued to fight. Soliman died in battle, mourned by his
men and his uncle who still believed his nephew acted too rashly
and would have done better accepting the friendship proffered
by the Spaniards.
In June of 1571, Manila was founded and
made the administrative center of the Spanish colony. Streets,
forts, and a palace was erected. An image of the Blessed Virgin
found in Ermita was made the holy patroness as the Nuestra Señora
de Guia. A few years later Manila was titled "The Most Noble
and Ever Loyal" city. Not long afterward the natives rose
in rebellion against Legazpi's successor in Manila, the appointed
Governor, Guido de Lavezares. Goiti was dead and only Salcedo's
intervention with Rajah Lakandula, dissuaded the latter from
All of Luzon except the regions colonized
by Goiti were conquered by Salcedo, peacefully, and when necessary,
by force. He had an army of 30 to 40 Spaniards, and many natives.
It is possible that his dashing, romantic figure, fired their
sense of adventure, as they accompanied him while he marched
from north to south, east to west, sailed along the coasts of
the Philippines, seeking weak entries, its stronger ramparts.
In Paracale he found what other Spaniards sought - survivors
of past expeditions, and gold, much gold. While founding the
city of Vigan he was called to Manila, in 1574, to help Goiti
defend the city against Limahong. The Chinese pirate led a fleet
of 62 war junks with 2000 soldiers, 2000 seamen, 1500 women,
and a good number of artisans and farmers. Limahong was routed
in what was a double victory for Salcedo. Not only were the pirates
driven away, but done so with the help of the previously hostile
natives. Lakandula and other chieftains, most of them on the
verge of revolt, had joined forces with Salcedo in defeating
the common enemy.
Fray Urdaneta had not lived to know of
the founding of Manila. A reluctant colonizer,m he had left on
the first ship that returned to Spain, and died shortly after
discovering a new route to the Pacific. Legazpi suffered from
a fatal heart attack in 1572. In 1574 Goiti was slain in battle
with Sioco, Limahong's Japanese lieutenant. Salcedo died in 1576
at the age of 27, in his encomienda in Vigan. Like his
grandfather before him, he died without wealth, having paid off
Legazpi's debts and then willing everything else he had including
his encomiendas to the natives of Vigan.
Within a decade Legazpi had founded cities
that to this day stand echoing the names and events that saw
their origins. The King's bidding had been fulfilled and from
1580 to 1898 when Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States
for $20 million, Spain's sovereignty over the Philippines was
recognized by the rest of the world and some Filipinos.
Legazpi had found the Philippines a land
of little separate kingdoms. To a large extent this helped in
the conquest and colonization of what would otherwise have been
much more difficult to subdue as a united force. But even before
Legazpi had died the datus who lived, and those who died, had
come to realize that a foreign power was placing them under one
alien government. Except for the Muslims, the work of Christianization
and unification of rule was successfully started.
But a unification
of another kind had also begun to take place. The Filipinos whose
separate kingdoms had been annexed began to close ranks as a
people. The new government, with its virtues and vices, provided
the springboard that launched the identity and spirit of the