Published: July 7, 2012
The internal disturbances caused by the many revolts against the Spaniards became more serious when the fierce Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu began attacking coastal towns in the Visayas and Luzon.
The term Moro had been given by Spaniards to the Muslim Filipinos of Mindanao and Sulu. It originated from the word Moor which the Spaniards had given to the Muslims from Morocco, in North Africa, who conquered and then occupied Spain over 800 years.
The Muslim Filipinos are brave and adventurous. Skilled in the manufacture and the use of arms, they were equipped to fight the Spaniards and, later, the Americans too. Till the end of the Spanish regime, the Spaniards never completely conquered the Muslim Filipinos. The Muslims were the last Philippine group to surrender to the Americans during the first quarter of the twentieth century.
Early Attempts to Subjugate the Muslims
As early as Legaspi, the Muslims of Sourther Philippines had been a problem to the Spaniards. De Goiti and Salcedo fought them in Cebu, in Mindoro, and in Camarines, but they failed to conquer these valiant warriors. In 1578g Gvernor Francisco de Sande, on his return from Borneo where he restored Sultan Sirela to his throne, sent an expedition against the Muslims of Jolo. Through he defeated them, he failed to conquer them.
In 1569 Captain Rodriguez de Figueroa, having been granted the privilege to colonize Mindanao, landed his men and more than 1,000 Christian Filipinos on the banks of Rio Grande de Mindanao, now the Cotabato River. The Muslims resented his intrusion and fought Figueroa, who died in the fighting that followed. His work was continued by Juan Ronquillo. He, too, failed to quell the Muslims. He and his men then left the Rio Grande and settled in Caldera, a site near Zamboanga. There he built fortifications, but his aim of conquering the Muslims was not carried out.
The Battle of Punta De Flechas
Unable to conquer the Muslims, the Spaniards then decided to colonize at least a part of Minanao. Some Jesuit missionaries were at that time working in the interior of the island and in what is now Zamboanga. The appealed to the government to build a fort so that they could be protected from Muslim attacks. In 1635, Governor Juan Salamanca founded what is now Zamboanga City. Fort Pilar, which still stands today, was built nearby to protect the Christian missionaries there.
The establishment of a strong fort did not deter the Muslims from fighting the Spaniards. Under the leadership of Tagal, a Muslim fleet sailed to the Visayas, burned down towns along the coast, pillaged the churches, and carried off men and women which they later sold as slaved in Mindanao.
With more than 600 captives, Tagal sailed for Jolo. But the Spanish fleet was waiting for him at Punta de Flechas, near Zamboanga, and in the battle that followed, Tagal was defeated. Many Muslims were killed and more than a hundred Christian captives were set free.
Encouraged by this victory, Governor Corcuera sent another expedition to Jolo in 1638. With eight ships and thousands of Christian Filipinos, Corcuera attacked Jolo. He failed in this assault but besieged the town. After a few months, he again attacked the Muslims under the command of Sultan Bungsu and his queen, Baluka. The Muslims were defeated, and Corcuera immediately set about building the fortification of Jolo.