Published: November 5, 2010
The 333-year rule of Spain over the Philippines was marked by many disturbances. If we consider the Portuguese, Dutch, and English threats to Spanish rule in the archipelago, the internal disturbances caused by more than a hundred Filipinos revolts, the numerous encounters with the Muslim Filipinos, Chinese uprisings–the Spanish rule in the Philippines can only be characterized as disorderly. There was at least one disturbance of peace and order every two or three years of Spanish rule in the country. The Spaniards had to struggle desperately to put down the violent Filipino uprisings and the foreign invasions of the archipelago to maintain power in the country.
Causes of Filipino Uprisings
Why did the Filipinos rise in arms against the Spaniards?
There were four principal reasons for this. One was that the Filipinos loved freedom and had been used to freedom and therefore did not want a foreign power to rule over them. The conspiracy of 1587 and Ladia’s uprising of 1660-1661, for example, were caused by the Filipino’s love for freedom.
Another cause of some uprisings was the brutality, injustice, and rapacity of many Spanish officials in the country. Five major uprisings resulted–the Magalat uprising of 1596 in Cagayan, the Gaddang uprising of 1621 in Cagayan, the Dagohoy revolt of 1744-1828 in Bohol, Diego Silang’s revolt of 1762 in Ilocos, and Palaris’ revolt of 1762-1764 in Pangasinan.
Other uprisings were caused by agrarian troubles between the Filipinos and the Spanish friars. In the course of time the friars became so rich that they owned thousands of hectares of fertile agricultural land. The Filipinos worked on these farms as mere tenants, paying excessive fees to the religious corporations which owned them. The injustices committed by the friars in leasing their landed estates to the Filipinos led to uprisings like those in Batangas, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal in 1745-1746.
The Early Uprisings
The first sign of Filipino resentment against the Spaniards occurred in 1574 when Rajah Lakandula attacked the Spaniards in Tondo. He was angry because the Spanish authorities did not fulfill their promise to exempt him and his descendants from paying tribute. He would have continued fighting had not Governor Salcedo intervened and promised to give him and his relatives protection.
More serious than Lakandula’s short uprising was the Tondo conspiracy of 1587. In that year a group of Tondo residents formed a secret society, a predecessor to the Katipunan. This also began in Tondo and was to lead the Philippin Revolution 300 years later. It was led by Magat Salamat, Rajah Lakadula’s son. Among the members of the society were Lakandula’s nephew, Agustin de Legaspi, Juan Banal, an Martin Panga of Tondo, Pedro Balingit and Felipe Salonga of Polo–now Valenzuela–in Bulacan, and Juan Basi of Taguig, Rizal.
The society spread no only in Central Luzon but also in Cuyo Island, Palawan and even as far as Borneo. To make the society stronger, the members allied themselves with two Christian Japanese–Dionisio Fernandez and Juan Gayo–who agreed to bring in arms from Japan and to help the Filipinos fight the Spaniards. If successful, they would make Agustin de Legaspi the king of the Philippines. The secret society carefully planned its campaign against the Spaniards for over a year.
Unfortunately, two of the members, Amarlongague of Laguna and Surabao of Calamianes, in Palawan, reported the plot for the uprising to the Spanish authorities. Governor Santiago de Vera immediately ordered the arrest of the plotters. The leaders–Magat Salamat, Agustin de Legaspi, and the two Japanese–were executed. Thus, what was planned as a widespread revolt against the Spaniards was prevented.
Another uprising occurred before the end of the sixteenth century. Led by Magalat, the Filipinos of Cagayan rose in arms against the Spaniards in 1596 and killed many of them. Hearing of the disturbance, Governor Francisco Tello de Guzman sent Pedro de Chaves to Cagayan with instructions to suppress the uprising and kill or capture Magalat. Chaves failed to do either to the wily Filipino leader, but he bribed certain Filipinos to assassinate him. They succeeded in doing so, and the uprising collapsed.
Some of the uprisings were religious in nature. In many cases these folk beliefs and superstitions became integrated into the Catholic practices. In other cases, however, the practitioners of indigenous rituals actively resisted Christianity in favor of their traditional beliefs. The Tamblot and Bancao uprisings were examples of these. Other leaders were Christians who grew angry when the colonial system obstructed their initiative. One of these was Apolinario de la Cruz (Hermano Pule) in 1840.