Philippines: A Century of Obscurity and Decline. 1663–1762

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Philippines: A Century of Obscurity and Decline. 1663–1762

Philippines: A Century of Obscurity and Decline. 1663–1762

Manila Philippines Map 1
Manila Philippines Map
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Manila Philippines seal
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Manila Philippines Coat of Arms
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Manila Philippines Flag

 

Philippines: A Century of Obscurity and Decline. 1663–1762

Political Decline of the Philippines.—For the hundred years succeeding the abandonment of the Moluccas, the Philippines lost all political significance as a colony. From almost every standpoint they were profitless to Spain. There were continued deficits, which had to be made good from the Mexican treasury. The part of Spain in the conquest of the East was over, and the Philippines became little more than a great missionary establishment, presided over by the religious orders.

Death of Governor Salcedo by the Inquisition.—In 1663, Lara was succeeded by Don Diego de Salcedo. On his arrival, Manila had high hopes of him, which were speedily disappointed. He loaded the Acapulco galleon with his own private merchandise, and then dispatched it earlier than was usual, before the cargoes of the merchants were ready. He engaged in a wearisome strife with the archbishop, and seems to have worried the ecclesiastic, who was aged and feeble, into his grave. At the end of a few years he was hated by every one, and a conspiracy against him was formed which embraced the religious, the army, the civil officials, and the merchants. Beyond the reach of the power of ordinary plotters, he fell a victim to the commissioner of the Inquisition.

The Spanish Inquisition, which wrought such cruelty and misery in the Peninsula, was carried also to the Spanish colonies. As we have seen, it was primarily the function of the Dominican order to administer the institution. The powers exercised by an inquisitor can scarcely be understood at the present day. His methods were secret, the charges were not made public, the whole proceedings were closeted, and yet so great were the powers of this court that none could resist its authority, or inquire into its actions. Spain forbade any heretics, Jews, or Moors going to the colonies, and did the utmost to prevent heresy abroad. She also established in America the Inquisition itself. Fortunately, it never attained the importance in the Philippines that it had in Spain. In the Philippines there was no “Tribunal,” the institution being represented solely by a commissioner.

Death of the Governor.—In 1667, when the unpopularity of Governor Salcedo was at its height, this commissioner professed to discover in him grounds of heresy from the fact that he had been born in Flanders, and decided to avenge the Church by encompassing his ruin. By secret arrangement, the master of the camp withdrew the guard from the palace, and the commissioner, with several confederates, gained admission. The door of the governor’s room was opened by an old woman, who had been terrified into complicity, and the governor was seized sleeping, with his arms lying at the head of his bed.

The commissioner informed the governor that he was a prisoner of the Holy Office. He was taken to the convent of the Augustinians. Here he was kept in chains until he could be sent to Mexico, to appear before the Tribunal there. The government in Mexico annulled the arrest of the commissioner, but Salcedo died at sea on the return of the vessel to the Philippines in 1669.

Colonization of the Ladrone Islands.—In 1668 a Jesuit mission under Padre Diego Luis de Sanvítores was established on the Ladrones, the first of the many mission stations, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, in the South Pacific. The islands at that time were well populated and fertile, and had drawn the enthusiasm of Padre Sanvítores in 1662 when he first sailed to the Philippines.

The hostility of the Manchus in China, the Japanese persecutions, and the abandonment of Mindanao had closed many mission fields, and explains the eagerness with which the Jesuits sought the royal permission to Christianize these islands, which had been so constantly visited by Spanish ships but never before colonized. With Padre Sanvítores and his five Jesuit associates were a number of Christian Filipino catechists.

Settlement of Guam.—The mission landed at Guam, and was favorably received. Society among these islanders was divided into castes. The chiefs were known as chamorri, which has led to the natives of the Ladrones being called “Chamorros.” A piece of ground was given the Jesuits for a church at the principal town called Agadna (Agaña), and here also a seminary was built for the instruction of young men. The queen regent of Spain, Maria of Austria, gave an annual sum to this school, and in her honor the Jesuits changed the name of the islands to the Marianas. The Jesuits preached on eleven inhabited islands of the group, and in a year’s time had baptized thirteen thousand islanders and given instruction to twenty thousand.

Troubles with the Natives at Guam.—This first year was the most successful in the history of the mission. Almost immediately after, the Jesuits angered the islanders by compulsory conversions. There were quarrels in several places, and priests, trying to baptize children against the wishes of their parents, were killed. In 1670 the Spaniards were attacked, and obliged to fortify themselves at Agaña.

The Jesuits had a guard of a Spanish captain and about thirty Spanish and Filipino soldiers, who, after some slaughter of the natives, compelled them to sue for peace. The conditions imposed by the Jesuits were that the natives should attend mass and festivals, have their children baptized, and send them to be catechised. The hatred of the natives was unabated, however, and in 1672 Sanvítores was killed by them. His biographer claims that at his death he had baptized nearly fifty thousand of these islanders.

Depopulation of the Ladrone Islands.—About 1680 a governor was sent to the islands, and they were organized as a dependency of Spain. The policy of the governors and the Jesuits was conversion by the sword. The natives were persecuted from island to island, and in the history of European settlements there is hardly one that had more miserable consequences to the inhabitants. Disease was introduced and swept off large numbers. Others fell resisting the Spaniards, and an entire island was frequently depopulated by order of the governor, or the desire of the Jesuits to have the natives brought to Guam. Many, with little doubt, fled to other archipelagoes.

If we can trust the Jesuit accounts, there were in the whole group one hundred thousand inhabitants when the Spaniards arrived. A generation saw them almost extinct. Dampier, who touched at Guam in 1686, says then that on the island, where the Spaniards had found thirty thousand people, there were not above one hundred natives. In 1716 and 1721 other voyagers announced the number of inhabitants on Guam at two thousand, but only one other island of the group was populated. When Anson in 1742 visited Guam, the number had risen to four thousand, and there were a few hundred inhabitants on Rota; but these seem to have been the whole population. The original native population certainly very nearly touched extinction. The islands were from time to time colonized from the Philippines, and the present population is very largely of Filipino blood.

Conflicts between Governor and Archbishop.—Meanwhile, in the Philippines the conflict of the governor with the archbishop and the friars continued. The conduct of both sides was selfish and outrageous. In 1683 the actions of Archbishop Pardo became so violent and seditious that the Audiencia decreed his banishment to Pangasinan or Cagayan. He was taken by force to Lingayan, where he was well accommodated but kept under surveillance. The Dominicans retaliated by excommunication, and the Audiencia thereupon banished the provincial of the order from the Islands, and sent several other friars to Mariveles.

But the year following, Governor Vargas was relieved by the arrival of his successor, who was favorable to the ecclesiastical side of the controversy. The archbishop returned and assumed a high hand. He suspended and excommunicated on all sides. The oidores were banished from the city, and all died in exile in remote portions of the archipelago. The ex-governor-general, Vargas, being placed under the spiritual ban, sued for pardon and begged that his repentance be recognized.

The archbishop sentenced him to stand daily for the space of four months at the entrances to the churches of the city and of the Parian, and in the thronged quarter of Binondo, attired in the habit of a penitent, with a rope about his neck and carrying a lighted candle in his hand. He was, however, able to secure a mitigation of this sentence, but was required to live absolutely alone in a hut on an island in the Pasig River. He was sent a prisoner to Mexico in 1689, but died upon the voyage.

The various deans and canons who had concurred in the archbishop’s banishment, as well as other religious with whom the prelate had had dissensions, were imprisoned or exiled. The bodies of two oidores were, on their death and after their burial, disinterred and their bones profaned.

Degeneration of the Colony under Church Rule.—Archbishop Pardo died in 1689, but the strife and confusion which had been engendered continued. There were quarrels between the archbishop and the friars, between the prelate and the governor. All classes seem to have shared the bitterness and the hatred of these unhappy dissensions.

The moral tone of the whole colony during the latter part of the seventeenth century was lowered. Corruption flourished everywhere, and the vigor of the administration decayed. Violence went unrebuked, and the way was open for the deplorable tragedy in which this strife of parties culminated. Certainly no governor could have been more supine, and shown greater incapacity and weakness of character, than the one who ruled in the time of Archbishop Pardo and those that succeeded him.

Improvements Made by Governor Bustamante.—Enrichment of the Treasury.—In the year 1717, however, came a governor of a different type, Fernando Manuel de Bustamante. He was an old soldier, stern of character and severe in his measures. He found the treasury robbed and exhausted. Nearly the whole population of Manila were in debt to the public funds. Bustamante ordered these amounts paid, and to compel their collection he attached the cargo of silver arriving by the galleon from Acapulco. This cargo was owned by the religious companies, officials, and merchants, all of whom were indebted to the government. In one year of his vigorous administration he raised the sum of three hundred thousand pesos for the treasury.

With sums of money again at the disposal of the state, Bustamante attempted to revive the decayed prestige and commerce of the Islands.

Refounding of Zamboanga.—In 1718 he refounded and rebuilt the presidio of Zamboanga. Not a year had passed, since its abandonment years before, that the pirates from Borneo and Mindanao had failed to ravage the Bisayas. The Jesuits had petitioned regularly for its reëstablishment, and in 1712 the king had decreed its reoccupation. The citadel was rebuilt on an elaborate plan under the direction of the engineer, Don Juan Sicarra. Besides the usual barracks, storehouses, and arsenals, there were, within the walls, a church, hospital, and cuartel for the Pampangan soldiers. Sixty-one cannon were mounted upon the defenses. Upon the petition of the Recollects, Bustamante also established a presidio at Labo, at the southern point of the island of Paragua, whose coasts were attacked by the Moros from Sulu and Borneo.

Treaty with Siam.—In the same year he sent an embassy to Siam, with the idea of stimulating the commerce which had flourished a century before. The reception of this embassy was most flattering; a treaty of peace, friendship, and commerce was made, and on ground ceded to the Spaniards was begun the erection of a factory.

Improvements in the City of Manila.—How far this brave and determined man might have revived the colony it is impossible to say. The population of Manila, both ecclesiastical and civil, was at this time so sunk in corruption and so degenerate as to make almost impossible any recuperation except under the rule of a man equally determined as Bustamante, but ruling for a long period of time. He had not hesitated to order investigations into the finances of the Islands, which disclosed defalcations amounting to seven hundred thousand pesos. He fearlessly arrested the defaulters, no matter what their station. The whole city was concerned in these peculations, consequently the utmost fear and apprehension existed on all sides; and Bustamante, hated as well as dreaded, was compelled to enforce his reforms single-handed.

His Murder.—He was opposed by the friars and defied by the archbishop, but, notwithstanding ecclesiastical condemnation, he went to the point of ordering the arrest of the prelate. The city rose in sedition, and a mob, headed by friars, proceeded to the palace of the governor, broke in upon him, and, as he faced them alone and without support, killed him in cold blood (October 11, 1719).

The archbishop proclaimed himself governor and president of the Audiencia. The oidores and officials who had been placed under arrest by Bustamante were released, and his work overthrown. The new government had neither the courage nor the inclination to continue Bustamante’s policy, and in 1720 the archbishop called a council of war, which decreed the abandonment of the fort at Labo.

When the news of this murder reached Spain, the king ordered an investigation and the punishment of the guilty, and in 1721 Governor Torre Campo arrived to put these mandates into execution. The culprits, however, were so high and so influential that the governor did not dare proceed against them; and although the commands of the king were reiterated in 1724, the assassins of Bustamante were never brought to justice.

Treaty with the Sultan of Jolo.—In spite of the cowardly policy of the successors of Bustamante, the presidio of Zamboanga was not abandoned. So poorly was it administered, however, that it was not effective to prevent Moro piracy, and the attacks upon the Bisaya and Calamianes continued. In 1721 a treaty was formed with the sultan of Jolo providing for trade between Manila and Jolo, the return or ransom of captives, and the restitution to Spain of the island of Basílan.

The Moro Pirates of Tawi Tawi.—To some extent this treaty seems to have prevented assaults from Jolo, but in 1730 the Moros of Tawi Tawi fell upon Paragua and the Calamianes, and in 1731 another expedition from the south spent nearly a whole year cruising and destroying among the Bisayas.

Deplorable State of Spanish Defenses.—The defenses of the Spaniards during these many decades were continually in a deplorable state, their arms were wretched, and, except in moments of great apprehension, no attention was given to fortifications, to the preservation of artillery, nor to the supply of ammunition. Sudden attacks ever found the Spaniards unprepared. Military unreadiness was the normal condition of this archipelago from these early centuries down to the destruction of the Spanish armament by the American fleet.

The Economic Policy of Spain.—Restrictions of Trade.—During the closing years of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth, commerce seemed to have been actually paralyzed. That brilliant trade which is described by Morga, and which was at its height about 1605, was a few years later defeated by the miserable economic policy of Spain, pandering to the demands of the merchants of Cadiz and Seville.

Spain’s economic policy had only in view benefits to the Peninsula. “The Laws of the Indies” abound with edicts for the purpose of limiting and crippling colonial commerce and industry, wherever it was imagined that it might be prejudicial to the protected industries of Spain. The manufacturers of Seville wished to preserve the colonies, both of America and of the Indies, as markets for their monopoly wares; and in this policy, for two centuries, they had the support of the crown. The growing trade between Mexico and the Philippines had early been regarded with suspicion, and legislation was framed to reduce it to the lowest point compatible with the existence of the colony.

None of the colonies of America could conduct commerce with the Philippines except Mexico, and here all communication must pass through the port of Acapulco. This trade was limited to the passage of a single vessel a year. In 1605 two galleons were permitted, but their size was reduced to three hundred tons. They were allowed to carry out 500,000 pesos of silver, but no more than 250,000 pesos’ worth of Chinese products could be returned. Neither the Spaniards of Mexico nor any part of America could traffic directly with China, nor could Spanish vessels pass from Manila to the ports of Asia. Only those goods could be bought which Chinese merchants themselves brought to the Philippines.

Selfishness of Merchants in Spain.—Even these restrictions did not satisfy the jealousy of the merchants of Spain. They complained that the royal orders limiting the traffic were not regarded, and they insisted upon so vexatious a supervision of this commerce, and surrounded infractions of the law with such terrible penalties, that the trade was not maintained even to the amount permitted by law. Spanish merchants even went to the point of petitioning for the abandonment of the Philippines, on the ground that the importations from China were prejudicial to the industry of the Peninsula.

The colonists upon the Pacific coast of America suffered from the lack of those commodities demanded by civilized life, which could only reach them as they came from Spain through the port of Porto Bello and the Isthmus of Panama. Without question, an enormous and beneficial commerce could have been conducted by the Philippines with the provinces of western America.

Trade Between South America and the Philippines Forbidden.—But this traffic was absolutely forbidden, and to prevent Chinese and Philippine goods from entering South America, the trade between Mexico and Peru was in 1636 wholly suppressed by a decree. This decree, as it stands upon the pages of the great Recopilacion, is an epitome of the insane economic policy of the Spaniard. It cites that whereas “it had been permitted that from Peru to New Spain there should go each year two vessels for commerce and traffic to the amount of two hundred thousand ducats [which later had been reduced to one hundred thousand ducats], and because there had increased in Peru to an excessive amount the commerce in the fabrics of China, in spite of the many prohibitions that had been imposed, and in order absolutely to remove the occasion for the future, we order and command the officers of Peru and New Spain that they invariably prohibit and suppress this commerce and traffic between the two kingdoms by all the channels through which it is conducted, maintaining this prohibition firmly and continually for the future.”

In 1718 the merchants of Seville and Cadiz still complained that their profits were being injured by even the limited importation of Chinese silks into Mexico. Thereupon absolute prohibition of import of Chinese silks, either woven or in thread, was decreed. Only linens, spices, and supplies of such things as were not produced in Spain could be brought into Mexico. This order was reaffirmed in 1720, with the provision that six months would be allowed the people of Mexico to consume the Chinese silks which they had in their possession, and thereafter all such goods must be destroyed.

Ineffectiveness of These Restrictions.—These measures, while ruining the commerce of the Philippines, were as a matter of fact ineffective to accomplish the result desired. Contraband trade between China and America sprang up in violation of the law. Silks to the value of four million pesos were annually smuggled into America. In 1734 the folly and uselessness of such laws was somewhat recognized by the Council of the Indies, and a cedula was issued restoring the permission to trade in Chinese silks and raising the value of cargoes destined for Acapulco to five hundred thousand pesos, and the quantity of silver for return to one million pesos. The celebrated traffic of the galleon was resumed and continued until the year 1815.

An Attempt to Colonize the Carolines.—Southeastward of the Philippines, in that part of the Pacific which is known as Micronesia, there is an archipelago of small islands called the Carolines. The westernmost portion of the group also bear the name of the Pelews, or Palaos. Inasmuch as these islands were eventually acquired by Spain and remained in her possession down to the year 1898, it may be well to state something at this time of the attempt made by the Jesuits in 1731 to colonize them.

Certain of these little islands were seen several times by expeditions crossing the Pacific as early as the latter part of the sixteenth century, but after the trade between Mexico and the Philippines had been definitely settled upon, a fixed course was followed westward from Acapulco to Guam, from which there was little variation, and during the seventeenth century these islands passed quite out of mind; but in the year 1696 a party of natives, twenty men and ten women, were driven by storms far from their home in the Carolines upon the eastern coast of Samar. It seems that similar parties of castaways from the Pelew and Caroline Islands had been known to reach Mindanao and other parts of the Philippines at an even earlier date. These last came under the observation of the Jesuit priests on Samar, who baptized them, and, learning from them of the archipelago from which they had been carried, were filled with missionary ambition to visit and Christianize these Pacific islanders.

This idea was agitated by the Jesuits, until about 1730 royal permission was granted to the enterprise. A company of Jesuits in the following year sailed for the Ladrones and thence south until the Carolines were discovered. They landed on a small island not far from Yap. Here they succeeded in baptizing numerous natives and in establishing a mission. Fourteen of their number, headed by the priest, Padre Cantava, remained on the island while the expedition returned to secure reënforcements and supplies. Unfortunately, this succor was delayed for more than a year, and when Spanish vessels with missionary reënforcements on board again reached the Carolines in 1733, the mission had been entirely destroyed and the Spaniards, with Padre Cantava, had been killed. These islands have been frequently called the “New Philippines.”

Conditions of the Filipinos during the Eighteenth Century.—During the most of the eighteenth century, data are few upon the condition of the Filipino people. There seems to have been little progress. Conditions certainly were against the social or intellectual advance of the native race. Perhaps, however, their material well-being was quite as great during these years, when little was attempted, as during the governorships of the more ambitious and enterprising Spaniards who had characterized the earlier period of Philippine history.

Provincial Governments.—Provincial administration seems to have fallen almost wholly into the hands of the missionaries. The priests made themselves the local rulers throughout the Christianized portion of the archipelago.

Insurrection in Bohol.—Insurrection seems especially to have troubled the island of Bohol during most of the eighteenth century, and in 1750 an insurrection broke out which practically established the independence of a large portion of the island, and which was not suppressed for thirty-five years. The trouble arose in the town of Inabanga, where the Jesuit priest Morales had greatly antagonized and imbittered the natives by his severity. Some apostasized, and went to the hills. One of these men was killed by the orders of the priest and his body refused Christian burial, and left uncared for and exposed.

A brother of this man, named Dagóhoy, infuriated by this indignity, headed a sedition which shortly included three thousand natives. The priest was killed, and his own body left by the road unburied. In spite of the efforts of the alcalde of Cebu, Dagóhoy was able to maintain himself, and practically established a small native state, which remained until the occupation of the island by the Recollects, after the Jesuits had been expelled from the Spanish dominions.

Activity of the Jesuits.—During the eighteenth century the Jesuits alone of the religious orders seemed to have been active in prosecuting their efforts and seeking new fields for conversion. The sloth and inactivity which overcame the other orders place in greater contrast the ambition and the activities, both secular and spiritual, of the Jesuits.

Conversion of the Sultan Alim ud Din.—In 1747 they established a mission even on Jolo. They were unable to overcome the intense antagonism of the Moro panditas and datos, but they apparently won the young sultan, Alim ud Din, whose strange story and shifting fortunes have been variously told. One of the Jesuits, Padre Villelmi, was skilled in the Arabic language, and this familiarity with the language and literature of Mohammedanism doubtless explains his ascendency over the mind of the sultan. Alim ud Din was not a strong man. His power over the subordinate datos was small, and in 1748 his brother, Bantilan, usurped his place and was proclaimed sultan of Jolo.

Alim ud Din, with his family and numerous escort, came to Zamboanga, seeking the aid of the Spanish against his brother. From Zamboanga he was sent to Manila. On his arrival, January 3, 1749, he was received with all the pomp and honor due to a prince of high rank. A house for his entertainment and his retinue of seventy persons was prepared in Binondo. A public entrance was arranged, which took place some fifteen days after his reaching the city. Triumphal arches were erected across the streets, which were lined with more than two thousand native militia under arms. The sultan was publicly received in the hall of the Audiencia, where the governor promised to lay his case before the king of Spain. The sultan was showered with presents, which included chains of gold, fine garments, precious gems, and gold canes, while the government sustained the expense of his household.

Following this reception, steps were taken for his conversion. His spiritual advisers cited to him the example of the Emperor Constantine whose conversion enabled him to effect triumphant conquests over his enemies. Under these representations Alim ud Din expressed his desire for baptism. The governor-general, who at this time was a priest, the bishop of Nueva Segovia, was very anxious that the rite should take place; but this was opposed by his spiritual superior, the archbishop of Manila, who, with some others, entertained doubts as to the sincerity of the sultan’s profession.

In order to accomplish his baptism, the governor sent him to his own diocese, where at Paniqui, on the 29th of April, 1750, the ceremony took place with great solemnity. On the return of the party to Manila, the sultan was received with great pomp, and in his honor were held games, theatrical representations, fire-works, and bull-fights. This was the high-water mark of the sultan’s popularity.

Failure to Reinstate Alim ud Din.—Meanwhile the usurper, Bantilan, was giving abundant evidence of his hostility. The Spaniards were driven from Jolo, and the fleets of the Moros again ravaged the Bisayas. In July arrived the new governor, the Marquis of Obando, who determined to restore Alim ud Din and suppress the Moro piracy.

An expedition set sail, with the sultan on board, and went as far as Zamboanga, but accomplished nothing. Here the conduct of the sultan served to confirm the doubts of the Spaniards as to the sincerity of his friendship. He was arrested, and returned to Manila, and imprisoned in the fortress of Santiago. With varying treatment he remained in the hands of the Spaniards until 1763, when he was returned to Jolo by the English.

Great Increase in Moro Piracy.—The year 1754 is stated to have been the bloodiest in the history of Moro piracy. No part of the Bisayas escaped ravaging in this year, while the Camarines, Batangas, and Albay suffered equally with the rest. The conduct of the pirates was more than ordinarily cruel. Priests were slain, towns wholly destroyed, and thousands of captives were carried south into Moro slavery. The condition of the Islands at the end of this year was probably the most deplorable in their history.

Reforms under General Arandía.—The demoralization and misery with which Obando’s rule closed were relieved somewhat by the capable government of Arandía, who succeeded him. Arandía was one of the few men of talent, energy, and integrity who stood at the head of affairs in these islands during two centuries.

He reformed the greatly disorganized military force, establishing what was known as the “Regiment of the King,” made up very largely of Mexican soldiers. He also formed a corps of artillerists composed of Filipinos. These were regular troops, who received from Arandía sufficient pay to enable them to live decently and like an army.

He reformed the arsenal at Cavite, and, in spite of opposition on all sides, did something to infuse efficiency and honesty into the government. At the head of the armament which had been sent against the Moros he placed a Jesuit priest, Father Ducos. A capable officer was also sent to command the presidio at Zamboanga, and while Moro piracy was not stopped, heavy retaliation was visited upon the pirates.

Arandía’s most popular act of government was the expulsion of the Chinese from the provinces, and in large part from the city. They seem to have had in their hands then, perhaps even more than now, the commerce or small trade between Manila and provincial towns. To take over this trade, Arandía founded a commercial company of Spaniards and mestizos, which lasted only for a year. The Christianized Chinese were allowed to remain under license, and for those having shops in Manila Arandía founded the Alcayceria of San Fernando. It consisted of a great square of shops built about an open interior. It stood in Binondo, on the present Calle de San Fernando, in what is still a populous Chinese quarter.

Death of Arandía and Decline of the Colony.—Arandía died in May, 1759, and the government was assumed by the bishop of Cebu, who in turn was forced from his position by the arrival of the archbishop of Manila, Don Manuel Rojo. The archbishop revoked the celebrated orders of good government which Arandía had put into force, and the colony promised to relapse once more into its customary dormant condition. This was, however, prevented by an event which brought to an end the long period of obscurity and inertia under which the colony had been gradually decaying, and introduced, in a way, a new period of its history. This was the capture of the Philippine Islands by the British in 1762.

 

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