Philippines: The Spanish Soldier and the Spanish Missionary


Philippines: The Spanish Soldier and the Spanish Missionary

Philippines: The Spanish Soldier and the Spanish Missionary

Manila Philippines Map 1
Manila Philippines Map
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Philippines: The Spanish Soldier and the Spanish Missionary


History of the Philippines as a Part of the History of the Spanish Colonies.—We have already seen how the Philippines were discovered by Magellan in his search for the Spice Islands. Brilliant and romantic as is the story of that voyage, it brought no immediate reward to Spain. Portugal remained in her enjoyment of the Eastern trade and nearly half a century elapsed before Spain obtained a settlement in these islands. But if for a time he neglected the Far East, the Spaniard from the Peninsula threw himself with almost incredible energy and devotion into the material and spiritual conquest of America. All the greatest achievements of the Spanish soldier and the Spanish missionary had been secured within fifty years from the day when Columbus sighted the West Indies.

In order to understand the history of the Philippines, we must not forget that these islands formed a part of this great colonial empire and were under the same administration; that for over two centuries the Philippines were reached through Mexico and to a certain extent governed by Mexico; that the same governors, judges, and soldiers held office in both hemispheres, passing from America to the Philippines and being promoted from the Islands to the higher official positions of Mexico and Peru. So to understand the rule of Spain in the Philippines, we must study the great administrative machinery and the great body of laws which she developed for the government of the Indies.

Character of the Spanish Explorers.—The conquests themselves were largely effected through the enterprise and wealth of private individuals; but these men held commissions from the Spanish crown, their actions were subject to strict royal control, and a large proportion of the profits and plunder of their expeditions were paid to the royal treasury. Upon some of these conquerors the crown bestowed the proud title of “adelantado.” The Spanish nobility threw themselves into these hazardous undertakings with the courage and fixed determination born of their long struggle with the Moors. Out of the soul-trying circumstances of Western conquest many obscure men rose, through their brilliant qualities of spirit, to positions of eminence and power; but the exalted offices of viceroy and governor were reserved for the titled favorites of the king.

The Royal Audiencia.—Very early the Spanish court, in order to protect its own authority, found it necessary to succeed the ambitious and adventurous conqueror by a ruler in close relationship with and absolute dependence on the royal will. Thus in Mexico, Cortes the conqueror was removed and replaced by the viceroy Mendoza, who established upon the conquests of the former the great Spanish colony of New Spain, to this day the most successful of all the states planted by Spain in America.

To limit the power of the governor or viceroy, as well as to act as a supreme court for the settlement of actions and legal questions, Spain created the “Royal Audiencia.” This was a body of men of noble rank and learned in the law, sent out from Spain to form in each country a colonial court; but their powers were not alone judicial; they were also administrative. In the absence of the governor they assumed his duties.

Treatment of the Natives by the Spanish.—In his treatment of the natives, whose lands he captured, the Spanish king attempted three things,—first, to secure to the colonist and to the crown the advantages of his labor, second, to convert the Indians to the Christian religion as maintained by the Roman Catholic Church, and third, to protect them from cruelty and inhumanity. Edict after edict, law after law, issued from the Spanish throne with these ends in view. As they stand upon the greatest of colonial law-books, the Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias, they display an admirable sensitiveness to the needs of the Indian and an appreciation of the dangers to which he was subjected; but in the actual practice these beneficent provisions were largely useless.

The first and third of Spain’s purposes in her treatment of the native proved incompatible. History has shown that liberty and enlightenment can not be taken from a race with one hand and protection given it with the other. All classes of Spain’s colonial government were frankly in pursuit of wealth. Greed filled them all, and was the mainspring of every discovery and every settlement. The king wanted revenue for his treasury; the noble and the soldier, booty for their private purse; the friar, wealth for his order; the bishop, power for his church. All this wealth had to come out of the native toiler on the lands which the Spanish conqueror had seized; and while noble motives were probably never absent and at certain times prevailed, yet in the main the native of America and of the Philippines was a sufferer under the hand and power of the Spaniard.

“The Encomenderos.”—Spain’s system of controlling the lives and the labor of the Indians was based to a certain extent on the feudal system, still surviving in the Peninsula at the time of her colonial conquests. The captains and soldiers and priests of her successful conquests had assigned to them great estates or fruitful lands with their native inhabitants, which they managed and ruled for their own profit. Such estates were called first “repartimientos.” But very soon it became the practice, in America, to grant large numbers of Indians to the service of a Spaniard, who had over them the power of a master and who enjoyed the profits of their labor. In return he was supposed to provide for the conversion of the Indians and their religious instruction. Such a grant of Indians was called an “encomienda.” The “encomendero” was not absolute lord of the lives and properties of the Indians, for elaborate laws were framed for the latter’s protection. Yet the granting of subjects without the land on which they lived made possible their transfer and sale from one encomendero to another, and in this way thousands of Indians of America were made practically slaves, and were forced into labor in the mines.

As we have already seen, the whole system was attacked by the Dominican priest, Las Casas, a truly noble character in the history of American colonization, and various efforts were made in America to limit the encomiendas and to prevent their introduction into Mexico and Peru; but the great power of the encomendero in America, together with the influence of the Church, which held extensiveencomiendas, had been sufficient to extend the institution, even against Las Casas’ impassioned remonstrances. Its abolition in Mexico was decreed in 1544, but “commissioners representing the municipality of Mexico and the religious orders were sent to Spain to ask the king to revoke at least those parts of the ‘New Laws’ which threatened the interests of the settlers. By a royal decree of October 20, 1545, the desired revocation was granted. This action filled the Spanish settlers with joy and the enslaved Indians with despair.”

Thus was the institution early established as a part of the colonial system and came with the conquerors to the Philippines.

Restrictions on Colonization and Commerce.—For the management of all colonial affairs the king created a great board, or bureau, known as the “Council of the Indies,” which sat in Madrid and whose members were among the highest officials of Spain. The Spanish government exercised the closest supervision over all colonial matters, and colonization was never free. All persons, wares, and ships, passing from Spain to any of her colonial possessions, were obliged to pass through Seville, and this one port alone.

This wealthy ancient city, situated on the river Guadalquivir in southwestern Spain, was the gateway to the Spanish Empire. From this port went forth the mailed soldier, the robed friar, the adventurous noble, and the brave and highborn Spanish ladies, who accompanied their husbands to such great distances over the sea. And back to this port were brought the gold of Peru, the silver of Mexico, and the silks and embroideries of China, dispatched through the Philippines.

It must be observed that all intercourse between Spain and her colonies was rigidly controlled by the government. Spain sought to create and maintain an exclusive monopoly of her colonial trade. To enforce and direct this monopoly, there was at Seville the Commercial House, or “Casa de Contratacion.” No one could sail from Spain to a colonial possession without a permit and after government registration. No one could send out goods or import them except through the Commercial House and upon the payment of extraordinary imposts. Trade was absolutely forbidden to any except Spaniards. And by her forts and fleets Spain strove to isolate her colonies from the approach of Portuguese, Dutch, or English, whose ships, no less daringly manned than those of Spain herself, were beginning to traverse the seas in search of the plunder and spoils of foreign conquest and trade.

Summary of the Colonial Policy of Spain.—Spain sought foreign colonies, first, for the spoils of accumulated wealth that could be seized and carried away at once, and, secondly, for the income that could be procured through the labor of the inhabitants of the lands she gained. In framing her government and administration of her colonies, she sought primarily the political enlightenment and welfare neither of the Spanish colonist nor the native race, but the glory, power, and patronage of the crown. The commercial and trade regulations were devised, not to develop the resources and increase the prosperity of the colonies, but to add wealth to the Peninsula. Yet the purposes of Spain were far from being wholly selfish. With zeal and success she sought the conversion of the heathen natives, whom she subjected, and in this showed a humanitarian interest in advance of the Dutch and English, who rivaled her in colonial empire.

The colonial ideals under which the policy of Spain was framed were those of the times. In the centuries that have succeeded, public wisdom and conscience on these matters have immeasurably improved. Nations no longer make conquests frankly to exploit them, but the public opinion of the world demands that the welfare of the colonial subject be sought and that he be protected from official greed. There is great advance still to be made. It can hardly be said that the world yet recognizes that a stronger people should assist a weaker without assurance of material reward, but this is the direction in which the most enlightened feeling is advancing. Every undertaking of the white race, which has such aims in view, is an experiment worthy of the most profound interest and most solicitous sympathy.

Result of the Voyage of Magellan and El Cano.—The mind of the Spanish adventurer was greatly excited by the results of Sebastian del Cano’s voyage. Here was the opportunity for rich trade and great profit. Numerous plans were laid before the king, one of them for the building of an Indian trading-fleet and an annual voyage to the Moluccas to gather a great harvest of spices.

Portugal protested against this move until the question of her claim to the Moluccas, under the division of Pope Alexander, could be settled. The exact longitude of Ternate west from the line 370 leagues beyond the Verde Islands was not well known. Spaniards argued that it was less than 180 degrees, and, therefore, in spite of Portugal’s earlier discovery, belonged to them. The pilot, Medina, for example, explained to Charles V. that from the meridian 370 leagues west of San Anton (the most westerly island of the Verde group) to the city of Mexico was 59 degrees, from Mexico to Navidad, 9 degrees, and from this port to Cebu, 100 degrees, a total of only 168 degrees, leaving a margin of 12 degrees; therefore by the pope’s decision the Indies, Moluccas, Borneo, Gilolo, and the Philippines were Spain’s. A great council of embassadors and cosmographers was held at Badajoz in 1524, but reached no agreement. Spain announced her resolution to occupy the Moluccas, and Portugal threatened with death the Spanish adventurers who should be found there.

The First Expedition to the Philippines.—Spain acted immediately upon her determination, and in 1525 dispatched an expedition under Jofre de Loaisa to reap the fruits of Magellan’s discoveries.The captain of one vessel was Sebastian del Cano, who completed the voyage of Magellan. On his ship sailed Andres de Urdaneta, who later became an Augustinian friar and accompanied the expedition of Legaspi that finally effected the settlement of the Philippines. Not without great hardship and losses did the fleet pass the Straits of Magellan and enter the Pacific Ocean. In mid-ocean Loaisa died, and four days later the heroic Sebastian del Cano. Following a route somewhat similar to that of Magellan, the fleet reached first the Ladrone Islands and later the coast of Mindanao. From here they attempted to sail to Cebu, but the strong northeast monsoon drove them southward to the Moluccas, and they landed on Tidor the last day of the year 1526.

The Failure of the Expedition.—The Portuguese were at this moment fighting to reduce the native rajas of these islands to subjection. They regarded the Spaniards as enemies, and each party of Europeans was shortly engaged in fighting and in inciting the natives against the other. The condition of the Spaniards became desperate in the extreme, and indicates at what cost of life the conquests of the sixteenth century were made. Their ships had become so battered by storm as to be no longer sea-worthy. The two officers, who had successively followed Loaisa and El Cano in command, had likewise perished. Of the 450 men who had sailed from Spain, but 120 now survived. These, under the leadership of Hernando de la Torre, threw up a fort on the island of Tidor, unable to go farther or to retire, and awaited hoped-for succor from Spain.

Relief came, not from the Peninsula, but from Mexico. Under the instructions of the Spanish king, in October, 1527, Cortes dispatched from Mexico a small expedition in charge of D. Alvaro de Saavedra. Swept rapidly by the equatorial trades, in a few months Saavedra had traversed the Carolines, reprovisioned on Mindanao, and reached the survivors on Tidor. Twice they attempted to return to New Spain, but strong trade winds blow without cessation north and south on either side of the equator for the space of more than twelve hundred miles, and the northern latitude of calms and prevailing westerly winds were not yet known.

Twice Saavedra beat his way eastward among the strange islands of Papua and Melanesia, only to be at last driven back upon Tidor and there to die. The survivors were forced to abandon the Moluccas. By surrendering to the Portuguese they were assisted to return to Europe by way of Malacca, Ceylon, and Africa, and they arrived at Lisbon in 1536, the survivors of Loaisa’s expedition, having been gone from Spain eleven years.

The efforts of the Spanish crown to obtain possession of the Spice Islands, the Celebes and Moluccas, with their coveted products of nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper, were for the time being ended. By the Treaty of Zaragoza (1529) the Emperor, Charles V., for the sum of three hundred and fifty thousand gold ducats, renounced all claim to the Moluccas. For thirteen years the provisions of this treaty were respected by the Spaniards, and then another attempt was made to obtain a foothold in the East Indies.

The Second Expedition to the Philippines.—The facts that disaster had overwhelmed so many, that two oceans must be crossed, and that no sailing-route from Asia back to America was known, did not deter the Spaniards from their perilous conquests; and in 1542 another expedition sailed from Mexico, under command of Lopez de Villalobos, to explore the Philippines and if possible to reach China.

Across the Pacific they made a safe and pleasant voyage. In the warm waters of the Pacific they sailed among those wonderful coral atolls, rings of low shore, decked with palms, grouped in beautiful archipelagoes, whose appearance has never failed to delight the navigator, and whose composition is one of the most interesting subjects known to students of the earth’s structure and history. Some of these coral islands Villalobos took possession of in the name of Spain. These were perhaps the Pelew Islands or the Carolines.

At last Villalobos reached the east coast of Mindanao, but after some deaths and sickness they sailed again and were carried south by the monsoon to the little island of Sarangani, south of the southern peninsula of Mindanao. The natives were hostile, but the Spaniards drove them from their stronghold and made some captures of musk, amber, oil, and gold-dust. In need of provisions, they planted the maize, or Indian corn, the wonderful cereal of America, which yields so bounteously, and so soon after planting. Food was greatly needed by the Spaniards and was very difficult to obtain.

The Naming of the Islands.—Villalobos equipped a small vessel and sent it northward to try to reach Cebu. This vessel reached the coast of Samar. Villalobos gave to the island the name of Filipina, in honor of the Spanish Infante, or heir apparent, Philip, who was soon to succeed his father Charles V. as King Philip the Second of Spain. Later in his correspondence with the Portuguese Villalobos speaks of the archipelago as Las Filipinas. Although for many years the title of the Islas del Poniente continued in use, Villalobos’ name of Filipinas gradually gained place and has lived.

The End of the Expedition.—While on Sarangani demands were made by the Portuguese, who claimed that Mindanao belonged with the Celebes, that the Spaniards should leave. Driven from Mindanao by lack of food and hostility of the natives, Villalobos was blown southward by storms to Gilolo. Here, after long negotiations, the Portuguese compelled him to surrender. The survivors of the expedition dispersed, some remaining in the Indies, and some eventually reaching Spain; but Villalobos, overwhelmed by discouragement, died on the island of Amboyna. The priest who ministered to him in his last hours was the famous Jesuit missionary to the Indies, Saint Francis Xavier.

Twenty-three years were to elapse after the sailing of Villalobos’ fleet before another Spanish expedition should reach the Philippines. The year 1565 dates the permanent occupation of the archipelago by the Spanish.

Increase in Political Power of the Church.—Under Philip the Second, the champion of ecclesiasticism, the Spanish crown cemented the union of the monarchy with the church and devoted the resources of the empire, not only to colonial acquisition, but to combating the Protestant revolution on the one hand and heathenism on the other. The Spanish king effected so close a union of the church and state in Spain, that from this time on churchmen rose higher and higher in the Spanish councils, and profoundly influenced the policy and fate of the nation. The policy of Philip the Second, however, brought upon Spain the revolt of the Dutch Lowlands and the wars with England, and her struggle with these two nations drained her resources both on land and sea, and occasioned a physical and moral decline. But while Spain was constantly losing power and prestige in Europe, the king was extending his colonial domain, lending royal aid to the ambitious adventurer and to the ardent missionary friar. Spain’s object being to christianize as well as to conquer, the missionary became a very important figure in the history of every colonial enterprise, and these great orders to whom missions were intrusted thus became the central institutions in the history of the Philippines.

The Rise of Monasticism.—Monasticism was introduced into Europe from the East at the very commencement of the Middle Ages. The fundamental idea of the old monasticism was retirement from human society in the belief that the world was bad and could not be bettered, and that men could lead holier lives and better please God by forsaking secular employments and family relations, and devoting all their attention to purifying their characters. The first monastic order in Europe were the Benedictines, organized in the seventh century, whose rule and organization were the pattern for those that followed.

The clergy of the church were divided thus into two groups,—first, the parish priests, or ministers, who lived among the people over whom they exercised the care of souls, and who, because they were of the people themselves and lived their lives in association with the community, were known as the “secular clergy,” and second, the monks, or “regular clergy,” were so called because they lived under the “rule” of their order.

In the early part of the thirteenth century monasticism, which had waned somewhat during the preceding two centuries, received a new impetus and inspiration from the organization of new orders known as brethren or “Friars.” The idea underlying their organization was noble, and above that of the old monasticism; for it was the idea of service, of ministry both to the hearts and bodies of depressed and suffering men.

The Dominicans.—The Order of Dominicans was organized by Saint Dominic, an Italian, about 1215. The primary object of its members was to defend the doctrines of the Church and, by teaching and preaching, destroy the doubts and protests which in the thirteenth century were beginning to disturb the claims of the Catholic Church and the Papacy. The Dominican friars did not live in communities, but traveled about, humbly clad, preaching in the villages and towns, and seeking to expose and punish the heretic. The mediæval universities, through their study of philosophy and the Roman law,were producing a class of men disposed to hold opinions contrary to the teachings of the Church. The Dominicans realized the importance of these great centers of instruction and entered them as teachers and masters, and by the beginning of the fifteenth century had made them strongholds of conservatism and orthodoxy.

The Franciscans.—A few years after this organization, the Order of Franciscans was founded by Saint Francis of Assisi, of Spain. The aims of this order were not only to preach and administer the sacraments, but to nurse the sick, provide for the destitute, and alleviate the dreadful misery which affected whole classes in the Middle Ages. They took vows of absolute poverty, and so humble was the garb prescribed by their rule that they went barefooted from place to place.

The Augustinian Order was founded by Pope Alexander IV., in 1265, and still other orders came later.

The Degeneration of the Orders.—Without doubt the early ministrations of these friars were productive of great good both on the religious and humanitarian sides. But, as the orders became wealthy, the friars lost their spirituality and their lives grew vicious. By the beginning of the sixteenth century the administration of the Church throughout Europe had become so corrupt, the economic burden of the religious orders so great, and religious teaching and belief so material, that the best and noblest minds in all countries were agitating for reform.

The Reformation.—In addition to changes in church administration, many Christians were demanding a greater freedom of religious thinking and radical changes in the Church doctrine which had taken form in the Middle Ages. Thus, while all the best minds in the Church were united in seeking a reformation of character and of administration, great differences arose between them as to the possibility of change in Church doctrines. These differences accordingly separated them into two parties, the Papacy adhering strongly to the doctrine as it was then accepted, while various leaders in the north of Europe, including Martin Luther in Germany, Swingli in Switzerland, and John Calvin in France and Geneva, broke with the authority of the Pope and declared for a liberation of the individual conscience.

Upon the side of the Papacy, the Emperor Charles the Fifth threw the weight of the Spanish monarchy, and to enforce the Papal authority he attacked the German princes by force of arms. The result was a great revolt from the Roman Catholic Church, which spread all over northern Germany, a large portion of Switzerland, the lowlands of the Rhine, and England, and which included a numerous and very influential element among the French people. These countries, with the exception of France, have remained Protestant to the present day; and the great expansion of the English people in America and the East has established Protestantism in all parts of the world.

Effects of the Reformation in the Roman Catholic Church.—The reform movement, which lasted through the century, brought about a great improvement in the Roman Catholic Church. Many, who remained devoted to Roman Catholic orthodoxy, were zealous for administrative reform. A great assembly of Churchmen, the Council of Trent, for years devoted itself to legislation to correct abuses. The Inquisition was revived and put into force against Protestants, especially in the dominions of Spain, and the religious orders were reformed and stimulated to new sacrifices and great undertakings.

But greater, perhaps, than any of these agencies in re-establishing the power of the Pope and reviving the life of the Roman Catholic Church was the organization of a new order, the “Society of Jesus.” The founder was a Spaniard, Ignatius Loyola, The Jesuits devoted themselves especially to education and missionary activity. Their schools soon covered Europe, while their mission stations were to be found in both North and South America, India, the East Indies, China, and Japan.

The Spanish Missionary.—The Roman Catholic Church, having lost a large part of Europe, thus strove to make up the loss by gaining converts in heathen lands. Spain, being the power most rapidly advancing her conquests abroad, was the source of the most tireless missionary effort. From the time of Columbus, every fleet that sailed to gain plunder and lands for the Spanish kingdom carried bands of friars and churchmen to convert to Christianity the heathen peoples whom the sword of the soldier should reduce to obedience.

“The Laws of the Indies” gave special power and prominence to the priest. In these early days of Spain’s colonial empire many priests were men of piety, learning, and unselfish devotion. Their efforts softened somewhat the violence and brutality that often marred the Spanish treatment of the native, and they became the civilizing agents among the peoples whom the Spanish soldiers had conquered.

In Paraguay, California, and the Philippines the power and importance of the Spanish missionary outweighed that of the soldier or governor in the settlement of those countries and the control of the native inhabitants. Churchmen, full of the missionary spirit, pressed upon the king the duties of the crown in advancing the cross, and more than one country was opened to Spanish settlement through the enthusiasm of the priest.


Conquest and Settlement by the Spaniards in the Philippines, 1565–1590


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