The Philippines Three Hundred Years Ago


The Philippines Three Hundred Years Ago

The Philippines Three Hundred Years Ago


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







The Philippines Three Hundred Years Ago

Condition of the Archipelago at the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century.—The Spanish Rule Completely Established.—At the close of the sixteenth century the Spaniards had been in possession of the Philippines for a generation. In these thirty-five years the most striking of all the results of the long period of Spanish occupation were accomplished. The work of these first soldiers and missionaries established the limits and character of Spanish rule as it was to remain for 250 years. Into this first third of a century the Spaniard crowded all his heroic feats of arms, exploration, and conversion. Thereafter, down to 1850, new fields were explored, and only a few new tribes Christianized.

The survey of the archipelago given by Morga soon after 1600 reads like a narrative of approximately modern conditions. It reveals to us how great had been the activities of the early Spaniard and how small the achievements of his countrymen after the seventeenth century began. All of the large islands, except Paragua and the Moro country, were, in that day, under encomiendas, their inhabitants paying tributes and for the most part professing the Catholic faith.

The smaller groups and islets were almost as thoroughly exploited. Even of the little Catanduanes, lying off the Pacific coast of Luzon, Morga could say, “They are well populated with natives,—a good race, all encomended to Spaniards, with doctrine and churches, and an alcalde-mayor, who does justice among them.”



He says of the Babuyanes at the extreme north of the archipelago, “They are not encomended, nor is tribute collected among them, nor are there Spaniards among them, because they are of little reason and politeness, and there have neither been Christians made among them, nor have they justices.” They continued in this condition until a few years before the end of Spanish rule. In 1591, however, the Babuyanes had been given in encomienda to Esteban de la Serna and Francisco Castillo. They are put as having two thousand inhabitants and five hundred “tributantes,” but all unsubdued (“todos alçados”).

On some islands the hold of the Spaniards was more extensive in Morga’s day than at a later time. Then the island of Mindoro was regarded as important, and in the early years and decades of Spanish power appears to have been populous along the coasts. Later it was desolated by the Moro pirates and long remained wild and almost uninhabited except by a shifting population from the mainland of Luzon.

The Encomiendas.—The first vessels that followed the expedition of Legaspi had brought orders from the king that the Islands should be settled, and divided in encomiendas to those who had conquered and won them. On this instruction, Legaspi had given the Filipinos in encomienda to his captains and soldiers as fast as the conquest proceeded.

We are fortunate to have a review of these encomiendas, made in 1591, about twenty-five years after the system was introduced into the Islands. There were then 267 encomiendas in the Philippines, of which thirty-one were of the king, and the remainder of private persons.

Population under the Encomiendas.—From the enumeration of these encomiendas, we learn that the most populous parts of the archipelago were La Laguna, with 24,000 tributantes and 97,000 inhabitants, and the Camarines, which included all the Bicol territory, and the Catanduanes, where there were 21,670 tributantes and a population of over 86,000, In the vicinity of Manila and Tondo, which included Cavite and Marigondon, the south shore of the bay, and Pasig and Taguig, there were collected 9,410 tributes, and the population was estimated at about 30,000. In Ilocos were reported 17,130 tributes and 78,520 souls.

The entire valley of the Cagayan had been divided among the soldiers of the command which had effected the conquest. In the list of encomiendas a few can be recognized, such as Yguig and Tuguegarao, but most of the names are not to be found on maps of to-day. Most of the inhabitants were reported to be “rebellious” (alçados), and some were apparently the same wild tribes which still occupy all of this water-shed, except the very banks of the river; but none the less had the Spaniards divided them off into “repartimientos.” One soldier had even taken as an encomienda the inhabitants of the upper waters of the river, a region which is called in the Relacion “Pugao,” with little doubt the habitat of the same Igorrote tribe as the Ipugao, who still dwell in these mountains. The upper valley of the Magat, or Nueva Vizcaya, does not appear to have been occupied and probably was not until the missions of the eighteenth century.

The population among the Bisayan islands was quite surprisingly small, considering its present proportions. Masbate, for example, had but 1,600 souls; Burias, a like number; the whole central group, leaving out Panay, only 15,833 tributes, or about 35,000 souls. There was a single encomienda in Butúan, Mindanao, and another on the Caraga coast. There were a thousand tributes collected in the encomienda of Cuyo, and fifteen hundred in Calamianes, which, says the Relacion, included “los negrillos,” probably the mixed Negrito population of northern Palawan.

The entire population under encomiendas is set down as 166,903 tributes, or 667,612 souls. This is, so far as known, the earliest enumeration of the population of the Philippines. Barring the Igorrotes of northern Luzon and the Moros and other tribes of Mindanao, it is a fair estimate of the number of the Filipino people three hundred years ago.

It will be noticed that the numbers assigned to single encomenderos in the Philippines were large. In America the number was limited. As early as 1512, King Ferdinand had forbidden any single person, of whatever rank or grade, to hold more than three hundred Indians on one island. But in the Philippines, a thousand or twelve hundred “tributantes” were frequently held by a single Spaniard.

Condition of the Filipinos under the Encomiendas.—Frequent Revolts.—That the Filipinos on many of these islands bitterly resented their condition is evidenced by the frequent uprisings and rebellions. The encomenderos were often extortionate and cruel, and absolutely heedless of the restrictions and obligations imposed upon them by the Laws of the Indies. Occasionally a new governor,under the first impulse of instructions from Mexico or Spain, did something to correct abuses. Revolts were almost continuous during the year 1583, and the condition of the natives very bad, many encomenderos regarding them and treating them almost as slaves, and keeping them at labor to the destruction of their own crops and the misery of their families. Gov. Santiago de Vera reached the Islands the following year and made a characteristic attempt to improve the system, which is thus related by Zuñiga:—

“As soon as he had taken possession of the government, he studied to put into effect the orders which he brought from the king, to punish certain encomenderos, who had abused the favor they had received in being given encomiendas, whereby he deposed Bartolomé de Ledesma, encomendero of Abuyo (Leyte), and others of those most culpable, and punished the others in proportion to the offenses which they had committed, and which had been proven.

“In the following year of 1585, he sent Juan de Morones and Pablo de Lima, with a well equipped squadron, to the Moluccas, which adventure was as unfortunate as those that had preceded it, and they returned to Manila without having been able to take the fortress of Ternate. The governor felt it very deeply that the expedition had failed, and wished to send another armada in accordance with the orders which the king had given him; but he could not execute this because the troops from New Spain did not arrive, and because of the Indians, who lost no occasion which presented itself to shake off the yoke of the Spaniards.

“The Pampangos and many inhabitants of Manila confederated with the Moros of Borneo, who had come for trade, and plotted to enter the city by night, set it on fire, and, in the confusion of the conflagration, slay all the Spaniards. This conspiracy was discovered through an Indian woman, who was married to a Spanish soldier, and measures to meet the conspiracy were taken, before the mine exploded, many being seized and suffering exemplary punishment.

“The islands of Samar, Ybabao, and Leyte were also in disturbance, and the encomendero of Dagami, pueblo of Leyte, was in peril of losing his life, because the Indians were incensed by his thievings in the collection of tribute, which was paid in wax, and which he compelled them to have weighed with a steelyard which he had made double the legal amount, and wanted to kill him. They would have done so if he had not escaped into the mountains and afterwards passed by a banca to the island of Cebu. The governor sent Captain Lorenzo de la Mota to pacify these disturbances; he made some punishments, and with these everything quieted down.”

Three years later, however, the natives of Leyte were again in revolt. In 1589 Cagayan rose and killed many Spaniards. The revolt seems to have spread from here to the town of Dingras, Ilocos, where the natives rose against the collectors of tribute, and slew six Spaniards of the pueblo of Fernandina. (Zuñiga, Historia de Filipinas, p. 165.)

Effects of the Spanish Government.—The Spanish occupation had brought ruin and misery to some parts of the country. Salazar describes with bitterness the evil condition of the Filipinos. In the rich fields of Bulacan and Pampanga, great gangs of laborers had been impressed, felling the forests for the construction of the Spanish fleets and manning these fleets at the oars, on voyages which took them for four and six months from their homes. The governor, Don Gonzalez de Ronquillo, had forced many Indians of Pampanga into the mines of Ilocos, taking them from the sowing of their rice. Many had died in the mines and the rest returned so enfeebled that they could not plant. Hunger and famine had descended upon Pampanga, and on the encomienda of Guido de Lavazares over a thousand had died from starvation.

The Taxes.—The taxes were another source of abuse. Theoretically, the tax upon Indians was limited to the “tributo,” the sum of eight reales (about one dollar) yearly from the heads of all families, payable either in gold or in produce of the district. But in fixing the prices of these commodities there was much extortion, the encomenderos delaying the collection of the tribute until the season of scarcity, when prices were high, but insisting then on the same amount as at harvest-time.

The principal, who occupied the place of the former dato, or “maharlica,” like the gobernadorcillo of recent times, was responsible for the collecting of the tribute, and his lot seems to have been a hard one. “If they do not give as much as they ask, or do not pay for as many Indians as they say there are, they abuse the poor principal, or throw him into the pillory (cepo de cabeza), because all the encomenderos, when they go to make collections, take their pillories with them, and there they keep him and torment him, until forced to give all they ask. They are even said to take the wife and daughter of the principal, when he can not be found. “Many are the principales who have died under these torments, according to reports.”

Salazar further states that he has known natives to be sold into slavery, in default of tribute. Neither did they impose upon adults alone, but “they collect tribute from infants, the aged and the slaves, and many do not marry because of the tribute, and others slay their children.”

Scarcity of Food.—Salazar further charges that the alcaldes mayores (the alcaldes of provinces), sixteen in number, were all corrupt, and, though their salaries were small, they accumulated fortunes. For further enumeration of economic ills, Salazar details how prices had evilly increased. In the first years of Spanish occupation, food was abundant. There was no lack of rice, beans, chickens, pigs, venison, buffalo, fish, cocoanuts, bananas, and other fruits, wine and honey; and a little money bought much. A hundred gantas (about three hundred pints) of rice could then be bought for a toston (a Portuguese coin, worth about a half-peso), eight to sixteen fowls for a like amount, a fat pig for from four to six reales. In the year of his writing (about 1583), products were scarce and prices exorbitant. Rice had doubled, chickens were worth a real, a good pig six to eight pesos. Population had decreased, and whole towns were deserted, their inhabitants having fled into the hills.

General Improvement under Spanish Rule.—This is one side of the picture. It probably is overdrawn by the bishop, who was jealous of the civil authority and who began the first of those continuous clashes between the church and political power in the Philippines. Doubtless if we could see the whole character of Spanish rule in these decades, we should see that the actual condition of the Filipino had improved and his grade of culture had arisen. No one can estimate the actual good that comes to a people in being brought under the power of a government able to maintain peace and dispense justice. Taxation is sometimes grievous, corruption without excuse; but almost anything is better than anarchy.

Before the coming of the Spaniards, it seems unquestionable that the Filipinos suffered greatly under two terrible grievances that inflict barbarous society,—in the first place, warfare, with its murder, pillage, and destruction, not merely between tribe and tribe, but between town and town, such as even now prevails in the wild mountains of northern Luzon, among the primitive Malayan tribes; and in the second place, the weak and poor man was at the mercy of the strong and rich.

The establishment of Spanish sovereignty had certainly mitigated, if it did not wholly remedy, these conditions. “All of these provinces,” Morga could write, “are pacified and are governed from Manila, having alcaldes mayores, corregidors, and lieutenants, each one of whom governs in his district or province and dispenses justice. The chieftains (principales), who formerly held the other natives in subjection, no longer have power over them in the manner which they tyrannically employed, which is not the least benefit these natives have received in escaping from such slavery.”

Old Social Order of the Filipinos but Little Disturbed.—Some governors seem to have done their utmost to improve the condition of the people and to govern them well. Santiago de Vera, as we have seen, even went so far as to commission the worthy priest, Padre Juan de Plasencia, to investigate the customs and social organization of the Filipinos, and to prepare an account of their laws, that they might be more suitably governed. This brief code—for so it is—was distributed to alcaldes, judges, and encomenderos, with orders to pattern their decisions in accordance with Filipino custom.

In ordering local affairs, the Spaniards to some extent left the old social order of the Filipinos undisturbed. The several social classes were gradually suppressed, and at the head of each barrio, or small settlement, was appointed a head, or cabeza de barangay. As these barangays were grouped into pueblos, or towns, the former datos were appointed captains and gobernadorcillos.

The Payment of Tribute.—The tribute was introduced in 1570. It was supposed to be eight reales or a peso of silver for each family. Children under sixteen and those over sixty were exempt. In 1590 the amount was raised to ten reales. To this was added a real for the church, known as “sanctorum,” and, on the organization of the towns, a real for the caja de communidad or municipal treasury. Under the encomiendas the tribute was paid to the encomenderos, except on the royal encomiendas; but after two or three generations, as the encomiendas were suppressed, these collections went directly to the insular treasury. There was, in addition to the tribute, a compulsory service of labor on roads, bridges, and public works, known as the “corvee,” a feudal term, or perhaps more generally as the “polos y servicios.” Those discharging this enforced labor were called “polistas.”

Conversion of the Filipinos to Christianity.—The population had been very rapidly Christianized. All accounts agree that almost no difficulty was encountered in baptizing the more advanced tribes. “There is not in these islands a province,” says Morga, “which resists conversion and does not desire it.” Indeed, the Islands seem to have been ripe for the preaching of a higher faith, either Christian or Mohammedan. For a time these two great religions struggled together in the vicinity of Manila, but at the end of three decades Spanish power and religion were alike established. Conversion was delayed ordinarily only by the lack of sufficient numbers of priests. We have seen that this conversion of the people was the work of the missionary friars. In 1591 there were 140 in the Islands, but theRelacion de Encomiendas calls for 160 more to properly supply the peoples which had been laid under tribute.

Coming of the Friars.—The Augustinians had been the first to come, accompanying Legaspi. Then came the barefooted friars of the Order of Saint Francis. The first Jesuits, padres Antonio Sedeño and Alonzo Sanchez, came with the first bishop of the Islands, Domingo de Salazar, in 1580. They came apparently without resources. Even their garments brought from Mexico had rotted on the voyage. They found a little, poor, narrow house in a suburb of Manila, called Laguio (probably Concepcion). “So poorly furnished was it,” says Chirino, “that the same chest which held their books was the table on which they ate. Their food for many days was rice, cooked in water, without salt or oil or fish or meat or even an egg, or anything else except that sometimes as a regalo they enjoyed some salt sardines.” After the Jesuits, came, as we have seen, the friars of the Dominican order, and lastly the Recollects, or unshod Augustinians.

Division of the Archipelago among the Religious Orders.—The archipelago was districted among these missionary bands. The Augustinians had many parishes in the Bisayas, on the Ilocano coast, some in Pangasinan, and all of those in Pampanga. The Dominicans had parts of Pangasinan and all of the valley of Cagayan. The Franciscans controlled the Camarines and nearly all of southern Luzon, and the region of Laguna de Bay. All of these orders had convents and monasteries both in the city of Manila and in the country round about. The imposing churches of brick and stone, which now characterize nearly every pueblo, had not in those early decades been erected; but Morga tells us that “the churches and monasteries were of wood, and well built, with furniture and beautiful ornaments, complete service, crosses, candlesticks, and chalices of silver and gold.”

The First Schools.—Even in these early years there seem to have been some attempts at the education of the natives. The friars had schools in reading and writing for boys, who were also taught to serve in the church, to sing, to play the organ, the harp, guitar, and other instruments. We must remember, however, that the Filipino before the arrival of the Spaniard had a written language, and even in pre-Spanish times there must have been instruction given to the child. The type of humble school, that is found to-day in remote barrios, conducted by an old man or woman, on the floor or in the yard of a home, where the ordinary family occupations are proceeding, probably does not owe its origin to the Spaniards, but dates from a period before their arrival. The higher education established by the Spaniards appears to have been exclusively for the children of Spaniards. In 1601 the Jesuits, pioneers of the Roman Catholic orders in education, established the College of San José.

Establishment of Hospitals.—The city early had notable foundations of charity. The high mortality which visited the Spaniards in these islands and the frequency of diseases early called for the establishment of institutions for the orphan and the invalid. In Morga’s time there were the orphanages of San Andres and Santa Potenciana. There was the Royal Hospital, in charge of three Franciscans, which burned in the conflagration of 1603, but was reconstructed. There was also a Hospital of Mercy, in charge of Sisters of Charity from Lisbon and the Portuguese possessions of India.

Close by the Monastery of Saint Francis stood then, where it stands to-day, the hospital for natives, San Juan de Dios. It was of royal patronage, but founded by a friar of the Franciscan order, Juan Clemente. “Here,” says Morga, “are cured a great number of natives of all kinds of sicknesses, with much charity and care. It has a good house and offices of stone, and is administered by the barefooted religious of Saint Francis. Three priests are there and four lay-brethren of exemplary life, who, with the doctors, surgeons, and apothecaries, are so dexterous and skilled that they work with their hands marvelous cures, both in medicine and surgery.”

Mortality among the Spaniards.—Mortality in the Philippines in these years of conquest was frightfully high. The waste of life in her colonial adventures, indeed, drained Spain of her best and most vigorous manhood. In the famous old English collection of voyages, published by Hakluyt in 1598, there is printed a captured Spanish letter of the famous sea-captain, Sebastian Biscaino, on the Philippine trade. Biscaino grieves over the loss of life which had accompanied the conquest of the Philippines, and the treacherous climate of the tropics. “The country is very unwholesome for us Spaniards. For within these 20 years, of 14,000 which have gone to the Philippines, there are 13,000 of them dead, and not past 1,000 of them left alive.”

The Spanish Population.—The Spanish population of the Islands was always small,—at the beginning of the seventeenth century certainly not more than two thousand, and probably less later in the century. Morga divides them into five classes: the prelates and ecclesiastics; the encomenderos, colonizers, and conquerors; soldiers and officers of war and marine; merchants and men of business; and the officers of his Majesty’s government. “Very few are living now,” he says, “of those first conquistadores who won the land and effected the conquest with the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legaspi.”

The Largest Cities.—Most of this Spanish population dwelt in Manila or in the five other cities which the Spaniards had founded in the first three decades of their occupation. Those were as follows:—

The City of Nueva Segovia, at the mouth of the Cagayan, was founded in the governorship of Ronquillo, when the valley of the Cagayan was first occupied and the Japanese colonists, who had settled there, were expelled. It had at the beginning of the seventeenth century two hundred Spaniards, living in houses of wood. There was a fort of stone, where some artillery was mounted. Besides the two hundred Spanish inhabitants there were one hundred regular Spanish soldiers, with their officers and the alcalde mayor of the province. Nueva Segovia was also the seat of a bishopric which included all northern Luzon. The importance of the then promising city has long ago disappeared, and the pueblo of Lallo, which marks its site, is an insignificant native town.

The City of Nueva Caceres, in the Camarines, was founded by Governor La-Sande. It, too, was the seat of a bishopric, and had one hundred Spanish inhabitants.

The Cities of Cebu and Iloilo.—In the Bisayas were the Cities of the Holy Name of God (Cebu), and on the island of Panay, Arévalo (or Iloilo). The first maintained something of the importance attaching to the first Spanish settlement. It had its stone fort and was also the seat of a bishopric. It was visited by trading-vessels from the Moluccas, and by permit of the king enjoyed for a time the unusual privilege of sending annually a ship loaded with merchandise to New Spain. Arévalo had about eighty Spanish inhabitants, and a monastery of the Augustinians.

The City of Fernandina, or Vigan, which Salcedo had founded, was nearly without Spanish inhabitants. Still, it was the political center of the great Ilocano coast, and it has held this position to the present day.

Manila.—But all of these cities were far surpassed in importance by the capital on the banks of the Pasig. The wisdom of Legaspi’s choice had been more than justified. Manila, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, was unquestionably the most important European city of the East. As we have already seen, in 1580 Portugal had been annexed by Spain and with her had come all the Portuguese possessions in India, China, and Malaysia. After 1610, the Dutch were almost annually warring for this colonial empire, and Portugal regained her independence in 1640. But for the first few years of the seventeenth century, Manila was the political mistress of an empire that stretched from Goa to Formosa and embraced all those coveted lands which for a century and a half had been the desire of European states.

The governor of the Philippines was almost an independent king. Nominally, he was subordinate to the viceroy of Mexico, but practically he waged wars, concluded peaces, and received and sent embassies at his own discretion. The kingdom of Cambodia was his ally, and the states of China and Japan were his friends.

The Commercial Importance of Manila.—Manila was also the commercial center of the Far East, and the entrepôt through which the kingdoms of eastern Asia exchanged their wares. Here came great fleets of junks from China laden with stores. Morga fills nearly two pages with an enumeration of their merchandise, which included all manner of silks, brocades, furniture, pearls and gems, fruits, nuts, tame buffalo, geese, horses and mules, all kinds of animals, “even to birds in cages, some of which talk and others sing, and which they make perform a thousand tricks; there are innumerable other gew-gaws and knickknacks, which among Spaniards are in much esteem.”

Each year a fleet of thirty to forty vessels sailed with the new moon in March. The voyage across the China Sea, rough with the monsoons, occupied fifteen or twenty days, and the fleet returned at the end of May or the beginning of June. Between October and March there came, each year, Japanese ships from Nagasaki which brought wheat, silks, objects of art, and weapons, and took away from Manila the raw silk of China, gold, deer horns, woods, honey, wax, palm-wine, and wine of Castile.

From Malacca and India came fleets of the Portuguese subjects of Spain, with spices, slaves, Negroes and Kafirs, and the rich productions of Bengal, India, Persia, and Turkey. From Borneo, too, came the smaller craft of the Malays, who from their boats sold the fine palm mats, the best of which still come from Cagayan de Sulu and Borneo, slaves, sago, water-pots and glazed earthenware, black and fine. From Siam and Cambodia also, but less often, there came trading-ships. Manila was thus a great emporium for all the countries of the East, the trade of which seems to have been conducted largely by and through the merchants of Manila.

Trade with Mexico and Spain Restricted.—The commerce between the Philippines, and Mexico and Spain, though it was of vast importance, was limited by action of the crown. It was a commerce which apparently admitted of infinite expansion, but the shortsighted merchants and manufacturers of the Peninsula clamored against its development, and it was subjected to the severest limitations. Four galleons were at first maintained for this trade, which were dispatched two at a time in successive years from Manila to the port of Acapulco, Mexico. The letter on the Philippine trade, already quoted, states that these galleons were great ships of six hundred and eight hundred tons apiece. They went “very strong with soldiers,” and they carried the annual mail, reinforcements, and supplies of Mexican silver for trade with China, which has remained the commercial currency of the East to the present day. Later the number of galleons was reduced to one.

The Rich Cargoes of the Galleons.—The track of the Philippine galleon lay from Luzon northeastward to about the forty-second degree of latitude, where the westerly winds prevail, thence nearly straight across the ocean to Cape Mendocino in northern California, which was discovered and mapped by Biscaino in 1602. Thence the course lay down the western coast of North America nearly three thousand miles to the port of Acapulco.

We can imagine how carefully selected and rich in quality were the merchandises with which these solitary galleons were freighted, the pick of all the rich stores which came to Manila. The profits were enormous,—six and eight hundred per cent. Biscaino wrote that with two hundred ducats invested in Spanish wares and some Flemish commodities, he made fourteen hundred ducats; but, he added, in 1588 he lost a ship,—robbed and burned by Englishmen. On the safe arrival of these ships depended how much of the fortunes of the colony!

Capture of the Galleons.—For generations these galleons were probably the most tempting and romantic prize that ever aroused the cupidity of privateer. The first to profit by this rich booty was Thomas Cavendish, who in 1584 came through the Straits of Magellan with a fleet of five vessels. Like Drake before him, he ravaged the coast of South America and then steered straight away across the sea to the Moluccas. Here he acquired information about the rich commerce of the Philippines and of the yearly voyage of the galleon. Back across the Pacific went the fleet of Cavendish for the coast of California.


Capture of the Galleon “Cabadonga,” off the Coast of Samar.

(From a print in Anson’s Voyage Around the World.)

In his own narrative he tells how he beat up and down between Capes San Lucas and Mendocino until the galleon, heavy with her riches, appeared. She fell into his hands almost without a fray. She carried one hundred and twenty-two thousand pesos of gold and a great and rich store of satins, damask, and musk. Cavendish landed the Spanish on the California coast, burned the “Santa Anna,” and then returned to the Philippines and made an attack upon the shipyard of Iloilo, but was repulsed. He sent a letter to the governor at Manila, boasting of his capture, and then sailed for the Cape of Good Hope and home.

There is an old story that tells how his sea-worn ships came up the Thames, their masts hung with silk and damask sails. From this time on the venture was less safe. In 1588 there came to Spain the overwhelming disaster of her history,—the destruction of the Great Armada. From this date her power was gone, and her name was no longer a terror on the seas. English freebooters controlled the oceans, and in 1610 the Dutch appeared in the East, never to withdraw.

The City of Manila Three Hundred Years Ago.—We can hardly close this chapter without some further reference to the city of Manila as it appeared three hundred years ago. Morga has fortunately left us a detailed description from which the following points in the main are drawn. As we have already seen, Legaspi had laid out the city on the blackened site of the town and fortress of the Mohammedan prince, which had been destroyed in the struggle for occupation. He gave it the same extent and dimensions that it possesses to this day.

Like other colonial capitals in the Far East, it was primarily a citadel and refuge from attack. On the point between the sea and the river Legaspi had built the famous and permanent fortress of Santiago. In the time of the great Adelantado it was probably only a wooden stockade, but under the governor Santiago de Vera it was built up of stone. Cavendish (1587) describes Manila as “an unwalled town and of no great strength,” but under the improvements and completions made by Dasmariñas about 1590 it assumed much of its present appearance. Its guns thoroughly commanded the entrance to the river Pasig and made the approach of hostile boats from the harbor side impossible.

It is noteworthy, then, that all the assaults that have been made upon the city, from that of Limahong, to those of the British in 1763, and of the Americans in 1898, have been directed against the southern wall by an advance from Parañaque. Dasmariñas also inclosed the city with a stone wall, the base from which the present noble rampart has arisen. It had originally a width of from seven and a half to nine feet. Of its height no figure is given, Morga says simply that with its buttresses and turrets it was sufficiently high for the purposes of defense.

The Old Fort.—There was a stone fort on the south side facing Ermita, known as the Fortress of Our Lady of Guidance; and there were two or more bastions, each with six pieces of artillery,—St. Andrew’s, now a powder magazine at the southeast corner, and St. Gabriel’s, over-looking the Parian district, where the Chinese were settled.

The three principal gates to the city, with the smaller wickets and posterns, which opened on the river and sea, were regularly closed at night by the guard which made the rounds. At each gate and wicket was a permanent post of soldiers and artillerists.

The Plaza de Armas adjacent to the fort had its arsenal, stores, powder-works, and a foundry for the casting of guns and artillery. The foundry, when established by Ronquillo, was in charge of a Pampangan Indian called Pandapira.

The Spanish Buildings of the City.—The buildings of the city, especially the Casas Reales and the churches and monasteries, had been durably erected of stone. Chirino claims that the hewing of stone, the burning of lime, and the training of native and Chinese artisans for this building, were the work of the Jesuit father, Sedeño. He himself fashioned the first clay tiles and built the first stone house, and so urged and encouraged others, himself directing, the building of public works, that the city, which a little before had been solely of timber and cane, had become one of the best constructed and most beautiful in the Indies. He it was also who sought out Chinese painters and decorators and ornamented the churches with images and paintings.

Within the walls, there were some six hundred houses of a private nature, most of them built of stone and tile, and an equal number outside in the suburbs, or “arrabales,” all occupied by Spaniards (“todos son vivienda y poblacion de los Españoles”).

This gives some twelve hundred Spanish families or establishments, exclusive of the religious, who in Manila numbered at least one hundred and fifty, the garrison, at certain times, about four hundred trained Spanish soldiers who had seen service in Holland and the Low Countries, and the official classes.

The Malecon and the Luneta.—It is interesting at this early date to find mention of the famous recreation drive, the Paseo de Bagumbayan, now commonly known as the Malecon and Luneta. “Manila,” says our historian, “has two places of recreation on land; the one, which is clean and wide, extends from the point called Our Lady of Guidance for about a league along the sea, and through the street and village of natives, called Bagumbayan, to a very devout hermitage (Ermita), called the Hermitage of Our Lady of Guidance, and from there a good distance to a monastery and mission (doctrina) of the Augustinians, called Mahalat (Malate).” The other drive lay out through the present suburb of Concepcion, then called Laguio, to Paco, where was a monastery of the Franciscans.

The Chinese in Manila.—Early Chinese Commerce.—We have seen that even as long ago as three hundred years Manila was a metropolis of the Eastern world. Vessels from many lands dropped anchor at the mouth of the Pasig, and their merchants set up their booths within her markets. Slaves from far-distant India and Africa were sold under her walls. Surely it was a cosmopolitan population that the shifting monsoons carried to and from her gates.

But of all these Eastern races only one has been a constant and important factor in the life of the Islands. This is the Chinese. It does not appear that they settled in the country or materially affected the life of the Filipinos until the establishment of Manila by the Spaniards. The Spaniards were early desirous of cultivating friendly relations with the Empire of China. Salcedo, on his first punitive expedition to Mindoro, had found a Chinese junk, which had gone ashore on the western coast. He was careful to rescue these voyagers and return them to their own land, with a friendly message inviting trading relations. Commerce and immigration followed immediately the founding of the city.

The Chinese are without question the most remarkable colonizers in the world. They seem able to thrive in any climate. They readily marry with every race. The children that follow such unions are not only numerous but healthy and intelligent. The coasts of China teem with overcrowding populations. Emigration to almost any land means improvement of the Chinese of poor birth. These qualities and conditions, with their keen sense for trade and their indifference to physical hardship and danger, make the Chinese almost a dominant factor wherever political barriers have not been raised against their entrance.

The Chinese had early gained an important place in the commercial and industrial life of Manila. A letter to the king from Bishop Salazar shows that he befriended them and was warm in their praise.This was in 1590, and there were then in Manila and Tondo about seven thousand resident Chinese, and they were indispensable to the prosperity of the city.

Importance of Chinese Labor and Trade.—In the early decades of Spanish rule, the Philippines were poor in resources and the population was sparse, quite insufficient for the purposes of the Spanish colonizers. Thus the early development of the colony was based upon Chinese labor and Chinese trade. As the early writers are fond of emphasizing, from China came not only the finished silks and costly wares, which in large part were destined for the trade to New Spain and Europe, but also cattle, horses and mares, foodstuffs, metals, fruits, and even ink and paper. “And what is more,” says Chirino, “from China come those who supply every sort of service, all dexterous, prompt, and cheap, from physicians and barbers to burden-bearers and porters. They are the tailors and shoemakers, metal-workers, silversmiths, sculptors, locksmiths, painters, masons, weavers, and finally every kind of servitors in the commonwealth.”

Distrust of the Chinese.—In those days, not only were the Chinese artisans and traders, but they were also farmers and fishermen,—occupations in which they are now not often seen. But in spite of their economic necessity, the Chinese were always looked upon with disfavor and their presence with dread. Plots of murder and insurrection were supposedly rife among them. Writers object that their numbers were so great that there was no security in the land; their life was bad and vicious; through intercourse with them the natives advanced but little in Christianity and customs; they were such terrible eaters that they made foods scarce and prices high.

If permitted, they went everywhere through the Islands and committed a thousand abuses and offenses. They explored every spot, river, estero, and harbor, and knew the country better even than the Spaniard himself, so that if any enemy should come they would be able to cause infinite mischief. When we find so just and high-minded a man as the president of the Audiencia, Morga, giving voice to such charges, we may be sure that the feeling was deep and terrible, and practically universal among all Spanish inhabitants.

The First Massacre of the Chinese.—Each race feared and suspected the other, and from this mutual cowardice came in 1603 a cruel outbreak and massacre. Three Chinese mandarins arrived in that year, stating that they had been sent by the emperor to investigate a report that there was a mountain in Cavite of solid precious metal. This myth was no more absurd than many pursued by the Spaniards themselves in their early conquests, and it doubtless arose from the fact that Chinese wares were largely purchased by Mexican bullion; but the Spaniards were at once filled with suspicion of an invasion, and their distrust turned against the Chinese in the Islands.

How far these latter were actually plotting sedition and how far they were driven into attack by their fears at the conduct of the Spaniards can hardly be decided. But the fact is, that on the evening of Saint Francis day the Chinese of the Parian rose. The dragon banners were raised, war-gongs were beaten, and that night the pueblos of Quiapo and Tondo were burned and many Filipinos murdered.

In the morning a force of 130 Spaniards, under Don Luis Dasmariñas and Don Tomas Bravo, were sent across the river, and in the fight nearly every Spaniard was slain. The Chinese then assaulted the city, but, according to the tradition of the priests, they were driven back in terror by the apparition on the walls of Saint Francis. They threw up forts on the site of the Parian and in Dilao, but the power of their wild fury was gone and the Spaniards were able to dislodge and drive them into the country about San Pablo de Monte. From here they were dispersed with great slaughter. Twenty-three thousand Chinese are reported by Zuñiga to have perished in this sedition. If his report is true, the number of Chinese in the Islands must have increased very rapidly between 1590 and 1603.

Restriction of Chinese Immigration and Travel.—Commerce and immigration began again almost immediately. The number of Chinese, however, allowed to remain was reduced. The Chinese ships that came annually to trade were obliged to take back with them the crews and passengers which they brought. Only a limited number of merchants and artisans were permitted to live in the Islands. They were confined to three districts in the city of Manila, and to the great market, the Alcayceria or Parian.

The word “Parian” seems to have been also used for the Chinese quarter in and adjoining the walled city, but here is meant the district in Binondo about the present Calle San Fernando. A block of stores with small habitations above them had been built as early as the time of Gonsalez. It was in the form of a square, and here were the largest numbers of shops and stores.

They could not travel about the Islands, nor go two leagues from the city without a written license, nor remain over night within the city after the gates were closed, on penalty of their lives. They had their own alcalde and judge, a tribunal and jail; and on the north side of the river Dominican friars, who had learned the Chinese language, had erected a mission and hospital. There was a separate barrio for the baptized Chinese and their families, to the number of about five hundred.

The Chinese in the Philippines from the earliest time to the present have been known by the name of “Sangleyes.” The derivation of this curious word is uncertain; but Navarrete, who must have understood Chinese well, says that the word arose from a misapprehension of the words spoken by the Chinese who first presented themselves at Manila. “Being asked what they came for, they answered, ‘Xang Lei,’ that is, ‘We come to trade.’ The Spaniards, who understood not their language, conceiving it to be the name of a country, and putting the two words together, made one of them, by which they still distinguish the Chinese, calling them Sangleyes.”

The Japanese Colony.—There was also in those early years quite a colony of Japanese. Their community lay between the Parian and the barrio of Laguio. There were about five hundred, and among them the Franciscans claimed a goodly number of converts.

The Filipino District of Tondo.—We have described at some length the city south of the river and the surrounding suburbs, most of them known by the names they hold to-day. North of the Pasig was the great district of Tondo, the center of that strong, independent Filipino feeling which at an early date was colored with Mohammedanism and to this day is strong in local feeling. This region has thriven and built up until it has long been by far the most important and populous part of the metropolis, but not until very recent times was it regarded as a part of the city of Manila, which name was reserved for the walled citadel alone.

A bridge across the Pasig, on the site of the present Puente de España, connected the two districts at a date later than Morga’s time. It was one of the first things noticed by Navarrete, who, without describing it well, says it was very fine. It was built during the governorship of Niño de Tabora, who died in 1632. Montero states that it was of stone, and that this same bridge stood for more than two centuries, resisting the incessant traffic and the strength of floods.

The Decline of Manila during the Next Century.—Such was Manila thirty-five and forty years after its foundation. It was at the zenith of its importance, the capital of the eastern colonies, the mart of Asia, more splendid than Goa, more powerful than Malacca or Macao, more populous and far more securely held than Ternate and Tidor. “Truly,” exclaimed Chirino, “it is another Tyre, so magnified by Ezekiel.” It owed its great place to the genius and daring of the men who founded it, to the freedom of action which it had up to this point enjoyed, and to its superlative situation.

In the years that followed we have to recount for the most part only the process of decline. Spain herself was fast on the wane. A few years later and the English had almost driven her navies from the seas, the Portuguese had regained their independence and lost empire, the Dutch were in the East, harrying Portuguese and Spaniard alike and fast monopolizing the rich trade. The commerce and friendly relations with the Chinese, on which so much depended, were broken by massacre and reprisal; and, most terrible and piteous of all, the awful wrath and lust of the Malay pirate, for decade after decade, was to be visited upon the archipelago.

The colonial policy of the mother-land, selfish, shortsighted, and criminal, was soon to make its paralyzing influence felt upon trade and administration alike. These things were growing and taking place in the next period which we have to consider,—the years from 1600 to 1663. They left the Philippines despoiled and insignificant for a whole succeeding century, a decadent colony and an exploited treasure.


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