Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Scourge of Spain

The crucial point in the history of the Moros came in 1619 when Sultan Dipatuan Muhammad Qudarat ascended the throne of the Maguindanao sultanate. During his reign, the sultanate achieved power and fame unparalleled in the entire history of Mindanao and Sulu. He was gifted with the exquisite qualities of a great leader. He was intelligent, religious, decisive, kind, and just. Holding Spain at bay for half a century and outlasting at least eight governor generals," he was regarded as "providentially created to punish the bad Spaniards." The natives in the Spanish-held territories were ready to do whatever Spain wanted them except "to take up arms against Qudarat." Spain considered him as the single greatest obstacle in the efforts to subjugate the whole of Mindanao. Qudarat's sphere of power and influence, aside from his traditional dominion over the whole of Cotabato, Lanao, Davao, Misamis', Bukidnon and Zamboanga, was so extensive that he was able to collect tributes from the seafaring inhabitants of the coast of Borneo and some areas of Basilan and the Visayas. During his time, the Maguindanao sultanate achieved its golden age.
In view of this awesome situation in the northern islands caused by the Moros under Sultan Qudarat, the Spanish Crown decided to shift the battle arena to Mindanao. Mindanao was ordered to be pacified at all cost. This was in response to the series of victories inflicted by the Moro raiders. In fewer than thirty years, no less than 20,000 persons were taken captive by the Moro marauders and sold to the markets of Batavia, Ternate, Amboina, Makassar, Java and Madras.
.The task of pacifying Mindanao fell on Gov. Gen. Hurtado de Corcuera in 1635. On March 13, 1637, Corcuera left Zamboanga and landed at Lamitan 13 and started the assault immediately. Initially he encountered minor oppositions, but as he and 800 soldiers kept pressing inland and towards the heavily fortified capital, fighting intensified, causing wanton sacrifice of lives. Qudarat himself was wounded and was on the verge of capture, but owing to some "magical powers" attributed to him he was able to slip past the ranks of the Spaniards. One of his wives, holding an infant, threw herself into a cliff to avoid becoming a captive. Lamitan was razed to the ground. Sultan Qudarat lost eight bronze cannons, 27 lantakas (small brass cannon) and 100 muskets, in addition to heavy casualties including 27 followers whose heads were propped up on spikes.
This brief victory of Spain over Qudarat became the origin of the Moro-Moro, a blood-and-thunder play in which the Christians always emerged victorious over the Moros. Since that time the play has become an integral part of all Filipino folk and religious festivals. Corcuera became an instant hero and his return to Manila amidst pompous and colorful preparations, occasioned unending jubilations over the Spanish victory.
The defeat of Qudarat at Lamitan did not weaken his resolve to drive out the Spaniards. To him, this was only temporary and no more than "a year's harvest." In the meantime, he took refuge at the Lake Lanao region, and it was here that he delivered his most famous speech, exhorting the Maranao datus and sultans to carry on the fight:
You men of the lake, forgetting your ancient liberty, have submitted to the Castillians. Submission is sheer stupidity.
You cannot realize to what your surrender binds you. You are selling yourselves to toil for the benefit of these foreigners.
Look at the regions that have already submitted to them. Note how abject is the state to which their people are reduced. Behold the condition of the Tagalogs and of the Visayas whose chiefs are trampled upon by the meanest Castillians. If you are no better in spirit than them, then you must expect similar treatment. You, like them, will be obliged to row the galleys. Just as they do, you will have to toil at the ship-building and labor without ceasing on the other public works. You can see for yourselves that you will experience the hardest treatment thus employed.
Be men, let me aid you to resist. All the strength of my sultanate, I promise you, shall be in your defence.
What matters if the Castillians at first are successful? That means only the loss of a year's harvest. Do you think that is too dear a price to pay for liberty?"
The exhortation found its mark and the lake Moros were back into fighting form and shortly after they attacked and succeeded in capturing the Spanish fort and set it ablaze. The garrison was evacuated and the Spaniards did not return until after two centuries.
Barely a year after his victory over Sultan Qudarat, Gov. Gen. Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera led the invasion of Sulu. On January 4, 1638, 500 Spaniards and 1,000 native allies landed in Sulu. Committed to defend Jolo, the Sulu capital, were warriors who numbered 4,000 including allies from Borneo and Makassar. The confrontation started immediately, and after more than three months of continued fighting, neither side could claim victory. Both suffered heavy losses. On the side of the attackers, five of their finest officers were slain, including an undetermined number of their men. In the end, the conclusion was a negotiated settlement. Sultan, Bongsu agreed to the truce, considering the hopeless situation facing his defenders. They were struck by epidemics, possibly cholera or dysentery.
Qudarat, after a decade, succeeded in 1637 to extend his political sway to almost the whole of Mindanao. This time, even the northern part including Caraga was under his sphere of influence. Sultan Qudarat declared jihad against Spain and invited the rulers of Brunei, Sulu, Ternate and Makassar to unite and join forces with his sultanate in defence of Islam. In response, all succeeding wars with Spain witnessed Borneans, Ternatans, Makassars, and Sulus rallying together for the cause. Thenceforth all expeditions against his sultanate ended in failure. Qudarat died of old age of 90 in 1671.
In the intervening years. from 1663 up to the next half a century, first, in the face of the Dutch victories in the Moluccas and the resultant threat to Manila and, second, by the Koxinga's impending invasion threat, the Spanish Crown found it most imperative to consolidate home defences. Spanish troops serving in the various Mindanao garrisons were recalled to Manila. The main fort in Zamboanga was also abandoned. And as a tactical move, they again negotiated treaties with the sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, obviously to neutralize the Moros while the dangers were still there.
Throughout this period, there was general peace in Mindanao and Sulu and the few remaining missions, such as Caraga and Dapitan, were left unmolested. The prevailing peace also allowed the Maguindanao and Sulu sultanates to consolidate their control over the areas they earlier held and to resume commercial activities with their Malay neighbors, as well as with the Dutch and the English.

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