The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al
Public Domain Books
[Friars bulwark of Spanish rule.] If, therefore, it is the wish of the government to retain the subjection of this colony, and raise it to the high degree of prosperity of which it is susceptible, the first thing, in my opinion, that ought to be attended to is the good organization of its spiritual administration. On this subject we must not deceive ourselves. I again repeat, that as long as the local government, in consequence of the want of military forces, and owing to the scarcity of Europeans, does not in itself possess the means of insuring obedience, no other alternative remains. It is necessary to call in to its aid the powerful influence of religion, and to obtain from the Peninsula fresh supplies of missionaries. As in their nature the latter are essentially different from the other public functionaries, it is well known they neither seek nor aspire to any remuneration for their labors, their only hope being to obtain, in the opinion of the community at large, that degree of respect to which they justly consider themselves entitled. Let, therefore, their pre-eminences be retained to them: let them be treated with decorum; the care and direction of the Indians confided to their charge, and they always be found united in support of justice and the legitimate authority.
[Unwise to discredit priests.] Nothing is more unjust, and of nothing have the spiritual directors of the provinces so much reason to complain, than the little discernment with which they have sometimes been judged and condemned, by causing the misconduct of some of their individual members to affect the whole body. Hence is it that no one can read without shame and indignation, the insidious suggestions and allusions, derogatory to their character, contained in the Regulations of Government framed at Manila in the year 1758, and which although modified by orders of the king, are at the present moment still in force, owing to the want of others, and found in a printed form in the hands of every one. Granting that in some particular instances, real causes of complaint might have existed, yet in the end, what does it matter if here and there a religious character has abused the confidence reposed in him, as long as the spirit by which the generality of them are actuated, corresponds to the sanctity of their state, and is besides conformable to the views of government? Why should we be eternally running after an ideal of perfection which can never be met with? Nor, indeed, is this necessary in the present construction of society.
[Testimony in their behalf] If, however, any weight is to be attached to imposture with which, from personal motives, attempts have been made to obscure the truth, and prejudice the public mind against the regular clergy; or, if the just defense on which I have entered, should be attributed to partiality or visionary impressions, let the Archives of the Colonial Department be opened, and we shall there find the report drawn up by order of the king on November 26, 1804, by the governor of the Philippine Islands, Don Rafael Maria de Aguilar, with a view to convey information regarding the enquiries at that time instituted respecting the reduction of the inhabitants of the Island of Mindoro; a report extremely honorable to the regular clergy, and dictated by the experience that general had acquired during a period of more than twelve years he had governed. Therein also will be seen the answer to the consultation addressed to his successor in the command, Don Mariano Fernandez de Folgueras, under date of April 25, 1809, in which he most earnestly beseeches the king to endeavor, by every possible means, to send out religious missionaries; deploring the decline and want of order he had observed with his own eyes in the towns administered by native clergymen, and pointing out the urgent necessity of intrusting the spiritual government of these provinces to the dexterous management of the former. Testimonies of such weight are more than sufficient at once to refute the calumnies and contrary opinions put forth on this subject, and at the same time serve as irrefragable proofs of the scrupulous impartiality with which I have endeavored to discuss so delicate a matter.
In a general point of view, I have alluded to the erroneous system, which during the last few years has been pursued by the government with regard to the parish-curates employed in the interior, and also sufficiently pointed out the advantages reasonably to be expected if the government, acting on a different policy, or rather guided by other motives of state, instead of following the literal text of our Indian legislation, should come to the firm determination of indirectly divesting themselves of a small portion of their authority in favor of the religious laborers who are acting on the spot. Having said thus much, I shall proceed to such further details as are more immediately connected with the present chapter.
[Ecclesiastical Organization.] The ecclesiastical jurisdiction is exercised by the metropolitan archbishop of Manila, aided by the three suffragans of Nueva Segovia, Nueva Caceres and Cebu.
The archbishopric of Manila comprehends the provinces of Tondo, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Cavite, Laguna de Bay, Zambales, Batangas, and the Island of Mindoro.
The bishopric of Nueva Segovia comprehends the province of Pangasinan, the missions of Ituy and Paniqui, the provinces of Ilocos, Cagayan, and the missions of the Batanes Islands.
That of Nueva Caceres comprehends the provinces of Tayabas, Nueva Ecija, Camarines and Albay.
That of Cebu comprehends the Islands of Cebu and Bohol, Iloilo, Capiz and Antique, in the Island of Panay, the Islands of La Paragua, Negros and Samar, Misamis, Caraga and Zamboanga in that of Mindanao, and the Mariana Islands.
The archbishop has a salary of $5,000 and the bishops $4,000 each. The curacies exceed 500, and although all of them originally were in charge of persons belonging to the religious orders, owing to the expulsion of the Jesuits and the excessive scarcity of regular clergy, so many native priests have gradually been introduced among them, that, at present, nearly half the towns are under their direction. The rest are administered by the religious orders of St. Augustine, St. Dominic and St. Francis, in the following manner:
Towns. The Augustinians 88 The barefooted Augustinians (Recoletos) 52 The Dominicans 57 The Franciscans 96 Total 293
It ought, however, to be observed, that since the detailed statement was made out, from which the above extract has been taken, so many members of the religious orders have died, that it has been necessary to replace them in many towns with native clergymen, as a temporary expedient, and till new missionaries shall arrive from Spain.
[Dual supervision over friars.] The monastic curates are immediately subject to their provincial superior, in the character of friars but depend on the diocesan bishop in their quality of parish priests; and in like manner obey their own provincial vicars, as well as those of the bishop. They are alternately eligible to the dignities of their own order, and generally promoted, or relieved from their ministry, at the discretion of the provincial chapter, or according to the final determination of the vice-patron or bishop, affixed to the triple list presented to him. Besides the ordinary obligations attached to the care of souls, they are enjoined to assist at the elections of governors and other officers of justice, in their respective towns, in order to inform the chief magistrate respecting the aptitude of the persons proposed for election on the triple lists, and to point out the legal defects attributable to any of them. On this account, they are not, however, allowed to interfere in the smallest degree with any of these proceedings, and much less make a formal proposal, as most assuredly would be advisable if permitted so to do, in favor of any particular person or persons in their opinion fit for the discharge of the above mentioned duties. It is their obligation to ascertain the correctness of the tribute lists presented to them for their examination and signature by the chief of the clans, by carefully comparing them with the registers kept in their own department; and also to certify the general returns, without which requisite the statements transmitted by the chief magistrates to the accountant-general’s office are not admitted. Above all they are bound to affix their signatures to the effective payments made by the magistrate to their parishioners on account of daily labor, and to certify similarly the value of materials employed in public works. Besides the above, they are continually called upon to draw up circumstantial reports, or declarations, required by the superior tribunals; they receive frequent injunctions to co-operate in the increase of the king’s revenue and the encouragement of agriculture and industry; in a word, there is scarcely a thing to which their attention is not called, and to which it is not expected they should contribute by their influence, directly or indirectly.
[Allowances from treasury.] The royal treasury pays them an annual allowance equal to $180, in kind and money, for each five hundred tributes under their care, and this, added to the emoluments of the church, renders the total proceeds of a curacy generally equivalent to about from six to eight reals for each entire tribute; but from this allowance are to be deducted the expenses of coadjutors, subsistence, servants, horses, and all the other charges arising out of the administration of such wearisome duties; nor are the parishioners under any other obligation than to provide the churches with assistants, or sacristans and singers, and the curates with provisions at tariff prices.
[Need of more European clergy.] Finally, as from what has been above stated it would appear, that as many as five hundred religious persons are necessary for the spiritual administration of the interior towns and districts, besides the number requisite to do the duty and fill the dignities of the respective orders and convents in the capital, independent of which there ought to be a proportionate surplus, applicable to the progressive reduction of the infidel tribes inhabiting the uplands, as well as the preaching of the Gospel in China and Cochinchina, most assuredly, it would be expedient to assemble and keep together a body of no less than seven hundred persons, if it is the wish of the government, on a tolerable scale, to provide for the wants of these remote missions. At the present moment the number does not exceed three hundred, including superannuated, exempt from service, and lay-brothers, whilst the native clergymen in effective possession of curacies, and including substitutes, coadjutors and weekly preachers, exceed one thousand. And as the latter, in general unworthy of the priesthood, are rather injurious than really serviceable to the state, it should not be deemed unjust if they were altogether deprived of the dignity of parish curates, and only allowed to exercise their functions in necessary cases, or by attaching them to the curacies in the quality of coadjutors. By this plan, at the same time that the towns would be provided with suitable and adequate ministers, the native clergymen would be distributed in a proper manner and placed near the religious persons charged to officiate, would acquire the necessary knowledge and decorum, and in the course of time might obtain character and respect among their countrymen.
To many, a measure of this kind may, in some respects, appear harsh and arbitrary; but persons, practically acquainted with the subject and country, will deem it indispensable, and the only means that can be resorted to, in order to stop the rapid decline remarkable in this interesting department of public administration. Fortunately, no grounded objections can be alleged against it; nor is there any danger of serious consequences resulting from the plan being carried into effect. In vain would it be to argue that, if the reform is to take place, a large number of priests would be reduced to beggary, owing to the want of occupation; because, as things now stand, many of the religious curates employ three or four coadjutors, and, no doubt, they would then gladly undertake to make provision for the remainder of those who may be thrown out of employment. On the other hand, with equal truth it may be observed that the inhabitants of the interior, far from regretting, or taking part on behalf of the native clergy, would celebrate, as a day of gladness and rejoicing, the removal of the latter, in return for their beloved Castilian Fathers.
[Restriction of native ordinations recommended.] In case the ideas above suggested should be adopted in all their parts, it may be proper to add that an injunction ought to be laid on the reverend bishops in future to confer holy orders with more scrupulosity and economy, than, unfortunately, heretofore has been the case; by representing to them that, if, at certain periods the Popes have been influenced by powerful reasons not to insist on ordinations taking place in Europe, as was formerly the case, very weighty motives now equally urge the government to decline, in the Philippine Islands, paying so much to religious vocation, and to relax in the policy of raising the natives to the dignity of the priesthood.
[Moro depredations.] Long have the inhabitants of the Philippines deplored, and in vain remonstrated, against the ravages committed on their coasts and settlements by the barbarous natives of the Islands of Mindanao, Basilan and Jolo, as well as by the Malanos, Ilanos and Tirone Moros and others; and there is nothing that so much deserves the attention, and interests the honor of the Captain-General commanding in this quarter, as an early and efficient attempt to check and punish these cruel enemies. It is indeed true that, in the years 1636 and 1638, General Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera, undertook in person and happily carried into effect the reduction of the Sultan of Mindanao and the conquest of the Island of Jolo, placing in the latter a governor and establishing three military posts there; under the protection of the garrisons of which, Christianity was considerably extended. It is equally true, that on the subsequent abandonment of this important acquisition, owing to the government being compelled to attend to other urgent matters, the enemy acquired a greater degree of audacity, and the captain-general in command afterwards sent armaments to check his inroads. On one of these occasions, our troops obliged an army of more than 5,000 Moros, who had closely beset the fortress of Zamboanga, to raise the siege; and also in the years 1731 and 1734, fresh detachments of our men were landed on the Islands of Jolo, Capul and Basilan, and their success was followed by the destruction and ruin of the fortified posts, vessels, and settlements of those perfidious Mahometans. It is not, however, less certain that at the periods above mentioned, the war was carried on rather from motives of punishment and revenge, and suggested by a sudden and passing zeal, than in conformity to any progressive and well-combined system. Since then these laudable military enterprises have been entirely neglected, as well on account of the indolence of some of the governors, as the too great confidence placed in the protestations of friendship and treaties of peace with which, from time to time, the Sultans of Jolo and Mindanao have sought to lull them to sleep. Their want of sincerity is proved by the circumstance of the piracies of their respective subjects not ceasing, the chiefs sometimes feigning they were carried on without their license or knowledge; and, at others, excusing themselves on the plea of their inability to restrain the insolence of the Tirones and other independent tribes. Nevertheless, it is notorious that the above-mentioned sultans indirectly encouraged the practice of privateering, by affording every aid in their power to those who fitted out vessels, and purchasing from the pirates all the Christians they captured and brought to them.
[A missionary’s appeal.] Father Juan Angeles, superior of the mission established in Jolo, at the request of Sultan Alimudin himself (or Ferdinand I as he was afterwards unworthily called on being made a Christian with no other view than the better to gain the confidence of the Spaniards) in a report he sent to the government from the above Island, under date of September 24, 1748, describing the Sultan’s singular artifices to amuse him and frustrate the object of his mission, fully confirms all that has just been said, and, on closing his report, makes use of the following remarkable words:
“When is it we shall have had enough of treaties with these Moros, for have we not before us the experience of more than one hundred years, during which period of time, they have not kept a single article in any way burdensome to, or binding on, themselves? They will never observe the conditions of peace, because their property consists in the possession of slaves, and with them they traffic, the same as other nations do with money. Sooner will the hawk release his prey from his talons than they will put an end to their piracies. The cause of their being still unfaithful to Spain arises out of this matter having been taken up by fits and starts, and not in the serious manner it ought to have been done. To make war on them, in an effectual manner, fleets must not be employed, but they must be attacked on land, and in their posts in the interior; for it is much more advisable at once to spend ten with advantage and in a strenuous manner to attain an important object than to lay out twenty by degrees and without fruit.”
[Governmental lenience.] It is an undeniable fact that the government, lulled and deceived by the frequent embassies and submissive and crouching letters which those fawning sultans have been in the habit of transmitting to them, instead of adopting the energetic measures urged by the above-mentioned missionary, have constantly endeavored to renew and secure the friendship of those chiefs, by means of treaties and commercial relations; granting, with this view, ample licenses to every one who ventured to ship merchandise to Jolo, and winking at the traffic carried on by the governors of the fortress of Zamboanga with the people of Mindanao; whilst the latter, on their part, sporting with our foolish credulity, have never ceased waging a most destructive war against us, by attacking our towns situated on the coast, not even excepting those of the Island of Luzon. They have sometimes carried their audacity so far as to show themselves in the neighborhood of the capital itself, and at others taken up their temporary residence in the district of Mindoro and in places of the jurisdictions of Samar and Leyte; and in short, even dared to form an establishment or general deposit for their plunder in the Island of Buras, where they quietly remained during the years 1797, 1798 and 1799 to the great injury of our commerce and settlements.
[Authority for war not lacking.] This want of exertion to remedy evils of so grievous a nature is the more to be deplored as the Philippine governors have at all times been fully authorized to carry on war, and promote the destruction of the Moros, under every sacrifice, and especially by the royal orders and decrees of October 26, and November 1, 1758, and July 31, 1766, in all of which his majesty recommends, in the most earnest manner, “the importance of punishing the audacity of the barbarous infidels, his majesty being desirous that, in order to maintain his subjects of the Philippines free from the piracies and captivity they so frequently experience, no expenses or pains should be spared; it being further declared, that as this is an object deeply affecting the conscience of his majesty, he especially enjoins the aforesaid government to observe his order; and finally, with a view to provide for the exigencies arising out of similar enterprises, the viceroy of New Spain is instructed to attend to the punctual remittance, not only of the usual “situado,” or annual allowance, but also of the additional sum of $70,000 in the first and succeeding years, etc.” In a word, our monarchs, Ferdinand VI and Carlos III, omitted nothing that could in any way promote so important an object; whether it is that the governors have disregarded such repeated orders from the sovereigns, or mistaken the means by which they were to be carried into effect, certain it is that the unhappy inhabitants of the Philippines have continued to be witnesses, and at the same time the victims of the culpable apathy of those who have successively held the command of these Islands within the last fifty or sixty years.
[Native efforts for self-defence.] Abandoned therefore to their own resouces, and from time to time relieved by the presence of a few gunboats which, after scouring the coasts, have never been able to come up with the light and fast sailing vessels of the enemy, the inhabitants of our towns and settlements have been under the necessity of intrenching and fortifying themselves in the best way they were able, by opening ditches and planting a breastwork of stakes and palisades, crowned with watch towers, or a wooden or stone castle; precautions which sometimes are not sufficient against the nocturnal irruptions and robberies of the Moros, more especially when they come with any strength and fire-arms, in general scarce among the natives.
[Moro piratical craft.] The pancos, or prows, used by the Moros, are light and simple vessels, built with numerous thin planks and ribs, with a small draft of water; and being manned by dexterous rowers, they appear and disappear from the horizon with equal celerity, flying or attacking, whenever they can do it with evident advantage. Some of those vessels are large, and fitted out with fifty, a hundred, and sometimes two hundred men. The shots of their scanty and defective artillery are very uncertain, because they generally carry their guns suspended in slings; but they are to be dreaded, and are extremely dexterous in the management of the campilan, or sword, of which they wear the blades long and well tempered. When they have any attack of importance in view, they generally assemble to the number of two hundred galleys, or more, and even in their ordinary cruises, a considerable number navigate together. As dread and the scarcity of inhabitants in the Bisayan Islands cause great ranges of the coast to be left unsettled, it is very easy for the Moros to find numerous lurking-places and strongholds whenever they are pressed, and their constant practice, in these cases, is to enter the rivers, ground their vessels, and hide them among the mangroves and thick foliage, and fly with their arms to the mountains, thus almost always laughing at the efforts of their opponents, who seldom venture to follow them into the thickets and morasses, where the musket is of no use and a single step cannot be taken with any security.
[Outrages suffered.] The fatal consequences and ravages of this system of cruising and warfare round the Islands are incalculable. Besides plundering and burning the towns and settlements, these bloody pirates put the old and helpless to the sword, destroy the cattle and plantations, and annually carry off to their own homes as many as a thousand captives of both sexes, who, if they are poor and without hopes of being redeemed, are destined to drag out a miserable existence amidst the most fatiguing and painful labor, sometimes accompanied with torments. Such is the dread and apprehension of these seas that only those navigate and carry on trade in them who are able to arm and man their vessels in a way corresponding to the great risks they have to run, or others whom want compels to disregard the imminent dangers which await them. Among the latter class, the Bisayans, or “painted (tattooed) natives,” are distinguished, an extremely warlike people of whom great use might be made. Reared from their infancy amidst danger and battle, and greatly resembling the Moros in their features and darkness of skin, they are equally alike in the agility with which they manage the long sword and lance, and such is the courage and implacable odium with which they treat their enemies that, if not taken by surprise, they sell their lives very dear, sacrificing themselves in a most heroic manner, rather than to be led away as captives.
In order, however, that a more correct idea may be formed of the wicked policy and atrocious disposition of these Moros, and with a view to do away with the misconceptions of those who are of opinion that incentives to trade, and other slow and indirect means ought to be employed for the purpose of overcoming them, it will suffice to quote the following examples among a number of others, even more recent ones, which might equally be brought forward.
[Instances of treachery.] In 1796, the governor of Zamboanga dispatched, with regular passports and under a safe conduct obtained from the Sultan of Mindanao, Lieutenant Don Pantaleon Arcillas, with a sergeant, eight men, and a guide, in order to bring into the fortress the cattle belonging to the king’s farm, which had strayed away and got up in the lands of the above-mentioned Mahometan prince. Five days after their departure, whilst the lieutenant was taking his meals at the house of a “Datu,” or chief, named Oroncaya, he was suddenly surrounded by seventy Moros, who, seizing upon him, bound him to a tree and then flayed him alive, from the forehead to the ankle. In this miserable and defenceless situation, the barbarous “Datu” wreaked his vengeance on his body by piercing it all over with his “kris,” or dagger, and then ordered his skin to be hung up on the pole of one of his ferocious banners.
In the year 1798, whilst the schooner San José lay at anchor at Tabitabi, near Jolo, the sons-in-law and nephews of the sultan went out to meet her in two large prows, exhibiting at the same time every demonstration of peace, and, sending forward a small vessel with refreshments, they invited the captain to come on board of them. The latter, deceived by the apparent frankness and high rank of the Moros, with the greatest good faith accepted the invitation, and proceeded on board, accompanied by two sailors, with a view to make arrangements for barter. Scarcely had they got on board of the large prow, when they were surrounded and seized, and the captain, who was a Spaniard, compelled to sign an order to his mate to deliver up the schooner, which he reluctantly did, under the hope of saving his own and his companions’ lives. The Moros proceeded on board the Spanish vessel, and, in the meantime, the two sailors were taken back to the boat, and there killed with daggers in the presence of all. The schooner’s sails were next hoisted, and she was brought into Jolo, where the cargo and crew were sold in sight of, and with the knowledge and consent of the sultan; an atrocity for which he has always refused to give any satisfaction to a nation, thus openly and barbarously outraged by his own relatives, and in defiance of the existing treaties of peace. Such is the cruel character, and such the execrable policy of the Moros generally inhabiting the Islands situated in the Philippine seas.
[Growth of Moro power.] The most lamentable circumstance is, that these infidel races, at all times to be dreaded, owing to their numbers and savage ferocity, after the lapse of a century of almost uninterrupted prosperity, and encouraged also by our inattention, have at length gradually attained so formidable a degree of power, that their reduction now must be considered an extremely arduous and expensive enterprise, although an object urgently requisite, and worthy of the greatness of a nation like ours. In order, however, that the difficulties of so important an undertaking may be justly appreciated, it may be proper to observe that the Island of Mindanao alone, at the present moment, contains a population equal, if not larger, than that of Luzon, and the margins of the immense lake, situated in its center, are covered with well-built towns, filled with conveniences, the fruits of their annual privateering, and of the traffic they carry on with the inhabitants of the Island of Jolo. True it is, and it may be said, equally fortunate, that they are greatly divided into parties, subject to a variety of “datus,” or independent chiefs, in name only inferior to the one who styles himself the sultan of the whole Island. As, however, the fortresses and districts of Caraga, Misamis, and Zamboanga occupy nearly three parts of the circumference of the Island, these Moros freely possess no more than the southern part, commencing at about twenty-five leagues from Cape San Augustin, and ending in the vicinity of Zamboanga; so that the largest number of their naval armaments are fitted out and issued to sea, either by the great river of Mindanao, or from some of the many bays and inlets situated on the above extent of coast.
[Jolo.] The Island of Jolo, although small compared with that of Mindanao, is, nevertheless, in itself the most important, as well as the real hotbed of all the piracies committed. Its inhabitants, according to the unanimous reports of captives and various merchants, in skill and valor greatly exceed the other Mahometans who infest these seas. The sultan is absolute, and his subjects carry on trade with Borneo, Celebes, and the other Malayan tribes scattered about this great Archipelago. In the port of Jolo, as already noticed, sales are made of Christians captured by the other Moros. The Chinese of Amoy, as well as the Dutch and British, carry them manufactured goods, opium and arms, receiving, in return, black pepper, bees’ wax, balato, edible nests, tortoise-shell, mother-of-pearl, gold dust, pearls, etc., and from Manila also a vessel usually goes once a year with goods; but all act with the greatest precaution in this dangerous traffic, guarding, as much as possible, against the insidious acts of that perfidious government. The great number of renegades, of all casts, who have successively naturalized themselves there; the abundance of arms, and the prevailing opulence, have, in every respect, contributed to render this Island a formidable and powerful state. The capital is surrounded with forts and thick walls, and the famous heights, standing near it, in case of emergency, afford a secure asylum where the women can take refuge and the treasures of the sultan and public be deposited, whilst in the plains below the contest may be maintained by more than 50,000 combatants, already very dexterous in the use of the musket and of a bold and courageous character. The navy of these Islanders is also very respectable, for, besides a great number of smaller prows and war-boats, they have some of a large size, capable of carrying heavy artillery on their decks, mounted on corresponding carriages, and not suspended in slings as is the custom of the people of Mindanao. In a word, Jolo is an Island governed by a system of administration extremely vigorous and decisive; dread and superstition sustain the throne of the tyrant, and the fame of his greatness frequently brings to his feet the ulemas, or missionaries of the Koran, even as far as from the furthest margin of the Red Sea. The prince and people, unanimous in the implacable odium with which they view all Christians, cannot be divided or kept on terms of peace; and if it is really wished to free these seas from the evils and great dangers with which they are at all times threatened, it is necessary at once to strike at the root, by landing and attacking the Jolonese in their strongholds, and break the charm by which they are held together.
This, at least, is the constant and unshaken opinion of all experienced persons and those versed in Philippine affairs; and if, by the substantial reasons and existing circumstances, I convince myself sufficiently to openly recommend war to be undertaken against the Moros and pushed with the utmost vigor, and more particularly commencing the work by a formal invasion of Jolo; still, as I feel myself incompetent to trace a precise plan, or to discuss the minute details more immediately connected with the object, I feel it necessary to confine myself to the pointing out, in general terms, of the means I judge most conducive to the happy issue of so arduous but important an enterprise, leaving the rest to more able and experienced hands.
[Council of war recommended.] As a previous step, I conceive that a council of war ought to be formed in Manila, composed of the captain-general, the commanders of the navy, artillery, and engineer department, as well as of the regular corps, who, in conformity to all the antecedent information lodged in the secretary’s office for the captain-generalship, and the previous report of some one of the ex-governors of Zamboanga and the best informed missionaries, may be enabled to deliberate and proceed on to a mature examination of the whole affair, taking into their special consideration everything regarding Jolo, its early reduction, the number of vessels and men required for this purpose, the most advantageous points of attack, and the best season in which this can be carried into execution. After all these matters have been determined upon, the operation in question ought to be connected with the other partial and general arrangements of the government, in order that a plan the best adapted to localities and existing circumstances may be chosen, and without its being necessary to wait for the king’s approbation of the means resolved upon, owing to the distance of the court and the necessity of acting with celerity. If, however, on account of the deference in every respect due to the sovereign, it should be thought proper to reconcile his previous sanction with the necessity of acting without loss of time, the best mode would be to send from Spain an officer of high rank, fully authorized, who, as practised on other occasions, might give his sanction, in the name of the king, to the resolutions adopted by the council of war, and take under his own immediate charge, if it should be so deemed expedient, the command of the expedition against Jolo, receiving the appointment of governor of the Island, as soon as the conquest should be carried into effect, as a just reward for his zeal and valor.
[War popular in Philippines.] Supposing an uniformity of opinions to prevail with regard to the expediency of attempting the subjugation of Jolo, and supposing also the existence of the necessary funds to meet the expenses of a corresponding armament, it may be positively relied upon that the project would be extremely popular, and meet with the entire concurrence and support of the Philippine Islands. The military men, aware of the great riches known to exist in the proposed theatre of operations, would emulously come forward to offer their services, under a hope of sharing the booty, and the warlike natives of the Bisayas would be impelled on by their hatred to the Moros, and their ardent wishes to avenge the blood of their fathers and children. On the other hand, the abundance of regular and well disciplined officers and troops, at present in the colony and the number of gun-boats found in the ports, a want of which, on other occasions, has always been experienced, will afford ample scope for the equipment of a force competent to the important enterprise in view. In fact, if the operation is arranged in a systematic manner, and all the precautions and rules observed as are usual in cases of attacks premeditated against European and civilized establishments, there is no reason to expect any other than a flattering and decisive result, since, in reality, the whole would be directed against an enemy contemptible on account of his barbarism and his comparative ignorance of the art of war.
[Native assistance.] The preparations deemed necessary being made in Manila, and the Bisayan auxiliaries assembled beforehand in Zamboanga, with their arms and respective chiefs, the whole of the operation in question, it may be safely said, might be terminated within the period of three or four months. Supposing even 2,000 regular troops are destined for this expedition, with a corresponding train of field pieces, and at the moment there should not be found in the Islands a sufficient number of larger vessels to embargo or freight for their conveyance, a competent quantity of coasters, galleys and small craft might be met with at any time sufficiently capacious and secure to carry the men. This substitute will be found the less inconvenient, because, as the navigation is to be performed among the Islands during the prevalence of the north winds, usually a favorable and steady season of the year, the voyage will consequently be safe and easy. It will also be possible to arrive at the point agreed upon, as a general rendezvous, in twenty, or five-and-twenty days, which place, for many reasons, ought to be the fortress of Zamboanga, situated in front of Jolo and at moderate distance from that Island; it being from this port that, in former times, the Philippine governors usually sent out their armaments, destined to make war against the Basilanese and Jolonese.
[Mindanao also needs attention.] As soon as this important and memorable enterprise has been carried into effect, and the punishment and total subjugation of these faithless Mahometans completed and the new conquest placed under a military authority, in the mean time that the lands are distributing and arrangements making to establish the civil administration, on the same plan followed in the other provinces of the Philippine government, the armament ought to return to Zamboanga with all possible speed; but, after stopping by the way to reduce the small island of Basilan and leaving a fortress and garrison there. Immediately afterwards, and before the various tribes of Moros inhabiting the Island of Mindanao have been able to concert among themselves and prepare for their defence, it would be advisable to direct partial expeditions towards both flanks of Zamboanga, for the purpose of burning the settlements of the natives and driving them from the shores into the interior. Forts ought then to be raised at the mouths of the inlets and rivers, and a fourth district government formed in the southern part of the island; in such manner that, by possession being taken of the coasts, the government and district of Zamboanga may be placed in contact with the new one established on the one side, and on the other with the district of Misamis, also the new district with that of Caraga, the western part of which territory is already united to that of Misamis. Such, at least, was the opinion of Lieutenant-Colonel Don Mariano Tobias, an officer deservedly celebrated for his prudence and consummate skill in these matters, and this he substantially expressed in a council of war, held on August 28, 1778, for the purpose of deliberating on the most advisable means to check the Moros, as appears by a long and intelligent report drawn upon this subject on April 26, 1800, by the adjutant-general of this colony, Don Rufino Suarez.
In case it should be determined to adopt the means proposed by Colonel Tobias, for the purpose of holding the Moros of Mindanao in check, and to which, unfortunately, due regard has not hitherto been paid, notwithstanding the enterprise presents very few difficulties, owing to the little opposition to be expected from the infidel natives, the latter would then be left completely surrounded and shut up in the heart of the island, and their active system of privateering, with which they have so many years infested these seas, entirely destroyed. If, through the want of garrisons and population, it should not, however, be possible to deprive them of all their outlets, by which means they would still be able occasionally to send some of their cruising vessels, nevertheless there would be facilities with which it would be possible to pursue and counteract the ravages of the few pirates who might furtively escape out of some river, while now they are fitted out, and well manned and armed to the number of one and two hundred war-boats, openly in their ports.
[A plan for future policing.] After the emporiums of slavery have been destroyed by the conquest of Jolo, and the other general measures adopted, as above pointed out, the government would then be in a situation to turn its attention, with much greater ease, to the arrangement of all the other minor schemes of precaution and protection suited to the difference of circumstances and locality, without the concurrence of which the work would be left imperfect, and in some degree the existence of those settled in the new establishments rendered precarious. As, however, I am unprepared minutely to point out the nature of these measures, or distinctly to lay down a ground-work for future civilization and improvement, I shall merely observe, that what would then remain to be done would neither require any great capital, or present obstacles which might not easily be overcome. The Moros being then concentrated in the Island of Mindanao, and this completely surrounded on all sides by our forts and settlements, in the manner above described, the only enemies let loose on these seas would be either the few who might, from time to time, elude the vigilance of our troops and district-commanders, or those who might have escaped from Jolo previous to its conquest, and taken up their abode in one or other of the Bisayas Islands; or, in short, such as are out cruising at the time our armament returns to Zamboanga and takes possession of the southern coast of Mindanao; in which case they would be compelled to resort to a roving life, establishing, like the Jolo fugitives, temporary dwellings among the mangroves and thickets bordering on the shore.
The principal objects then remaining for the attention of government would be to guard and protect the towns and settlements established on the coasts from the insults and inroads of banditti, impelled by necessity or despair, and at the same time to promote the gradual overthrow or civilization of the dispersed remnant of Moorish population left in the Island. The cruising of the pirates being thus reduced to a space comprehended in an oblong circle formed by an imaginary line drawn from the southern extreme of the Island of Leyte, to the south-west point of Samar, which next running along the north-west coast of Mindoro, on the outside of Tacao and Burias, and coming down to the west of Panay, Negros and Bohol, closes the oval at the little island formed by the Strait of Panaon, about forty gunboats might be advantageously stationed in the narrowest passages from land to land; as, for example, in the Strait of San Juanico and other passes of a similar kind, well known to the local pilots. By this means, the limits would be gradually contracted. Various small naval armaments ought, at the same time, to keep cruising in the center of this circle, pursuing the Moros by sea and land, dislodging them from their strongholds and lurking places, and sending on those who might be captured to the depot pointed out by government.
[Feasibility of plans.] The first part of the plan would be the more easily realized, as it is well-known that most of the districts corresponding to the Bisayan tribes, including those of Camarines and Albay, situated at the extremity of the island of Luzon, have several gunboats of their own, which might be used with great advantage. By merely advancing and stationing them in such channels as the Moros must necessarily pass, either in going out or returning, according to the different monsoons, they would easily be checked, without removing the gunboats to any great distance from their own coasts. As besides the great advantages resulting from this plan and every one doing his duty are apparent, no doubt numbers of natives would volunteer their services, more particularly if they were liberally rewarded, and their maintenance provided from the funds of the respective communities. Moreover, the points which at first should not be considered as sufficiently guarded might be strengthened by the king’s gunboats, and, indeed, in all of them it would be advisable to station some of the latter, commanded by a select officer, to whose orders the captains of the provincial gunboats ought to be made subservient.
With regard to the second part, it will suffice to observe that the captain-generalship of the Philippine Islands already possesses as many as seventy gunboats, besides a considerable number of gallies and launches, which altogether constitute a formidable squadron of light vessels; and, after deducting those deemed necessary for the protection of Jolo and the new province to be established in Mindanao, a sufficient number would still be left to carry into execution all the objects proposed. At present, although the Moros navigate in numerous divions, and with a confidence inspired by their undisturbed prosperity, a 24-pounder shot from one of our launches is nevertheless sufficient to put them to flight; what therefore may not be expected when their forces shall be so greatly diminished and their apprehensions increased, of being defeated and captured? Nevertheless, as it is not easy for our gunboats to come up with them, when giving chase, it would be advisable to add to our cruisers a temporary establishment of prows and light vessels, manned by Bisayan Indians, which, by advancing on with the gallies, might attack the enemy and give time for the gunboats to come up and decide the action. Besides as the Bisayan Indians are perfectly acquainted with the mode of making war on the Moros, the meaning of their signals and manoeuvers and the kind of places on shore in which they take shelter when pursued at sea, the employment of such auxiliaries would be extremely useful.
[Need of undivided leadership.] The whole of these defensive and offensive arrangements would, however, be ineffectual or incomplete in their results, if the most perfect union and concert is not established in every part, so that all should conspire to the same object, although by distinct means. In order therefore that the necessary harmony may be secured, it would be expedient to remove the chief authority nearer to the theater of war, by confiding all the necessary instructions and powers to the person who might be selected for the direction and command of the enterprise, after the general plan of operations had been regularly approved. Under this impression, and with a view to the better execution of all the details, it would be advisable for the commanding officer, named by the government, to take up his headquarters in the Island of Panay, which, owing to its geographical situation, the great number of towns and inhabitants contained in the three provinces into which it is divided, as well as other political reasons, is generally esteemed preferable for the object in question, to the Island of Zebu, where, in former times, the commanders of the province of the painted natives resided, as mentioned in the laws of the Indies. The center of action being placed in Iloilo, a communication with the other points would thus more easily be kept open, aid and relief might be sent more rapidly to the quarter where required, and, in a word, all the movements, of whatsoever kind they might be, would be executed with greater precision and certainty of success. It would be unnecessary to add that the provincial magistrates of Camarines and Albay ought to co-operate, with their fourteen gunboats and other smaller vessels, in the measures adopted by the commander of the Bisayan establishment, distributing their forces according to the orders given by him, and by undertaking to guard the straits of San Bernardino.
[Paragua.] The Island of Paragua, at the head of which the provincial jurisdiction of Calamianes is placed, is not included in the great circle, or chain of stations, above traced out, as well in consequence of its great distance from the other islands, for which reason it is not so much infested by the Moros, as because of its being at present nearly depopulated and uncultivated, and for these reasons the attention of government ought not to be withdrawn from other more important points. With regard to that of Mindanao, the necessity of keeping up along the whole of its immense coast, a line of castles and watch towers, has already been fully pointed out, more especially in the vicinity of the bay of Panguil, to the north, and the mouths of the great river towards the south; the two points in which the enemies’ most formidable armaments are usually fitted out. Consequently, it would not be possible to expect the provincial commanders stationed there would be able to disengage any part of their naval force, in order to place it at the disposal of the officer commanding the Bisayan vessels. Indeed, it is obvious that it would be extremely important to afford the people of Mindanao every possible additional aid, in vessels, troops and money, in order the better to check the sailing of partial divisions of the enemy, and thus prevent the immense number of pirates, inhabiting the interior of the island, from breaking the fortified line, and again covering these seas, and with redoubled fury carrying death and desolation along all the coasts.
It would, in fact, be extremely desirable if, through the concerted measures and constant vigilance of the four chief magistrates intrusted with the command of the island, the future attempts of the Mindanayans could be entirely counteracted, and their cruisers altogether kept within the line for a certain period of years; as by thus depriving them of the facilities to continue their old habits of life, these barbarous tribes would be eventually compelled to adopt other pursuits, either by ascending the mountainous parts of the island, and shutting themselves up in the thick and impenetrable forests, with a view to preserve their independence; or, throwing down their arms and devoting themselves to the peaceful cultivation of their lands. In the latter case, they would gradually lose their present ferocious character; their regard for the conveniences and repose of social life would increase; the contrast would be attended with most favorable consequences, and in the course of time, the whole of the aboriginal natives of these islands would come into our laws and customs, and become confounded in the general mass of Philippine subjects, owing allegiance to the king.
Finally, it must be equally acknowledged that the Islands of Jolo, Basilan, Capul, and some of the other inferior ones, of which, as above pointed out, an union ought to be formed in the way of an additional government, subordinate to the captain-general, would be able to co-operate in the war on no other plan than the one traced out for the provinces held in Mindanao; that is, by their gunboats being confided to the protection of their own coasts; though with this difference, that if, in one instance, the main object would be to prevent the evasion of the enemy, in the other every effort must be employed to guard against and repel their incursions when they do appear. However complete the success of the armament, destined for the reduction of Jolo, it may nevertheless be presumed, that the mountains would still continue to give shelter to hordes of fugitives, who would take refuge in the fastnesses, and avail themselves of every opportunity to concert plans, or fly off to join their comrades in Mindanao, in order to return, and through their aid, satisfy their thirst for vengeance, by surprising some fortress or settlement, or establishing themselves on some neglected and not well known point. In consequence of this, the governor, commanding there, would at first require the active co-operation of all his forces, for the purpose of consolidating the new conquest, and causing his authority to be respected throughout the island.
[Importance of peace for Philippine progress.] These, in my opinion, are the true and secure means by which the enemies of the peace and prosperity of the Philippines may be humbled, their piracies prevented, and a basis laid for the future civilization of the remaining islands in this important Archipelago. To this sketch, a number of other details and essential illustrations, no doubt, are wanting; and possibly, I may be accused of some inaccuracies, in discussing a topic, with which I candidly avow I cannot be considered altogether familiar. The plan and success of the enterprise must, however, greatly depend on military skill and talent; but as I have attempted no more than fairly to trace the general outline of the plan, and insist on the necessity of its adoption, my remarks, it is to be hoped, will serve to awaken a serious disposition to review and investigate the whole subject, a task that most assuredly ought to be confided to a competent and special council. Whatever defects I may involuntarily have fallen into, will then be corrected; at the same time it ought not to appear strange that inexperienced persons should presume to speak on matters connected with the public good, when we see them so much neglected by those whose more immediate duty it is to look after and promote them. At all events, dispassionate zeal has seldom done harm; and I again repeat, that my wish is not so much to see my own ideas adopted, as to urge the necessity of their being examined and digested. I am desirous that other sources of information on this subject should be explored, that practical men should be called in, and that those in power should be induced to apply themselves and devote their exertions to an object so highly deserving of their attention. In short, I am anxious that the pious injunctions of our monarchs should be fulfilled, and that the tears and blood of the inhabitants of these neglected islands should cease to flow.
Should the happy day ever arrive, when the inhabitants of these provinces shall behold themselves free from the cruel scourge with which they have been desolated for so many years, they will bless the nation that has redeemed them from all their cares, they will tighten their relations with it, and deliver themselves up to its direction without reserve. The natives will then come down from the strong fastnesses they at present inhabit; they will clear fresh lands, and earnestly devote themselves to tillage and industry. Under the shadow of peace, population and commerce will increase; the Bisayan vessels will then plough the ocean without the dread of other enemies than the elements; and the Moros themselves of Mindanao (I say it with confidence), straightened on all sides, and incessantly harassed by the Christians, but on the other hand witnessing the advantages and mildness of our laws, will at length submit to the dominion of the monarchs of Spain, who will thus secure the quiet possession of one of the most interesting portions of the habitable globe, and be justly entitled to the gratitude of all nations connected with China and India, for having put an end to a series of the most terrific plunder and captivity that ever disgraced the annals of any age.