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Forgotten heroes: Datus who first struck for independence

In Tondo are two alleys named Pitóng Gatang and Amarlanhagui, Magát Salamat Elementary School, and Capulong Street near Estero de Vitás. Jose Abad Santos Avenue used to be named Manuguit. The people thus honored and their brethren deserve better.

The Spanish defeated Manila rajahs Matandâ and Solimán in June 1570. They returned to Cebu where they had first settled but came back in force the following year under Miguel López de Legaspi. Spanish victory was confirmed on June 3, 1571 when indios, led by a brave man from Macabebe, Pampanga, were annihilated in the naval Battle of Bangkusáy, a Tondo estuary. The names of both hero and battle have been forgotten: Bangkusáy Street is now F. Varona.

Pitong Gatang was among the 24 chiefs of present-day Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacán, and Pampanga who in 1587-88 plotted the first uprising against Spain and certainly suffered more grievously than the nonentities who seek to perpetuate themselves by renaming wider and longer streets.

Governor-General Santiago de Vera’s Report of May 20, 1579 to King Felipe II summarizes the facts. Their pre-Hispanic names are not mentioned, but the leaders of the uprising are cited as Agustin de Legaspi and Martin Pañga, former datu. They two had been jailed: Pañga for adultery and de Legaspi for failure to turn in Spanish-imposed taxes. They had plenty of grievances. Their alipin had been released, probably forced to work for Spaniards as servants, to log and to build galleons. Their wives (they were probably Muslim) had been “reassigned.”   With the males conscripted, fields were abandoned and starvation ensued. The natives had no immunity to new diseases brought by the conquistadores and population actually dropped.

De Legaspi and Pañga thereupon began plotting to overthrow the new overlords. Upon release from prison, they began enticing fellow datus from the present Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna, Comitan (Batangas?), and Pampanga, as well as relatives from Borneo, and the Japanese to join.

Japanese ship captain Joan Gayo was to bring soldiers from Japan and enter Manila under pretext of peace and commerce. With the native chiefs and their followers, they would set the city (i.e., Intramuros) on fire and in the confusion wipe out all Spaniards. Magát Salamat, Agustín Manuguit, and Joan Banál were dispatched to seek support from Palawan and Borneo. The group also hoped to get help from Thomas Cavendish, an English privateer who had captured the galleon Santa Ana in Baja, California and who was in the Philippines to cause more havoc. He raided Arevalo, now part of Iloilo City.

Salamat et. al. passed by Cuyò Island on the way to Borneo and tried to entice locals to join the conspiracy. Unfortunately, one Antonio Surabao, “servant and chief” of Calamianes’ Spanish encomendero Pedro Sarmiento, pretended cooperation but turned traitor. He revealed the plot and the co-conspirators were arrested, tried, and sentenced.  

Terrible punishments were meted on Agustín de Legaspi and Martín Pañga (Tondo chiefs) who were “to be dragged [by horses] and hanged, their heads … cut off and exposed on the gibbet in iron cages; their goods … confiscated.”  This must have happened at or close to the former Bangkusáy Street that was then along the seashore and probably Tondo’s main street.

Pitong Gatang was among the 24 chiefs of present-day Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacán, and Pampanga who in 1587-88 plotted the first uprising against Spain and certainly suffered more grievously than the nonentities who seek to perpetuate themselves by renaming wider and longer streets.

Also executed and their properties wholly or partly confiscated were Dionisio Fernandez (Japanese interpreter) and Datu Omaghicon (Navotas), Gerónimo Bassi (brother of Agustín de Legaspi), Phelipe Salalila (Maysilò), Esteban Taes (Bulacán), and Magát Salamat whose wealth was to partly finance the construction of Fort Santiago.

Exiled to Nueva España (Mexico) and heavily fined were Pedro Balinguit (Pandacan), Phelipe Salonga (Polò), and Agustín Manuguit (son of Phelipe Salalila). Exiled from their respective villages and fined were Phelipe Amarlangagui (Catangalan), Daulat (Castilla), Juan Basi (Taguig), Dionisio Capolon (Candava), Luis Balaya (Bañgos), Luis Amanicalao, and five other Tondo chiefs namely Francisco Acta, Gabriel Tuambacar, Calao, Amarlangagui, and Joan Banál. Alonso Lea was acquitted. Still to be sentenced was Amaghicon (Cuyò).

We should revere the datus who 440 years ago struck for independence.

This article was first published in the June 2019 issue of the Philippine Panorama.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2020/08/30/forgotten-heroes-datus-who-first-struck-for-independence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forgotten-heroes-datus-who-first-struck-for-independence)

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