17 June 2016

Bonbon in Present Day Batangas the First Colonial Estate in Luzon Rewarded to de Goite

Image credit:  The Philippines.

Previous Chapter

(Part III of a Batangas Historical Series)

After leaving the coast of Tulay early one day around the third week of May in the year 1570, Martin de Goite and his expeditionary party to explore Luzon pushed on and arrived in Manila Bay in the afternoon of the same day. His instructions from the governor, Miguel López de Legazpi, were to make peace and win friends in Manila.

This would not ultimately turn out not to be possible. Upon arrival, the Spaniards had sent word to Raxá Soliman (or Rajah Sulayman), “the greatest chief of all that country” (meaning the area which is now Manila) stating the terms of peace and friendship that they wished to establish with the people of Manila.1

Soliman initially showed willingness to make friends with the Spaniards and even forged a blood compact with de Goite. In spite of the compact, however, Soliman was actually hatching a plot “to fall upon the Spaniards at the first rain, when it would be impossible for them to make use of their arquebuses.”

Word of this got through to the Spaniards, reported by relatives of Soliman’s own warriors. What transpired next is really outside of the scope of this narrative. Suffice it to say that fighting did break out, resulting into many deaths to the natives and the Spaniards burning down their towns. Soliman himself had to flee for his life.

Wary of the arrival of the southwest monsoon, which would have made it impossible for the larger ships2 to return to Panay, de Goite made the decision to sail out of Manila Bay rather than pursue Soliman and his men. He sent the injured Juan de Salcedo, still not recovered from the arrow wound he received in the Bonbon Lake area, ahead to Panay in the junk San Miguel.

De Goite himself preferred to stop off and stay with the oared praus for a few days in the town of Balayan. He did so “in order to win over all the towns which were desirous of peace.” Earlier, on his way to Manila, he had already established friendships with the chiefs of the town of Balayan as well as those along the coast of Tulay.

He finally left for Panay after having been summoned back by de Legaspi. Word also reached him that three ships sent by Don Martin Enriquez, Viceroy of Nueva España3, under the command of Juan de la Ysla, had arrived. De la Ysla brought with him letters from Felipe II, the King of Spain.

These letters contained explicit instructions for the colonisation of the country: “…it was his (the king’s) will for the lands to be settled and divided among those who conquered and subdued them.4” Armed with these instructions, de Legaspi late in 1570 ordered the founding of a colony in Cebu which he named El Nombre de Jesus. The colony had fifty inhabitants, to whom “he allotted repartimientos of Indians, with the approbation of the provincial (of the Agustinian Order), Fray Martin de Herrada5, and of the master-of-camp and the captains.6

The repartimiento (meaning division or partition) pertained to the system enforced in Spanish colonies whereby natives were allotted to Spanish settlers as cheap or unpaid labour, but not as slaves. It was seen as a replacement for the encomienda system, which had been abused by Spaniards in their colonies.

The latter was no different from the feudal system in Europe whereby monarchs, unable to defend the expanse of their domains against the advance of barbaric tribes, delegated defence of their lands to the nobility. Essentially, the nobility was in charge of the protection of the inhabitants of their lands; and in return, was entitled to collect levies from them.

In the Spanish encomienda system, natives were technically assigned by the monarch, but in reality by his representatives, to Spanish settlers in the colonies. In return, the encomenderos (those granted encomiendas) received tributes from the natives ostensibly under their care. Although the repartimiento was conceived to replace the encomienda, in some colonies the two systems continued to be used at the same time.

In the context of the Spanish colonisation of the Philippines, the terms repartimiento and encomienda seem to have been used interchangeably in historical documents.

Because of the continuing problem with food in Panay, on 16 April 1571, a day after Easter, de Legaspi sailed to relocate his entire camp in Manila. The choice of Manila was something of a curiosity, since de Goite had left it not exactly in friendly terms with the natives. On the face of things, Balayan would have been a more logical choice since the natives had been more welcoming of the Spaniards than those of Manila.

A 1570 document prepared by Hernando Riquel, the chief notary, provided a clue about the choice of Manila over Balayan. This document firmly laid the blame for de Goite’s acts of war in Manila on “provocation” by the Moros7 or the natives; and staked a claim not only on Manila but on the entire island of Luzon:

“And inasmuch as the said fort and town of Manila have been won in lawful and just war, and since, according to the said natives, Manila is the capital of all the towns of this said island: therefore, in his Majesty’s name, he was occupying and did occupy, was taking and did take, royal ownership and possession, actual and quasi, of this island of Luzon and of all the other ports, towns and territories adjoining and belonging to this said island.8

By the third day of June 1571, de Legaspi gave “the title of city to this colony of Manila9” where he had quickly made peace with local chiefs, even the erstwhile antagonistic Soliman. Those who refused to accept peace with the Spaniards, like the province of Capangpanga (Pampanga) and the village of Caynta (Cainta), he sent his forces after, led by de Goite or de Salcedo.

He also issued an edict through which he declared, in the name of Felipe II, that he would be granting repartimientos “to those who desired to settle in the city of Manila.” Because of his services to the Crown of Spain, particularly in “pacifying” (“pacify” being the term used by many Hispanic documents to mean “subdue”) natives who were unwilling to become friendly with the Spaniards, the first repartimiento in Luzon was awarded to de Goite, along with a river called Bonbon.

The “river called Bonbon” was probably the channel that led out to Balayan Bay from the lake. The repartimiento was granted on 28 July 1571 and included 8,000 natives from the lake and river areas.10


Notes and references:

1 Along with other details of the voyage of Martin de Goite and company from Panay to Manila in 1570, from “Relation of the Voyage to Luzon” as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands Volume III: 1569-1576.”
2 It was already established in the first chapter that the expeditionary party consisted of a junk and a frigate, both wind propelled, and several praus, which could be propelled by wind or oars.
3 The viceroy was the minister personally appointed by the King of Spain to rule Nueva España or New Spain in his name. The colony was in what is now present-day Mexico.
4 Along with other particulars of this chapter, taken from a document entitled “Relation of the Conquest of the Island of Luzon” as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands Volume III: 1569-1576.”
5 Named as Martin de Rada in other documents.
6 Las nuevas quescriven de las yslas del Poniente by Hernando Riquel, as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands Volume III: 1569-1576.”
7 Moros were how Spanish documents referred to Muslim natives of 16th century Philippines, after the Moors who besieged Europe in the Medieval Ages.
8 Act of Taking Possession of Luzon, by Hernando Riquel as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands Volume III: 1569-1576.”
9 Foundation of the City of Manila, document by Hernando Riquel as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands Volume III: 1569-1576.”
10 Encomiendas assigned by Legazpi, as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands Volume XXXIV: 1519-1522; 1280-1605.”

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