Archive for January 29th, 2008


Currimao Watchtowers • Currimao, Ilocos Norte

Most likely built in the late-18th century by the townspeople under the leadership of the Augustinian friars, the twin watchtowers of Currimao served to guard an important port; in fact, it served as the port of the capital Laoag. In Currimao, Tabacalera constructed its largest warehouse for tobacco, rice, indigo, maguey and other agricultural products.  Tabacalera opened a regular shipping route from Manila to Aparri with a stop at Currimao. Tabacalera’s brick and mortar warehouse was constructed in 1869. The defense of this port and its coast was important, hence, the watchtowers, which served to guard the northern and southern ends of the Port Currimao.The watchtowers’ construction antedated the formalization of Currimao as a port used by the Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera). The towers were built  to warn of pirate attacks.  Some such groups established stations on the islands off Badoc from which they attacked coastal towns. 


Laoag Belltower • Laoag City, Ilocos Sur

It is generally assumed that the bell tower and church of San Guillermo are contemporaneous. The San Guillermo church was built in 1700 after the church site was transferred from an earlier site on Ermita Hill. The old church site is now marked with a cross. The bell tower is one of the landmarks of Laoag City. The tower is built at a distance from the church, the same arrangement found in Bacarra, Vintar, Sarrat, Bantay, Vigan, Santa Maria and other places. This plan is said to be typical of the Ilocos. Elsewhere in the Philippines bell towers are generally adjacent to the church or connected to it by a short corridor. The Laoag tower should be deemed part of the church complex. In the past, when there was no road between church and tower and no buildings intervening the unity of the complex was more apparent. While serving as the church bell tower, it was also a lookout or watchtower and contributed to municipal defense.Planned as multistory structure consisting of diminishing quadrilateral floors, the generous aperture at the second to the last register allows passage to the tower’s exterior, probably a concession to the allow the tower to have a dual purpose as watch tower and bell tower.


Trocha de Tukuran • Lanao del Sur & Zamboanga del Sur

The “trocha de tukuran” refers not to one site but to a roadway or defense line fortified by field and permanent fortifications. Built from 1891 to 1896 (although some sites were built earlier), most of the structures along this defense line was built during the military campaign of Gen. Valeriano Weyler, who was governor general of the Philippines from 1889 to 1891. Subsequent to his campaign to bring under control the Maranao who inhabited the littorals of Panguil and Illana bay, Lake Lanao and Agus River, some fortifications were rebuilt in more permanent form to maintain Spanish presence in Mindanao.

Because of the long lasting and persistent threat of Muslim communities in Mindanao, Spain saw the urgency of controlling the island and the region. The military campaign against the different Muslim tribes began with Gov. Narciso Claveria’s 1846 campaign against the Sama Balangingi of the Sulu Sea. The campaign against the Maranao was the last of the major campaign until the Spaniards lost the Philippines during the Philippine Revolution and the take over by the Americans in 1898.

Arranged from north to south (with notations on present provincial names) and ending at Tukuran, now in the Zamboanga del Sur province, the fortifications of this line of defense and their descriptions as listed by Aguilar Nieto are as follows:

Misamis Occidental

  • Tangok. [Probably present day Tangub (City)] On Panguil Bay near Misamis [Ozamis] to which it is linked by a road. The fortification is a palisade had two towers in bad state. Fort personnel: one officer and 20 infantry men.
  • Balactacan. On Panguil Bay. A fortification like Tangok.

Lanao del Norte

  • Iligan. An old Christian settlement has a very old fortification of stone and encircles quarters of light material. In its vicinity is a good infirmary, where lives those who are sick or have been wounded during a campaign. Fort personnel: one officer and 30 men of the third civil district. (Fuller description found in catalogue no. 10-04)
  • Almonte [Lianga(a)]. In the bay of Iligan, near the entrance to the Bay of Panguil. On a narrow tongue of land formed by the sea and the Liangan River. A rectangular fortification 25 x 30 meters in dimension and one story. A double palisade and a moat 10 meters wide. At two corners batteries and the remaining two corner towers which was at the same time the officers’ quarters. Within the perimeter two structures of wood and zinc roof for the troop barracks, infirmary and other auxiliary facilities. Fort personnel: one captain, one officer and 58 men of the infantry, 8 Spanish artillerymen with one officer and 20 disciplinarios. (Fuller description found in catalogue no. 10-05)
  • Fort (Valeriano) Weyler in Momungan is situated 16 kilometers from Iligan, and is placed on an elevated mesa between the lake and the coast and is on the right bank of the Agus River, which is deep and swift and has at this point a width of more than 100 meters. (Fuller description is found in catalogue no. 10-06)

Lanao del Sur

  • Lintogud. Built along the Trocha de Tucuran, a military road, is Lintogud, located some five kilometers from the mouth of the Lintogud River. The fortification is a made of tree trunks which enclose quarters of light material, which served as barracks for the officials and troops.
  • Lubig. Located at the center the military road Tucuran, Lubig has quarters of light material defended by a palisade with two towers, made of rough timber. Fort personnel: one officer and 40 men.
  • Malabang. Near Parang-parang [Parang, Cotabato] to which it is connected by regular road. The fort is a near the shore, located at a point where a stream flows on three sides of the fortification. It is a double palisade, where all the buildings of the garrison are located. They are made of wood and zinc. Fort personnel: one captain, 3 subalterns, 200 men and 10 artillerymen manning two pieces of bronze canons at the outer palisade.
  •  Malabang (La Sabanilla). It is a most important point for operations against Lake (Lanao) with which it is connected by a 50-kilometer road. A short distance from the present palisade exists the ruins of the fort of Sabanilla, which was constructed in 1639. A suitable site for a permanent fort which can use the foundations and materials accumulated by our predecessors.
  • Baras. Situated along Illana bay and about 10 kms from Malabang. It connects with Lake (Lanao) through a rough and steep road. It is an important market for the Moros of Illana. Fortification is needs to be repaired and upgraded. Total personnel: one captain, three subalterns, 200 infantry, 10 artillerymen with two pieces.

Zamboanga del Sur

  • Tucuran. At the south end of the military road in the coast of Pagadian and the river of the same name, a garrison is located half way up the slope of a hill near the bay, a garrison of light materials protected by a stockade. The coast is defended by a blockhouse. Fort personnel: one chief and 6 men; the coastal defense, one chief and 8 soldiers.

Near the garrison is a wooden and tabique pampango building with a zinc roof used as an infirmary. An on the plateau of the hill there is a badly constructed fort made of a stockade of timber and two towers covered with a zinc roof. Fort personnel: one sergeant, one chief and 8 men.

Note: To man these series of independent garrisons, separated by considerable distances, are a mere 60 personnel.


Fuerza de Princesa de Asturias • Jolo, Sulu

Built ca. 1876-78 by the military, Princesa de Asturias was an independent fortification outside the perimeter of the Jolo Intramuros and served as its outer defense. Built on the foundations of a Sulu kuta, the fort had three bastions on a quadrilateral plan. Some remains of the fort still stand and it is used as the foundation for the buildings of the Philippine National Police.


Reducto de Alfonso XII • Jolo, Sulu

Described as a “reducto,” this irregular quadrilateral fort was built ca. 1878 by the military. It was remodeled to a cross plan later and served blockhouse or a strongly secure place in times of attack. It also served as coastal defense and complemented the Jolo Intramuros.  Reducto de Alfonso XII was raised on the ruins of kuta Daniel built by the Tausog Datu Daniel Amil Bahar at the foot of a hill near Jolo town proper.  The redoubt’s site is presently occupied by the provincial hospital.  No remains of the fort can be found. 



Jolo Intramuros • Jolo, Sulu

Spain’s hold on Mindanao was tenuous, especially the south and the archipelagos of Sulu and Balangingi, where power was under the control of Royal Sultanate of Sulu.  Although as early as the 16th century, expeditions against the sultanate were launched, and the independent sovereigns was made to recognize Spanish sovereignty by paying a regular tribute of pearls, the effective occupation of Jolo by Spaniards did not take place until after 1876.  From the 16th century onwards there were all in all 16 military campaigns against Jolo, five resulting in occupation and all except the last were short-lived.  For more than three centuries, the Spaniards had held Jolo for a short period of a three decade

From its first encounters with Jolo, Spain was met with stiff resistance from a highly organized people under the Sulu sultanate, which was established in 1457 by a Johore-born Arab adventurer, Shari’ful Hashem Syed Abu Bak’r, arrived in Sulu from Melaka in 1450.  The sultanate had strong ties with Borneo, which by the 15th century was influenced by Islam.

Although Miguel Lopez de Legazpi had successfully established a colony in Cebu in May 1565, the initial push of the Spanish conquista was northwards.  It was not until June 1578 that Gov. Gen Francisco de Sande dispatched captain Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa, together with Jesuit priest Juan del Campo and Coadjutor Gaspar Gomez to Jolo.  The result was not occupation but a negotiated compromise where the Sulu sultan paid a regular tribute in pearls.  The following year, Figueroa was awarded the sole right to colonize Mindanao.  In 1587 during a campaign against the Borneo launched by Sande, Figueroa attacked and burnt Jolo.  The Spaniards left Jolo after a few days, probably they had no intentions of occupation, but were merely securing their rear on their way to conquer Borneo.

Spanish hostilities had secured the Joloanos resolve to resist Spanish intrusions.  In response to attacks, raids were conducted against the settlements and reducciones organized by Spain.  In 1593, the first  permanent Catholic mission was established in Zamboanga, and three years later, Spain launched another attack on Jolo but was repelled by Rajah Bongsu.  In November of that year, the Spanish government sent Juan Ronquillo to in Tampakan to thwart the raiders but by the following year, the Spaniards had repositioned themselves in Caldera Bay (Recodo), Zamboanga.  In 1598 another expedition launched against Jolo was successfully repelled by the Joloanos.

In late 1600, Capitan Juan Gallinato with a contingent of 200 attacked Jolo but they were decimated.  By 1601, after three months’ heavy fighting Spanish force retreated unable to capture Jolo.  In 1628, a raiding force of 200 Spanish officers and 1,600 soldiers was organized against Jolo to break the back of the slave raiders, however, the large expedition failed to take Jolo.  Again on 17 March 1630, a large Spanish contingent of 2,500 men, attacked Jolo with 2,500 troops but to no avail.  When the commander Lorenzo de Olazo was wounded, the contingent  retreated.

On 4 January 1638 de Corcuera again led an expedition of 80 ships and 2,000 troops to Jolo but Sultan Wasit launched a successful defense.  However, an epidemic within Sultan Wasit’s kuta so he and his chieftains sought refuge in Dungun Tawi-Tawi.  The Spaniards freely occupied Jolo, where a small garrison was left to control the area.  The Spanish contingent was annihilated by frequent raids launched by Sultan Wasit; by 1645 the garrison was completely wiped out.  This was the first time Jolo had been occupied by the Spaniards for an appreciable length of time.

From 1663 to 1718, an interregnum of peace reigned because  Spanish troops were ordered to abandon Zamboanga and all the garrisons south and regroup in Manila to prepare for the impending attack of Koxinga, which never materialized.

Hostilities resumed in the 18th century and this was triggered by the decision in 1718 by  Gov. Gen Juan Antonio dela Torre Bustamante to reconstruct Real Fuerza de San José in Bagumbayan, Zamboanga.  The fort completed in 1719 was renamed Real Fuerza del Pilar de Zaragosa (Fort Pilar is its popular name today).  The rebuilt fort was inaugurated on 16 April by Don Fernando Bustillos Bustamante Rueda, senior maestro de campo of Zamboanga.  Three years later in 1722, the Spaniards were launching another expedition against Jolo.  Lead by Andres Garcia, the expedition failed miserably.  In 1731, General Ignacio Iriberri lead a force of 1000 to Jolo and captured it after a lengthy siege.  But the Spaniards left after a few days.

In 1755, contingent of 1,900 men led by captains Simeon Valdez and Pedro Gastambide was sent to Jolo to avenge for the raids by Sultan Muiz ud-Din.  But were roundly defeated.  In 1775, after Moro raid on Zamboanga, Capitan Vargas led a punitive expedition against Jolo but was repulsed.

The second half of the 18th century saw a new player in the Sulu Zone.  After occupying Manila from 1762-64, during the Thirty years war between Spain and England, the British withdrew south.  There they established trading alliances between the Sulu Sultanate and the British East India Company.  Spanish attacks on Jolo were now directed at weakening British trading interests in the south.  In 1784, Aguilar conducted a series of unsuccessful assaults against Jolo and in 1796, Spanish Admiral Jose Alava was sent from Madrid with a powerful naval fleet to stop slave-raiding attacks coming from the Sulu Sea.  British presence was signaled when in 1798, Fort Pilar in Zamboanga was bombarded by the British navy, which had established a base in Sulu.  In 1803, the Lord Arthur Wellesley, governor-general of India, ordered Robert J. Fraquhar to transfer trading and military operations to Balambangan island in Borneo.  By 1895, the British had withdrawn its military from Sulu.

In 1815 saw the end of the galleon trade with Mexico as the wars of independence in the Americas was brewing.  In 1821, administration of the Philippines fell directly under Madrid after Mexico had become independent. The Madrid government sought to end the “Moro threat.”  In 1824, the Marina Sutil, a light and maneuverable armada under Capitan Alonso Morgado encountered the slave raiders in the Sulu Sea.

In 1844, Gov. Gen. Narciso Claveria led yet another expedition against Jolo and in 1848 Claveria with powerful gunboats Magallanes, El Cano, and Reina de Castilla brought from Europe supervised the attack on Balangingi stronghold in Tungkil.  The raid resulted in the capture of many Sama Balangingi and the exile of many to the tobacco fields of Cagayan Valley.  However, the leader of the Sama, Paglima Taupan, was not captured.  With the fall of the Balangingi, a powerful ally of the Sulu Sultanate was decimated, this started the downturn of the sultanate’s maritime sea power.  In 1850,  Gov.Gen. Juan Urbiztondo continued with Claveria’s campaign and successfully annihilated of the remaining Balangingi strongholds at Tungkil.  However, a raid on Jolo that same year was a failure.  On 28 February 1851, Urbiztondo launched another campaign against Jolo, destroying the whole town by fire and confiscating 112 pieces of artillery.  But the Spanish troops withdrew after their successful assault.

In 1876, the Spanish launched a massive campaign to occupy Jolo.   Spurred by the need to curb slave raiding once and for all and worried about the presence of other Western powers in the south (the British had established trading centers in Jolo by the 19th century and the French were offering to purchase Basilan Island from the cash strapped government in Madrid), the Spanish made a final bid to consolidate their rule in this southern frontier.  On 21 February of that year, the Spaniards assembled the largest contingent against Jolo, consisting of 9,000 soldiers, in 11 transports, 11 gunboats, and 11 steamboats.  Headed by Admiral Jose Malcampo captured Jolo and established a Spanish settlement with Capt. Pascual Cervera appointed to set up a garrison and serve as military governor; He served from March 1876 to December1876 followed by Brig.Gen. Jose Paulin (December 1876-April 1877), Col Carlos Martinez (Sept 1877-Feb 1880), Col. Rafael de Rivera (1880-1881), Col. Isidro G. Soto (1881-1882), Col. Eduardo Bremon, (1882),  Col. Julian Parrrado (1882-1884), Col. Francisco Castilla (1884-1886), Col. Juan Arolas (1886-18930, Col. Caesar Mattos (1893), Gen. Venancio Hernandez (1893-1896) and Col. Luis Huerta (1896-1899).

The Spaniards were never secure in Jolo so by 1878 they had fortified Jolo with a perimeter wall and tower gates, built inner forts called Puerta Blockaus, Puerta España, and Puerta Alfonso XII; and two outer fortifications named Princesa de Asturias and Torre de la Reina.  Troops , including a cavalry with its own lieutenant commander, were garrisoned within the protective confine of the walls.  From Jolo, in 1880 Col. Rafael Gonzales de Rivera who was appointed the governor dispatched the 6th Regiment to Siasi and Bongao islands.  The Spaniards were not secure in their stronghold because it would be sporadically attacked.  On 22 July 1883, it is reported that three unnamed juramentado succeeded in penetrating the  Jolo town plaza and killed three Spaniards.; The word “Ajuramentado” was coined by Spanish colonel Juan Arolas after witnessing several such acts while serving duty in Jolo garrison.

1898 was a fateful year for the Philippines because this spelled a change in colonial rulers. On 25 February Dewey, received secret cable instructions from Theodore Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary to the Navy, to sail for Manila.  On 23 April, Gov. Gen. Basilio Augustin y Davila announced the defeat of Spanish troops in the Battle of San Juan against the revolucionarios and the presence of Commodore George Dewey, commander of the U.S. Asiatic Squadron, who was sailing from Honking toward the Philippines.  On 1 May, Dewey defeated the Spanish Admiral Patricio Montojo y Parasan at the Battle of Manila Bay and secured Manila.  For his success, the US Congress promoted Dewey is promoted to Rear Admiral on May 10.  Sensing that the Americans were going to renege on their promise to recognize the independence of the Philippines, on 12 June, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence in Kawit, Cavite.  However, the United States was doing its own negotiations with Spain.  On 21 November U.S. peace commissioners presented Spain with an ultimatum to sign the Treaty of Paris ceding the Philippines to the United States in exchange for 20 million dollars.  On 10 December the treaty was signed between the United States and Spain.  The Philippines was now a US colony.  On 21 December, US Pres. William McKinley promulgated the policy of benevolent assimilation and ten day later, he instructed the War Department to establish military government over the Philippines.  On 4 January of the following year, Gen. Otis who was assigned to the Philippines proclaimed that the islands were under the sovereignty and complete control of the United States of America.  Jolo was now in American hands.

The fortifications of Jolo remained in good state during the American occupation, when its walls, gates and the buildings within it were photographed.  These early 20th cent images of Jolo show a well-ordered and planned community, neatly laid out in a grid of streets and blocks — characteristics of Spanish urbanism applied with the rigidity characteristic of the military.  The World War years did not see much destruction on the fabric of the fortification walls.  A map drawn by the US Navy in 1944, at the end of the World War, shows that much of the walls were still standing.

It is in the post war years that the walls degraded. Jolo suffered major destruction due to bombardment and fire during the military operations in Jolo in 1973.  There are no records of how much of the existing walls were destroyed during this time. Presently, short stretches of a degraded perimeter wall still exist but takes some doing to find because they are covered by houses of buildings or degraded to less than a meter in height.


La Sabanilla • Malabang, Lanao del Sur

Spanish presence in this area near Malabang begins in the 17th century. The site of La Sabanilla is described by José Nieto de Aguilar (1894) as a short distance from Malabang. Of Malabang he notes “This is a most important (take off) point for whatever (military) operation is planned for the lake (of Lanao). It connects with the lake directly through a road which is about 50 kilometers in length, and ends in the settlement (ranchería) of Ganasi. A short distance from the present palisade, exists some ruins of the fort La Sabanilla, constructed in 1639, a site which could serve well for constructing a strong permanent fort utilizing the foundations and the materials accumulated by our predecessors.” Other sources give the year as 1649 and attribute the construction of the fort to the Jesuit Melchor de Vera who earlier had built Fort San José at Zamboanga, the predecessor of Fort Pilar.


La Sabanilla figured in the history of the pacification of Mindanao during two eras:

— the 17th century when Sultan Kudarat, wanting to secure Cotabato against the incursions of the Spanish launched a war to expand his territory and drive out the Spaniards from the island. Kudarat’s forces reached as far as northern Mindanao, using the narrow land passage between Illana Bay to the south and Panguil Bay to the north. To contain the advance of Kudarat, the Spanish established a fort in La Sabanilla. This 17th century structure may started as a palisade but may have been reconstructed at a later date with stone and mortar in response to the governor general’s decree of 2 March 1649.It was abandoned in 1662 when troops south were ordered to consolidate in Manila to prepare for an impending Chinese attack. La Sabanilla was planned as a series of fortifications beginning north in the area of Sibuguey.

— The second time it figures in Mindanao history happens in the 19th century when it is proposed that La Sabanilla be rebuilt. La Sabanilla was located near Malabang, the site of a fort constructed in the 1880s as part of a campaign to expand, strengthen and consolidate Spanish rule in Mindanao. In the 19th century, a military detachment assigned to La Sabanilla was protected by a fortified outpost, built on wooden piles in the shallows of Illana Bay. Late-19th century engravings depict the outpost as a simple boxy structure probably made of timber and thick lumber.