Fuerza de San Miguel • Iligan City, Lanao del Norte

Nothing remains of this fort one of the older ones in Mindanao. This fort of stone and mortar was designed as star-shaped fort (Valdez Tamon 1738), however, an 1898 map of Iligan draws the fort as a quadrilateral structure with corner bastions indicating some renovations. Originally named San Francisco Xavier, it was renamed San Miguel later. Fort San Francisco may have been built by the Jesuits as early as the 17th century. Built as an outer outpost to contain the expansion of the Cotabato sultanate into northern Mindanao, the fort kept Sultan Kudarat of Cotabato from overrunning northern Mindanao. The fort was later maintained to prevent the Iranun, a coastal-dwelling branch of the Maranao, from controlling Iligan Bay.Fort San Miguel developed as the core of the what was to become the city of Iligan. Iligan celebrates as its patronal fiesta, San Miguel the namesake of the fort. The city fiesta is celebrated with a dramatic presentation on St. Michael the Archangel, called a comedia.The visual evidence we have for the fort comes from the Valdes Tamon report of 1738 and from the 19th century map cited above.  Damaged by a 1916 flood, there are presently no traces of the fort. Oral tradition identifies the fort’s site as the district of Timoga, Iligan City, near the mouth of the Timoga River, a branch of the Agus, a swift river which has its source in Lake Lanao and falls down a cataract called Maria Cristina. However, the 1898 map of Iligan locates the fort at the edge of the poblacion near a waterway. According to this map, Iligan’s Central Market is close to the fort’s site.A photograph of the fort dated 1903 is in Filipinas Heritage Library AR00260; its original source is Xavier University’s Museo de Oro. The photograph is most likely from the early 20th century. It is a long view showing the curtain wall, bastion and a building inside the fort perimeter. Although the photograph is in poor condition, it suggests that the fort was redesigned by the end of the 19th century.


10 Responses to “Fuerza de San Miguel • Iligan City, Lanao del Norte”

  1. 1 Ricardo Caluen
    February 12, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Dear Sir:

    Thank you for this interesting piece on Iligan forts. However, I am curious as to your source of the “renovated” Iligan fort being named “Fuerza San Miguel”. This is my first time to come across this. The Jesuits had earlier constructed Fort St. Francis Xavier (which you also mention as Fuerza San Francisco) in 1642. Due to Iligan’s notorious flooding history, this old fort was eventually washed down and another fort constructed. To my understanding, this new fort (not a “renovated” Fort St. Francis Xavier) was named Fort Victoria (I believe she was the Queen Regent at the time the new fort was constructed in 1850 or so). I have seen an old picture (possibly a copy of the original) of this fort which was also known as Cotta de Iligan. But Fuerza San Miguel? I am really very curious about this discovery. Admittedly, Iligan’s Patron Saint is San Miguel. There is logic in the fort being named after the archangel upon whom Iliganons have always sought protection.

    Ricardo Caluen

  2. 2 muog
    February 13, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Dear Ricardo,

    Thank you for your comment on the fort at Iligan. I am in the US until mid-June and not in Manila where I can check the precise source for the name Fuerza San Miguel. If I am not mistaken this information comes from the report put together by Gov. Gen Fernando Valdez Tamon in 1738. Your information on Fort Victoria is new to me and the date you give 1850 or so for its construction is a welcome addition. This would help solve a conundrum that I have been trying to solve, namely the discrepant information regarding the site of the Iligan fort and the star-shaped design found in Valdez Tamon report. The picture at Xavier U’s Museo de Oro does not indicate a star-shaped fort but a typical quadrilateral bastioned fort with bastions at the corners. This is the same design found in the 1898 map I have cited. So there may have been more than one fortification at Iligan: the San Francisco Xavier built by the Jesuits which you date to 1624, the star-shaped fort in Valdez Tamon and Fort Victoria which you have mentioned.

    Thank you for your interest. Muog website posts the result of a nation wide survey to discover and map all the existing fortifications in the Philippines, with the objective of having them included in a worldwide inclusion as World Heritage Sites under the category of “cultural route.” The participation of many have made possible this documentation.


    Rene Javellana
    Boston, MA

  3. 3 ariston jariol
    February 20, 2008 at 4:23 am

    dear sir,

    i hope you can contact mr. ricardo caluen coz i would like to ask for his email address. i would like to ask if he somehow knows the history of floods at Tubod River (Iligan River) here in Iligan City. Perhaps you may know about the respective dates on the destruction of these forts due the floods that happened in Iligan in the past.

    ariston jariol

  4. 4 Ricardo Caluen
    February 25, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Hi, Ariston. I came across your comment by accident, in the same manner that I discovered MUOG had a reply for me. Funny, this internet business. I still can’t fathom all its intricacies after all these years.

    You asked Mr. Javellana to contact me re Iligan rivers and history of floods in Iligan. Unfortunately, I am no expert on the subject. Although, I have been trying to put pieces together on anything about Iligan History.

    It looks like Mr. Javellana is working on Spanish forts in the Philippines (didn’t really get a chance to carefully go over this website and all its contents).

    Please feed my curiosity. Who are your parents? If you are old enough (by this I mean like if you’re in your 40s or so) you would recognize my name because my father was very close to the Jariols and the Bargas—we were neighbors on Aguinaldo Street, aside from the fact that my Dad was ninong to a few Jariols/Bargas.

    In fact,I am trying to get hold of Alan Barga because I want to confirm a few details with on Iligan in the 1960s. I am in the process of writing my book about that period.



    Pls reply to my email to ensure that I get your response: rickycaluen@gmail.com

  5. 5 Ricardo Caluen
    February 25, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Hi, Rene. Will you permit the informality of this address? (BTW, I am not sure if I am writing on the right reply box. Maybe Ariston will get this instead.) I didn’t realize you are “the” Rene Javellana of “Filipino Style” fame until you signed your reply. I have come across your book in Toronto when a friend gifted another friend with your book. I’ve been meaning to get a copy for myself. Maybe will order on-line.

    Further to your reply, yes, I will wait for when you return to Manila (and look for your bibligraphy/notes on Philippine forts).

    It has been my dream to visit the Library of Congress where I am almost sure one would find some of the oldest pictures on Iligan and Lanao at the dawn of the American occupation of the area. I even contemplated on applying for a sabbatical leave of sorts (no, am no longer with academia like I used to prior to moving to Toronto in 1992; until then, I was with the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology) just to do some research for no one seems to be doing it on Iligan.

    I am keenly interested in your work on Spanish forts, particularly where this pertains to Iligan. I once theorized on the choice of San Miguel as protector of Iligan (instead of San Francisco, whose protection was sought when the first fort was erected by the Jesuits). Will share my thoughts next time and only if you are interested. Am writing from work so I can not stay long on the computer.

    Good luck.


  6. 6 ariston jariol
    March 12, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    sir caluen,

    I am so thankful that you have replied. i am a Jariol but sad to say im just in my late 20s. I am the grandson of the late Manuel L. Jariol Sr., the former fire chief of Iligan. My father is the late Constancio S. Jariol II. We used to live near the fire department. In fact the street where our old ancestral house used to stand used to be on the street of the fire department. Now, we are situated in Tibanga where the Jariol’s are clustered.

    I asked about the destruction of the forts because I am undergoing a thesis study on the lores of Tubod RIver to justify how the floods destroyed the forts in connection to a lore that is present in the lumad ILiganons. And in such a way, i would like to find out the exact dates or perhaps the year of such destructions to pinpoint the history floods that destroyed these forts.

    I hope u can read the journal of GHISLAINE LOYRE entitled “The Spanish Fort of Iligan 1750-60” in the Philippine Studies 35 (1987) 2nd Q where i read about the fort of iligan. However, there is no exact name of the fort cited in that journal.

    I hope I have contributed some inputs here. Thanks and more power!

    Truly yours,

    Ariston Wright Jariol

  7. 7 Ricky Caluen
    April 9, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Hi, Ariston. My apologies for this late reply. I do not always get to open MUOG, as I had advised you before. I knew your grandfather when I was a child. I am sure you have a picture of your Lolo Maning together with other charter officials of Iligan City when they were inducted into office as first-ever city officials of Iligan when in became a city in 1950. I have a copy of that picture which I included in my second magazine featuring Iligan old pictures titled “Vignettes of Iligan History” II. My late father, Dr. Godofredo Caluen, Sr., was first City Health Officer (also a councilor, ex-officio, as provided for by the charter, like your Lolo Maning was the first Fire Chief. He is the guy wearing khakis and holding a cigarette in his fingers (bad for a doctor, huh! he died of heart attack….1980).

    I believe I have also run into your father when he was graduating from high school in La Salle. He was graduating, I was just entering elementary. Maybe if you email me your family pic I could confirm that.

    Re Iligan River floods, as I said, I am not really an expert on this. Suffice it to say that what ever little that I know I have obtained from secondary sources on Iligan History. I can not place the years when major floods visited Iligan during the Spanish period. However, it is noted that Don Remigio Cabili transferred the site of Iligan–from somewhere in the northwest of the old mercado—to its present location in 1850 as the old settlement was eaten by the sea, aided by the flooding from the Iligan River. It is also recorded that another great flood took place in 1916. Eventually, the major flood of 1923 swept away whatever was left of the old fort—which is generally believed to have been located in the general area of the PNB in downtown Iligan. So, two dates we can sure of: 1916, 1923. Parenthetically, I have submitted a proposal to the National Historical Institute in Manila to initiate a study on the location of Fort Victoria (Fuerza San Miguel, according to Rene Javellana) so that a national marker may be installed. I think Mr. Javellana would be the expert source of information on this subject.

    I have to review Blair & Robertson which, incidentally, is available in the MSU IIT library. Have you checked this out, yet? I will be going to the Toronto Referance Library, which has a copy of the DVD version.

    Incidentally, did you say you writing a thesis on the lore surrounding the Iligan River? Is it a masteral thesis, or undergrad? You might be interested to know that in my researched article titled “Preliminary Ethnographic Notes on the Higa-unons of Rogongon, Iligan City” I mentioned that according to some old Higaunons Iligan was known to them as Kapakuhan, which was supposed to be a reference to the pako fern that used to grow abundantly along the banks of the Iligan River. In which case, a possible old name of the Iligan River is Kapakuhan! Now, this one you can quote from me! 🙂


    P.S. I would very much like to read your work on Iligan River lore. Do email me a copy….even if only in the draft stage.

  8. 8 ariston jariol
    April 25, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Sir Rick,

    thanks for some info about Iligan River. My study is an undergrad thesis. I was focusing mainly on the river of Tubod here in Iligan City. The study was focused mainly on the folklore of iliganon folk regarding the river. I wish i can email u the chapters of my study so you can see how the study was undergone. It’s not really a very technical study as it only focused on folklore but i was hoping that my study would somehow put into record the lore of that river because we are already losing the bearers of such story due to age.

    with regard to your knowledge about the history of the river, my adviser, Prof. Rosemarie Purganan pointed me out to your name as the one to look for during the drafting stage and i managed to look for you on the internet.

    ill try to email you some pics of my late grandfather, Manuel L. Jariol Sr. and my late father, Constancio S. Jariol II if i can. ill jst ask the webmaster of this site on how i can send u the email. thanks and God Bless!


  9. 9 Ricky Caluen
    May 5, 2008 at 3:22 am

    Ariston — You do not realize how important your undergrad thesis is in the writing of local lore/history. In fact, when I go home to Iligan this September, I will be pushing for a major initiative in the collection of oral histories on Iligan. As early as 20 years ago or so I have already batted for the establishment of the Iligan Studies Center where such materials as what you are working on wno could be stored.

    I would really appreciate your giving me a complete copy of your work, once it is finished.

    Thanks and good luck once more on your work. Do give my regards to Mrs. Puruganan.

    Sir Ricky

  10. 10 Ricardo Caluen
    June 3, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    For Rene J:

    Hi. I don’t know if you’re back from your US trip yet. Just a little friendly reminder about the documentary source of the old Iligan fort being named Fuerza de San Miguel you promised to review upon your return.

    Thanks and best regards.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: