Archive for the '19th century fort' Category


Fort Pikit • Pikit, Cotabato

Built in 1893, Fort Pikit was built by the Spanish military to consolidate its hold on Cotabato and the Pulangi River that run through it. Designed as a bastioned fort but adapted to 19th century armament, Fort Pikit was similar in design to its neighbor Regina Regente in Dulawan. Citing the report of Gen. Julián Gonzalez Parrado, Aguilar Nieto describes Fort Pikit as follows: “Pikit. On the right bank of the river and 34 miles from Regina Regent we find this fort. The perimeter is surrounded by a rubble wall 38 meters per side, two corner towers on a diagonal to each other, and two batteries at the remaining corners. Inside the perimeter is a quarter of two floors, made of wood and covered with a metal roof, an infirmary of tabique pampango and roofed with zinc. Central command, quarters for the artillerymen, workshops—all covered with nipa and wood. A powder magazine of rubble and an armored roof. Total personnel: one officer and 60 members of the infantry and 6 of the artillery.

For better control and dominion of the era, the establishment of a fort 46 miles upstream of Pikit, where ends the influence of the Malayan Muslims of Mindanao and where begins the settlement Montesa de Misamis (Bukidnon) is under study. To this garrison must be assigned one officer, 60 soldiers and 6 artillerymen.”

The fort is located on PC hill but is covered with vegetation. Made of rubble, the walls and the plain bastions are in place.  Some ruined structures are found inside.  The fort was made into a public park but had been abandoned in 1970s due to the conflict in Mindanao.  Some new cement floor and constructions are found inside. The fortification was cleared of vegetation in the 1990s. It can still be visited today a bastion offers a vista of the surroundings.

A picture of a bastion of Fort Pikit is found in the Heritage Conservation Society [of Manila] blogsite.


Cuarteles • Puerto Princesa City, Palawan

The details of construction are sketchy but it appears that the fortification was built in a short space of time; there is no evidence of additions during the Spanish colonial period. Built in the 19th century by the Spanish military it had military barracks, probably of wood, and a prison. It was built to defend Palawan’s capital Puerto Princesa, after the capital was transfered from Taytay.

Palawan was one of frontiers, which Spain sought to bring under Spanish rule. Also known as Paragua, the main island of Palawan was sparsely populated by indigenous tribes like the Tagbanua and the Tao’t Bato, in contrast to the northern island groups of Cuyo and Busuanga, which was populated by migrants from the neighboring islands of Luzon and the Visayas. Many were fisherfolk lured by the abundant fishing grounds of northern Palawan. 

An early 20th century postcard depicts a fortification built right in front of the Puerto Princesa church. The fortification consists of a pair of two-story quadrilateral towers projecting in front of a perimeter wall. At the towers’ lower registers are entrances leading into the perimeter’s interior. The perimeter wall, pierced by loopholes is not much taller than a standing person. The interior is almost completely occupied by a hip-roofed structure. The roof is made of metal sheets. The structure is morphologically closer to a blockhouse rather than a bastioned fort.

The postcard photograph suggests that this might be a fortified structure other than cuarteles because it is situated at the side rather than in front of the Puerto Princesa church. There is the possibility, though that the orientation of the church was changed over time. But then structural and design details, shown in the photograph, indicate an entirely different structure. The towers, for instance, are simple boxes supported by crisscross timbers. They have none of the articulation of the existing towers of cuarteles. There are no remnants of this second structure.


Fuerza de Principe Alfonso • Malabang, Palawan

Although plans to build a fort were underway from the 18th century, nothing came of it until the establishment of a military outpost on the island in 1857. It was formerly called “Principe de Asturias” but renamed “Principe Alfonso” in 1878. The fort is described as polygonal with a tower in the middle and facing the sea. The construction of the fort by the military began after the outpost was established.

The southern tip of Palawan (Paragua) and the outlying islands, did not figure much in the strategies of Spain until the 19th century when the British had established a trading post in the nearby island of Balambagan. Through this trading post the British controlled commerce in the “Sulu Zone.” The military began fortifying Palawan by establishing military and naval detachments throughout the island and its adjacent islands and islets. 


Fort Almonte • Barangay Lianga(n), Bacolod, Lanao del Norte

Although an older fort may have built earlier but data is sketchy, the ruins found at the Lianga East Elementary School trace to the work of Corps of Military Engineers, who built a quadrilateral fort as municipal and coastal defense in 1892. This coastal fortification was a component of Spanish strategy to ensure its hegemony in Mindanao. The late 19th century saw a last ditch effort on the part of the Spanish military to place Mindanao under its complete control as the island had eluded Spanish control and its economic importance as sites for agricultural colonies was being recognized not just by Spain but by rival European nations like the British, French and Russians who wanted to establish a foothold in Mindanao. Very little remains of Fort Almonte, a bit of wall and what looks like a bastion.


Fuerza de General Weyler • Baloi, Lanao del Norte

Named after Gov. Gen. Valeriano Weyler, who launched a punitive campaign against the Maranao of Lake Lanao, the fort was built in 1891 and then reconstructed with more permanent material in 1894 by the Corps of Military Engineers. The fort started as a field fortification constructed at Momungan (presently Balo-i) as part of the campaign against the Maranao. Its reconstruction assured Spanish control over the Agus River, a waterway that links Lake Lanao with the sea at Iligan. No remains of the fortification are reported.


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.


Fuerza de Corcuera • Malabang, Lanao del Sur

Built 1892 by Corps of military engineers under the direction Capitan Juan Gálvez y Delgado this Bastioned fort with auxiliary watchtower was as part of a pacification campaign of southern Mindanao. The fort assured control over Lake Lanao this fort and named after the 17th-century governor general, Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera, who waged a major campaign to bring Mindanao under Spanish rule and check the advance of Sultan Kudarat.

Fort Corcuera guarded Illana Bay and was the southern terminus of a 50-kilometer road that led upland to Lake Lanao.The fort was apparently built in a short period of time. Turn of the 19th century and early 20th century photographs indicate that the fort was V-shaped and was complemented by a quadrilateral tower on one end. Other photographs (e.g. in the Filipinas Heritage Gallery; of Vibal publishing; NARA) depict a polygonal independent tower, accessed through a ramp and draw bridge. This polygonal structure is free standing and may have been an auxiliary outer defense work of the fort or structure built at La Sabanilla (see below). Fort Corcuera was damaged by a severe earthquake in 1976. Parts of the ruined fort still remains.

Aguilar Nieto indicates that there was most likely an earlier fort, a palisade not the permanent for that has been recorded in photographs. He reports: “Malabang. Near Parang-parang 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.”

December 2020