The end of the Spanish Empire in Iloilo

(Second in a series on Iloilo, “The city of the queen in the south”)

Historical data traces the origins of the galleons from Manila to the port of Oton west of the city of Iloilo.

Oton (then known as Ogtong) was where the Spaniards led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi established a colony when they arrived on Panay Island in 1566 while the Spanish conquest of the Philippines was in run and headed for Manila.

According to Wikipedia, the first Manila galleons were built in Oton at the start of Spanish rule. Since there was no precedent in Spain for the immensity of a Manila galleon, the prototype Manila galleons were arguably of Visayan design; after all, the Visayans were already building huge multi-masted “caracoas” in their wars against other kingdoms. Thus, the technical know-how to build the first galleons was a merger of Visayan and Spanish shipbuilding. Oton built Manila’s first galleons before shipbuilding operations were transferred to Bicol and Cavite shipyards.

The Hispano-Moro wars stimulated the construction of galleons. In 1600, as part of the Hispano-Moro conflict, a large Muslim force of 70 ships and warriors attacked several Visayan islands, kidnapping natives to sell them as slaves to their allies in the sultanates of the Sulu Archipelago.

However, when the Moros attacked the town of Iloilo, they were repulsed by a force of 1,000 Visayan warriors and 70 Spanish arquebusiers. The Moros suffer heavy losses.

(In 1635, in response to the Islamic raid on the Visayan Islands, the Christian Visayans of Iloilo, along with Spanish officers and their Latino soldiers from Peru, founded the town of Zamboanga, using it as a fortress to prevent Moro’s attacks in the Visayas and as a preparation ground for Christian campaigns in Muslim Mindanao.)

In 1700, due to ever-increasing attacks, especially from the Dutch and Moros, the Spaniards moved their colony about 25 kilometers to the east, to a village called Irong-Irong or Ilong-Ilong, which provided them with a natural and strategic defense against raids. At the mouth of the river that winds through the island of Panay, the Spaniards built Fort San Pedro, to better guard against raids, which were now the only threat to their hold on the islands. Eventually, the Spanish changed the name from Ilong-Ilong to Iloilo. With its natural harbor, the place quickly becomes the capital of the province.

According to Brother Gaspar de San Agustin, “In Panay there was in ancient times a shopping center and a courtyard of the most illustrious nobility.

In October 1889, due to the economic development which transformed the city, the regent queen Maria Cristina of Spain raised its city status by royal decree. Thus Iloilo was officially established as a royal city and soon after was granted the perpetual title of “La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad” (The most loyal and noble city).

After the outbreak of the 1896 Revolution in Manila, Ilonggos immediately responded with outrageous protests and asserted his loyalty to Spain. The recalcitrant ayuntamiento (city council) of Iloilo affirmed that allegiance and loyalty to Spain in a letter to the governor general, condemning the uprising: “These dark betrayals, the mere notion of which embarrasses the good and loyal Filipinos , produced a unanimous sense of protest among the Ilonggo. The city’s foreign community has also called on its representatives to visit local authorities and step up their protests against the revolt.

According to historical documents, the Ilonggos themselves were united in their support for Spain during the first two years of the revolutionary period. Other cities in Iloilo province also condemned the Manila uprising, and soon those in neighboring provinces of Antique, Capiz and Negros followed suit. This encouraged Ilonggo’s elite to initiate the organization of loyal volunteers from the region to be sent “to suppress what was considered a predominantly Tagalog rebellion.” The movement was supported by the Spanish and foreign Iloilo communities. Sources quoted by Wikipedia said: “A battalion of 500 volunteers has been raised, divided into two companies and placed under the cadre of mainly Spanish officers…. They arrived in Manila on January 16, 1897. They were one of the largest indigenous contingents to serve against the Katipunan troops led by the Tagalog General Emilio Aguinaldo on the battlefields of the province of Cavite. Ilonggo volunteers are said to have set a distinguished combat record for themselves.

After the signing of the Biak-na-Bato Pact, they returned to Iloilo in April 1898 and were greeted with great pomp “which galvanized Ilonggos into further public outpourings and demonstrations of loyalty to Spain”. Moved by the loyalty of the Ilonggo, Queen Regent Maria Cristina honored the city of Iloilo, on behalf of her son King Alfonso XIII, with the title “Muy Noble”, in a royal decree signed on March 1, 1898. Thus Iloilo City has gained a reputation for being “the Queen’s Favorite City in the South” or, simply, “the Queen’s City in the South”.

Suffering defeats by the Katipunan and later the Americans, the Spanish authorities fled Manila and established the colonial capital at Iloilo, making Iloilo the last overseas province of Spain. On December 25, 1898, the last Spanish Governor General, Diego de los Rios, ceded Spanish sovereignty over the Philippines to General Martin Delgado, during award ceremonies held in Plaza Alfonso XIII (now Plaza Libertad), after which the governor went to Zamboanga. Town on the way to retirement in Spain. (To be concluded on Friday.)

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Edward K. Thompson