Friday, October 20, 2006


One of the fun moments of my having attended the international book fair — held last September in Metro Manila’s World Trade Center — besides discovering titles galore under one roof, was meeting new people like those folks from Brunei.

Their booth carried some fine coffee table books on travel and culture. In jest, told them that Brunei is so rich they needn’t sell their books; they ought to just give them away. Much to my surprise, when I purchased one of their children’s illustrated storybook for a niece’s daughter, they handed me as gifts a couple of travel guides; featuring beautifully photographed landscapes and all sorts of points of interest. These glossy four-color giveaway booklets were printed on high quality paper; evidence of the well-endowed coffer of Brunei’s culture and tourism ministry.

Regrettably, one of the books I had also purchased at the fair on that day, Sonia Zaide’s The Philippines – A Unique Nation, I wish I had owned and read beforehand, because mentioned in it was an historic event connected to Brunei. This would have made an interesting discussion with these friendly folks from the Brunei Darussalam booth. I’m sure it would’ve astonished them to learn that Brunei once shared close historical links with the Philippines than realized.

One of these events was the Tondo Conspiracy of 1587-88.

Comprised of very prominent Filipinos whose intention was to overthrow the Spanish rule and regain the freedom it once enjoyed. Its mastermind was Agustin de Legazpi; nephew of Lakan Dula and son-in-law of the sultan of Brunei. His first cousin was Martin Pangan, who was then the gobernadorcillo of Tondo.

Besides these two, the other major players in this Tondo Conspiracy were Magat Salamat, son of Lakan Dula and Chief of Tondo; Juan Banal, another Tondo chief and Salamat’s brother-in-law; Geronimo Basi and Gabriel Tuambacar, brothers of Agustin de Legazpi; Pedro Balinguit, chief of Pandacan; Felipe Salonga, chief of Polo; Dionisio Capolo (Kapulong), chief of Candaba and brother of Felipe Salonga; Juan Basi, chief of Taguig; Esteban Taes (Tasi), chief of Bulacan; Felipe Salalila, chief of Misil; Agustin Manuguit, son of Felipe Salalila; Luis Amanicaloa, chief of Tondo; Felipe Amarlangagui, chief of Caranglan; Omaghicon, chief of Navotas and Pitongatan, chief of Tondo.

Augustin de Legazpi had made contact with a Japanese sea captain, Juan Gayo, through a Japanese Christian and interpreter, Dionisio Fernandez, who had also joined the conspiracy. A secret agreement was concluded in which Captain Gayo would supply arms and Japanese warriors to help the Filipino rebellion and recognize Augustin de Legazpi as king of the Philippine kingdom. In reciprocity, Captain Gayo and the Japanese warriors would receive one-half of the tribute to be collected in the Philippines.

Besides this Japanese connection, there were other secret meetings that had to be concluded before the final plan of the uprising was to become completely enforceable. First, a secret delegation would travel to Borneo to secure combat troops and ships from the Sultan of Brunei. Second, obtain the support and participation of the inhabitants of Laguna and Batangas in this struggle for freedom. Once a full commitment was received from Borneo, Batangas and Laguna, the armed rebellion would begin upon the arrival at the Manila Bay of the Sultan of Brunei’s warships with warriors on board. The conspirators and their armed warriors would then launch a ferocious attack to completely annihilate the Spaniards and then set the city on fire.

It would have been a good plan climaxed by an epic battle had it not been for a turncoat who betrayed the conspiracy and reported it to the Spanish authorities.

On the way to meet with the Sultan of Brunei, Magat Salamat, Juan Banal, and Augustin Manuguit stopped at Cuyo, Calamianes, to meet with its native chief, Sumaclob. The chief was swayed to join the conspiracy and pledge to contribute 2,000 of his men for the cause. However, Magat Salamat made an error in judgment by soliciting the participation of another Cuyo native, Antonio Surabao. Upon learning of the secret plan, Surabao rushed to expose it to his master, Captain Pedro Sarmiento, the Spanish encomendero of Calamianes. And once Salamat, Banal and Manuguit were apprehended, Captain Sarmiento hastily traveled to Manila and informed Governor Santiago de Vera on October 26, 1588 of a brewing conspiracy against Spanish rule.

The governor immediately ordered the arrest of all persons implicated in the revolutionary plot. Everyone was thoroughly investigated, tried in court, and made to suffer cruel punishments. To the Spanish authorities, the conspirators were nothing more than traitors, but to the Filipino people, they were brave liberators — martyrs of a lost cause.

Augustin de Legazpi and Martin Pangan were brutally hanged — their heads cut off and exposed on the gibbet in iron cages; their properties and assets were seized by the Spanish authorities and the sites of their homes plowed and sown with salt so that they would remain barren.

The Japanese Christian interpreter, Dionisio Fernandez was hanged and his property confiscated. Dionisio Capolo (Kapulong), chief of Candaba (Pampanga) was sentenced to exile from his town and made to pay a heavy fine. Governor Santiago de Vera pardoned him. Later he served as a guide and interpreter for two Spanish expeditions to the Igorot country in 1591 and 1594.

The other five leading members of the Tondo Conspiracy were exiled to Mexico — Pedro Balinguit (chief of Pandacan), Pitongatan (chief of Tondo), Felipe Salonga (chief of Polo), Calao (chief of Tondo), and Agustin Manuguit (chief of Tondo). They were the very first Filipinos to reside in Mexico.

It wasn’t until during the late nineteenth-century when another significant conspiracy in Tondo was hatched to overthrow the Spanish regime. However, unlike the Tondo Conspiracy of 1587-88, this time it was the members of Manila’s working class — not the heads of prominent families — who were the mind and force behind it.

posted by Señor Enrique at 11:01 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice piece of history. the mexicans were also ready to help the filipinos in overthrowing the spaniards --- very similar situation. the end result was the end of the trade route between mexico and the philippines. the mexicans thought of re-establishing the trade route later on, but the plans never came to fruition.

October 20, 2006 2:17 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story only shows that we should have more famous heroes than we usually know. If only our history classes back in school were as broad as what you have been presenting here, tyhey would not have been asd dull...

October 20, 2006 3:10 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

The actual Sultan of Brunei seems to have a big house in Ayala Alabang Village. I don't know if it is for one of his Filipina mistresses or for one of his wives... ;-)
So the ties with Brunei aren't broken... ;-)

October 20, 2006 5:52 PM  

Blogger Nick Ballesteros said...

A very interesting bit of history, Senor Enrique! I have never come across this before.

would you know how Sonia Zaide is related to the Gregorio Zaide who wrote the thick World History book and used in our Social Studies class back in high school?

October 20, 2006 7:31 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder. I just remembered I did a short paper on this in my sophomore year when I had the foolish mistake of mixing in Zaide with A. Agoncillo, A. Ocampo and R. Constantino in my history references list for the semester. My professor asked that if I was going to attempt to reconcile the authors. I answered, "Hello no!" ;)

Anyways, the Tondo Conspiracy is really fascinating. I wish a film about it, an indie film would be best, would be made. Imagine if the conspirators were able to pull it off?!

Tondo is really special place in our history. Now if only I could remember where I hid that short paper of

October 21, 2006 9:25 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I'm tagging you. :D

October 21, 2006 10:46 AM  

Blogger PhilippinesPhil said...

Senor E, I hope you don't mind, but I love to argue history. Give me "what for" if you think I'm full of "it."

"It wasn’t until during the late nineteenth-century when another significant conspiracy in Tondo was hatched to overthrow the Spanish regime. However, unlike the Tondo Conspiracy of 1587-88, this time it was the members of Manila’s working class — not the heads of prominent families — who were the mind and force behind it."

Granted, Bonifacio was born and grew up in Tondo, but it would seem to be a stretch to say Tondo had more to do with it than that. It was a pretty widespread movement after all, although I admit you do seem to imply that by mentioning Manila's working class support.

Also, couldn't it be said that Aguinaldo was from a prominent family? In fact, not long after it began, the revolution was shortly thereafter taken over by members of prominent Cavite families, who were Aguinaldo supporters. These "Magdalos" pushed aside the Bonifacio branch of the revolution, called Magdiwangs.

Once again, it was the inability of Filipinos to unite that doomed this very promising attempt to throw out the Spanish. It was a repeat of the same old story from countless previous uprisings and rebellions: "Close, but no cigar & ...Divided we Fall."

October 21, 2006 6:34 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks for the info, Milkphish. Somehow, the great distance between Mexico and the Philippines might only had made the Mexican forces as formidable reinforcements, but nevertheless, what a priceless contribution they could have provided. Had the gap between these two countries not as wide, I'm sure the trade route would have been reestablished.

I agree, Major Tom! And this is the reason why I share asap whatever significant, though, buried pieces of history as I discover them (makes my reading even more worthwhile). But I'm sure we have extremely knowledgeable history buffs who have already been fully aware of these.

And I believe, Sidney, that one of the sultan's sons, Prince Jeffrey (?) is the owner of the immense mansion in Forbes Park. And you're right -- our ties with Brunei has always been there :)

This is the first I've come across of Sonia Zaide, Watson. By the way, from what I was told at the book fair, this Sonia Zaide book I bought is used as textbook in our schools so, Sonia might have close relationship to Gregorio. You know who would definitely know this is Vonjobi (Filipino Librarian)!

And I'm still eagerly waiting for your Bonifacio post, Jhay, or have you already posted it. My phone line is still dead and I have to go to an Internet shop to go online (and you know how awful the experience could be at such places sometimes).

I was looking at an old map and I got the impression that most of what is now Metro Manila used to be Tondo.

Another tag! Oh no! With my limited time online not sure when I would be able to do it, but will try.

I completely agree with you, Phil. Seemed like our local history was cursed with betrayals, jealousies, upmanship, and etc. -- from this Tondo Conspiracy to Jose Rizal by Antonio Luna. Zaide did point out this particular foible with our revolutionary movements, which I'll blog about soon.

As for:

"It wasn’t until during the late nineteenth-century when another significant conspiracy in Tondo was hatched ..."

What I meant was a conspiracy unlike the one led almost entirely by Manila's ruling class -- our Muslim kings and chiefs. But you're right, there were other prominent personalities in Bonifacio's movement such as Nakpil whose house still stands in Quiapo.

October 22, 2006 12:33 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting piece, Eric!

I never knew this bit of history before and thank you for sharing!


October 23, 2006 11:23 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks, Kyels. Now, I've got to search for a historical bit on a Philippine-Malaysia connection :)

October 23, 2006 1:26 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

If I remember my children's History books, Borneo used to be under Brunei.

The last to claim that they should be part of Brunei is the Federal State of Labuan, across the border - an hour by ferry.

I think Pres. Arroyo traces her roots to Lakan Dula (I'm not so sure)thus, her claims of relations with Brunei royalties.

By the way, Prince Jeffrey is the younger brother of His Majesty who has children by a Filipina related to the Laurels I think. If a woman is not married to a man, she is NOT a wife. A mistress perhaps - one of. BUT the children bears the surname. If they were married then divorced, the children will stay with the father. That's the royal custom.

I think Sonia Zaide is the wife.

October 25, 2006 1:10 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Sonia Zaide, the author and historian? Wow!

October 25, 2006 2:57 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

Sorry, wrong info! Mahabla tayo neto. :)

She's the equally talented daughter. Herself an established author.

October 25, 2006 4:01 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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