Category Archives: Philippines

Ferdinand Magellan’s death 500 years ago is being remembered as an act of Indigenous resistance

Kate Fullagar, Australian Catholic University and Kristie Patricia Flannery, Australian Catholic University

This week, the Philippines is marking a significant event in the history of European colonialism in the Asia-Pacific region — the 500th anniversary of the death of Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães (more commonly known as Ferdinand Magellan).

The Philippines government is hosting a series of events to mark the role that Indigenous people played in Magellan’s contested first circumnavigation of the earth in the 16th century.

European history books celebrate the expedition as a three-year Spanish-led voyage, carrying 270 men on five ships. But Filipino commemorations remind audiences that Magellan died halfway through the expedition in the Philippines and that only one ship with just 18 survivors limped home to Seville.

In particular, Filipinos remember how Lapu Lapu, the datu (leader) of the island of Mactan, inspired a force of Indigenous warriors to defeat Magellan’s crew — and the Spanish threat to their sovereignty — on April 27, 1521.

The Filipino commemorations show what an Indigenous-centred government approach to imperial history in the Pacific can look like. They also sit in stark contrast to the exhibitions, reenactments and publications that marked the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in Australia and New Zealand in recent years.

These commemorations mostly upheld the unique bravery of the British navigator, sidelining potentially deeper discussions of the violence to Indigenous people he and his crew also brought.

What happened to Magellan in 1521

Magellan reached what are now the Philippines in March 1521 after an arduous 100-day Pacific crossing. He set about using a combination of diplomacy and force to get local leaders and their followers to convert to Catholicism and submit to the authority of the far-away Spanish king.

Rajah Humabon of Cebu and other local rulers embraced an alliance with the Spanish, hoping to gain an advantage against their rivals.

Read more: 500 years after Ferdinand Magellan landed in Patagonia, there’s nothing to celebrate for its indigenous peoples

Magellan decided to attack Mactan, however, when Lapu Lapu refused to negotiate. About 60 European sailors and soldiers joined forces with Humabon and attacked Mactan at dawn, but they were met on the beach by Lapu Lapu and his armed warriors.

Weighed down by their armour, the Europeans stumbled in the shallows under arrow fire. Filipino folk histories say that an army of sea animals were also part of the resistance. Octopus wound their tentacles around the legs of the invaders, dragging them to their deaths. The battle was over within an hour.

A mural painting of the Mactan battle at the Mactan shrine in Cebu, Philippines. Shutterstock

Celebrating the victory at Mactan

The events organised by the Filipino government’s National Quincentennial Committee to mark Magellan’s death include a drone show, military parade and the televised unveiling of a new shrine to Lapu Lapu. All of these commemorations are designed to pay “tribute and recognition to Lapu Lapu and the Mactan heroes”.

The NQC also sponsored a national art competition centred on four themes connected to the Mactan victory — sovereignty, magnanimity, unity and legacy.

Matthius B. Garcia’s painting, Hindi Pasisiil (Never to be Conquered), recently took the grand prize in the “sovereignty” category.

In his work, the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the strong figure of Lapu Lapu. He is covered in Visayan tattoos and wears the bright red bandana and thick gold chains of a warrior and ruler. He leaps into the centre of the canvas, kampilan (sword) raised above his head, leading the charge of men rushing at the European invaders.

Magellan and his men, decked out in armour over puffy sleeves and stockings, fall over each other and into the sea to their deaths.

The artwork is Indigenous-centred because it was crafted by a Filipino artist for a Filipino audience. It is telling the story of what happened at Mactan from the point of view of the locals rather than the strangers.

Ordinary Filipinos have also been sharing their own artistic representations of the battle of Mactan on the NQC’s Facebook page, such as 5-year-old Miguel Alfonso Manzano Noriel’s painting, entitled The Battle of Mactan, below.

The Battle of Mactan by Miguel Alfonso Manzano Noriel.
The Battle of Mactan by Miguel Alfonso Manzano Noriel. Author provided

The NCQ has also encouraged children to print paper doll figures of Lapu Lapu and Magellan so they can re-enact the battle of Mactan at home.

In contrast to Garcia and Noriel’s fiery scenes of mayhem, the winning entries in the art competition’s “magnanimity” section remember the compassion that Filipinos showed to the explorers.

In Romane Elmira D. Contawi’s prize-winning painting, a local man holds out fruit to a bedraggled, hollow-eyed white man. The work illustrates the key role locals played in the expedition, giving provisions to Magellan’s fleet and sharing their expert knowledge on surviving the dangerous seas.

Remembering Cook in Australia and NZ

From 2018–20, the Australian and New Zealand governments also sponsored events related to a significant anniversary of European incursion into their lands — the arrival of Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, in 1769–70.

Some did aspire to take an Indigenous-centred viewpoint. But the majority ended up pushing, at best, a “shared histories” approach. They encouraged audiences to consider “both sides” of the beach when the Endeavour docked on Indigenous shores.

Read more: Explorer, navigator, coloniser: revisit Captain Cook’s legacy with the click of a mouse

National institutions in Australia held exhibitions entitled “Cook and the Pacific” or “Cook and the First Australians”. The New Zealand centrepiece event was a six-vessel flotilla — three European, three Pasifika — that stopped off at 14 communities to instigate “a balanced telling of a shared Māori and Pākehā history.”

In these performances, Cook was made to forego some of the limelight, but never to step off his pedestal entirely.

Other memorials did not achieve even this fuzzy sense of mutuality. Pre-existing statues of Cook, for instance, not only remained standing through the anniversary years, they were often protected from being defaced. In the case of the Cook statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park, this came in the form of dozens of police officers.

Police encircling the Cook statue in Sydney last year.
Police encircling the Cook statue in Sydney last year. Rick Rycroft/AP

Decolonised public histories

The Philippines’ approach to a more Indigenous-focused and critical form of public history is imperfect. The government has come under attack for silencing “unpatriotic” criticism” of national leaders today — and in the past.

And the government was criticised for its handling of the death of another Ferdinand – the Philippines’ former president Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the country through martial law for nearly a decade. He was given a hero’s burial to the outrage of many.

Similarly, public histories that happily remember 16th-century rebellions against Spanish conquistadors so as to “uplift the cultural confidence of the Filipino people” can render invisible some modern Indigenous struggles for autonomy, particularly in the Philippines’ Islamic south. There is only room for patriotic versions of the country’s history that emphasise unity.

Read more: Cooking the books: how re-enactments of the Endeavour’s voyage perpetuate myths of Australia’s ‘discovery’

Despite these serious concerns, the Filipino approach to the era of European expansion offers a refreshing contrast to the dominant stories about Cook in Australia and New Zealand. It is not simply adding in Indigenous voices or awarding Indigenous people co-star status on commemorative occasions.

Rather, the Filipino attitude to Magellan flips colonial history on its head by focusing on Indigenous resistance.

The promise of decolonised public histories in the Pacific is not to punish, shame or settle scores. It is instead intended to help forge as-yet undreamed futures for the region that place original sovereigns at their heart.The Conversation

Kate Fullagar, Professor of History, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Catholic University and Kristie Patricia Flannery, Research Fellow, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Catholic University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hidden women of history: María, a slave in Manila who resisted sexual exploitation

File 20190122 100267 1irhtao.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
María was murdered in front of the San Agustin Church in Manila (pictured). Her killer was later executed on the same spot.

Susan Broomhall, University of Western Australia

In 1635, María, a slave woman from the Indian sub-continent living in the Spanish-controlled Philippine Islands, enters the historical record. We know that women as well as men were involved in forced movements like María’s around the region but historical documentation about their lives is rarely available.

Hernando Guerrero OSA, Archbishop of Manila from 1635 to 1641.

María was owned by an artilleryman named Francisco de Nava who was then living in Manila. In 1635, the city’s archbishop, Don Hernando Guerrero, began an investigation into, in the words of the contemporary documents, “illicit communication” between the two.

Nava explained that they had an understanding. “He had brought [María] from India, saying that he was going to marry her, as he had taken her while she was a maiden”.

This was, in his eyes at least, a contract for her virginity: María would gain a respectable marriage in exchange for her sexual labour.

A slave’s autonomy

However, the evidence surrounding this case suggests María had other ideas. She “left the house, going to that of Juan de Aller, a kinsman of Doña Maria de Francia, wife of Don Pedro de Corcuera, whom she asked to buy her.”

A contemporary report noted that “the slave girl said that she preferred to belong to another” than to be Nava’s wife.

Maria de Francia, an influential woman who was the wife of the governor’s nephew, “became fond of her” and sought to buy María from Nava, with support from the archbishop.

Female slaves such as María were vulnerable to the sexual expectations of their masters and as migrants, they generally had few familial or other social networks to assist or protect them.

How did María attract the attention and sympathy of powerful local citizens to assist her? She had managed to engage ecclesiastical authorities and elite women in her plight, who were prepared to step in, in order to instil Catholic moral values.

Johannes Vingboons, The town of Manila, c. 1665, Nationaal Archief NL-HaNA_4.VELH_619.69, Wikipedia.

The sexual behaviour of women and men in Manila was of great concern to Spanish secular and ecclesiastical officials. The city was a known trading centre for slaves but Spanish authorities were anxious about the “many offenses to God” that took place between female slaves, in particular, and men in the city.

In 1608, King Felipe III had outlawed the “evil” of the passage of female slaves aboard vessels, but the practice continued. In November 1635, the governor, Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera, once again complained about the “great license and looseness of life” in Manila.

María’s case may thus have offered authorities an opportunity to discipline the wider population and reinforce moral expectations. They were willing to recognise a slave woman’s capacity to resist sexual exploitation, although not, it seems, a right to freedom from slavery itself.

A tragedy

At María’s departure, Nava was reportedly “so beside himself over the loss of the said slave that he refused to sell her at any price, saying that he wished, on the contrary, to marry her.”

But there were other stories circulating that complicated his narrative. The governor, for example, reported that Nava “had said the year before that he had been married in Nueva España.” Could his marrying María be even legally possible?

Still, Nava went to de Francia’s house, “to request that they should give him the slave,” whereupon he was beaten and placed in the stocks.

His reaction to the loss of María was perceived by onlookers as excessive, and shortly afterwards, an order was given that he should be treated as if he were mad.

On Sunday, 8 August 1635, at three in the afternoon, María was passing by in the street in a carriage with her new mistress. Nava approached them, asking María if she recognised him as her master.

Interestingly, one account provides another hint of a possible assertion of autonomy in María’s actions: “The slave answered him with some independence”, it was reported. But María’s precise words were not considered worthy of note for the historical record.

The encounter ended tragically for María. “Blind with anger,” Nava “drew his dagger in the middle of the street and killed her by stabbing her, before anyone could prevent it.”

Nava was condemned to death. On 6 September 1635 he was executed on gallows raised at the site where María had been killed, in front of the San Agustin Church.

María’s agency

This is not a celebratory history, for María’s life ended abruptly. We don’t know what María looked like or how she felt about her plight except through her actions as they were recorded by others. What we do know about her comes from documents created by Nava’s crime.

But these documents provide small insights into the experiences of displaced and marginal women who are typically among the most silent in the archives.

They reveal María’s forms of agency and resistance — not only in her access to support mechanisms among the powerful Catholic elite of colonial Manila, but also in her most basic impulse to refuse to accept her situation and to seek a better life within the limited choices before her.The Conversation

Susan Broomhall, Professor of History, University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

History of the Philippines

Article: The Sunken Cemetery of Camiguin

The link below is to an article that looks at the sunken cemetery of Camiguin in the Philippines.

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