The Philippines and Round About
by G. J. Younghusband
1899

The Philippine Islands

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the commercial supremacy and sea-going enterprise of the world were divided between the Spaniards and the Portuguese, and so great was the rivalry and so fierce the strife regarding what are now known as spheres of influence, that the Pope, Alexander IV., by a papal bull promulgated in 1493 or 1494 decreed that the world should be divided into two hemispheres, the Western half to pertain to Spain and the Eastern half to Portugal.

The line of demarcation was to be the meridian of Cape Verd Island, which, with its corresponding meridian on the other side of the world, formed the necessary division. Thus handsomely provided for, each of the two Powers by the terms of the bull was entitled henceforth to discover and annex all heathen lands within their respective hemispheres. The decree was well meant and would no doubt have worked admirably had the far side of the world been as well known as it is at this day, but being then a little-visited region, a fierce controversy, interspersed with spasmodic fighting, arose between Spain and Portugal as to the exact position of the Moluccas and the group now known as the Philippine Islands, with reference to the line of demarcation.

The Spaniards, quite wrongly, as a glance at the chart of the world will show, maintained that these rich islands lay within the Western Hemisphere, and the endeavour to prove this fact led directly to the important discovery of what are now known as the Magellan Straits and the western route to the eastern seas.

The discoverer of this new highway of the ocean was Hernando de Maghallanes, a Portuguese by birth, but who in later life became a naturalised Spaniard serving under tbe sovereignty of Charles I. The squadron of discovery, which was fitted out by the king and entrusted to the command of Maghallanes, consisted of five ships, varying in tonnage from 60 to 130 tons, and carrying crews of a total strength of 234 men. Losing two of his ships, one by shipwreck and the other by mutiny and desertion, the celebrated explorer battled his way round the promontory now known as Cape Horn with the remaining three vessels, and on the 26th of November, 1520, sailed triumphantly into the Pacific Ocean. Four months later he reached the Ladrones Islands, and in the month of April, 1521, effected a landing on several of the islands of the group now known as the Philippines.

Maghallanes was himself, however, unfortunately killed in a skirmish with the natives of Magtan Island on the 25th of April, 1521, and the remnants of his expedition after many losses and adventures struggled back to Spain by way of the Cape of Good Hope, reaching home in September, 1522.

The weather-worn explorers were received with great honour by Charles I., who, remardless of Portuguese protests, commenced preparing a new fleet to make good the discoveries of Maghallanes. This second fleet consisted of six ships, and its objective was the Moluccas, but on arrival it found these islands strongly, held by the Portuguese, and no results were gained from a long series of engagements which ensued. The third and last effort of Charles I. to found an Eastern Empire was made in November, I542, two Spanish ships and a galleon sailing from the Pacific coast of Mexico towards the islands which now first appear in history under the name of the Philippine Islands, so called after Philip, Prince of the Asturias, and son and successor of Charles I., but the expedition again ended in failure. It was reserved for Philip to consummate the ambition of his father, and in I565 we find that a fourth expedition has at last been successful in establishing a somewhat precarious hold on the islands. In 1570 the Spanish power in these regions became more consolidated, and Manila was established as the capital of the archipelago.

During the next two centuries Spain gradually strengthened her hold on the islands, disturbed only from time to time by minor conflicts with the Portuguese and Dutch, and by such internal troubles as are inseparable from the establishment of a foreign sovereignty. It was reserved for the British, in 1762, under the leadership of Draper and Cornish, to make the first formidable descent on the islands.

England was at this time at war with both France and Spain, and it was at the initiative of Colonel Draper that a blow was aimed at the Spanish Indies. This officer, whilst travelling for the sake of his health before the war broke out, had visited Manila, and afterwards proceeding to England, pointed out to the Ministry the wealth and value of the Philippine Islands, putting forward proposals for their capture, in the event of war, by a combined naval and military force based on India. Colonel Draper's proposals, after some hesitation, were accepted, and it was arranged that the expedition should be timed to reach Manila before news of the declaration of war then pending could reach so distant a port.

The expedition accordingly sailed from Madras on August 1st, 1762, convoyed by a squadron consisting of 8 ships of the line and 3 frigates under Vice-Admiral Cornish. The military force consisted of 450 men of the 79th (Draper's Regiment); 60 men of the Royal Artillery, and 30 men of the Madras Artillery; 200 deserters of all nations, but chiefly French; a company of Coffrees, and I of Topasses, each 8o strong; 6o European pioneers; 650 Madras sepoys; and lastly, some 60 Europeans in the service of the Nawab of the Carnatic. A total of 1,670 of all ranks under the command of Colonel Draper, with the rankof Brigadier-General.

The expedition reached Manila Bay on September 23rd, much to the surprise of the Spaniards, who were not aware that war had been declared between England and Spain, and a landing was effected on the shores of the bay, about two miles south of the town, and near the spot where the American troops landed 136 years later. The bay of Manila is so large that a strong wind from the west or southwest can raise a sea heavy enough to seriously retard landing operations. Draper consequently lost an officer and a few men from drowning, but fortunately no armed resistance was offered.

Close to the point of landing stood, and stands to this day, a small, square, masonry fort called the Polverina or Powder Magazine, and this useful point d'appui Draper proceeded to seize. On the walls of the Polverina may still be seen the marks of the British cannon balls and British bullets making indentations up to six inches in depth, but apparently not impairing the defensive strength of the fort. In juxtaposition to these old marks may now be seen the effects of modern fire, where the shells from Admiral Dewey's fleet pierced these same ancient walls. In addition to the Polverina, Draper seized the Hermita, a large and commodious church half a mile from the walls of the fortified town, which building has now apparently disappeared. After a short siege of seven days the British troops took the fortified town and citadel by assault, though in strength the Spaniards outnumbered them by four to one, losing, however, I49 officers and men killed and wounded. The total Spanish loss may be estimated at 900 killed and wounded.

The capitulation was signed on October 6th, 1762, and by its terms the whole of the Philippine Islands, as well as the capital, were ceded to the British Crown. In addition, Draper demanded a war indemnity of $4,000,000, as a set-off against giving up the town to pillage. Only $1,000,000 of the sum was paid, and the remaining $3,000,000 is still an outstanding claim against the Spanish Government. In July, 1763, news reached the British Commander of the Peace of Paris, signed on February 10th, 1763, whereby not only the Philippines but also Cuba were ceded back to Spain, so little did the Government of George III. appreciate the commercial value of these rich possessions.

The Spaniards, however, on a point of etiquette, refused to accept the information regarding the peace furnished by the British until confirmed by direct advices from Spain; this attitude but thinly giving countenance to a formidable Spanish rising against the British occupation, which, under Simon Anda, was making some head, and the object of which was to recover possession of the islands. Desultory fighting, therefore, went on, and it was not till the spring of 1764 that the Spanish leaders received a copy of the Peace of Paris from Madrid, and agreed to the peaceful cession of the islands.

At the northern end of the Pasco de Lucia, one of the fashionable promenades of Manila, and in full view of every ship which passes up the river, there still stands a stately obelisk, which commemorates in pompous periods the expulsion of the British by the gallant Spaniards under Simon Anda! The American soldiers, whilst thoroughly appreciating the exquisite humour of the Dons, were much inclined to topple this record of an historical fiction into the river, but perhaps the monument might best be left standing with an additional inscription describing the capture of the islands by the British in 1762, and the final expulsion of the Spaniards in 1898.

From 1764 onwards the history of the Philippines offers no points of particular interest to outside nations until the year 1896 is reached, a year which marked the beginning of the end of Spanish rule, and which brought to the front a leader of men capable of great undertakings. That leader was Aguinaldo the Philippine, and with his name is so intimately entwined the history of the revolutionary movement, that in describing the career of this remarkable man we shall bring the narrative of events up to the present day.

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updated: October 20, 1997
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger