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A History of the Philippines by David P. Barrows

The continued presence of the Moros in Mindoro


A Scientific Survey of the Coast of the Islands.--About 1790 the Philippines were visited by two Spanish frigates, the "Descubierta" and the "Atrevida," under the command of Captain Malaspina. These vessels formed an exploring expedition sent out by the Spanish government to make a hydrographic and astronomic survey of the coasts of Spanish America, the Ladrones, and the Philippines. It was one of those creditable enterprises for the widening of scientific knowledge which modern governments have successively and with great honor conducted.

The expedition charted the Strait of San Bernardino, the coasts of several of the Bisayan Islands, and Mindanao. One of the scientists of the party was the young botanist, Don Antonio Pineda, who died in Ilocos in 1792, but whose studies in the flora of the Philippines thoroughly established his reputation. A monument to his memory was erected near the church in Malate, but it has since suffered from neglect and is now falling in ruins.

Establishment of a Permanent Navy in the Philippines.--The intentions of England in this archipelago were still regarded with suspicion by the Spanish government, and in 1795 and 1796 a strong Spanish fleet, sent secretly by way of the coast of South America, was concentrated in the waters of the Philippines under the command of Admiral Alava. Its object was the defense of the Islands in case of a new war with Great Britain. News of the declaration of war between these two countries reached Manila in March, 1797, but though for many months there was anxiety, England made no attempt at reoccupation. These events led, however, to the formation of a permanent naval squadron, with head-quarters and naval station at Cavite. [83]

The Climax of Moro Piracy.--The continued presence of the Moros in Mindoro, where they haunted the bays and rivers of both east and west coasts for months at a time, stealing out from this island for attack in every direction, was specially noted by Padre Zuniga, and indicated how feebly the Spaniards repulsed these pirates a hundred years ago.

It was the last severe phase of Malay piracy, when even the strong merchant ships of England and America dreaded the straits of Borneo and passed with caution through the China Sea. Northern Borneo, the Sulu archipelago, and the southern coasts of Mindanao were the centers from which came these fierce sea-wolves, whose cruel exploits have left their many traditions in the American and British merchant navies, just as they periodically appear in the chronicles of the Philippines.

Five hundred captives annually seem to have been the spoils taken by these Moros in the Philippines Islands, and as far south as Batavia and Macassar captive Filipinos were sold in the slave marts of the Malays. The aged and infirm were inhumanly bartered to the savage tribes of Borneo, who offered them up in their ceremonial sacrifices. The measures of the Spanish government, though constant and expensive, were ineffective. Between 1778 and 1793, a million and a half of pesos were expended on the fleets and expeditions to drive back or punish the Moros, but at the end of the century a veritable climax of piracy was attained.

Pirates swarmed continually about the coasts of Mindoro, Burias, and Masbate, and even frequented the esteros of Manila Bay. Some sort of peace seems to have been established with Jolo and a friendly commerce was engaged in toward the end of the century, but the Moros of Mindanao and Borneo were increasing enemies. In 1798 a fleet of twenty-five Moro bancas passed up the Pacific coast of Luzon and fell upon the isolated towns of Paler, Casiguran, and Palanan, destroying the pueblos and taking 450 captives. The cura of Casiguran was ransomed in Binangonan for the sum of twenty-five hundred pesos. For four years this pirate fleet had its rendezvous on Burias, whence it raided the adjacent coasts and the Catanduanes.


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