Saturday, September 8, 2018

Love In The Time Of Corcuera

SEBASTIÁN HURTADO DE CORCUERA'S autocratic governorship is demonstrated by his early conflict (three years before the Concepción tragedy) with the Augustinian Archbishop of Manila Fray Hernando Guerrero, precipitated by the execution of fugitive Spanish artilleryman Francisco de Nava on the grounds of San Agustín Church where had sought refuge after he had murdered a female slave he had fallen in love with, but was captured by Corcuera's determined police after they ransacked the church. Offended by the governor's blatant disrespect of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the archbishop refused to lift, even on such a festive day being the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (this day in 1635), Corcuera's previous interdict suspending all religious functions of the church, but was forced to relent and render church services when the Jesuits took the side of the governor.  Fray Casimiro Diaz, from material collected earlier by Fray Gaspar de San Agustín, wrote: "There did not fail to result certain charges against the governor, such as his having ordered the secular priests to be detained in the guard-house; his declaration that he could not be excommunicated by anyone except the pope; and if an order were given to him to arrest the pontiff, he would arrest him, and even drag him along by one foot (which he was proved to have said by several persons)." Rodrigo Duterte's hero? Read on: "The governor freed himself from all these charges by excuses in a manifesto which he published; but as it is not a part of my duty to examine their adequacy, I shall not do so...for there is no liberty in Filipinas to enable anyone to complain, or to speak his mind against what the government manipulates." In May of 1636, the governor ordered the exile of the archbishop to Mariveles Island, and the cabildo of Manila cathedral took over the administration of the archdiocese. Within a month he was allowed to return to the city, albeit under humiliating conditions. 

Equally telling is the account of Corcuera's own Filipino slaves among the hundreds of men, women and children captured during the Moro Wars of 1638 in Tatiana Seijas' Asian Slaves in Colonial Mexico (the Portuguese began the African slave trade across the Atlantic in 1526), and how Corcuera justified them to the court as "legal slaves because they had been captured in a just war against Muslims, and the enslavement of women and children in a just war was fully allowed under Spanish jurisprudence." And beginning November of 1639, four months after the four survivors of the Concepción reached Manila, and up to February the following year, nearly 25,000 Chinese were killed in the second Chinese massacre in the Philippines. The slaughter was precipitated by the murder of Don Luis Arias de Mora, a "heartless and extortionate" Spanish alcalde-mayor and overseer of public land around the lake towns of Biñan-Calamba, by his angry Chinese rice-farming settlers. Desperate and oppressed beyond what they could bear, they set out, 300 strong and armed with bolos, bamboo poles and farm tools, for Manila. But "this was hardly an anti-Spanish uprising, much less anti-Filipino. It was a bid for survival by cornered men." What followed was an epidemic slaughter of the Chinese, including loyal servants in households, upon Corcuera's order and out of paranoia. The governor later boasted to the King that he and his men had killed about 25,000 Chinese (close to the current count of Duterte's EJK casualties) and thus suppressed an armed rebellion, when in reality it was no more than a weaponless, stormy protest group. It makes sense that national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, champion of the fight for freedom and against oppression, would trace his roots more than two centuries later to those Chinoys of Biñan-Calamba (which may have encompassed the town of San Pedro, where my family presently owns a house in a subdivision). Blair and Robertson's account of the entire episode in Volume 29 of The Philippine Islands is a lengthy read, but Jesuit Charles J. McCarthy's summary in Philippine Studies grasps its essence. My wife being also of Chinese ancestry, I wonder how her forebears survived those pestilential years.

Sebastián Hurtado de Corcuera, Governor of the Philippines, 1635-1644

San Agustin Church. Pen and ink drawing by Noel Bueza

Like Egyptians building a pyramid, Pinoy slaves labor on a Manila galleon. "Sometimes as many as 600 laborers were forced to work at building galleons and other ships. Some of them plane, some saw, some nail the timber, but the greatest number fell trees on the mountains, and these must be many and large, to keep out the tempestuous seas the galleons are to cross," wrote 17th century traveler Gemelli Careri. "Obtaining the lumber was the hardest work. Thousands of men serving under a labor draft sweated out grueling workdays that ran from dawn to sundown. They felled, rough cut, and transported the logwood that was shaped into the galleons at Cavite." Painting by Noel Escultura
Lading a Manila galleon at the port of Cavite. Art by Roger Morris

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