Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Tragic Illicit Affair of the Spanish Governor General's Wife

Produced by Jeroen Hellingman and the PG Distributed Proofreaders Team

The Philippine Islands, 1493–1898

Explorations by early navigators, descriptions of the islands and their peoples, their history and records of the catholic missions, as related in contemporaneous books and manuscripts, showing the political, economic, commercial and religious conditions of those islands from their earliest relations with European nations to the close of the nineteenth century,

Volume XX, 1621–1624

Edited and annotated by Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson with historical introduction and additional notes by Edward Gaylord Bourne.

News from the Province of Filipinas, This Year, 1621

At nine o’clock in the evening on the eleventh of May, there was an occurrence in this city as pitiable as it was unfortunate, the cause of it being a man who had been expelled from our Society. After having been a member of it for seven years, he left the Society, and was married three times, although he was not yet thirty years old.

Our Lord often brought him back, warned by bitter experience of troubles and remorse of conscience; so that for a long time he did not dare to go to sleep without first confessing himself—especially on the long trip from Nueva España to these islands, where he was wrecked on a ship which was on its way with silver and other wealth belonging to these islands. The vessel escaped miraculously, with sails torn by shots from three Dutch vessels, which they took for one of their own. They ran aground, but all the silver was saved. Among others Joan de Messa (the name of the outcast of whom I have just spoken) removed all the silver and goods, to the value of thirty thousand pesos or more, belonging to people in Mexico. It had been entrusted to him, and he kept it, as was done by all, in a house and church of one of our residences, situated where the ship happened to halt.

While he was there he proceeded as if he were a religious, both in example and in frequenting the sacrament, until he came to this city of Manila—where, with certain curious articles, he obtained entrance to and communication with the wife of the governor of these islands, Doña Catalina Sambrano, who had little care for what her position and her dignity demanded.

Their sin began on Holy Thursday, with so little secrecy and so bad an example, that the affair was beginning to leak out. So badly did it appear that certain persons came to one of our fathers, advising him to warn Joan de Messa that they would kill him. The father did, but Messa took no notice of it. The governor, meanwhile, was informed of his wife’s evil conduct; and, wishing to detect them, he pretended to go down to the harbor and fort of Cavite, situated two leguas from here. He had been wont to do this on other occasions, because the enemy with nine ships was within sight of the fort. He retraced his steps, leaving his entire retinue about a legua from here. He entered the city with the intention of accomplishing the deed (which he did later) in his own house; but before entering it he was informed by a page that his wife had gone, disguised as a man, to the house of Joan de Messa, where she had often gone in the same dress. After receiving this information, he sought his retinue, taking counsel with his servant and three captains, whom he placed in four streets in order to let no one pass.

The governor alone arrived at the house at the very moment that his wife entered, and was going upstairs with Joan de Messa, and behind them a very noted pilot, on account of whom the ship that I mentioned above was celebrated. The governor attacked him and pierced him with a mortal thrust. With that he rushed out of the house, calling for confession; but, those who guarded the street, not giving him time for that, put him to death. Immediately Messa went up the stairs, and safely reached a large room where two candles were burning on a buffet. If these had been extinguished, he might have escaped. He drew his sword and defended himself for some time. As the governor perceived that he was clad in armor, he aimed at Messa’s face and pierced him through the neck, so that he fell down stairs, where he who guarded the door tried to finish him; but as Messa was well-armed he could not do so readily until he wounded him in the face.

During all this time Messa was not heard to ask confession or even say “Jesus,” or any other words, except: “Whoever you are, do not kill me; consider the honor of your lady.” While this was going on in the street, the governor found his wife in hiding. After wounding her three times, she asked confession; and he, as a knight and a Christian, went out to look for a confessor, and brought one. He resigned her to the priest, urging her to confess herself well and truly, which she did for some time, until the confessor absolved her. With three or four more wounds, and the words with which he aided her to die, he finished with her.

The three dead bodies remained there until seven or eight o’clock in the morning before anyone dared to remove them. The master-of-camp, Don Geronimo de Sylva, who had been governor of Maluco, and was a knight of St. John, had the body of the governor’s wife removed to her house, to wrap it in a shroud; and that night she received solemn burial by the Recollects of St. Augustine.

The two bodies of Joan de Messa and the pilot remained in the street all day, while a multitude of people, of the various nations who are in this city, collected to gaze at them, manifesting awe at seeing a spectacle so new to them, and one never seen before in these regions. At night, some members of La Misericordia carried them away, without clergy, lights, or funeral ceremony. They carried the two bodies together on some litters, and buried them both in the same grave.

This was the disastrous end of a poor young fellow, upon whom our Lord lavished many and most gracious gifts—although he knew not how to profit by them, but offended Him who had granted them. Those who will feel it most are the owners of the property [confided to him]; for God knows when they will collect it, because it is sequestrated. Will your Reverence communicate this to Brother Juan de Alcazar.

Death of Dona Catalina Zambrano

May 12, 1621, occurred the unfortunate death of the governor’s wife, which I intend to relate here, as it is a peculiar case. The governor of these Filipinas Islands, Don Alonso Fajardo de Tenza, suspected that his wife, called Doña Catalina Zambrano, was not living as was fitting for such a personage.

One afternoon, that of May 12, he pretended that he was going to the port of Cavite, where he generally went because the Dutch enemy were in this bay with their fleet. The governor went, but, leaving all the men who accompanied him, returned alone. Entering the city secretly, he concealed himself in a house, where a captain in his confidence brought him a young page who was in the service of his wife—the one who carried the messages, and knew everything that went on. The governor placed a dagger to his breast in order to get him to tell what he knew of his wife.

The page openly confessed that she was maintaining a sinful alliance with a clerk, an ordinary person, called Juan de Messa Suero, who had been a member of the Society of Jesus for some years at Coimbra; and that his wife was dressing in the garb of a man, in order to go outside of the palace, as she had done at other times. Juan de Messa came with a very eminent pilot. The governor’s wife left the palace clad as a man, with her cloak and sword and all went together to the square. Thence they began to walk toward a house of Juan de Messa.

The governor, with three other men who accompanied him, went on ahead of them, and awaited them near the door of the said house, hidden in a recess. The governor’s wife entered first, then Juan de Messa. Then the pilot stopped to shut the door. Thereupon the governor attacked him alone, and giving a violent push on the door, opened it. He entered, and found himself with the pilot alone, for the other man, Juan de Messa, with the governor’s wife, on hearing the noise, fled up the stairs. It appears that the governor stabbed the pilot in the breast. The latter left the portal of the house, whereupon those who accompanied the governor and had remained to guard the door, attacked and killed him there.

The governor went upstairs and found Juan de Messa in the hall. He chased the latter around a table that held two lights. The governor made a strong thrust at him, which almost knocked him down; but showed that he was clad in armor. By the force that the governor exerted in the thrust, he felt that he himself was wounded in the hand. Apparently the pilot had given him that wound, and he had not felt it before that. The governor’s sword began to grow weak, and he said: “Ha, traitor, thou hast wounded me.” Juan de Messa lost his head, and ran down stairs, thinking that his safety lay there. The governor attacked him, and on the way down stabbed him in the neck, with such force that he tripped and fell down. Below, the governor and the guard finished killing him. The governor would have been in great peril, both with the pilot and upstairs with Juan de Massa, had not the miserable man lost his head.

Had he at least extinguished the candles, and stationed himself on the stairway, which was narrow, he could have prevented the governor from ascending, and could even have killed him. The latter went immediately to look for his wife, and found her hidden in an attic, hanging to a beam. He stabbed her from beneath, and passed half of his sword through her body, and at that the poor lady fell. She requested confession. The governor restrained himself, and said that it was a timely request.

Leaving the three men whom he brought with him as a guard, he in person going to the Franciscan convent, which was near by, to summon a confessor, met a secular priest on the way, who had left his house at the disturbance. He took the latter with him and told him to confess “that person.” He confessed her very slowly, delaying more than half an hour. The governor, in the meanwhile, was walking up and down. When the father had finished, he stabbed his wife, telling her to repent of her sins and to confess to God who would pardon her. This happened at nine o’clock at night. A large crowd gathered immediately, and the alcaldes made investigation of what was passing.

The dead bodies of the two men were guarded until next day, for justice to do its duty. That of the governor’s wife remained there until eight in the morning, when the master-of-camp, Don Geronimo de Silva, of the habit of St. John, ordered it to be taken up and carried to his house, in order to have it buried from there, according to the rank of her person, and not according to the so disgraceful event and death that had happened.

They buried her body in the Recollect convent, with the greatest pomp possible. Then the two bodies of the men were buried, carrying them together from the street to the grave. The royal Audiencia took charge of the matter. They found almost two hundred notes from the governor’s wife in Juan de Messa’s possession, and in hers a great number from him. A report was made of all and sent to his Majesty. It was the first instance in which a so common person had an alliance with so powerful a lady, who was here as is the queen in España.
1 Manila, July, 1621.

1 La Concepción (v, pp. 106, 107), in reporting this incident says that the amour of the governor’s wife was with a “distinguished subject of this community,” that is, Manila, and that the latter was not killed but escaped across seas. Montero y Vidal (Historia, i, pp. 177, 179), who had evidently not seen the documents of the text, and partially following La Conceptión’s error and improving on it, lays the time of Fajardo’s vengeance in 1624, and says that the paramour was unknown and escaped by jumping from a window, later probably finding means to get to America. Montero y Vidal is usually more careful of his dates.

Related web link :

Alonso Fajardo de Entenza

Don Alonso Fajardo de Entenza y de Guevara, Córdoba y Velasco, Lord of Espinardo (d. July 1624, in the Philippines) was Spanish Governor-General and Captain-General of the Islands of the Philippines from July 3, 1618 to his death in July 1624.

Reportedly, his wife had become the mistress of a Spanish merchant. In 1621 Governor Fajardo had her killed, and he demolished the house of the merchant, where the couple had apparently met. According to legend, tamarind trees spontaneously grew on the spot, which is said to be the symbol of the couple's bitter-sweet love affair. This location is still pointed out to visitors in Manila. It is Plaza Samplucan, on General Luna Street in Intramuros, Manila.

Plaza Sampalukan or Plazuela de Sta Isabel located in the corner General Luna street and Anda Street.

Other photos along General Luna Street in Intramuros.

San Agustin Church

Other photos along Aduana street in Intramuros

Photos along Muralla Street


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Related web links :

Images of Manila during the Spanish colonial era.

Ciudad Murada : Intramuros de Manila

Youtube Video :

1 comment:

  1. Nice, Em. Thanks. :)

    Don Alonso Fajardo de Entenza y de Guevara, Córdoba y Velasco

    -- pindeho de mamamatay asawa....