Saturday, July 3, 2010

Philippine Dependencies, Up To 1898 - The Marianas, Carolines and Palau Islands

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Philippine Islands, by John Foreman

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Title: The Philippine Islands
Author: John Foreman

Philippine Dependencies, Up To 1898 - The Ladrones, Carolines and Pelew Islands

In 1521 Maghallanes cast anchor off the Ladrone Islands (situated between 17° and 20° N. lat. by 146° E. long.) on his way to the discovery of those Islands afterwards denominated the Philippines. This group was named by him Islas de las Velas.1 Legaspi called them the Ladrones.2 Subsequently several navigators sighted or touched at these Islands, and the indistinct demarcation which comprised them acquired the name of Saint Lazarusʼ Archipelago.

In 1662 the Spanish vessel San Damian, on her course from Mexico to Luzon, anchored here. On board was a missionary, Fray Diego Luis de San Victores, who was so impressed with the dejected condition of the natives, that on reaching Manila he made it his common theme of conversation. In fact, so importunately did he pursue the subject with his superiors that he had to be constrained to silence. In the following year the Governor, Diego Salcedo, replied to his urgent appeal for a mission there in terms which permitted no further solicitation in that quarter. But the friar was persistent in his project, and petitioned the Archbishopʼs aid. The prelate submitted the matter to King Philip IV., and the friar himself wrote to his father, who presented a memorial to His Majesty and another to the Queen beseeching her influence. Consequently in 1666 a Royal Decree was received in Manila sanctioning a mission to the Ladrones.

Fray Diego took his passage in the galleon San Diego, and having arrived safely in the Viceregal Court of Mexico, he pressed his views on the Viceroy, who declared that he had no orders. Then the priest appealed to the Viceroyʼs wife, who, it is said, was entreating her husbandʼs help on bended knee, when an earthquake occurred which considerably damaged the city. It was a manifestation from heaven, the wily priest avowed, and the Viceroy, yielding to the superstition of the age, complied with the friarʼs request.

Therefore, in March, 1668, Fray Diego started from Acapulco in charge of a Jesuit mission for the Ladrones, where they subsequently received a pension of ₱3,000 per annum from Queen Maria Ana, who, meanwhile, had become a widow and Regent. To commemorate this royal munificence, these Islands have since been called by the Spaniards “Islas Marianas,” although the older name—Ladrones—is better known to the world.

When the mission was fairly established, troops were sent there, consisting of twelve Spaniards and nineteen Philippine natives, with two pieces of artillery.

The acquiescence of the Ladrone natives was being steadily gained by the old policy of conquest, under the veil of Christianity, when they suddenly rebelled against the strangerʼs religion, which brought with it restraint of liberty and a social dominion practically amounting to slavery. Fortunately, Nature came again to the aid of Fray Diego, for, whilst the natives were in open revolt, a severe storm levelled their huts to the ground, and the priest having convinced them that it was a visitation from heaven, peace was concluded.

Fray Diego left the mission for Visayas, where he was killed. After his departure the natives again revolted against servile subjection, and many priests were slain from time to time—some in the exercise of their sacerdotal functions, others in open warfare.

In 1778 a Governor was sent there from Mexico with thirty soldiers, but he resigned his charge after two yearsʼ service, and others succeeded him.

The Islands are very poor. The products are Rice, Sago, Cocoanuts, and Cane-sugar to a small extent; there are also pigs and fowls in abundance. The Spaniards taught the natives the use of fire. They were a warlike people; every man had to carry arms. Their language is Chamorro, much resembling the Visayan dialect. The population, for a hundred years after the Spanish occupation, diminished. Women purposely sterilised themselves. Some threw their new born offspring into the sea, hoping to liberate them from a world of woe, and that they would regenerate in happiness. In the beginning of the 17th century the population was further diminished by an epidemic disease. During the first century of Spanish rule, the Government were never able to exact the payment of tribute. Up to the Spanish evacuation the revenue of these Islands was not nearly sufficient to cover the entire cost of administration. About twenty years ago Governor Pazos was assassinated there by a rebellious group.

There were nine towns with parish priests. All the churches were built of stone, and roofed with reed thatching, except that of the capital, which had an iron roof. Six of the towns had Town Halls made of bamboo and reed grass; one had a wooden building, and in two of them (including the capital) the Town Halls were of stone.

The Seat of Government was at Agaña (called in old official documents the “City of San Ignacio de Agaña”). It is situated in the Island of Guam, in the creek called the Port of Apra. Ships have to anchor about two miles off Punta Piti, where passengers, stores, and mails are conveyed to a wooden landing-stage. Five hundred yards from here was the Harbour-masterʼs office, built of stone, with a tile roof. From Punta Piti there was a bad road of about five miles. The situation of Agaña seems to be ill-suited for communication with vessels, and proposals were ineffectually made by two Governors, since 1835, to establish the capital town elsewhere. The central Government took no heed of their recommendations. In Agaña there was a Government House, a Military Hospital and Pharmacy, an Artillery Dépôt and Infantry Barracks, a well-built Prison, a Town Hall, the Administratorʼs Office (called by the natives “the shop”), and the ruins of former public buildings. It is a rather pretty town, but there is nothing notable to be seen.

The natives are as domesticated as the Philippine Islanders, and have much better features. Spanish and a little English are spoken by many of them, as these Islands in former years were the resort of English-speaking whalemen. For the Elementary Education of the natives, there was the College of San Juan de Letran for boys, and a girlsʼ school in Agaña; and in 7 of the towns there was, in 1888, a total of 4 schools for boys, 5 schools for girls, and 9 schools for both sexes, under the direction of 20 masters and 6 mistresses.

When the Ladrone Islands (Marianas) were a dependency of the Spanish-Philippine General-Government, a subsidized mail steamer left Manila for Agaña, and two or three other ports, every three months.


An island was discovered by one of the Spanish galleon pilots in 1686, and called Carolina, in honour of Charles II. of Spain, but its bearings could not be found again for years.

In 1696 two canoes, with 29 Pelew Islanders, drifted to the coast of Sámar Island, and landed at the Town of Guivan. They were 60 days on the drift, and five of them died of privations. They were terror-stricken when they saw a man on shore making signs to them. When he went out to them in a boat, and boarded one of the canoes, they all jumped out and got into the other; then when the man got into that, they were in utter despair, considering themselves prisoners.

They were conducted to the Spanish priest of Guivan, whom they supposed would be the King of the Island, and on whom would depend their lives and liberty. They prostrated themselves, and implored his mercy and the favour of sparing their lives, whilst the priest did all he could, by signs, to reassure them.

It happened that there had been living here, for some years, two other strange men brought to this shore by currents and contrary winds. These came forward to see the novelty, and served as interpreters, so that the newcomers were all lodged in native houses in twos and threes, and received the best hospitality.

They related that their Islands numbered 32, and only produced fowls and sea-birds. One man made a map, by placing stones in the relative position of the Islands. When asked about the number of the inhabitants, one took a handful of sand to demonstrate that they were countless. There was a King, they explained, who held his court in the Island of Lamurrec, to whom the chiefs were subject. They much respected and obeyed him. Among the castaways was a chief, with his wife—the daughter of the King.

The men had a leaf-fibre garment around their loins, and to it was attached a piece of stuff in front, which was thrown over the shoulders and hung loose at the back. The women were dressed the same as the men, except that their loin vestment reached to their knees. The Kingʼs daughter wore, moreover, tortoise-shell ornaments.

They were afraid when they saw a cow and a dog, their Island having no quadrupeds. Their sole occupation consisted in providing food for their families. Their mark of courtesy was to take the hand of the person whom they saluted and pass it softly over the face.

The priest gave them pieces of iron, which they prized as if they had been of gold, and slept with them under their heads. Their only arms were lances, with human bones for points. They seemed to be a pacific people, intelligent and well-proportioned physically. Both sexes wore long hair down to their shoulders.

Very content to find so much luxury in Sámar, they offered to return and bring their people to trade. The Jesuits considered this a capital pretext for subjecting their Islands, and the Government approved of it. At the instance of the Pope, the King ordered the Gov.-General, Domingo Zabálburu, to send out expeditions in quest of these Islands; and, between 1708 and 1710, several unsuccessful efforts were made to come across them. In 1710, two islands were discovered, and named San Andrés. Several canoes arrived alongside of the ship, and the occupants accepted the Commanderʼs invitation to come on board. They were much astonished to see the Spaniards smoke, and admired the iron fastenings of the vessel. When they got near shore, they all began to dance, clapping their hands to beat time. They measured the ship, and wondered where such a large piece of wood could have come from. They counted the crew, and presented them with cocoanuts, fish, and herbs from their canoes. The vessel anchored near to the shore, but there was a strong current and a fresh wind blowing, so that it was imprudent to disembark. However, two priests insisted upon erecting a cross on the shore, and were accompanied by the quarter-master and an officer of the troops. The weather compelled the master to weigh anchor, and the vessel set sail, leaving [43]on land the four Europeans, who were ultimately murdered. For a quarter of a century these Islands were lost again to the Spaniards.

In 1721 two Caroline prahus were wafted to the Ladrone Islands, where D. Luiz Sanchez was Governor. The Caroline Islanders had no idea where they had landed, and were quite surprised when they beheld the priest. He forcibly detained these unfortunate people, and handed them over to the Governor, whom they entreated, with tears—but all in vain—to be allowed to return to their homes. There they remained prisoners, until it suited the Governorʼs convenience to send a vessel with a priest to their Island. The priest went there, and thence to Manila, where a fresh expedition was fitted out. It was headed by a missionary, and included a number of soldiers whom the natives massacred soon after their arrival. All further attempt to subdue the Caroline Islands was necessarily postponed.

The natives, at that time, had no religion at all, or were, in a vague sense, polytheists. Their wise men communicated with the souls of the defunct. They were polygamists, but had a horror of adultery. Divorce was at once granted by the chiefs on proof of infidelity. They were cannibals. In each island there was a chief, regarded as a semi-spiritual being, to whom the natives were profoundly obedient. Huts were found used as astrological schools, where also the winds and currents were studied. They made cloth of plantain-fibre—hatchets with stone heads. Between sunset and sunrise they slept. When war was declared between two villages or tribes, each formed three lines of warriors, 1st, young men; 2nd, tall men; 3rd, old men; then the combatants pelted each other with stones and lances. A man hors de combat was replaced by one of the back file coming forward. When one party acknowledged themselves vanquished, it was an understood privilege of the victors to shower invectives on their retiring adversaries. They lived on fruits, roots and fish. There were no quadrupeds and no agriculture.

Many Spanish descendants were found, purely native in their habits, and it was remembered that about the year 1566, several Spaniards from an expedition went ashore on some islands, supposed to be these, and were compelled to remain there.

The Carolines (“Islas Carolinas”) and Pelews (“Islas Palaos”) comprise some 48 groups of islands and islets, making a total of about 500. Their relative position to the Ladrone Islands is—of the former, S.S.W. stretching to S.E.; of the latter, S.W. Both groups lie due E. of Mindanao Island (vide map). The principal Pelew Islands are Babel-Druap and Kosor—Yap and Ponapé (Ascencion Is.) are the most important of the Carolines. The centres of Spanish Government were respectively in Yap and Babel-Druap, with a Vice-Governor of the Eastern Carolines in Ponapé—all formerly dependent on the General-Government in Manila. The Carolines and Pelews were included in the Bishopric of Cebú, and were subject, judicially, to the Supreme Court of Manila.

These Islands were subsequently many times visited by ships of other nations, and a barter trade gradually sprang up in dried cocoanut kernels (coprah) for the extraction of oil in Europe and America. Later on, when the natives were thoroughly accustomed to the foreigners, British, American, and German traders established themselves on shore, and vessels continued to arrive with European and American manufactures in exchange for coprah, trepang, ivory-nuts, tortoise-shell, etc.

Anglo-American missionaries have settled there, and a great number of natives profess Christianity in the Protestant form. Religious books in native dialect, published in Honolulu (Sandwich Is.) by the Hawaiian Evangelical Association, are distributed by the American missionaries. I have one before me now, entitled “Kapas Fel, Puk Eu,” describing incidents from the Old Testament. A few of the natives can make themselves understood in English. Besides coprah (the chief export) the Islands produce Rice, Yams, Bread-fruit (rima), Sugar-cane, etc. Until 1886 there was no Government, except that of several petty kings or chiefs, each of whom still rules over his own tribe, although the Protestant missionaries exercised a considerable social influence.

In 1885 a Spanish naval officer, named Capriles, having been appointed Governor of the Islands, arrived at Yap, ostensibly with the object of landing to hoist the Spanish flag as a signal of possession, for it was known in official quarters that the Germans were about to claim sovereignty. However, three days were squandered (perhaps intentionally) in trivial formalities, and although two Spanish men-oʼ-war—the Manila and the San Quintin—were already anchored in the Port of Yap, the German warship Iltis entered, landed marines, and hoisted their national flag, whilst the Spaniards looked on. Then the German Commander went on board the San Quintin to tell the Commander that possession of the Islands had been taken in the name of the Emperor of Germany. Neither Capriles, the appointed Governor, nor España, the Commander of the San Quintin, made any resistance; and as we can hardly attribute their inactivity to cowardice, presumably they followed their Governmentʼs instructions. Capriles and España returned to Manila, and were both rewarded for their inaction; the former being appointed to the Government of Mindoro Island. In Manila an alarming report was circulated that the Germans contemplated an attack upon the Philippines. Earthworks were thrown up outside the city wall; cannons were mounted, and the cry of invasion resounded all over the Colony. Hundreds of families fled from the capital and environs to adjacent provinces, and the personal safety of the German residents was menaced by individual patriotic enthusiasts.

In Madrid, popular riots followed the publication of the incident. The German Embassy was assaulted, and its escutcheon was burnt in the streets by the indignant mob, although, probably, not five per cent. of the rioters had any idea where the Caroline Islands were situated, or anything about them. Spain acted so feebly, and Germany so vigorously, in this affair, that many asked—was it not due to a secret understanding between the respective Ministries, disrupted only by the weight of Spanish public opinion? Diplomatic notes were exchanged between Madrid and Berlin, and Germany, anxious to withdraw with apparent dignity from an affair over which it was probably never intended to waste powder and shot, referred the question to the Pope, who arbitrated in favour of Spain.

But for these events, it is probable that Spain would never have done anything to demonstrate possession of the Caroline Islands, and for 16 months after the question was solved by Pontific mediation, there was a Spanish Governor in Yap—Sr. Elisa—a few troops and officials, but no Government. No laws were promulgated, and everybody continued to do as heretofore.

In Ponapé (Ascencion Is.) Sr. Posadillo was appointed Governor. A few troops were stationed there under a sub-lieutenant, whilst some Capuchin friars—European ecclesiastics of the meanest type—were sent there to compete with the American Protestant missionaries in the salvation of nativesʼ souls. A collision naturally took place, and the Governor—well known to all of us in Manila as crack-brained and tactless—sent the chief Protestant missionary, Mr. E. T. Doane, a prisoner to Manila on June 16, 1887.3 He was sent back free to Ponapé by the Gov.-General, but, during his absence, the eccentric Posadillo exercised a most arbitrary authority over the natives. The chiefs were compelled to serve him as menials, and their subjects were formed into gangs, to work like convicts; native teachers were suspended from their duties under threat, and the Capuchins disputed the possession of land, and attempted to coerce the natives to accept their religion.
On July 1 the natives did not return to their bondage, and all the soldiers, led by the sub-lieutenant, were sent to bring them in by force. A fight ensued, and the officer and troops, to the last man, were killed or mortally wounded by clubs, stones and knives. The astonished Governor fortified his place, which was surrounded by the enemy. The tribes of the chiefs Nott and Jockets were up in arms. There was the hulk Da. Maria de Molina anchored in the roadstead, and the Capuchins fled to it on the first alarm. The Governor escaped from his house on the night of July 4 with his companions, and rushed to the sea, probably intending to swim out to the hulk. But who knows? He and all his partisans were chased and killed by the natives.

On September 21 the news of the tragedy reached Manila by the man-oʼ-war San Quintin. About six weeks afterwards, three men-oʼ-war were sent to Ponapé with infantry, artillery, a mountain battery, and a section of Engineers—a total of about 558 men—but on their arrival they met an American warship—the Essex—which had hastened on to protect American interests. The Spaniards limited their operations to the seizure of a few accused individuals, whom they brought to Manila, and the garrison of Yap was increased to 100 men, under a Captain and subordinate officers. The prisoners were tried in Manila by court-martial, and I acted as interpreter. It was found that they had only been loyal to the bidding of their chiefs, and were not morally culpable, whilst the action of the late Governor of Ponapé met with general reprobation.

Again, in July, 1890, a party of 54 soldiers, under Lieutenant Porras, whilst engaged in felling timber in the forest, was attacked by the Malatana (Caroline) tribe, who killed the officer and 27 of his men. The news was telegraphed to the Home Government, and caused a great sensation in Madrid. A conference of Ministers was at once held, and the Cánovas del Castillo Ministry cabled to the Gov.-General Weyler discretionary power to punish these islanders. Within a few months troops were sent from Manila for that purpose. Instead, however, of chastising the Kanakas, the Government forces were repulsed by them with great slaughter. The commissariat arrangements were most deficient: my friend Colonel Gutierrez Soto, who commanded the expedition, was so inadequately supported by the War Department that, yielding to despair, and crestfallen by reason of the open and adverse criticism of his plan of campaign, he shot himself.

Under the Treaty of Paris (1898) the Island of Guam (Ladrone group) was ceded by Spain to the United States, together with the Philippine Islands. The remainder of the Ladrone group, the Caroline and the Pelew Islands were sold by Spain to Germany in June.


1 Velas, Spanish for sails.
2 Ladrones, Spanish for thieves.
3 Mr. Doane is reported to have died in Honolulu about June, 1890

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