The Boholano Revolution Against Spain

(By way of introduction: This is an attempt to put together and interpret some references about the longest revolution against the Spaniards in the Philippines. This story, however, is not complete. Some local references about the topic are not accessible to me at this time. Hopefully, we can find time to gather other texts (textual, oral or signs) so a better story can be told for our generation and those yet to come).

Francisco Dagohoy led the longest revolt against the Spaniards in Philippine history. The revolt took the Spaniards 85 years (1744-1829) to quell. Forced labor was one of the causes of the revolt. But what triggered the decision to rise up in arms against the Spanish authorities in Bohol was the refusal of a Jesuit priest to give a Christian burial to Dagohoy.s brother.

Dagohoy was a cabeza de barangay of Inabanga. Upon the order of Father Gaspar Morales, a Jesuit cura of Inabanga, Sagarino went to the mountains to arrest a Boholano renegade. The fugitive, however, resisted arrest and killed Sagarino in a fight before he himself died.

When Dagohoy learned about his brother.s death, he searched for his brother.s body. He found it and brought the remains to Inabanga for a Christian burial. Father Morales, however, did not agree saying the Sagarino died in a duel. Besides, Sagarino did not receive the sacrament of extreme unction. Hence, giving him a Christian burial was contrary to religious practices at that time. What complicated the situation was the order of the priest to expose the rotting corpse for about three days in front of Inabanga Church. It is also possible, however, that since the priest refused to grant the request, Dagohoy decided to place the corpse there to force the priest to change his mind. Dagohoy eventually buried his brother without the benefit of a Catholic burial.

These strings of events led Dagohoy to make a vow to correct the wrong done to his brother. In the process, he stopped paying tribute to the Spaniards and refused to render the required .forced. labor. He also called upon his relatives, friends and the other residents to do the same and fight for their freedom.

The ground was fertile for Dagohoy.s call. Around 3,000 Boholanos rallied to his call and joined him in a revolt against Spanish injustice and tyranny. Together with other leading members of the Tagbilaran, Baclayon and Dauis principalia, Dagohoy proclaimed the .Independence of Bohol. in the mountains of Talibon and Inabanga. The concept of independence, however, might not be applicable at that time. What is most likely is that the revolutionaries stopped submitting themselves to the dictates of the Spanish authorities and decided to move to the mountains where they can live on their own in peace.

Up there in the mountains, the revolutionaries established their headquarters, which they fortified with trenches of big rocks. Just like the way some upland farmers pile up big rocks on top of another in their farms. They also build dwellings for their families and cleared up some of the forest areas so that they can plant crops for their subsistence. Since Dagohoy has experience in leading a community being a cabeza de barangay, it is safe to assume that he set some rules and norms to maintain peace and order in the new community. When the other Boholanos heard about the revolt, they expressed their sympathy by joining the revolutionaries or by supplying them with arms and money.

From time to time, the revolutionaries would raid the costal towns, assault the Spanish garrisons, loot churches and kill Spaniards. In one of these raids, they killed the cura of Jagna, an Italian Jesuit priest, and Father Morales. Dagohoy fulfilled the promise he made over the grave of his brother and continued to lead the revolt until his death. It is unknown when and how he died. It is probable that he died of old age or sickness a little before or after the 1800s. What is certain is that the revolution did not end with his death.

The Spaniards were not happy with the Dagohoy-led revolt. In fact, there were several attempts to suppress it. The historian Gregorio Zaide has this to say:

News of the remarkable success of Dagohoy worried the Spanish authorities in Manila. In 1747 Bishop Juan de Arrechederra, acting Governor-General of the Philippines (1745-1750), dispatched a punitive expedition to Bohol under the command of Don Pedro Lechuga. Commander Lechuga won a few skirmishes but failed to crush the rebellion. In desperation, he sent a commando unit into the mountains to kill or capture Dagohoy, his sister Gracia, and other leaders. The commandos returned empty-handed because they could not penetrate Dagohoy.s fortified stronghold (p. 154)..

The nationalist historian Renato Constantino also narrated Spanish efforts to quell the revolt. He said:

Perhaps the best indication of the importance and the success of this rebellion may be seen in the persistent efforts exerted by both the State and the Church to negotiate with Dagohoy. After the unsuccessful military attempts to suppress the revolt, it was the Church.s turn to make the effort. Bishop Espeleta of Cebu tried to persuade the rebels to give up their resistance by promising to secure a general amnesty, to find remedies for the abuses of government officials, and to assign secular priests instead of Jesuits to the Bohol parishes. The rebels refused the offer..

The revolt continued. By 1770, five years before the waging of the American War for Independence against Great Britain, there were already about 30,000 revolutionaries in Bohol.

It was only in April 1828, three years after the arrival of Governor-General Mariano Ricafort, that the Spaniards sent its strongest expedition to Bohol. This is understandable because Spain experienced problems in its other colonies in the 1800s. For instance, the Spanish American colonies revolted in 1810 until 1826, thus severing the link between Acapulco and Manila. It was, therefore, a hard time for Spain. It was no longer a world superpower as it was in the 16th century. And it could not quell the Dagohoy revolution in Bohol.

Probably to help save its face after its defeats from the forces of Dagohoy and its loss of colonies, Spain decided to put an end to the revolt using Spanish and native (like Cebuanos) troops. According to Zaide:

Fighting with desperate courage, the indomitable Boholanos resisted the enemy, whose heavy artillery pieces caused much havoc to their fortifications and took a terrible toll of human lives. Wearied by the ceaseless combat, weakened by hunger and thirst, and depleted in numerical strength, they made their last stand in the mountain of Boasa under the command of the valiant brothers, Handog and Auag. In June 1829, they fought their last battle and were crushed by Spain.s superior arms. The survivors fled into the forest, where they grimly continued to carry on their hopeless cause (p. 156).

The revolt ended formally on August 31, 1829. Manuel Sanz, commander of the Spanish forces, officially reported that 3,000 Boholanos escaped to other islands, 19,420 surrendered, 395 died in battle, 98 were exiled and around ten thousand revolutionaries were resettled in the areas of Balilihan, Batuan, Bilar, Cabulao and Catigbian. These figures all point to the fact that the revolt was widespread in the province, hence, it was not simply a Dagohoy revolt. Dagohoy started it and continued to be a source of inspiration to his comrades even after his death. But it was a Boholano revolution against Spain.

Notes:

  • Some sources claim that the real name of Dagohoy was Francisco Sendrijas and that he is called Dagohoy due to his ability to move like the wind. Literally, the name is a combination of .dagon sa hoyohoy. that means .talisman from the breeze..
  • 2. Constantino claimed that Dagohoy.s brother, Sagarino, was a renegade who had abandoned the Christian religion and that Father Morales ordered a native constable to arrest Sagarino. Sagarino resisted arrest and killed the constable before he himself died.
  • Main References:

    Agoncillo, Teodoro A. History of the Filipino People. GAROTECH Publishing, 1990 (8th Edition).

    Constantino, Renato. The Philippines: A Past Revisited. Tala Publishing Series, 1975.

    Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History: An Epic of Filipino Greatness in War and Peace. Verde Bookstore, 1970.

    Zaide, Gregorio. Dagohoy: Champion of Philippine Freedom. Manila: Enriquez, Alduan and Co., 1941.