Leader of the Cagayan Revolt
Towards the closing years of the 16th century, the pacification campaign that went with the
Spanish colonizing efforts in the Philippines was spreading like a plague, particularly in Luzon and
the Visayas. Only Mindanao was spared, and understandably so, as the people there resisted the
Spaniards with such tenacious ferocity that bordered on the legendary. With the Spanish steamrolling
conquest came the systematic robbery that was euphemistically called taxation.
As early as 1586, the sixth Spanish governor-general, Dr. Santiago de Vera, had reported to
Spain that the provinces of Cagayan and Pangasinan had revolted twice due to oppressive
measures taken by some Spaniards to collect tributes.
The area had been subdivided into encomiendas, which were awarded to people
sympathetic to the Spanish crown. Natives living in the vicinity of an encomienda became subjects
of its owner, known as an encomendero. Because the central government was too far to check
upon the encomienda or was simply apathetic to the plight of the abused natives, discontent
festered among them.
The Spaniards not only milked the natives but also treated them as slaves. Aside from
paying heavy taxes, they were used as unpaid labor to work the farms as well as to build roads,
houses, and ships. This enslavement was deeply resented by the natives who were well off before
the Spaniards came. They refused to work and contented themselves with just paying the taxes,
although these were quite high, especially after the encomenderos increased the tribute by some
four reales. This proved too much for the natives. Unaccustomed to suffering and exploitation,
they eventually rose up in arms and, soon enough, the rest of the province followed.
In 1595, General Luis Perez Dasmariñas led an expedition to the northeast of Luzon, to
quell the rebellion somewhere on the Caraballo Mountain, at the vicinity of the place now known
as Dalton Pass. Two Dominican priests accompanied him. After pacifying the villages bordering
the Cagayan River, he returned to Manila, taking with him a number of rebels, including their
leader, Magalate described as the chief of Lubutan village, and his brother.
Magalate did not remain in detention in Manila for long. Some Dominican priests sought
his release, along with his brother, from the governor. They were bound for Segovia, the capital of
the province, which had revolted against Spain, on a proselytizing mission, and needed a native to
guide them to that far-flung diocese.
Some time after reaching Cagayan by way of the Lobo River, Magalate again incited the
people of the province to revolt. Among those who heeded his call were the chiefs of Tuguegarao
and other settlements. There were reports, however, that Magalate coerced other natives who
refused to join them and that their crops were damaged during the rebellion.
The renewed hostilities caused travel to be restricted in the area. Finding the situation
intolerable, the governor sent the master-of-camp Pedro de Chavez at the head of troops from
Manila to restore order in that province.
In no time at all, the rebel leaders, except Magalate, fell into Spanish hands, and were
executed publicly. To get the wily Magalate, Chavez offered a reward for his head. His own men,
who were out to claim the bounty, killed the leader of the revolt in his own house. With his death,
peace reigned once more in the province.
Francisco Tello, the governor-general, characterized Magalate as someone who had so
much ability, authority, and shrewdness as a leader that he could have caused greater damage to
Spain’s colonizing efforts had he lived longer. As a result of his rebellion, however, Tello relaxed
the collection of taxes in the places affected by it.
For Rizal, Magalate embodied the courage and bravery of the Cagayanons, whom he spoke
of as the “unconquerable Cagayanes, in whose breast lives the spirit of ‘the Magalat’”.
In honor of Magalat’s memory, the city council of Manila on 18 June 1913 proposed to
name a street in Tondo after “Magalat—Rey de Cagayan; siglo XVI (“King of Cagayan; 16th
century”)”. As late as 1977, Magalat Street was still being cited. Sadly, Magalat’s glorious name has
been erased for it no longer appears in contemporary commercial street maps.
Bauer, Charles A. “More Street Names in Manila and Their Origins”, Historical Bulletin.
Volume XVI, Nos. 1-4 (January-December 1971) p. 372.
Benitez, Francisco and Benitez, Conrado. Stories of Great Filipinos. Manila: National
Book Company, 1925.
Blair, Emma H. and Robertson, James A. The Philippine Islands 1493-1898 Volumes 9, 10 and
15. Cleveland, Ohio: The Arthur H. Clarke Co., 1903-1909
Galang, Zoilo M. Encyclopedia of the Philippines. Volume III. Exequiel Floro, 1957.
Ira, Luning B. and Medina, Isagani R. Streets of Manila. Manila: GCF Books, 1977.
Marcos, Ferdinand E. Tadhana, the History of the Filipino People. 1977
Roces, Alfredo R., editor. Filipino Heritage, the Making of a Nation. Volume 5 Manila:
Lahing Pilipino Publishing Inc., 1978.