Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Filipino Martyr: MAGAT SALAMAT

Participant in the Tondo Conspiracy
Magat Salamat, the son of Rajah Matanda, was the Chief of Tondo when the Spaniards
arrived in Manila.
Alarmed with the growing presence and show of force of the Spaniards, Magat Salamat
endeavored to recover his heritage by participating in conspiracy, which would be remembered in
history as the Tondo Conspiracy (1587-1588) and which historian Wenceslao E. Retana relates as
la primera conjuracion separatista in the country.
Magat Salamat, Agustin de Legazpi and Martin Panga, a gobernadorcillo conspired with
other chieftains of nearby villages to overthrow the Spanish sovereignty in the Philippines. In
1587, they enlisted the help of a Japanese adventurer, Juan Gayo, through an interpreter named
Dionisio Fernandez. The Japanese agreed to deliver arms and recruit soldiers in Japan during the
meeting with Magat Salamat, Agustin Manuguit, Felipe Salalila and Geronimo Bassi.
The plotters agreed on the following: that “chiefs of the neighborhood would help them kill
the Spaniards;” the Japanese would be rewarded with half of the tributes to be collected from the
natives after they had conquered the Spaniards; choose after the sandugo, their manner of keeping
an agreement a King, captains and officers of war; and to make weapons secretly. Before the
Japanese left, several weapons were distributed to the men of Magat Salamat.
Magat Salamat called another meeting in Tambobong. With him were the chiefs of
Pandakan, Tondo, Candaba, Polo, Catangalan, Navotas and “other Indian Timaguas, servants and
allies.” The meeting lasted for three days where they were all briefed of the sad political condition
of the country and of themselves under the Spaniards. With heavy hearts, they all swore an oath to
throw off the Spanish yoke.
By the year, 1588, no word was yet received from Japanese Gayo. Other circumstance,
however, kept their desire to overthrow the Spaniards aflame. The capture of the galleon Santa
Ana in February inspired them to pursue their plan; to attack in land the moment the English
privateer, Cavendish, would attack Manila by the sea and the Spanish authorities would be busy
defending the city. But the perceived battle at sea did not happen.
Meanwhile, the conspirators continued to strengthen their plan. The chiefs of Bulacan,
Esteban Taes, and Martin Panga agreed to call another meeting. Taes was to call all the chiefs from
Tondo to Bulacan while Panga will summon the chiefs of Cavite, Malolos and Guiguinto and rally
the men of La Laguna and Komintang (Batangas). With all the people gathered at Tondo, they
would attack Manila. Magat Salamat, on the other hand, would invite the Bornean Sultan in
Calamianes to send a fleet that would join the Sulus and to launch an attack against Manila from
the sea in conjunction with the Filipino chiefs’ assault on land.
By the time the fleet from Borneo and Sulu would reach the port of Cavite, and the
Spaniards would trustfully call the Luzon chiefs to their aid, their men would all immediately take
control of the houses of the Spaniards. About the idea of the Spaniards taking refuge in the
fortress, the natives would pursue and kill them. At the ratio of two natives against one Spaniard,
the plan would be successful.
In November 1588, Magat Salamat with Don Agustin Manuguit and Juan Banal went to
Calamianes and were able to rally some principals of the island of Cuyo, notably Sumaclob, who
pledged to help him with 2000 men.
The grand plan, however, never came into fruition. Antonio Surabao, who was persuaded
to join the conspiracy disclosed the plot to Spanish Captain Pedro Sarmiento, owner of the
encomienda he was managing. Sarmiento informed personally the governor general of his fantastic
discovery and soon the Spanish government became busy arresting the conspirators. They hanged
Magat Salamat and other leading personalities of the conspiracy while they banished the rest to
other islands.
Condemned to die, Magat Salamat appealed to the royal audiencia but his case was
remitted to the governor, who decided to execute him so that justice must be done. His goods were
left for the treasury.
And so the first of the rebels from Tondo died, his martyrdom would be duplicated several
centuries later by two of his district mates, Andres Bonifacio and Macario Sakay.
The significance of this Tondo Conspiracy, aside from its purely political motivation, rests
in the fact that it was not just the conspiracy of Tondo chiefs, but practically all of the datus in the
Tagalog region from Batangas and Cavite to Laguna and Bulacan, aside from the Pampangos
through Dionisio Capulong of Candaba. In 1587-88, therefore, the old lines of contact among the
datus of Pampanga and Pasig River valley that comprised the ethnic state of Manila possible were
still unbroken and even extended up to the Sulus and the Bruneis. With this crisis, the Spaniards
became aware of the extent of the native political inter-connections.
In the words of Austin Craig, the plot was a proof that the early Filipinos were capable of
united action.
Eminent Filipinos. Manila: National Historical Commission. 1970
Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume 4. Quezon City: Filipiniana
Publications, 1995

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