JUAN DELA CRUZ
“Pangasinan Freedom Fighter”
Juan de la Cruz, later to be known as Palaris, was the leader of the second revolt in
Pangasinan during the Spanish times.
He was born on January 8, 1733 in Binalatongan, Pangasinan. His father, Santiago de la
Cruz was a former cabeza de barangay. His mother was Catalina Ugnay. They were both natives
De la Cruz was extraordinarily big, thus earning the sobriquet, “the giant’s son.” He was
fond of playing with calves. Also unusually fast and strong, he ran races with horses and grappled
in a tug-of-war with the carabaos.
As a boy, he learned the rudiments of reading and writing Spanish from the town priest.
Being intelligent, he could easily read many books.
He was 22 years old when his parents died, leaving him alone to support his brothers and
sisters. His grandfather adopted them. It was during this time that he witnessed an incident that
would rankle in him and make him lose his respect for the Spanish authorities. It was that of a
priest slapping and kicking a native boy for not having kissed his hand.
The insurrection in Pangasinan coincided with the British invasion, but had its beginnings
in the late 1750s during which Pangasinan was pushed toward the brink of turmoil by the chain of
calamities that struck—floods and the resulting poor harvests. This situation was exacerbated by
the oppressive imposition of the Alcalde Mayor Joaquin Gamboa, which included 40 “arrobas” of
dried fish and the advance payment of five reales on top of the additional tribute of one and a half
reales to the regular requisite tribute.
The insurrection started in Binalatongan. Residents of the town defied the tribute
collectors on the ground that with the British occupation of Manila, the colonial government no
longer existed. They demanded that partial payments made earlier in the year be returned. The
rebels also asked that certain officials be deposed and that the native-born be allowed to hold
office. They resented being forced to work without pay as laborers in the repair of roads and the
construction of ships and buildings.
On November 3, 1762, De la Cruz, now known as “Palaris” or “Palaripar,” led the
Pangasinan revolt together with his brother Colet, Juan de Vera Oncatin, and two Hidalgo
brothers. A certain Andres López was appointed master-of-camp of the province and Palaris’ chief
The early confrontations between the British and the Spaniards were mostly diplomatic.
During this time, Spain was at war with England, the former being an ally of France in the Seven-
Year War. English troops had already occupied Manila. To add to the dismay of Spanish
authorities, Diego Silang, an Ilocano, and his wife, Gabriela, were waging another revolt farther
north of Luzon.
At the start, Palaris, backed by his followers, simply intimidated the Spanish authorities to
give in to his demands, but when they succeeded in seizing an abandoned armory in Lingayen, they
turned combative. Now armed, the rebels would have been a formidable force. Owing to their lack
of military skills, however, they were as vulnerable as before to the onslaught of Spanish troops.
Obviously, the people of Pangasinan were deeply Christianized. Dominican priests
residing in churches in the provinces played a decisive role in the suppression of Palaris’ revolt.
They served as the bridge of communication between the rebels and the Spaniards. The people
genuinely respected them. There were no records of a priest being slain during the revolt, and
although they were threatened with death by the rebels, no one was inflicted any serious physical
The priests were constantly in touch with Palaris. They implored him to cease the
rebellion. Palaris told them that he was willing to do so, but not the people. Having tasted
freedom and its fruit, Pangasinenses were not about to give these up. And they had reason not to.
Between 1762 and 1763, the ruling class of most towns of the province was made up of
Pangasinenses, appointed or elected. The only Spaniards who remained in positions of authority
were the priests.
However, on March 1, 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed, signaling the end of the Seven-
Year War. Spain was free to concentrate on the military campaign in Pangasinan.
Spanish officials were slowly reintroduced into the region. At first, the people received
them with jubilation, believing that real reforms would be forthcoming. But the imposition of new
taxes told them that the onerous old system would again be in place. Another revolt flared up.
This time, with no British threats to contend with, and the Ilocos revolt led by the Silangs
already quelled, the Spanish forces converged in Pangasinan with confidence.
In contrast to the first stage of the insurrection, this second phase was marked by much
cruelty and ruthlessness on both sides. Eventually, the combined forces of Spanish and Ilocano
troops routed the rebels. The surviving rebels retreated into the forest, but were hunted down and
publicly hanged. Some of them were quartered, their corpses displayed for all to see. It is said that
from 10,000 to 12,000 Pangasinenses lost their lives in the uprising and Spanish records showed
that the population of Pangasinan fell from 70,363 of pre-1762 to 26,927.
As for Palaris, his own sister, Simeona, betrayed him to the gobernadorcillo on January 16,
1765. The theory behind this betrayal was that the Spanish authorities had threatened his family
and relatives with harm if they tried to hide him.
During his trial, Palaris declared himself the author of the rebellion. Certain sources say
he asked forgiveness from God, from the king of Spain, and from all the priests in the province.
This, however, has not been fully corroborated.
He was hanged on February 26, 1765. Gradually, peace-and the old order- returned to the
The town of Binalatongan was renamed San Carlos. It was rebuilt far from its original site
(it was razed during a battle by Palaris, who had conducted a scorched-earth policy).
For Pangasinan, there would be no other freedom fighter after Palaris.
Blair, Emma H. and Robertson, James A., eds. The Philippine Islands 1493-1898. Volume
49. Cleveland, Ohio: The Arthur H. Clarke Co., 1903-1909.
Cortes, Rosario Mendoza. Pangasinan 1572-1800. Quezon City: University of the
Philippines Press, 1974.
Marcos, Ferdinand. Tadhana, the History of the Filipino People Volume 2. Manila:
Quirino, Carlos, “The Uprising of the Timawas,” Filipinos at War. Manila: Vera-
Reyes Inc., 1981. Pp. 76-82.
Resurreccion, Celedonio O. “Pocket Revolts Under the Spanish Shadow”, Filipino Heritage
The Making of a Nation. Edited by Alfredo R. Roces. Volume 5. Philippines: Lahing Pilipino
Publishing Inc., 1978.