Spanish Governance and Christian Instruction in Batangas in 1591 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Spanish Governance and Christian Instruction in Batangas in 1591

(Chapter XIII of a Batangas Historical Series)

A new decade of Spanish rule in the Philippines brought with it changes with which the Spaniards administered the islands. The Royal Audiencia, which in 1583 Felipe II had decreed formed in the country, ultimately turned out not quite the solution to the country’s troubles as was hoped. Hearing first-hand from the Jesuit priest Alonso Sanchez, head of an embassy sent from the Philippines to Spain, of not only the real conditions in the islands but also about the constant bickering among the members of the Audiencia, the king replaced the body with a governor direct from Spain.

This new governor, the seventh for the Philippines, was Gomez Perez Dasmariñas, erstwhile corregidor of Murcia and Cartagena in Spain1. He arrived in the country in May of 1590 and immediately started reforms as instructed by the king himself. Foremost of these were the revisit of the encomienda and tribute collecting systems and the religious instruction of the native Indians along with the protection of their rights.2
The absence of religious instruction was something that Bishop Domingo de Salazar had been lamenting since the previous decade. The problem had always been the insufficient number of clergymen or religious persons capable of giving instruction to strengthen the faith of the native Indians after baptism.

To this problem, Dasmariñas’ solution was a practical one, i.e. making full use of the priests present in the country by assigning wider areas to them and building religious houses in areas previously neglected. In a letter dated 1591, Dasmariñas wrote to de Salazar:

“The new settlement of La Hermita and Malate may be all one administration. Parañaque and Cavite at least can be another; and, by establishing a house for religious at Cavite, Parañaque and the tingues [“hills”] may be administered by visit, and also the lowlands of Tuley and Limbo.3

Tuley was likely the stretch of coast from what is present-day Calatagan to Nasugbu. The natives of this same coastline were among the first in the island of Luzon to express willingness to establish friendship with the Spaniards and pay tributes. The excerpt from Dasmariñas’ letter above appears to show that despite this, the villages along the coast had been among those neglected as far as religious instruction was concerned.

The same was not true in nearby Balayan, which of course was already an established town even before the arrival of the Spaniards. There was already a religious presence. Dasmariñas wrote to de Salazar, “I do not understand how it is that, when your Lordship had ordained Father Salinas under pretext of [giving him] the benefice of Catanduanes, it remained as it was, and he is serving in Valayan.4

Among the reforms that Felipe II wished to be placed into effect by Dasmariñas was the way tributes were collected. De Salazar, whom the king had appointed Protector of the Indians, had time and again protested that the collection of tributes was often abusive and to the detriment of the local Indian population. In a letter to the king, Dasmariñas described how to deal with the matter:

“From the encomiendas which have neither instruction nor justice, nor other spiritual or temporal benefits, nothing whatever should be collected; nor from the encomiendas disaffected or unpacified, except in case of those disaffected without cause and through their own fault, which would accordingly pay the part justly collected by way of acknowledgment.5

From this, it could be gleaned that Spanish jurisdiction over the archipelago was far from complete either in an administrative or religious sense. There were still many areas where the priests had not come to baptize and instruct natives in the ways of the Christian religion; and where Spanish governance had not arrived or continued to be resisted.

Before implementing reforms, Dasmariñas must have ordered an inventory6 of the encomiendas around the country to ascertain their needs in terms of governance and religious instruction. The resulting inventory gave a detailed account of the state of affairs of encomiendas around the country, and particularly those relevant to this narrative, the encomiendas in Batangas.

By 1591, when the inventory was undertaken, the town of Tabuco, listed in Agustinian records as previously under the Province of Taal but was in most likelihood part of what was then the Province of Balayan, had already been transferred to the lakeside province of La Laguna.

Bonbon was still the encomienda of the Mariscal Gabriel de Ribera. There, according to the inventory, he collected “one thousand four hundred tributes, which represent five thousand six hundred persons. It has sufficient justice and instruction.” The population had grown substantially over the previous estimate of the lakeside population given by Miguel de Loarca the previous decade.

Meanwhile, the town of Balayan was an encomienda belonging to an accountant by the name of Cauchela. It had “six hundred tributes, which represent two thousand four hundred persons. It has one alcalde-mayor, who is the judicial chief of the district. It has instruction, which is administered by one ecclesiastic.”

Lumbán – known in the present day as Lumbang – the island off the Mindoro mainland, was under the jurisdiction of Balayan. It belonged to a Phelippe Saucedo and had five hundred tributes or two thousand individuals. These people did not have a priest to instruct them in the ways of the Christian faith.

The town of Batangas was an encomienda belonging to a Francisco Rodriguez. He collected four hundred tributes, equivalent to five thousand and six hundred persons. There was an Agustinian house in the town, so the native inhabitants were receiving Christian instruction. The town had Spanish administration.

Galban or Galvan, which was in what would eventually become present-day San Juan, was an encomienda belonging to a Spaniard by the name of Medrano. From it, Medrano collected a total of eight hundred tributes from roughly three thousand persons. The inventory stated that it had “justice” and also that it was “visited from Batangas.” This likely meant that a magistrate based in Batangas visited to dispense Spanish law. The inventory also stated that a minister was needed for Galban, which probably meant that there was no religious instruction in this encomienda.

Calilaya, which would soon be transferred to another province, and Marinduque were administered by one corregidor. Half of Calilaya belonged directly to the king while the other half belonged to a Spaniard named Torres. It had one thousand and two hundred tributaries or a total of four thousand and eight hundred persons, many of whom were already baptized Christians. It was served by one justice and one minister, but the inventory also stated that it needed two more ministers.

Notes and references:
1 From footnotes to “Royal Decree Regarding Commerce,” written in 1589 by Felipe II to Gomez Perez Dasmariñas, as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands: Volume VII: 1588-1591.”
2 “Instructions to Gomez Perez Dasmarinas,” written in 1589 by Felipe II to Gomez Perez Dasmariñas, as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands: Volume VII: 1588-1591.”
3 “Letter from the Governor to the Bishop” as published in the Blair and Robertson series: “The Philippine Islands: Volume VIII: 1591-1593.”
4 Balayan. In many first-hand Spanish documents, the letters “b” and “v” were used interchangeably, depending on the preference of the writer.
5 “Letter from Governor Dasmarinas to Felipe II,” as published in the Blair and Robertson series: “The Philippine Islands: Volume VIII: 1591-1593.”
6 “Account of the Encomiendas in the Philipinas Islands,” 31 May 1591, as published in the Blair and Robertson series: “The Philippine Islands: Volume VIII: 1591-1593.”

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