(Chapter XII of a Batangas Historical Series)
The Royal Audiencia established in Manila was supposed to allow the governance of the Philippines without having to refer major concerns to the Audiencia in Nueva España and also to rein in the powers of the Governor General and prevent the corruption and abuses that used to occur during Gonçalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa’s term as Governor.
However, the Manila Audiencia would turn out to be something of a premature if not an ultimately failed experiment. For one thing, the Audiencia was expensive to maintain; and particularly so for a local treasury not exactly overflowing with riches1. For another, there soon arose conflict between it and the governor, despite the fact that the governor was also by default its president.
Governor Santiago de Vera, writing to the Archbishop of Mexico, described the conflict:
“This gave an opportunity for the officials to excuse themselves from honouring my orders for money, and soon the Audiencia commanded that they be not observed. …although in my commission his Majesty has given me full power for everything, I am prevented for the most trivial reasons from exercising my authority.2”
By 1590, de Vera dissolved the Audiencia and sent back to Nueva España all the judges that composed it. Although he had his reasons for doing so, de Vera’s decision to do so was not entirely without opposition. Bishop Domingo de Salazar, for one, did not think it “prudent to leave the man to rule a remote colony without a mechanism to act as countermeasure to his authority.3”
The dissolution of the Audiencia appears to suggest that Gabriel de Ribera, Mariscal or Marshall of Bombon, would have more time to devote to the affairs of Bombon itself. De Ribera was erstwhile involved not just in the Audiencia but also in the various juntas or assemblies that were called by the Manila estates not just to manage the affairs of Manila but of the rest of the country as well.4
A 1588 relation of the Philippine Islands5 written by Bishop de Salazar and others offered some administrative insight not just on the lakeside area of which de Ribera was Mariscal but also on the entire province of Batangas, then called the Province of Bombon y Balayan. According to this relation, the lakeside area known as Bombon had four thousand men who “belonged” to de Ribera. The use of the word “belong” was indicative of the repartimiento. Hence, it could be assumed that de Ribera was, apart from being Marshall, also the encomendero of Bombon.
The province was a wide expanse of land that extended as far south as the village of Batangas and east as the villages of Galbandayun and Calilaya. In fact, the territory of this province was much wider than that of Batangas Province in the present day. Galbandayun, erstwhile called Galban or Galvan in Miguel de Loarca’s relation, was in what would be the present-day Municipality of San Juan on the easternmost edge of the modern day Province of Batangas.
Calilaya, meanwhile, was a village from which would grow the present-day Municipality of Unisan deep inside what is presently the Province of Quezon. The village would grow into a town and become the first capital of a new province separate from Bombon y Balayan.
There was a total of nine thousand tributarios or tribute-giving natives in the villages of Batangas, Galban and Calilaya and the town of Balayan. Of these, only 1,200 were direct vassals of Felipe II and gave tributes directly to the crown. The rest paid tributes to five encomenderos.
In the context of the era, as Bishop de Salazar explained, a tributario meant a married man or two unmarried men who contributed one tribute. Thus, nine thousand tributarios actually meant eighteen thousand persons.
The religious presence in the province was meagre, as it was elsewhere in the country. There were just four Agustinian priests while the Franciscan order had three priests and two brothers assigned in the area. There were also just four religious houses, two of them belonging to the Agustinians in Bombon and Batangas. The remaining two belonged to the Franciscans and were in Balayan and Galban.
This was a crucial time for the growth of Christianity not just in Batangas but likewise in the rest of the country. While many natives had been baptised, there were not enough religious persons in the country to give instruction in matters of the faith so that the baptism could be reinforced. Because of this, Christianity was under threat, first from the Mahometans who continued to preach particularly where Spanish presence was not very strong; and second because without instruction even baptised natives quickly slipped back to their pagan beliefs.
Thus, in Bishop de Salazar’s addendum to the above-mentioned relation, which was to be hand-carried to the King of Spain by a Fray Alonso Sanchez, he wrote to Felipe II:
“This is the most trustworthy relation that your Majesty can have, in order that your Majesty may see clearly the great need for ministers who shall labour for the conversion of these infidels, and for the preservation of those who have already received the faith, but are falling back into their idolatrous practices, because they have been abandoned by those who baptised them.6”
The practice of selling public offices, cited in Chapter 10 as a viable reason for corruption and abuses committed by Spaniards against the local Indians, went on as this was also a source of income for the crown. In a 1589 letter written by the Governor de Vera to Felipe II, he mentioned that the position of Magistrate for Bombon was purchased after bidding for the amount of 260 pesos.
As the decade of the 1580s drew to a close, the Spaniards had to deal with a conspiracy against them orchestrated by the villages of Tondo, Misilo and Bulacan along with other villages near Manila in connivance with the ever-troublesome Kingdom of Borney7. This was hardly surprising. Apart from the fact that Spanish rule had been abusive, particularly at the start of the decade, Spanish military presence had been insufficient to enforce Spanish law.
The two governors de Peñalosa and de Vera had on several occasions written to Felipe II pleading for more Spanish troops. Earlier in the decade, the Spaniards already had to quell unrest in Pampanga, Cebu, Ylocos and Camarines. It is interesting to note that through this decade of uncertainty for Spanish colonial rule, Bombon y Balayan or what would eventually become Batangas was never mentioned in Spanish documents as among the provinces where there were plots against the Spaniards.
Notes and references:1 “Memorial to the Council,” as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands: Volume VI: 1583-1588.”
2 “Letter from Santiago de Vera to the Archbishop of Mexico,” June 1585, as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands: Volume VI: 1583-1588.”
3 “Informe sobre el estado de las islas Filipinas en 1842 : Escrito por el autor del Aristodemo, del Sistema musical de la lengua castellana etc,” by Sinibaldo de Mas y Sans, 1843.
4 “Memorial to the Council” by Santiago de Vera and others, as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands: Volume VI: 1583-1588.”
5 “Relation of the Philipinas Islands,” as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands: Volume VII: 1588-1591.”
6 Addendum to “Relation of the Philippine Islands,” by Bishop Doming de Salazar, as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands: Volume VII: 1588-1591.”
7 “Conspiracy Against the Spaniards,” as published in the Blair and Robertson series “The Philippine Islands: Volume VII: 1588-1591.”