Battle of Bankusay Channel and Macabebe

Battle of Bankusay
Battle of Bankusay, Painting by Dan Dizon. Courtesy of JDN Center for Kapampangan Studies. 
Bankusay refers to the Bankusay creek located off the north shore of Manila Bay. It was here where the bloody Battle of Bankusay took place in 1571, a battle which would immortalize the heroism and extraordinary courage of a young warrior whose name continues to elude the Filipino consciousness.
While several Filipino patriots sacrificed their lives and performed heroic deeds to free the Filipinos from foreign oppressors, some events and people remained unsung, not given proper credit or merely forgotten. Among the battles fought by Filipinos that seemed unremembered was the Battle of Bankusay on June 3, 1571. It was a naval engagement that marked the last or if not one of the last resistance of the natives against the Spanish Empire’s occupation and colonization of the Pasig River delta which had been the site of the indigenous polities of Maynila and Tondo.
Bambalito of Macabebe. Painting by Daniel H. Dizon. 
Macabebe, an ancient town in the province of Pampanga is geographically situated along the shores of Pampanga River (Rio Grande de la Pampanga). The river’s routes and its northern tributaries provided the pathways to the early major settlements in Pampanga. Some called it Macabibi because the river was abundantly grown with corals and shells (bibi) during the early times. The Macabebes were originally known as Kapampangans. During the Spanish Colonial period in the Philippines, Macabebe was considered one of the oldest and most important communities of Pampanga.
While it is not highlighted in Philippine history, the first Filipino martyr who fought for freedom against the Spanish rule was a Kapampangan, (a native of Pampanga Province) and a Macabebe in particular. When Spanish forces under the leadership of Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi landed on the shores of Manila in June 1571, the Tagalog chiefs namely Rajah Matanda, Lakan Dula and Rajah Soliman welcomed them.
Not too distant from Manila was the pre-Hispanic Kapampangan settlement ruled by a young datu who would be known in history as Tarik Soliman or Sulaiman. When Legaspi sent out word to the chiefs of the surrounding country demanding that they too pay allegiance to the king of Spain, it was Tarik Soliman, a Macabebe who raised a fist of defiance against the invaders.
Tarik Soliman also called Bambalito, the chief of Macabebe tribe, exploded with fury and refused to be friends to the Castillians. He called on the chieftains of Pampanga and Bulacan to join forces with him in driving the foreign devils away. A fleet of 40 karakoas (ancient warships) was assembled, each equipped with cannon. Tarik Soliman with his troops of 2,000 composed of Macabebe, Hagonoy of Bulacan and Kapampangan warriors set sail down Pampanga River to Manila on May 31, 1571.
He tried to convince Lakan Dula of Tondo to join his campaign but the latter had already pledge his loyalty to the Spaniards, together with Rajah Matanda and Rajah Soliman of Manila.
Upon their arrival, Legazpi sent two representatives to Lakan Dula’s camp where Tarik Soliman’s troop was to convince Tarik Soliman of their real intentions and talk him out of his plan of an all-out war against the Spaniards. Legazpi’s wishes fell on deaf ears. It dawned on Legazpi that the young Kapampangan warrior was really in the mood to fight so he immediately ordered his troop of 27 vessels, 280 Spaniards and 600 native allies to face the furious Pampanga warrior in Bankusay Channel in Tondo.
On June 3, 1571, a fierce battle ensued. Unfortunately, the native forces could not match the Spanish Army’s might. Bambalito was killed and the rest of his men escaped and fled. After their defeat in the Battle of Bankusay, the Macabebes and Manila natives were forced to accept Spanish sovereignty.
When peace was established, Legaspi was able to establish a municipal government for Manila on June 24, 1571 which eventually became the capital of the entire Spanish East Indies colony and subsequently the capital of the Philippines.
Kapampangans slowly submitted themselves to the colonizers, culminating in the declaration of La Pampanga as Spain’s first province in Luzon in December, 1571. The same people who once defied Spanish rule would later serve as mercenaries for the Spaniards. They would fight against the Chinese pirate Limahong, the Moros, the Dutch, and the British.
It should be noted that “Tarik Soliman" is not the real document name of our young Kapampangan hero. It first appeared as “Toric Soleiman” in Pedro Paterno’s Historia de Filipinos and has since been widely used to prevent people from confusing him with Manila’s Rajah Soliman.
Tarik Soliman may not be the first documented hero who fought against the invaders (Lapu-Lapu holds that distinction), but he was the first martyr killed while fighting for their freedom.
So each time you read about Philippine heroes like Rizal, Bonifacio and Lapu-Lapu, remember that before the Spaniards completely deprived the Filipinos of their freedom, a young man, a brave hero and extraordinary warrior chose to stand up and fight for what he believed was right.
Sources: Wikipedia, The Manila Times - July 5, 2014, National Historical Commission of the Philippines Website

Wang Wanggao in search of Limahong

Limahong Channel – Photo Credit:
The Viceroy of Fokien, having heard of Limahong’s daring exploits, had commissioned a ship of war to discover the whereabouts of Limahong, his imperial master’s old enemy.
Wang Wanggao, known in Spanish sources as Omocon, who was commissioned to capture Limahong dead or alive, arrived in Philippine waters and encountered the Spanish soldiers in Bolinao, Pangasinan.
The envoy was received with delight by the Spaniards. He was invited to accompany them to Manila to meet the Governor. Wang Wanggao went to Manila accompanied by Field Marshal Salcedo where the former was dined and entertained.
To cap it all, the governor ordered Salcedo and the soldiers to deliver to Wang Wanggao all Chinese pirates captured in Pangasinan. Then he ordered everything necessary for the voyage to be fully prepared, which was done within a few days. In return for all this kindness, Wang Wanggao offered to take along with him to China some Augustinian friars to spread Roman Catholicisim. The Governor willingly accepted the offer. Wang Wanggao departed with two priests, Martin de Rada and GerĂ³nimo Martin amidst the salvo of goodwill and friendship. The two priests were commissioned to carry a letter of greeting and presents to the Viceroy who received them with great distinction but objected to their residing in the country.
According to Restituto Basa, author of Footnotes on Pangasinan History and The Story of Dagupan, Limahong married a certain Princess Kabontatala who helped him dig the channel. It’s still possible to see the “Limahong Channel” as it flows from Domalandan between Labrador and Lingayen to the sea. A marker has been placed at the channel commemorating his failed attempts to occupy Manila. A monument of Limahong can also be seen at the wharf in Barangay Lucap in Alaminos, Pangasinan. The Limahong Channel remains a tribute to their endeavor.
On his escape, Limahong had to abandon the troops employed in this maneuver. Many of Limahong ’s people were unable to travel with the reduced fleet and joined the local population. Many Chinese left behind became the ancestors of numerous old mestizo families in Lingayen and Dagupan. Some of these men, losing all hope, and having indeed nothing but their lives to fight for, fled to the mountains to escape the clenched fist of the Spanish rule. Hence it is popularly supposed that from these fugitives descends the race of people in the hill district north of that province still distinguishable by their oblique eyes and known by the name of Igorrote-Chinese.
 Today, many of the native Pangasinenses possess some tint of Chinese blood in their veins, and they are still distinguishable by their oblique eyes and light complexion. Many citizens of Lingayen and other towns in this part of the province and along the Agno River are of Chinese ancestry.
Meanwhile, Limahong and remnants of his forces were able to join up with Li Mao and Chen Dele to pirate the South China coast in 1589. After which, no more news was heard from him.
Philippine Guide by Jill & Rebecca Gale de Villa
Insight Philippines by Discovery Channel
Philippine Handbook by Carl Parkes

Limahong's Final Days in the Philippines

Limahong with his men constructed some boats inside the fort out of the half burnt remnants of his fleet which his men had brought into the fort at night without being detected by the Spaniards. The Chinese had made good use of the blockade also which lasted for three months by repairing the breaches on the walls and the damage of the fire which almost gutted his inner fort.
Under such circumstances, Salcedo's effort to blockade the Chinese fort seemed to be fruitless. Neither side would take the risk of decisive operations and the war degenerated into skirmishes between small groups of Spaniards and some parties of Chinese going out for provisions or to cut wood.
A Council of War was called to plan other means to expel the Chinese from their fort. It was decided that the Spanish force should retire to an island in the river to make their blockade more effective. The Chinese were exactly opposite the island, that is, they were north of it. But what is more interesting is the fact that the island was within cannon shot of the fort; and one morning the Chinese test-fired the captured "Vigilantibus" cannon on the camp and its projectile shattered the leg of Salcedo's standard bearer.
As a last effort to cut down Limahong, Salcedo ordered his soldiers to drive stakes into the riverbed where Limahong's ships were sure to pass. While on both banks of the river, Salcedo also had his men hidden but ready to fight the pirates.
During this same period, Limahong began the construction of thirty vessels within the fort, and as all his soldiers were good workmen, the project was completed on August 4, 1575. At noon, on the same day, he set sail for his country after having been besieged within the fortification for over four months. This event took the Spaniards by surprise. They were astonished to see Limahong sailing out of fort through a channel which was unknown to them. Limahong constructed this channel with the utmost secrecy without either the Spanish land or sea force hearing about it.
Limahong reached the particular spot where the stakes were driven. Amidst blinding fires, Limahong had ropes fastened about the shoulders of his men and at the point of the sword, they were forced to go overboard. Then wrapping arms and legs about the stakes to act as human grappling hooks, the Chinese began their ugly job of pulling the stakes.
The Chinese in addition to being almost pulled limb to limb in an effort to dislodge the stakes, were subjected to the fires of the Spanish arms. With great difficulty, enough stakes were removed and the pirate ships escaped to the China Sea passing through the mouth of the Agno River between Lingayen and Labrador. Limahong slipped through, and made a wild dash for liberty out into the China Sea toward his former lair, reaching the island of Tocaotican where he had sought refuge and later died.

Sources: Philippine Handbook by Carl Parkes
Insight Philippines by Discovery Channel
Philippine Guide by Jill & Rebecca Gale de Villa

Limahong Invaded the Philippines – Part III

Reblogged from

Limahong Fort - Photo Credit: 

Foiled in his attempt to establish a kingdom in Manila, Limahong set sail for Lingayen Gulf, to settle in Pangasinan province. As a rich place and far enough from the reach of the Spaniards and the Chinese emperor, Limahong decided he would stay in Pangasinan and make himself master of the region.

In a few days he landed in Sual Bay with 64 war junks and over 3,000 followers. He informed the natives that he had conquered the Spaniards and that he had come to rule over them as their king. The inhabitants there, having no particular choice between two masters, welcomed Limahong.

Limahong subjugated the inhabitants and seized their principal chiefs, holding them hostage so that they supplied him with wood and food as he set about the foundation of his new capital some four miles from the mouth of Agno River. He constructed a fort consisting of an outer palisade of palm logs and an inner enclosure of palm planks which sheltered his palace. Feeling themselves secure in their new abode, the Chinese had built pagodas and many dwelling places for permanent settlement.

In the meantime, a scout ship had been sent by Governor-General Guido de Lavezares to follow the pirate fleet and it soon returned and reported where it had gone.

An expedition of Spaniards and Filipino troops, including the Lakandula of Tondo and his sons was dispatched under the command of Juan Salcedo to expel the formidable foe. This was composed of about 250 Spaniards and 1,600 natives well equipped with small arms, ammunition and artillery. They set sail in 59 vessels for Lingayen on March 23, 1575. Juan de Salcedo had been appointed Field Marshal in place of Martin de Goiti. He was assisted by Captain Lorenzo Chacon, Pedro de Chavez, and Gabriel de Rivera.

In Pangasinan, some companies of Pangasinan soldiers joined the army. They crossed the bar of the Agno River on March 30, 1575, their presence unsuspected by the Chinese.

On entering the river, Salcedo noted a narrow place where the channel could easily be blocked. He stayed there in order to prevent the escape of the pirates. He ordered Captain Gabriel de Rivera and his company of 28 men to march immediately by land, and Captains Pedro de Chavez and Lorenzo Chacon to sail with 9 small boats and 80 men to get to the river and to capture the Chinese vessels. The time was to be appointed so that both the land and the sea forces would arrive at the fort at the same time and make assault so that they might be better successful in their purpose. Salcedo was to remain behind with all the rest of the forces to await the opportunity of furnishing aid in any emergency.

The river detachment met 35 vessels of the Chinese fleet sailing out to collect provisions. They were entirely unaware of the presence of the Spaniards in the vicinity, and when the Spaniards opened fire with their harquebuses, the pirates turned and fled grounding the ships at the river bank near the fort and then jumping overboard to escape the Spaniards, who outnumbered them ten to one.

The balance of the Chinese fleet which was just farther up the river was tied up near the river bank with only the crews on board. When these sailors saw their comrades fleeing for their lives, they followed, and the entire fleet was abandoned to the Spaniards. During the melee, one of the vessels caught fire and before anything could be done, the Chinese fleet of over 60 vessels was already in flames.

The land party on the other hand, had forced an entrance at the back of the port, capturing more than seventy women whom they found within the palisade, besides killing more than one hundred Chinese. Shortly after the Spaniards gained entrance the fort was put into flames, whether by Chinese or by native auxiliaries could not be determined.

The river party joined in the attack on the fort. But the flames blowing into the faces of the attackers made progress difficult. The inner fort remained inviolate. The attackers stayed and blockaded the inner fort with an aim to starve the Chinese occupants inside. But thirst instead set in among them as the only water available in the fort was from a small brackish well. Many of them left their ranks to collect loot and slaves.

Sources: Philippine Handbook by Carl Parkes
Insight Philippines by Discovery Channel
Philippine Guide by Jill & Rebecca Gale de Villa

Six Ways to Immerse Your Reader in the Setting of a Story

Reblogged from by Joslyn Chase.

Imagine The Shining taking place in a shopping mall. Or the movie Se7en set in sunny Florida. It just wouldn’t work. The setting of a story plays a vital part in the success of these stories, and it should in your stories, as well.
6 Ways to Immerse Your Reader in the Setting of a Story
Setting does more than provide the backdrop for your characters. It opens certain possibilities for your story and closes down others. It helps establish the tone of the story and often supplies support for the theme. Often, setting can function as a character in the context of your story.
Setting is of supreme importance in writing a stellar story.

What is setting?

The setting of your story goes beyond place. It encompasses factors such as historical background, culture, socio-economic environment, and atmosphere. It influences character language, writing style, type of story, and overall ambience. All of these elements should work in harmony with the plot, characters, and theme of your story.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Let’s look at one of my all-time favorite books, Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca. The story is a romantic suspense in a gothic setting, the language lush and dreamy with leisurely cadences:
“Last night, I dreamt I went to Maderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me…”
Do you see how the author’s style matches the setting? The perfect pairing contributes to the success of this enduring classic. Let’s contrast that with the opening from Thomas Harris’s The Silence of The Lambs:
“Behavioral Science, the FBI section that deals with serial murder, is on the bottom floor of the Academy building at Quantico, half-buried in the earth. Clarice Starling reached it flushed after a fast walk from Hogan’s Alley on the firing range. She had grass in her hair and grass stains on her FBI Academy windbreaker from diving to the ground under fire in an arrest problem on the range.”
The setting and language are different here but nicely matched to each other, laying the groundwork for the kind of story Harris is getting ready to tell.
Setting is integral to story, so take care to choose a setting that will best complement what you want to communicate to your reader.

What can setting do for me?

I cannot enumerate all the perks that come from selecting an appropriate setting, but I can touch on some of them.

1. Setting helps determine your story parameters

When you choose a setting, you put limits on your story—and that can be a good thing. It helps in your decision-making process, presenting an array of options applicable to your setting, and eliminating others from the pool, letting you focus on what works best.
For example, Andy Weir set his story The Martian on Mars. That limited his choices of plot events. Having Mark Watney meet the woman of his dreams on the red planet was not on the table, and would have shifted the story off its axis and made it into something else entirely.

2. Setting helps unify story elements

Setting contributes a lot to unity in a story, and much of it happens on a subconscious level. But here’s a handy technique you can make conscious use of to bind the moving pieces of your story into a coherent whole: Make repeated references to a particular element.
If you work it right, this can also be a powerful way to express theme, as discussed in the next section.
For example, if my story was set in a town next to a roaring river and my theme touched on the frantic nature of time rushing on, I could use that river as a central element. I’d spend a paragraph or two, early in the story, describing the river with specific sensory detail, making sure readers understand how fast and loud and unrelenting the river is, etc.
Then, use the river again and again as a unifying symbol. Feature the river in a newspaper article a character reads; have another character tell how her brother died there. Have two characters agree to meet there. Look for opportunities to mention or incorporate the river, and thus it becomes the spinal cord of your story, unifying the outlying elements.

3. Setting helps communicate theme

Beyond providing a consistent framework and tying together plot elements, setting can help express theme.
For instance, my new thriller, Steadman’s Blind, is a wild ride told from four different viewpoints and changing trajectories, but the setting—the aftermath of a volcanic eruption—unifies the various elements and highlights theme.
As the ash in the air thickens, so does the plot and the desperation of the characters. Toward the end, when the wind shifts, clearing the sky, it is an omen of hope.

4. Setting can help define your character

If you show your character as a product of his environment, whatever you do to develop your setting reflects on your character as well. This is a great way to convey important aspects of your character without spoon-feeding them to your reader.
By contrast, you can use setting in another way, placing your character in a setting completely opposite to his nature. A fish-out-of-water scenario creates instant tension and can lead to a compelling story.

5. Setting can advance plot

Change in a setting can force your characters to act, advancing the plot. As a bonus, such changes will increase the tension level, too.
A dam breaks; a town floods. A prosperous business gets bought out and people lose their jobs. A family finally builds their dream home where their children can safely play and the state builds a maximum-security prison next door.
You get the idea. Change your setting, advance your plot.
And the change doesn’t have to be something tangible—it could simply be a change in perspective.
For example, Martha appreciates her husband. He never complains that she spends her days hanging out in coffee shops with friends. He’s undemanding about her cooking and housework. He tolerates her draping pantyhose over the bathroom shower and taking up all the counter space for her cosmetics.
And then Martha pulls a long, blonde hair off her husband’s sock while doing laundry and her perspective changes. His laissez-faire attitude now suggests he’s got other interests. Martha has to do something about it.

6. Researching setting can spark ideas

In most instances, you’ll need to do at least a little research to flesh out the setting of your story. Doing this often opens up new possibilities and suggests plot events you hadn’t considered. Research has many times led me to a treasure trove of ideas and fabulous details to add verisimilitude to the story.
The caveat is that you can get carried away. Don’t overspend your time on research, and don’t overburden your story with irrelevant details.

A few final thoughts on setting

I used to work for our public library system, and I was trained to help readers find just the kind of book they’re looking for. One thing I learned is that many readers are highly sensitive to setting, wanting books with a particular type. Setting holds great appeal for a lot of hungry readers, so think about that when choosing the setting for your next story.
Pay more attention as you watch and read, looking for ways the setting has influenced the story. For an interesting look at how setting was used in some of Hollywood’s biggest films, check out this article.
Now that you know how to use setting to strengthen your story, go forth and put this power to work in your writing!
Are you aware of setting in the stories you read? How about the stories you write? Tell us about it in the comments.


There’s little point in fixing on the right setting for your story if you don’t pull your readers into that setting so they can experience it along with your characters. Remember item #2 above? Before you make repeated references to the significant element, you have to describe it such that your readers will understand it’s important.
Choose from the options provided and write one or two paragraphs of description, using sensory detail that shows the emotions and opinions of the viewpoint character. Remember, every word should come through that character and be colored by their attitudes and preferences.
  • Clock tower in the town square
  • Pool at the neighborhood gym
  • Lightning-charred tree at the edge of town
  • Rocky ridge on nearby mountain
Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re done, think about ways you could incorporate this image into your story, using it to unify and express theme. Post your work in the comments, and be sure to provide feedback for your fellow writers!
Joslyn Chase
Joslyn Chase
Joslyn Chase loves suspense fiction and writes thrillers, mysteries, romantic suspense, and horror. She is the author of the thriller Nocturne In Ashes, an explosive read that will keep you turning pages to the end. What Leads A Man To Murder, her collection of short suspense, is available for free at Joslyn loves traveling, teaching, and playing the piano.