Limahong - A Chinese Pirate Who Invaded the Philippines - Part 1

Limahong, or Lin Feng, also known as Lim Ah Hong or Limahon was a Chinese pirate and warlord who invaded the northern islands of the Philippines and also established a short-lived kingdom in Pangasinan. He built up a reputation for his constant raids to ports in Guangdong, Fujian and southern China. He is noted to have twice attempted and failed to overthrow the Spanish city of Manila in 1574.
There are different stories about Limahong with some degrees of historical accuracy. According to some legends, Limahong was from a Chinese Noble family; did something that offended the Emperor or Empress of the day which made them hire a pirate to rush him away from danger. He was leaving his homeland forever. This pirate sailed south to the natural harbor at Batangas, and as far north as safe harbor in Pampanga with Lim Ah Hong in tow. Lim Ah Hong, took to the pirate who saved him and was treated as a son. When the pirate died, Lim Ah Hong inherited the fleet and being of noble birth was a natural leader.
He was very successful at relieving the Spanish Armada of their gold which is why he began to appear in history books and ships logs. One of his safe harbors was Batangas with its deep waters. Lim Ah Hong found the local ladies to his liking. He took a wife but as a Chinese warlord was allowed as many concubines as he could afford, he populated the province of Batangas with his wife and countless concubines who gave forth progeny of whom there are several direct descendants.
Another tale is that Limahong was born as Dim Mhon. Since he was young, he started to do criminal activities, including robbery. He met and became a protege of an old pirate, Tial-lao. When Tial-lao died, Lim became his heir, inheriting the old pirate's fleet and around 2,000 pirates. His numerous attacks on ports and ships throughout southern China made the authorities issue a warrant for his capture. This brought him to pursue his criminal activities on higher seas, far from China's reach.
And there’s another tale that Li-ma-hong also known as Lin Feng or Li Tao Kiem, was born in the port town of Tiuchiu in the province of Cui Tam. At an early age he manifested a martial spirit and joined a band of corsairs which for a long time had been the terror of the China coasts. On the demise of his chief, Tai -La Ong, he was unanimously elected the new leader. Pursued at length in all directions by the imperial ships of war, he was determined to conquer the Philippines. Presumably the same incentives which encouraged the Spanish conquistadores to conquer lands and overthrow dynasties, the vision of wealth, glory and empire, awakened a like ambition in the Chinese corsair. He was able to accumulate 40 ships which increased to 95 ships when he took over the fleet of another pirate, Vin To Quiam. He came to be the notorious king of the waters of southern China.
On the death of Governor-General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the Government of the Colony was assumed by the Royal Treasurer, Guido de Lavezares. During this period, the possession of the Philippine Islands was unsuccessfully challenged by a rival expedition under the command of a Chinese pirate, Limahong. For the many attacks committed by him against private traders and property, the Celestial Emperor of China outlawed him.
It was in late 1573 that an army of 3,000 outlaws, bandits, and pirates led by Limahong fled to the island of Luzon. There, he and his band of outlaws sought refuge, established their own kingdom and waged war with the Spanish Empire.
By this time, a force of 40,000 soldiers and 135 ships was sent by the Wanli Emperor to kill and capture the pirates. Limahong and his troops first arrived in Ilocos Sur in early 1574 where they had a run-in with the Spanish commander, Juan de Salcedo.
A few troops were sent ashore to get provisions. While returning to the junks, they sacked the village and set fire to the huts. The news of this outrage was hastily communicated to Juan Salcedo, who had been pacifying the Northern Provinces since July 1572, and was at the time in Villa Fernandina (now called Vigan). Li-ma-hong continued his course and anchored on the Ilocos coast of Cagayan where a few Spanish soldiers were stationed under the orders of Juan Salcedo, who was still in the town of Vigan. Under Salcedo’s direction, preparations were made to prevent the enemy entering the river, but such was not Li-ma-hong's intention. After that brief struggle with the Spanish army, his troops set sail again.
In his sea-wanderings he happened to fall in with a Chinese trading junk returning from Manila with the proceeds of her cargo sold there. This he seized and learned that Manila was a new and relatively unprotected city though already occupied by the Spaniards. From this information and the knowledge that China had a no-war policy with its neighbors during that time, he decided to capture Manila and make it his kingdom. The captive crew were constrained to pilot his fleet towards the capital of Luzon. From them he learnt how easily the natives had been plundered by a handful of foreigners, the probable extent of the opposition he might encounter, the defenses established, the wealth and resources of the district, and the nature of its inhabitants.
Salcedo, naturally supposing his course would be towards Manila, also started at the same time for the capital with all the fighting men he could collect, leaving only 30 men to garrison Vigan and protect the State interests there. With the remainder he reached the coast at Parañaque, a village seven miles south of Manila.
It was November 29, 1574. The inhabitants of the town of Paranaque, a royal encomienda, was under heavy attack from the forces of this Chinese corsair, who were on their way to Intramuros, the seat of Spanish rule in the Philippines. Folk accounts have it that the inhabitants were at first disorganized, until a man from a barrio, by the name of Galo, came forward and took command. Under his able leadership, and with the arrival of Spanish forces led by Captain Juan de Salcedo from Ilocos, Limahong was repulsed and the occupation of the town was prevented.
The strong resistance of the barrio residents shocked the Chinese pirate, who thought that capturing Manila would be easy. What Limahong did not expect was that the defenders of the community, that would later be known as Don Galo, despite being ill-equipped, would fight to the end, so much so that the sea in front of the barrio turned red with their blood. The battle became known as the "Red Sea Incident".
The Parañaqueños not only saved their town, but they contributed decisively to Limahong's abandoning his plans to conquer the area. In appreciation for Galo's leadership and heroic deeds, the Spanish authorities granted him the title of "Don". The barrio later on was named after him - Don Galo or Dongalo.
Until next time. The Philippine history continues. . .

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