Limahong Invaded the Philippines – Part III

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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

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