British Interlude-Part 2

A TAKEOVER ENDS BEFORE IT BEGINS 

The terms of surrender agreed to by Britain guaranteed the Roman Catholic religion and its Episcopal government, and granted the citizens of the colony rights of peaceful travel and of trade ‘as British subjects’. Under the direction of the provi-sional British governor, Dawsonne Drake (and a descendant of Sir Francis Drake), the Philippines continued to be governed by the Real Audiencia de Manila, the expenses of which were agreed to be paid by Spain. 

On the other side of the world, however, the Seven Years War in Europe ended with the Treaty of Paris in February 1763. At the time of signing this treaty, the signatories were not even aware that the Philippines had been taken over by the British and were being administered as a British colony. Consequently no spe-cific provision was made for the Philippines. Instead it fell under the general provision that all other lands not otherwise provided for be immediately returned to the Spanish Crown. 

On 20 March 1764, the Spanish governor-designate, Brigadier de la Torre, arrived at Santa Cruz, Manila, with packets from London and Madrid, including dis-patches from London for the surrender of Manila to him. The dispatches from London threw the occupying British officers into intense disarray, with the provisional Governor Drake being ousted and commanding officers being arrested. Some British garrison troops refused to obey various orders and countermanding orders, including orders to arrest and detain their commanding officers. The confusion didn’t last long. The threat of the on-coming annual monsoon season quickly induced the British to settle down and get out while they could. 

The British ended their interlude in the Philippines by em-barking from Manila and Cavite in the first week of April 1764, sailing out of Manila Bay for Batavia, India, and Eng-land. The conflict over payment by Spain of the outstanding part of the ransom promised by Archbishop Rojo and the Real Audencia in the terms of surrender, and compensation ex-pected from Britain for ‘excesses’ committed by Governor Drake and his cohorts against residents of Manila, continued in Europe for years afterwards. 

These excesses resulted when Drake and his ‘War Council’ realized that they weren’t acquiring as many assets that they expected to profit from. As a result, the War Council he formed and named the Chottry Court, with absolute power to imprison anyone he so wished, saw many Spanish, Mestizos, Chinese and Indian locals brought into prisons for crimes that – as was later denounced by Captain Thomas Back-house, were “only known to himself.” 

Backhouse’s charge adds further irony to the whole British interlude in the Philippines. This is because when Manila fell to British troops 20-month earlier, the churches and gov-ernment offices were ransacked. Valuables were taken and historical documents such as Augustinian records, government documents and even the copper plates for the grand 18th-century Murillo Velarde map of the Philippines were ransacked along with the naval stores at the Cavite Naval Yard, the paintings in the Governor General’s Palace, the contents of Intramuros churches and the possessions of most wealthy houses. Rape, homi-cide and vandalism also rampaged through the city in what is now known as the first “Rape of Manila”. On top of it all, the British demanded a ransom of £4 million from the Spanish government to stop the plundering of the city, something to which Archbishop Rojo agreed in order to avoid further destruction. 

A SHINING LIGHT OF ASIA 

As in any story that’s related, one discovers more by hearing or reading about what others know themselves about the same historical events. Following below is an article titled, ‘Roses and Thorns’. It was written by Alejandro Roces and was published in a popular local daily – the Philippine Star (17 March 2009 edition):

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In his 1948 monograph on “The Contribution of the Basque Men to the Philippines”, Eulogio B. Rodriguez (then a director of the National Museum of the Philippines) described Simon de Anda y Salazar as “one of the best Spanish governors the Philippines ever had.” 

Governor de Anda was born in the Basque province of Alava on October 28, 1701. His rise to prominence in the islands was due to his actions during the British invasion and subsequent occupation of the Philippine islands from 1762-1764. Dr. Rodriguez writes, “… in 1762 when the English attacked Manila (then, under the administration of Archbishop Rojo, Anda did not like to submit under the authority of the Englishhe moved to Bacolor, Pampanga (organized the capital there), where he proclaimed himself governor and recruited men for his armyhe continued to fight them (the English) for more than a year and a half.” 

At the end of the British occupation, Simon de Anda was recalled to Spain, “He told the king about the injustices of the friars to the Filipinos emphasizing that the Islands needed better government and better rulers. Anda returned to the Philippines as governor in July 1770” (Rodriguez). Many of Anda’s goals and objections to the estate of the Philippines would be echoed by Emilio Aguinaldo when he declared Philippine independence over a century later. Thus, Anda’s time as governor-general is considered one of the more progressive in our history. 

The British invasion was part of a larger European conflict called The Seven Years War (1756-1763); which pitted Britain against Spain and France. The British East India Company would take advantage of the situa-tion and use it as an excuse to invade the Philippine Islands. They arrived in Manila bay with 13 ships and over 6,000 troops. 

The battle for Manila should be the stuff of legend and not forgotten: “The loss of the Spaniards during the siege included three officers, two sergeants, 50 troops of the line, and 30 civilians of the militia, without reckoning the wounded; the Indians had 300 killed and 400 wounded. The besiegers lost about 1,000 men, of whom 16 were officers. The fleet fired upon the city more than 5,000 bombs, and more than 20,000 balls.” Because of Simon de Anda and the people of the Islands, the British were never able to extend their control beyond Manila and Ca-vite. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the British left the Philippines at the end of March 1764. How-ever, it would take almost 20 years for the city of Manila to fully recover. 

Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong in the mid-1800s, wrote a book entitled A Visit to the Philippines Islands. He believed the Islands had great potential, of which the British should take advantage. Is it any wonder that Britain had sought to control this territory? A note on page 35 of A Visit to the Philippines Islands reads, “In 1762, the city of Manila had reached to wonderful prosperity. Its commercial relations extended … in a word, to all places between the Isthmus of Suez and Behring’s Strait.” Manila was one of the most important trading cities in Asia during this time. Another writer by the name of Jean Baptise Mallat wrote: “Manila might easily become the center of the exports and imports of the entire globe.” 

The Philippines would remain a focus for British merchants: in 1855, the British trade with the Philippines exceeded in value that of Great Britain with several of the States of Europe, with that of any one State or port in Africa, was greater than the British trade with Mexico, Columbia, or Guatemala . . .” (Bowring, 213). Then the Philippines were rich in natural resources and Manila was one of the premier ports in all of Asia. 

It seems that at more than one point in our history we were one of the shining lights of Asia and a sought after territory for trade and business. It is sad to see where we stand today. Other nations have long-recognized the potential of the Philippines. Two claimed it as their own, while others (such as the British and Dutch) tried to possess the Islands. None were ever able to capitalize on our promise. One day we hope we do. 

Our history remains one of the most interesting in the world, it deserves even greater study.

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EPILOGUE TO THE INTERLUDE 

The speed of social and economic change in the Philippines quickened after the end of the Napoleonic War. After the Philippines were opened to foreign traders and investors, the Philippines could be described as an Anglo-American colony flying the Spanish flag. In the 19th century, Anglo-American merchant houses dominated the burgeoning export economy of the colony. The Philippines became a major producer of cash crops for international markets. Between 1825 and 1875, the volume of international trade increased 15 times. Major exports were sugar, tobacco, coffee and abaca. 

The incorporation of the Philippines into the world economy had two important cons-equences. First, it saw the emergence of Filipino nationalism and with it the emergence of a modern nation-state. Second, it created regional economic, social and political forces that served in the long term to weaken the nation-state. The growth of an export economy led to the creation of powerful regional elites who became major political forces in the Philip-pines in the 20th century.

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