The Dutch presence-A A +A
Saturday, September 1, 2012
BACK in elementary, we were taught to memorize the list of foreign nations involved with the Philippines in the following general order: Malaysians, Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Spaniards, Americans, and Japanese. Some of you might even have put “England” right between Spain and America, but we’re missing someone here.
Ever since their independence from Spain, the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, known today as the Netherlands, had been harassing Spanish ports in Manila and doing all that they could to be “el dolor en el culo” to Spain.
Dutch ships were patrolling the waters near Manila for forty-eight years beginning in the year 1600. In that span of time, it’s very surprising that they never sank a single Manila galleon leaving the port. Nonetheless, their presence greatly disturbed the Spanish, who spent a good amount of resources just keeping an eye on Dutch-flagged ships that could be waiting to ambush outgoing vessels.
In fact, the Philippines itself was so important to the Dutch that one Admiral Joris van Spielbergen, commander of the Dutch expeditionary force to the Philippines, said, “The best and only means of re-establishing our affairs in the Indies and of making ourselves entirely masters of the Moluccas is, in my opinion, to dispatch a fleet and armada directly to the Philippines, in order to attack the Spaniards there, and to overpower all the places and strongholds it may be possible to capture, whereby we should obtain a passage and access to the rest.” Wow—aren’t we special. I wonder if this country would have fared better under Dutch rule instead of American.
At any rate, one of the more interesting things about the Dutch and their absolute hatred for the Spanish is that they believe in the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Everyone knows that the Spanish had an extremely hard time penetrating Muslim Mindanao. The Muslim sultanates were not working alone—they had a common ally in the Dutch that were not only blockading Spanish ports, preventing parts of the Spanish navy from sallying forth and intercept Moro raids, but were also actively supplying the Muslims with arms, ammunition and intelligence.
Moro raiders also frequently captured Filipino Christians and sold them as plantation slaves to the Dutch, so there was a small slave trade going on during those times. Christians who converted to Islam were not sold, but instead were forced to serve and fight beside the other raiders. Spain tried—and failed—to conquer Mindanao from their arrival in the islands to about 1663, when a Chinese pirate named Koxinga arrived to try and take over Manila. What followed was a fifty year ceasefire between the Spanish and the Moros.
When the Spanish returned in the 18th century to try again, they found elaborate trench systems being used by the Moros that were suspiciously familiar in design. It is believed that the fortress of Sultan Kudarat himself near Lamitan had trenches designed by the Dutch. That wasn’t all—before the fifty-year lull, assaulting Spanish forces would normally be met with spears, swords and Muslim courage. Imagine their surprise when they were facing—in addition to hordes of angry Muslim troops—Dutch heavy artillery being fired straight at them from the makeshift jungle forts.
Whether an ally of convenience or another potential conqueror playing nice, it was nice to have the United Provinces on our side for a while.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 02, 2012.