Tell it to SunStar: Two massacres: Bohol 1622 and Leyte 1622

Tell it to SunStar.
Tell it to SunStar.SunStar file photo

By Terry McGuire

There has seldom been a shortage of massacres at any period in Philippine history. In my opinion, two of the less well-known ones happened in Bohol and Leyte in 1622.

My source for these two massacres is Fr. Horacio de la Costa’s Jesuits in the Philippines 1581- 1768.

The Annual Letter of 1611 mentions “mass conversions” on the island of Bohol. Then, “In December 1621 almost all of the Bohol Jesuits went to Cebu for the beatification of Saint Francis Xavier. While the Jesuits were absent their new converts fell under the influence of a “diuata” who told the new converts to abandon the towns and religion of the Spaniards and return to the hills ...”

The reaction was swift and violent. “The alcalde mayor of Cebu, Juan de Alcarazo, hurried to the island with a force of 50 Spanish and 1,000 Visayan troops. On January 06 a pitch battle took place between part of this force and 1,500 of the rebels.” The outcome was predictable: muskets against bolos. Even so, Mayor Alcarazo had to return six months later, “to complete the pacification of the island.” De la Costa does not mention the damage done in the first or second massacre.

De la Costa does not inform us who or how this decision to massacre was made, in particular what role the Jesuits played. He does not mention any dissenting voice or voices among the Jesuits. He does not mention that any of the “good shepherds” went to Bohol to offer forgiveness to the rebels prior to the needless bloodshed.

Apparently, 1622 was a busy year for Mayor Alcarazo. After the first Bohol massacre, he had to go to Leyte. De la Costa tells us:

This uprising enkindled a similar one in Leyte led by Limasuwa Bankkau, who had welcomed Legaspi to the Philippines in 1565. Alcarazo came over with a fleet of 40 sails and decided a salutary example was needed to stop the spirit of dissent from spreading any further. He pursued the rebels to a pocket in the hills and there put them to the sword, men women and children. No one was spared.

That no mention was made of any dissent against either of these massacres, none from the Jesuits, none from any member of the Spanish community, is deeply disturbing, considering some of these people were the best educated, theologically and otherwise, in the whole country. And we have no historical record of any native point of view.

The theme of those with power massacring those with little or no power runs through many subsequent massacres. The quest of justice for the victims is totally lacking or totally unattainable right into the 21st century.


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