Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Sikatuna-Legazpi Blood Compact

Picture is from
by Alan S. Cajes

Miguel López de Legazpi y Gurruchátegui (1502 – August 20, 1572) made friends with the Boholanos by performing a blood compact with a chief in Bohol named Si Katuna or Katunao. They performed the rite aboard a Spanish vessel. The two collected a few drops of blood from their arms, mixed them with wine, and drank the mixture. Juna Luna depicted that event in his famous painting entitled El Pacto de Sangre in 1883.

The blood compact or sandugo means that "since the same blood now flowed in their veins, they had become members of the same family, bound to observe loyalty to one another (Arcila, pp. 36-37, 2001)." In other words, Sikatuna and Legazpi became blood brothers by virtue of the rite.

But on 15 April 1565, Legazpi took possession of the island of Bohol in the name of the King of Spain. He then proceeded to Cebu, which he bombarded and conquered.

After burning about a hundred natives' houses, Tupas, a Cebuano chief, made peace with the invaders. The peace pact was documented in Spanish, hence, Tupas "could not have understood everything in it (Corpuz, p. 58, 1989)." The Spaniards established through the peace pact that Tupas and the whole of Cebu and its people have submitted to Spanish rule (Ibid.).


The hostility of the Visayans toward the Legazpi expedition was understandable in view of their bad experience with the Portuguese. Two years before Legazpi came, a group of Portuguese and their allies tricked the Boholanos and plundered the island of Dauis-Panglao. They also did the same to Camiguin and other Visayan settlements. So when Legazpi came, the hatred against the "white men with beards" was still strong. Being white and bearded, Legazpi and his men were easily thought as Portuguese.

Because of this hostile attitude, Legazpi and his men could not get help from the natives in terms of getting food to eat. But when Legazpi learned the reason for the hostile behavior, he used an interpreter to inform the Boholanos that he and his men were not Portuguese and did not come to plunder but for peace.

That the Boholanos welcomed the Spaniards despite their bad experience with white and bearded foreigners is also understandable since Legazpi met Pagbuaya or Lagubayan. Pagbuaya, the brother of the great datu of Bohol, Dailisan, who was killed by the Portuguese. Pagbuaya migrated to Dapitan after the siege of Bohol. His rank was higher compared to Sikatuna. According to some sources, Sikatuna was a vassal (a person under the protection of a feudal lord to whom he has vowed homage and fealty)1 of Pagbuaya. And according to Rizal's sources, Pagbuaya gave Legaspi sea pilots. Hence, it is very likely that the pilots brought Legazpi to Bohol or, if not, informed Legazpi about Bohol when the expedition was near the island.

We can only surmise the intention why Sikatuna went on board a Spanish vessel and performed the sandugo rite with Legazpi. Probably, Legazpi dropped the name of Pagbuaya. Probably, the previous raid taxed the courage of the Boholanos and made them complacent to offers of friendship. Perhaps the memory of the plunder simply made them glad that white foreigners are friendly and then seized this opportunity to formally seal the friendship to prevent any more Portuguese or similar attacks. Sikatuna's intention, however, may become clearer by looking at the context of sandugo.

The prehispanic Visayan settlements were regularly at war with each other. These hostilities were "suspended or avoided by sandugo (Scott, p. 156, 1994)." Sandugo is a Visayan procedure by which "two men, not necessarily enemies, became blood brothers, vowing to stick together through thick and thin, war and peace, and to observe mourning restriction whenever they were separated from one another (Ibid.)." Because of this,  "[A]ll Spanish explorers from Magellan to Legazpi made such pacts with Visayan datus (Ibid.)." Since sandugo is a Visayan rite, it was very likely that Sikatuna had good intentions in making the peace pact.

 What is questionable was the motive of Legazpi in agreeing to perform the sandugo. First, he was authorized by the King of Spain to enter the Philippine Islands and to use force when necessary (of course with the concurrence of his chiefs who are part of his council). Second, his men were hungry so they needed the natives to provide them with food, even if they have to rightfully pay for it. Third, he did not have the cultural background to understand the natives' sandugo rite, hence, probably did not understand the deep and wide implications of such rite. Fourth, he took possession of the island in the name of the King of Spain inspite of the sandugo. And fifth, he made Bohol part of the encomienda system of the country.

The Sikatuna-Legazpi sandugo, therefore, was not a formal international treaty of friendship. Granting that it was, the terms and conditions were definitely not consummated on the part of the Spaniards. On the contrary, the blood compact could be interpreted as the first formal treachery or swindling committed by the Spaniards against the Boholanos, as distinguished from the one committed by the Portuguese and their allies.


Arcila, Jose S. Rizal and the Emergence of the Philippine Nation. 2001 revised edition.

Corpuz, Onofre D. The Roots of the Filipino Nation. 1989.

Scott, William Henry. Barangay. 1994.

The Plunder of Bohol in 1563

by Alan S. Cajes

So why did some Boholanos leave Bohol and established settlements in Dapitan, Villaba in Tacloban, Zamboanga, Iligan, etc.?

Around 1563, two years before the Sikatuna-Legazpi blood compact, the Portuguese in eight boats came to Bohol and anchored at Dauis-Panglao. The Boholanos welcomed them, but when the natives were least expecting it, the visitors treacherously attacked the natives.

This incident resulted in the killing of datu Sarripada Dailisan, in plundering, and in the taking of captives. One of the kidnapped victims was the lady of Dailisan, who was sold for 90 gold taels in Maguindanao. All in all there were 300 killed, including nine chiefs, 500 men, women and children captured, and 300 taels of gold and 200 gongs seized, along with clothing and merchandise(1).

It was a custom among Visayans to abandon places associated with death and misfortune. So Pagbuaya (Lagubayan according to Rizal), brother of Dailisan, left the island with 500 slaves. He settled in Dapitan after subjugating the Suban-on population with the help of Sama marines or Lutaya/Lutaw (2).

Because of their bad experience with the Portuguese, the Visayans, especially the Boholanos, became hostile to "white men with beards." Legazpi himself noticed this hostile attitude of the natives towards them.

After learning about the incident involving the Portuguese from marine merchants near the islands of Bohol and Cebu, Legazpi made peace with the natives  and explained to them that they were not Portuguese. This gesture of friendship was sealed by the Sikatuna-Legazpi blood compact.


Arcila, Jose S. Rizal and the Emergence of the Philippine Nation. AdMU-ORP, 2001 revised edition.

Sctott, William Henry. Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society. AdMU: 1994.

Rizal and the Boholanos in Dapitan

by Alan S. Cajes
While Rizal was exiled in Dapitan, he wrote a letter to Blumentritt, his friend, on April 5, 1895. In this letter, Rizal gave a "careful answer" to his friend's question about the meaning of "Dapitan". Rizal even told his friend that he was the "right man" for the job.
To prove his point, Rizal cited a historical document that he bought from the descendants of Lagubayan, the founder of Dapitan. The document, as Rizal claimed, is dated 7 July 1818 and signed by Fernando Man. De Bustillo Bustamante y Rueda, the former governor-general who was assassinated. It contained information about Dapitan and its founders.
Based on Rizal's letter, it was Lagubayan who founded Dapitan. Lagubayan was a Boholano who has resided in places like Baclayon, Mansasa, and Duis in Bohol. He later went to Mindanao, particularly in Iligan. Later, he settled in Dapitan. Lagubayan was known as the  "lord of the Subanons"[1] and the "terror of the whole Moroland".[2] It was he who gave the Spaniards pilots and guides, who took them to Catunas (Raja Sikatuna) in Bohol, and then to Cebu.
Dapitan means "a place for rendezvous or meeting place". Dapit means "invite". Probably, Lagubayan invited other Boholanos to the place, hence, the name.
Dapitan was not the only place with Boholanos as the first settlers. Villaba in Tacloban was discovered by Boholano traders in the later part of the 18th century. The Boholanos were also the first settlers of Zamboanga, where many people up to now speak Cebuano with a Boholano accent.

[1] "Subanon" literally means "from the river". This is the way the natives identify the residents. Perhaps the early Boholanos, who went to Mindanao, established their settlements near a river just like those who first settled in Villaba, Tacloban. Settlements along river banks were common in prehispanic Philippines, as it is now, because the river was the primary mode of transportation.
[2] Rizal did not elaborate on this.

A Brief History of Bohol

by Alan S. Cajes 

Bohol’s Geology

Bohol’s geological formation may be explained under the karst theory. According to this theory, sea level changes and uplift (combined with terrestrial erosion), and air exposure of biognic reef regions gave rise to hummocky landscapes that are often impregnated with sinkholes and caves. The chocolate hills are among the examples of striking karts topography. According to the National Committee on Geological Sciences (NCGS), the chocolate hills were formed "ages ago by the uplift of coral deposits and the action of rain, water and erosion."

The Origin of the Word "Bohol"

That Bohol comes from the word "Bo'ol," which refers to the name of a place (the place thought of as the site of the Sikatuna-Legazpi blood compact) located a few kilometers away from Tagbilaran City is quite well-known. Some sources, however, claim that it actually comes from the Visayan term "boho" (hole) owing to the abundant caves, caverns, and holes in the island.

In "History of Bohol," a doctoral dissertation in history written by Lumin B. Tirol in 1975, Tirol established that the name of the province actually came from "bo'ol," the local name for a kind of tree that used to grow in the province. This claim partly relied on the expert opinion of the Botany Department of the National Museum. A picture of the tree is also exhibited as proof in Tirol's disseration.

The bo'ol tree is short and shrubby. Its leaves are heart-shaped with a dimension of about two inches in width and three inches in length. It bears white flowers in summertime. Its fruit, which is smaller than that of a grape, is edible and appears bluish in color when very ripe. In Jose Panganiban's "Diksyunario Tesauro Pilipino-Ingles" (1974), which Tirol cited, "bohol" is described as a "thorny or small tree with elliptic leaves, long yellow flowers, and nearly round fruit."

The penchant of calling a place after a tree or a person is quite common in the province. The upland barangay of Bayabas in Guindulman is obviously named after a guava tree. And so is the town of Batuan (this writer actually saw the batuan tree and tasted its fruit during his childhood). A batuan tree is exhibited in a museum ground in Butuan City.

16th Century Boholanos

It is safe to assume that today’s Boholanos (and Filipinos, in general) are descendants of what is known to anthropologists as Southern Mongoloid and to laymen as the brown race. This wave of migrants entered the archipelago around five or six thousand years ago.

The early Boholanos, however, differed from the rest of the Visayans. Pedro Chirino, writing in 1604, said that Boholanos were lighter in color, more handsome, braver and more spirited than other Visayans.

The Boholanos then, as it is now, were also good drinkers. Historian William Henry Scott quoted what he describes as Chirino’s well-known tribute to the Boholanos’ ability to carry their liqueur:

“It is proverbial among us that none of them who leaves a party completely drunk in the middle of the night fails to find his way home; and if they happen to be buying or selling something, not only do they not become confused in the business but when they have to weigh out gold or silver for the price…they do it with such delicate touch that neither does their hand tremble nor do they err in accuracy.”

Boholanos in Dapitan

Jose Rizal bought a historical document from the descendants of Lagubayan. The document is dated 7 July 1818. According to the document, Lagubayan founded Dapitan. Lagubayan was a Boholano. He resided in places such as Baclayon, Mansasa and Duis – all located in Bohol. He went to Mindanao, particularly in Iligan. Later, he settled in Dapitan. Lagubayan was known as the "lord of the Subanons" and the "terror of the whole Moroland". He gave the Spaniards pilots and guides, who took the Spaniards to Catunas (Raja Sikatuna) in Bohol.

Dapitan means "a place for rendezvous or meeting place". Dapit literally means, "invite". Perhaps Lagubayan invited other Boholanos to the place, hence, the name.
Dapitan was not the only place with Boholanos as the first settlers. Villaba in Tacloban was discovered by Boholano traders in the later part of the 18th century. The Boholanos were also the first settlers of Zamboanga, where many people up to now speak Cebuano with a Boholano accent. There is also a claim that Pagbuaya’s son, Pedro Manook, aided Legazpi in his conquest of Manila and Camarines. Manook subdued the village of Bayug (now Iligan City), which he established as a Christian settlement in 1626.

Bohol Today

Bohol is the tenth largest island of the country. It was created as a province on March 10, 1917. It produced Francisco Dagohoy, who led the longest revolt against the Spaniards in Philippine history. The revolt took the Spaniards 85 years (1744-1829) to quell. It also gave the Philippines its fourth president in the person of Carlos P. Garcia. Garcia was president of the 1971 Constitutional Convention when he died.

Bohol has a population of about 1.3 million. The annual population growth rate is 2.9 percent. The Boholanos today live in the habitable areas of Bohol’s 3,862 sq kms land area. They can also be found in various places throughout the country and the world.

The island-province is well known for its top quality handicrafts made of bamboo, saguran and abaca fibers, romblon, buntal and shell craft. It is also famous for its delicacies like Calamay (made from rice, coconut milk and brown sugar packed in a coconut shell).

Bohol is famous for its Chocolate Hills (1,268 haycock hills that turn green during rainy days and brown in summer). It has one “of the most beautiful eco-marine systems in the world” -- the Bohol marine triangle that covers Pamilacan, Balicasag and Panglao. This area is the habitat of whale sharks, stingrays, dolphins and other forms of marine life. The other famous tourist attractions are the man-made forest and mangrove areas, tarsiers, coral reefs, white sand beaches, diving spots, caves, watersheds, rivers, underground rivers, waterfalls, old churches, bell towers, etc.
Aside from its natural wonders, Bohol is also bursting with talents. It contributes to the nation’s well being by producing highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs, seamen, lawyers, teachers, priests, artists, etc. In addition, its internationally acclaimed Loboc Children Choir could open the gates of heaven with its voices described as “so pure and angelic”.

Wonder no more why Bohol is God’s little paradise on earth.


Agoncillo, Teodoro A. History of the Filipino People. GAROTECH Publishing, 1990 (8th Edition).

Arcila, Jose S. Rizal and the Emergence of the Philippine Nation. 2001 revised edition.
Constantino, Renato. The Philippines: A Past Revisited. Tala Publishing Series, 1975.

Corpuz, Onofre D. The Roots of the Filipino Nation. 1989.
Scott, William Henry. Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society. AdMU: 1994.
Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History: An Epic of Filipino Greatness in War and Peace. Verde Bookstore, 1970.

Zaide, Gregorio. Dagohoy: Champion of Philippine Freedom. Manila: Enriquez, Alduan and Co., 1941.