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.

No comments: