Fort Pilar

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Fort Pilar Zamboanga City Zone IV 01.gif
Fort pilar 2012.jpg
Great Shot of Fort Pilar
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Fort Pilar early in the day.
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Aerial View of Fort Pilar
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Fort pilar 1949.jpg
Fort Pilar 1949

Fort Pilar Zamboanga City

Fort Pilar is located in the Barangay of Zone IV, Zamboanga City, Philippines.

the article below is taken verbatim from

The early 1500s brought along the Spaniards and their Catholic religion into the Philippine Islands, in search of spices and riches. The Spanish's recorded presence in Jambangan can be dated as far back as November 1596, when a small Spanish settlement and garrison was established in the port of La Caldera, the present-day Caldera Bay area barrio called Recodo, located about fifteen miles north-east of present downtown Zamboanga City. Captain Don Juan Ronquillo del Castillo built a presidio with a fort as the base of their operations in Mindanao and against the Cotabato Moros (the Buhahayens, and their alliance with the king of Terrenate, Mollucas) after withdrawing from the Tampacan and Lumaguan area (present-day Cotabato), and burning their fort and settlement there (which was founded by Captain Estevan Rodriguez de Figueroa in February, 1596), then left Captain Juan Pacho (or Paches) behind to man it before returning to Manila.

February 1596 - Mindanao Island (Cotabato) is first settled by the Spaniards:

"While these things were happening in Camboja and Cochinchina, orders had arrived from España from his Majesty to conclude an agreement that Captain Estevan Rodriguez de Figueroa had made with Gomez Perez Dasmariñas, under which the former was to pacify and settle the island of Mindanao at his own expense, and receive the governorship of the island for two lives {58} and other rewards. The said agreement was effected, after certain difficulties that arose were settled. Don Estevan Rodriguez prepared men and ships, and what else was necessary for the enterprise, and with some galleys, galleots, frigates, vireys, barangays, and lapis, {59} set out with two hundred and fourteen (214) Spaniards for the island of Mindanao, in February of the same year, of ninety-six (1596). He took Captain Juan de la Xara as his master-of-camp, and some religious of the Society of Jesus to give instruction, as well as many natives (from Luzon island) for the service of the camp and fleet.

He reached Mindanao River (in Cotabato), after a good voyage, where the first settlements, named Tampacan and Lumaguan, both hostile to the people of Buhahayen, received him peacefully and in a friendly manner, and joined his fleet. They were altogether about six thousand men. Without delay they advanced about eight leguas farther up the river against Buhahayen, the principal settlement of the island, where its greatest chief had fortified himself on many sides."11

November 1596 - La Caldera Presidio is built and garrisoned:

"Juan Ronquillo is sent to Mindanao and takes over the command there, but being discouraged by the outlook advises an evacuation of the river of Mindanao (located in modern-day Cotabato) and the fortifying of La Caldera (in Jambangan, now barrio Recodo in Caldera Bay) on the Mindanao coast. However he gains a complete victory over the combined forces of Mindanaos and Ternatans, which causes him to send another despatch to (Governor Francisco) Tello.

But the latter's reply to the first despatch having been received, in accordance with its orders he burns his fort in Tampacan (Cotabato).

Then after burning their fort and settlement, the Spaniards embarked all their forces as soon as possible, left the river, and went to La Caldera (in Jambangan, now barrio Recodo in Caldera Bay), twenty-four leguas farther down in the direction of Manila. Having entered port, they built a fortress and left there a garrison of one hundred (100) Spaniards, with some artillery, provisions, and boats for their use.

After establishing a garrison at La Caldera, he returns to Manila with the rest of his command."11

It is curious to note that while official Spanish records show the year 1596 as being linked to the reference of La Caldera in Zamboanga's history, there are also other writings that note the year 1569 as being the year the La Caldera fort was established. While this year has no recorded account as being what it is purported to be, the numerical date ending does lend to a possible visual impairment called dyslexia wherein original numbers are transposed, in this case noting 96 as 69, thus 1569. So, historically speaking, 1569 cannot be substantiated as the date the Spaniards established their presence in La Caldera, making the year 1596 the historical La Caldera year according to official Spanish records.

It is also feasible, and highly likely, that the prominently exposed area of Jambangan was discovered much earlier (in 1575) by the Spaniards, whose location lay at the very tip of the western peninsula of the Mindanao island, and whose sea passage (which is now known as the Basilan Straight) is the most logical navigable route of the Spanish ships, and those of many other country origins, including the nearby Joloans, Mindanaoans, and frequent Chinese traders.

In 1575, the newly appointed Filipinas Islands' Governor and Captain-General Doctor Francisco de Sande, who succeeded after the death of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the colonial founder (the islands were discovered by Ferdinand Magellan) of the Filipinas Islands and the town of Cebu, personally led an expedition to the island of Borneo where he attacked and captured the enemy's fleet and the principal house and residence of the island king.

1575 – Mindanao exploration by Governor Sande possible first Spanish encounter of Jambangan place and people

"When the news of the entrance and conquest of the Filipinas Islands by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, and of his death, reached Españia, his Majesty appointed as governor and captain-general of the islands, Doctor Francisco de Sande, a native of Caceres, and alcalde of the Audiencia of Mexico. The latter journeyed thither, and took over his government in the year one thousand five hundred and seventy-five (1575).

Among other enterprises, the governor made in person the expedition to the island of Borneo with a fleet of galleys and frigates.{27} With these he attacked and captured the enemy’s fleet, which had come out to meet him. He captured also the principal settlement, where the king of the island had his house and residence.

After a few days he abandoned it (Borneo) and returned to Manila, on account of sickness among the crews, and his inability to support and care for the Spaniards in that island. On the way back, and by his orders, Captain Estevan Rodriguez de Figueroa entered the island of Jólo; he came to blows with the natives and their chief, whom he conquered, and the latter rendered him acknowledgment and submission in the name of his Majesty. Captain Figueroa commanded the Governor's fleet of galleys and frigates, with more than 1,500 Indian bowmen from the provinces of Pangasinan, Cagayan, and Pintados, according to San Agustin's accounts.

Thence Governor de Sande went to the island of Mindanao which he explored (most probably the peninsula tip of Jambangan, which is the closest and first area of Mindanao island you see coming from the island of Jólo - see map), reconnoitering its river (possibly the formerly great "Tumaga" river) and chief settlements (the barangay Tetuan was formerly a sizeable river delta community called "Lama-Lama" by the natives in honor of their chief named Datu Lama). On his way he reduced other towns and natives of the same island, who had been pacified, to friendship and alliance with the Spaniards (it should be noted that no captured Joloans or Mindanaos ever signed a friendship or alliance pact with the conquering Spaniards - they only acknowledged and submitted temporarily to Spanish authority, until the Spaniards departed or became weakened)."11

It is popularly written that the earliest Spanish settlement of Jambangan dates back to sometime in 1593, when a Catholic mission was established in the La Caldera area. This common story is however unsubstantiated in any official historical account by Spanish records or any other means. It would be interesting to find out how this aspect of local founding first came about. Regardless, we will present our own analysis of how the La Caldera Mission came to be established in 1593, according to actual chronological events in the same year, bridging the wide gap between local fact and fiction.

The Society of Jesus missionaries are widely known for accompanying the fleet of Spanish soldiers during their missions for prayer support of the troops and pacification of natives in their newly conquered territories, and especially in the establishment of Jambangan. The Jesuit order first came to the Filipinas in 1580, founded by fathers Antonio Sedeño and Alonso Sanchez, who were personally selected for accompaniment to the islands by newly appointed and the first bishop of the Filipinas, Don Fray Domingo de Salazar, of the Dominican order, during the administration of Governor Don Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa.11

During this same term period of 1580, the king of Spain had assimilated the kingdoms of Portugal after Spain defeated Portugal in the Battle of Alcantara in August 25, 1580, uniting the previously divided New world of maritime exploration along the demarcation line as directed by Pope Alexander VI in May 4, 1493, and officially implemented with the signing of the Treaty of Saragossa between Spain and Portugal in April 22, 1529. The aforementioned Spanish victory will bring ever closer the happenings in the Filipinas and the beginning of La Caldera, as it lead to the eventual joint Spanish-Portuguese expeditions against their long-time nemesis in the kingdom of Terrenate and their Dutch protectors.

After August 25, 1580, the King of Spain and his newly conquered Portuguese empire, "ordered the governor of Manila to maintain good relations with the chief captain of the fortress of the island of Tidore, in Maluco, and to assist him when necessary, he sent a fleet and soldiers thither from Manila, under command of Captain Don Juan Ronquillo del Castillo. This he did at the request of Diego de Azambuja, chief captain of Tidore, for the expedition and conquest of the island of Terrenate. But after reaching Maluco, the expedition did not succeed in its object.{28} Thenceforward, supplies of men and provisions continued to be sent from the Filipinas to the fortress of Tidore."11

In order to better understand Spain’s conquest of the Filipinas in 1575, and the subsequent zeal for Christianizing the island archipelago and its diverse inhabitants by the various Orders of Spanish priests sent there, inspite of the fact that the islands were not a profitable venture for the Crown, we need to look back – way back – into Spain’s ancient history. Spain only began its existence as a single country on October 17, 1469 when the independent kingdoms of Aragon and Castile united after the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Portugal used to be part of Castile until after a then count Alfonso was proclaimed the first king of Portugal, and subsequently declares independence from Castile on July 26, 1139. Early on, Spain used to be a conglomeration of states and kingdoms. One of its states – Gibraltar – was invaded by Tariq ibn Ziyad in 711 A.D., beginning the 900-year Moorish conquest of Spain, which was ironically first settled by the Iberians from a Libyan tribe in North Africa. The Moors were Arabic Muslims of Africa, and their Islamic religion was spread far and wide into the Christian society of Spain. Islam transformed Spain into a Muslim kingdom, and its 900 years of influence will live long and prosper like no other conquerors before or since. The citizens of Moorish-Spain during this time period were essentially "Moros," and they were the forefathers of the "Spaniards" who conquered the Filipinas. The mere thought of encountering the Moros of the Filipinas and their Islamic religion made the conquering Spaniards’ blood boil with revenge, and the Catholic priests’ zeal burst with religious conversion and complete assimilation of all Muslims. Whether they liked it or not, the blood that ran deep in the veins of the Spaniards, and the Mindanao and Sulu pirates, was the same ancient "Moro" blood that was spilled between them –"brothers against brothers!" Nevertheless, no matter what the significance of the link may be, atrocities were committed by everyone, and profit was made by many. Today, all this travel through ancient Spanish and Moorish history brings us to a place we simply call home – Zamboanga, La Bella Ciudad de Flores! Read More

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