Our Navy’s dramatic birth 125 years ago

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

The Philippine Navy was a revolutionary independence force.

Unlike the Spanish armada that colonized. Unlike the British Admiralty started by slavers Francis Drake, uncle John Hawkins and cousin Richard Hawkins who became Sirs when knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1581. Unlike the United States Navy begun by mercenaries in 1776. Unlike the Japanese navy that was warlike imperialistic.

“El Presidente” Emilio Aguinaldo established the Philippine Navy on May 20, 1898. He named it Bureau of Navy under the Revolutionary Army. Appointed director was Pascual Ledesma (1843-1917) of Himamaylan, Negros, merchant marine master who in 1894 joined the Katipunan. Named in his honor is the PN’s main port in Sangley, Cavite.

Ledesma’s deputy was Angel Pabie, also a merchant ship captain. The Malolos Congress of September 1898 formed the Department of War and Navy under Gen. Mariano Trias.

The PN’s initial equipment were launches and cannons that Filipinos captured from Adm. Patricio Montojo, whom Commodore George Dewey defeated in the Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898. Dewey gave Aguinaldo a pinnace of Montojo’s flagship.

The 900-ton steamer of Compania Tabaco de Filipinas was added when the Filipino crew mutinied and executed the Spanish officers. Their leader, Second Officer Vicente Catalan, a Cuban-Spanish creole, proclaimed himself “admiral of the Philippine Navy.” Catalans are natives of Spain’s separatist region Cataluña.

The steamer became the PN flagship Filipinas. Catalan was commissioned navy captain (colonel). He participated in the capture of Subic, Zambales, the natural harbor, ship repair yard and recreation facility of the Spanish armada, later of the US Navy.

Filipino merchants Leon Apacible, Manuel Lopez and Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio contributed five large vessels: Taaleño, Balayan, Bulusan, Taal and Purísima Concepción. The first three delivered arms, flags and uniforms to revolucionarios in Bicol and the Visayas.

Our Philippine Navy celebrates today its 125th anniversary.

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By invented history, Beijing claims to own the South China Sea. But there’s no record anywhere.

In many official files are early Filipinos’ seafaring tradition.

The Pintados of Panay frequently raided coastal Fujian across the SCS in southern China. They attacked aboard dozens or hundreds of kora-kora, each bearing 300 warriors. Chinese annals recount how terrified the Fujians were. Only the whites of the raiders’ eyes could be seen; faces and bodies were tattooed, teeth red from betel nut.

Spaniards named the tattooed males and females Pintados. A princess betrothed by her datu-father to a neighboring island chieftain tested the latter by asking for a kora-kora-load of Fujian slaves. She promptly got her wish.

Spaniards called the swift craft caracoa or corcoa, different from the balangay that rode only 40. Rowing kora-kora at 15 knots (28 kph), Moros repelled the conquest of Cotabato and Sulu by Spanish galleons doing only six knots (11 kph).

Pre-Spanish conquest, Luzon folk crisscrossed the SCS, trading with fellow-Malays in Borneo and Champa (in Vietnam). Luzon’s trade center was Ma-i (Mindoro); Borneo’s was Brunei. The Malay-Polynesian Champa kingdom reigned from the 2nd to the 17th centuries. Luzon and Borneo helped Champa repel Khmer and Indo-Chinese encroachers.

Chinese recorded that Filipinos went to China before Chinese came to the Philippines (William Henry Scott). Till the Tang Dynasty, 618-906, China knew no land between Taiwan and Java. In 972 the Sung Dynasty tried but failed to control the SCS trade. Reported then was the travel time by Malay fast craft from Ma-i and Borneo to China: 30 days.

In 1293 the Yuan Dynasty’s Kublai Khan sent 30,000 foot- and horsemen to exact tribute from the Malays. King Kertanegara of the emergent Majapahit Empire routed the invaders in Java, killing 18,000.

Chinese scrolls extol Zheng He (1371-1433). The Ming court dispatched the royal eunuch to establish trade with India and northeast Africa. In seven voyages in 1405-1433, each with 300 ships, Zheng He hugged the coast of Siam, then hopped south to Java, Borneo onto India, Arabia, Horn of Africa. Never did he cross the SCS to Luzon nor Taiwan.

Two millenniums earlier, ancient Malays – forebears of Filipinos, Indonesians, Malaysians – navigated the Indian Ocean to populate Madagascar. Modern day Malagasy in that huge island east of Africa are mix of blacks and southeast Asian. Many plants and animals there are not in mainland Africa but found in the Malay archipelago 7,700 km away, like cassava, camote, corn.

Malagasy are Africa’s only eaters of rice, also the prime export. Palay is terraced on plowed paddies. Malagasy language is related to Borneo’s Ma’anyan.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., dwIZ (882-AM). Follow me on Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/Jarius-Bondoc


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