By: Quennie Ann J. Palafox

Located in the heart of Visayas, Bohol became the battle ground for Filipinos who rose in arms against the Spaniards in pursuit for absolute freedom. The most prominent of which was Francisco Dagohoy- the ringleader of the uprising that lasted for 85 years, the longest in history of the Philippines. This personal vengeance against the persons turned into a serious and major uprising that will endure for many years even after the death of Dagohoy. This movement aimed to make Bohol once more a land of free men, can be considered as one of the earliest victory of Filipinos over the Spaniards as the island fell into the hands of the natives.

       Bohol, a disk-shaped island, the size very much similar to Cebu, was the place where the vessel Concepcion was abandoned and burned after Magellan’s death in Mactan in 1521. In 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi entered into a blood compact with Rajah Sikatuna of Bohol to establish friendship with the native ruler. Soon after the conquest of the archipelago, religious jurisdiction over the island was given to the Society of Jesus.

         In 1744, the district of Inabangan in the northwest coast of the island was put under the auspice of Father Morales. He sent out a native constable named Dagohoy to arrest a renegade indio, but Dagohoy himself was killed instead. Francisco, Dagohoy’s brother, brought the corpse back to the village for burial in consecrated ground, according to the Catholic practice. Probably irked that the man had failed in his mission, Father Morales refused permission for a Catholic burial and Dagohoy’s cadaver lay rotting for three days. Francisco infuriated at the unsympathetic and treatment by the parish priest, he cursed the Jesuit and sought for revenge by persuading the natives of the district to unite with him in overthrowing the Spaniards. Some 3, 000 men and their families abandoned their homes in the lowland and trekked to the inaccessible mountainous interior where they built a fortification.

         In a remote region in the mountains between Inabangan and Talibon, Dagohoy established his headquarters and proclaimed the independence of Bohol. Dagohoy and his men sallied out in lightning raids on the lowland towns, assaulting the local Spanish garrisons, looting the churches, and slaughtering Spaniards, particularly the Jesuit priests. On January 24, 1746 one of Dagohoy’s bold warriors killed Father Giuseppe Lamberti, an Italian Jesuit and parish priest of Jagna.

      The Spanish authorities were worried by the remarkable successes of Dahohoy. In 1747 Bishop Juan de Arrechedera of Manila, then acting governor-general, dispatched a Spanish expedition to Bohol under the command of Don Pedro Lechuga, Dagohoy resisted this expedition and forced it to withdraw to Zamboanga. Later Bishop Miguel Lino de Espeleta of Cebu, who became acting archbishop and governor-general, tried to pacify the rebels. But Dagohoy refused to listen to him.

        The rebellion assumed dangerous proportions. Numerous recruits, disgusted at the string of injustices and tyranny committed by the Spaniards, joined Dagohoy. Except for a dozen coastal towns and villages protected by armed Spaniards and native police, the rebels controlled the island.

        The bishop, a creole, tried to defuse the situation in Bohol by offering to send secular priests to administer the parishes. The insurgents, however, remained firm in their rebellion. They would not accept the presence of civilian official. Evidently, Dagohoy and his followers were not against the Catholic religion, but resolutely refused to come again under the political domination of Spain.

       The Recollects replaced the Jesuits, and Father Pedro de Santa Barbarra, who was stationed in Baclayon, ascended the mountains to interview Dagohoy. He was welcomed and well treated, but Dagohoy courteously refused to give up Bohol’s independence. Supplementing the peace efforts of the Recollects, Governor-General Jose Raon offered amnesty and pardon to Dagohoy and his followers if they would lay down their arms. Dagohoy spurned his offer, saying that his people were enjoying the good life of a free people.

        From 1744 to August 31, 1829, a long period of 85 years, the Boholanos successfully maintained their independence and preserved it with fierce and courage and flaming patriotism. It seemed probable that Dagohoy died before the year 1829 in his mountain kingdom either of old age or sickness. His followers, imbued by his indomitable courage and fearless heroism carried on the fight for independence. Twenty Spanish governor-generals, from Gaspar de la Torre (1739-1745) to Mariano Ricafort (1825-1830), failed to suppress the libertarian struggle. 

        The year of Dagohoy’s death is not mentioned in any history books, but since the revolt continued, it meant three generations of Boholanos were enjoying their liberty. Through the efforts of Fray Pedro de Santa Barbara, a Recollect friar, troops were withdrawn in 1770 from most of the island’s stations, and a general amnesty was proclaimed. Few rebels presented themselves under proclamation. The raids of the loyalist continued.

        Punitive expeditions were mounted against them, but these failed until May 1827, when acting Governor-General Mariano Ricafort, appalled the poorly-armed islanders could defy Spanish might, sent to Bohol a powerful army of 1, 100 Spaniards from the Manila and Cebu garrisons, with a contingent of 6, 024 natives from Bohol and Cebu. This task force was not completely successful, and the following summer, in April of 1828, he dispatched another military host armed with light artillery to pulverize the mountain forts of the rebels in Inabangan and Talibon. This time Ricafort’s troops were successful. Thus terminated the longest revolt in Philippine history and, next to the revolution of 1896, the most successful in eroding Spanish sovereignty over the archipelago. Missing Dagohoy’s excellent leadership, the Boholanos made their last stand in the mountain of Boasa.

        During the 85 years of Bohol’s independence, the patriotic Boholanos lived as free and sovereign people. They did not render forced labor nor pay tribute. They suffered neither racial discrimination nor social humiliation from the hands of the Spaniards. Dagohoy was able to maintain a government. His rule was firm and just. He was obeyed and respected by his people. Governing like the datus of the pre-Spanish era, he was the chief executive, the supreme judge, and the military generalissimo. He was assisted by the old men in peace affairs and by the military captains in war matters.