Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Assassination of General Bustamante

A curious footnote in Philippine history is the assassination of the governor general Fernando Manuel de Bustillo Bustamante y Rueda in 1719. The general, who came to Manila from Mexico on 9 August 1717, quickly proved to be an unpopular figure, which would later lead to his assassination, unique in the entirety of Philippine history for being instigated by priests and religious. On 17 October 1719, it was reported that all of Manila was at a standstill; church bells sang funeral dirges, and the citizenry lit candles, multitudes of them, as if it were Dia de Todos los Santos. Word reached the ears of the Governor that the religious were conspiring with many of the citizens to assassinate him. In response to this, he had the Archbishop of Manila, H.E. Antonio Cuesta, arrested and thrown in jail. This would prove to be his fatal mistake.

Two days later, just before the crack of dawn, the sons of St. Dominic, St, Francis, St. Ignatius, and St. Augustine poured out in droves into the streets of Manila, and processed to the Palacio del Gobernador..

"The Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians came out from their convents, each as a body, carrying in their hands crucifixes and shouting, ‘Long Live the Church! Long Live King Felipe V!’… they were joined by people of all classes and proceeded to the Church of San Agustin…

The governor who was roused from his sleep and informed of the arrival of the mob sprang up and ordered the guards to keep back the crowd… He dispatched an order to the fort to discharge artillery at the crowd; but he was so little obeyed that, although they applied a match to two cannons, these where aimed so low that the balls were buried in the middle of the esplanade of the fort.

Without opposition, this multitude arrived at the doors of the palace… As for the soldiers of the guard, some retreated in fear, and others in terror laid down their arms. The mob climbed up by ladders and entered the first hall, the halberdiers not firing the swivel-guns that had been provided, although the governor had commanded them to do so…

{Bustamante} attempted to discharge his gun at a citizen standing near and it missed fore; then the governor drew his saber and wounded the citizen; the latter, and with him all the rest at once attacked the governor. They broke him right arm, and a blow on his head from a saber caused him to fall like one dead."

In the aftermath of the assassination, it was said that the Te Deum was sung in the streets of Manila, and that the governor's body was yet made subject to a heap of other indignities too numerous to mention. Finally, his and his dead son's body, with their remaining relatives, were banished to the galleons to return to Mexico. It remains a controversial, albeit rarely discussed, footnote in Philippine history, with a number of historians defending the efficiency of Bustamante's reign. Prior to his arrival, Manila was governed by corrupt officials (hmm, this sounds familiar), and her treasury was in shambles. To be fair to the governor, he was able to raise Manila's coffers significantly, but his ruthlessness, it was said, also knew no bounds.

You may read some more of this incident in these following websites.

"A fatal religious procession"
Assassination of General Bustamante


Santiago Chiva de Agustín said...

Probably you know the Youtube video “May feelings”. Young students of Universities of Madrid say reasons pray the holy rosary. (in Spanish, with english subtitles)
See it:
It is one of the most watched videos on Youtube in May.

Santiago (Granada, Spain)

Archistrategos said...

Thank you very much for the beautiful video!