Kapampangan Revolt (1585-86): The Letter of Don Juan de Manila

Details of Spanish colonial abuses by Diego Rivera.

Details of Spanish colonial abuses by Mexican painter Diego Rivera.


Letter in behalf of Don Juan de Manila, Principal from Pampanga, to the President of the Royal Audiencia exposing the many cruelties the Castilas commit. 

Señor Presidente:

I would have appeared before you, the Castilas, a long time ago had it not been for [manuscript torn] that you might not wish to listen to the unburdening of the many complaints I have against you Castilas. I am from Pampanga, and from the first time you came here, I have known you Castilas to be arrogant and haughty. Even the seamen who come among us commit cruelties. They seize rice, pigs and everything else, unreasonably. And if we beg them not to, they take us with them to Manila, they beat us up and worse they insult us. They pay nothing for what they take from us. And as if this were not enough, they take our women and send us to look for women, to ravish them and if we do not find them, they insult us or beat us up, calling us sodomites, drunkards and other such painful names. We work incessantly and are not allowed to rest; if we ask them for wages they do not mind us, and even if we lose our property, their order for collection of tributes must be followed. Even from the aged who can hardly move, the lame and those who have migrated to other towns, and even the dead, from all these tributes are collected. If we ask for exemption, we are called thieves and we are arrested and tortured until the tributes are paid. Thus, the gold of the Principales is consumed for [manuscript torn] because you do not mete out justice. You, yourselves do not maintain justice. I say what my children say when they talk that the Castilas continue with their ways and do their will for they are unaware that their misdeeds are the reason why the Principales do not go to ask for justice. They would rather rise in arms and see all their property go. And do not think Capitan, that I alone feel this way for everyone else feels the same way and if they have not yet followed my footsteps, they are waiting for a chance.

My Lord, if you do not remedy the situation and continue to disregard the deeds of those degenerate people who continue collecting tribute, this land will soon be ruined. If you do not believe this, have a Visitador observe how the tributes are collected, how this degenerate people and other Castilas go on tormenting and punishing beyond reason, without accepting explanations nor excuses. When a Principal asks for justice against a lowly slave, the slave swearing in his favour is believed; but if a Principal swears, even if he swears the truth, he is not believed. When your Lordship came from Mexico to Manila, I was there; and when the decrees of the King were being read, I was present and listened to them and understood a good portion of them. What the decrees provided for and ordered have not been carried out. If only I could talk to you I would tell you many wrong doings of the Spaniards and if I were put on the witness stand without being punished, I could tell you more. I have suffered for a long time, carrying this weight in my heart. I have awaited the Royal Audiencia and I was very glad when you arrived. But in Manila, I had a litigation concerning a slave. Before he came to my possession I had already spent a good some of money, what with the notary and the lawyer and the jailer’s fees for a slave worth only 29 tostones. This incident saddened me and I said to myself: the conditions of the Castilas have not changed. I found out that since the arrival of the Spaniards I have used up 200 taels of gold solely on documents. It is better for me to die than to be like this, not advancing and not knowing what we are and what our nation is after having experienced justice among us. Those who have gone away and those who have come, they say are subjected to Residencias and in imposing them they say that whatever has been ill-spent and taken unjustly should be returned but after having our their decisions nothing is returned because they fool us being such new Christians.

Thus, Señor Presidente, remember what justice is and though I have my share of faults and sins but for many times too should I be forgiven. Thus, Señor Presidente, when we hold in our possession the decree of pardon of the Royal Audiencia, we shall present ourselves before you. Otherwise we shall not show ourselves to you. Besides losing so many of us , you will be a collaborator in the sins that I may commit against God if you do not pardon me.

(Signed) Don Juan de Manila, Principal from Pampanga

[Editors Note: Don Juan de Manila headed a revolt with Don Nicolas Mananguete in Candaba, Pampanga for which he was executed.]

Legajo 84
Cat. 3386

Note: In the following year, 1587, the noble houses of Tondo, led by the sons of the Lakandúlâ, including the ruler of Candába, Don Dionisio Capulong, staged a revolt against a Spaniards.

The letter of Don Juan de Manila was lifted entirely from:

Licuanan, Virginia Benitez & Mira, Jose Llavador. (1993). The Philippines Under Spain: A Compilation and Translation of Original Documents. Book IV (1583-1590): 243-244. Quezon City, Philippines: The National Trust for Historical and Cultural Preservation of the Philippines.

Copy of this book courtesy of Marco D. Nepomuceno.

See also: 1585-86 Kapampangan Revolt: A Detailed Report

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