Excerpt: The Chinese uprising of 1603

De La Costa’s history of the Jesuit missions in the Philippines, from 1581 to 1768, necessarily includes many scenes of pillage and ruin. This one, the beginning of a narrative about how the Spaniards put down a Chinese revolt in Manila that they had themselves provoked, is another of those set-pieces DLC is so good at–it is a rattling good read, but it is a close-up that moves the larger narrative forward.

The morning light revealed the rebel host massed on the Quiapo shore, clearly intending to cross in force. Acuna decided that he was not strong enough to prevent them, but sent patrols to set fire to the parian. At this a shout of rage went up from the rebels and they began to cross. The patrols retired, having done their work, and the parian gate was closed. The rebels ran through the billowing smoke of the burning quarter, killing those who had opposed the uprising and calling on the rest to arm themselves. Stamping out the fire in some of the houses, they climbed to the upper storys and roofs to flaunt their banners and rake the nearest parapets with a steady and pretty accurate fire from their captured arquebuses. The Manilans on the wall returned the fire briskly. Among them was a theological student from San Jose who distinguished himself by calling his shots. “The man with the banneret next,” he would call out coolly; and sure enough, the man with the banneret would suddenly lose interest in the proceedings.

As it became clear that the sangleys were mounting an attack from the parian, the Spanish and native companies swarmed to defend their respective sections of the wall. Even the lay brothers among the friars had formed a company of their own, and were looking very fierce with their habits tucked up under their cinctures and armed to the teeth, some with sword and pike, others with lighted fuse and arquebus. Lopez, accompanied by one of the scholastics who flourished a rusty and obviously useless halberd, moved along the parapet hearing confessions.

When the sangleys finally attacked, it was pell-mell, with no sort of direction or concert. Some ran in ragged groups with scaling ladders which they tried to place against the wall, but concentrated fire from the walls dispersed them with heavy loss before they could achieve their purpose. Others made for the gates as though to force them open, but with nothing but clubs and axes to do it with. They too turned back before the murderous musketry, leaving scores of dead behind. All day until late in the afternoon they kept coming, trusting blindly in whatever gods had told them through their auguries that the city would be theirs; but the gods had lied.

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One response to “Excerpt: The Chinese uprising of 1603

  1. Pingback: Tuesday – 13 Dec 2011 « A Texan's Life in the Philippines

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