Limahong was born as Dim Mhon to parents with questionable morals, in a province of China called Cuytan. Exposed to vices, he resorted to criminal activities, including robbery, at an early age. He met and became a protege of an old pirate, Tial-lao. When Tial-lao died, Lim became his heir, inheriting the old pirate's fleet and around 2,000 pirates. His numerous attacks on ports and ships throughout southern China made the authorities issue a warrant for his capture. This brought him to pursue his criminal activities on higher seas, far from China's reach.
He was able to accumulate 40 ships which increased to 95 ships when he took over the fleet of another pirate, Vin To Quiam. He came to be the notorious king of the waters of southern China.
Arrival in the Philippines
It was in late 1573 that an army of 3,000 outlaws, bandits, and pirates led by Limahong arrived at the island of Luzon. There, they established a kingdom and waged war against the Spaniards.
Attempts to take over Manila
When they fled from Ilocos Sur, Limahong learned that Manila was an unprotected city though already occupied by the Spaniards. He decided to take over Manila and make it his kingdom. He attacked the city in 1574 with 64 ships but failed. However, he was able to kill Martin de Goiti of the first Spanish expeditionary force and several Filipinos under the leadership of Rajah Lakandula. He also burned the city.
From this unsuccessful attempt, he led his fleet to what is now Pangasinan. He was trailed by a ship under Governor-General Guido de Lavezaris, who found him settling a colony in Lingayen, Pangasinan. The people of Pangasinan became hostages in their own province as Limahong fought against a seven-month siege by Juan de Salcedo's army. He was defeated and fled the province in 1574.
The "Limahong Channel," dug over six months, served as the pirate's escape route. According to Restituto Basa, author of Footnotes on Pangasinan History and The Story of Dagupan, Limahong married a certain Princess Kabontatala who helped him dig this channel<ref name="test1">Local historian wants Urduja House renamed to Prinsesa Kabontatala. (accessed on February 1, 2008)</ref>. A marker has been placed at the channel commemorating his failed attempts to occupy Manila.
There are many different tales told about Limahong, with unknown degrees of historical accuracy. From Filipino-Chinese website, tsinoy.com:
- "LIMAHONG : Pirate Prince of Pangasinan." (accessed on January 17, 2008)
- Morga, Antonio de. (2004). The Project Gutenberg Edition Book: History of the Philippine Islands - 1521 to the Beginning of the XVII Century. Volume 1 and 2.