Bankaw Revolt (1622)

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The Bankaw Revolt was a religious uprising against the Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. It was led by Bankaw, the ruling datu of Limasawa, Carigara, and other towns in modern-day Southern Leyte, who decided to return to his old religion.  He was said to have been inspired by the religious uprising led by Tamblot, a babaylan who fought against the conversion of the Boholanos to the Catholic faith.  

Brief Background Before the Revolt

In 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and his men had set foot in the Philippines and Datu Bankaw was one of the local chieftains who congenially welcomed them. Since then, he had maintained strong and close ties with Spain. His hospitality and generosity to the Spaniards put him in King Philip II’s good graces who, according to some sources, even gave him a thank-you letter. However, this narrative was considered inconclusive as this was not cited in the chronicles of Legazpi.

In 1571, Legazpi had designated the town of Carigara to abide by the encomienda system under the governance of Juan de Trujillo. In 1591, Trujillo sent a request letter to the Governor General and asked for parish ministers in his town. The proposal was granted, and a group of missionary priests were sent to Carigara. The spread of Christianity began when Jesuit Missionaries arrived and settled in Leyte in 1595. The group was headed by Father Pedro Chirino but his leadership was cut short because he had to travel to Cebu for his new missionary duties. Consequently, Father Alonzo Humanes and Father Mateo Sanchez became the parish leaders of Leyte. Humanes had assigned two groups to oversee the towns of Carigara and Dulag, respectively. [1] A few years later, some sources indicated that about two-thirds of the townsmen had been baptized and converted to Christianity in 1596. Datu Bankaw belonged to one of the earliest groups to be baptized.

The History of the Revolt

This revolt was ignited by the intent of the local residents of Leyte, headed by Datu Bankaw, to return to their native religion. Bankaw had been previously converted to Christianity and had amicable ties with the Spaniards. His desire to revert to his forefather’s religion was prompted by Tamblot’s uprising in Bohol. [2]

Bankaw and his sons, together with a native priest named Pigali, led the people of Carigara, Leyte to resist the emergence and spread of Catholicism in their region. Consequently, the locals flocked in unison to protect their native religion. They grew in numbers and the whole island joined the armed resistance. They destroyed a church property and erected a temple that was in reverence of their own diwata. [3][4]

When the Jesuit priest, Fr. Melchor de Vera, learned about the uprising, he went to Cebu and warned the Spanish authorities about the insurgence. Aiming to suppress the rebellion, Alcalde Mayor Juan de Alcarazo sent a fleet of 40 vessels. They initially offered a peace offering to the Filipino fighters, but the latter disdainfully rejected it. [3][4]

A battle ensued and the Spanish forces pursued them in the mountains. The Filipino fighters collapsed and suffered defeat. Bankaw’s children perished in the combat. His second son was beheaded, and his daughter was taken as captive. To breed fear among the local residents, Bankaw’s head was displayed to impose a warning to those who want to instigate another rebellion against the Spanish oppressors. [2][4]


  1. "History." Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Palo Website, Accessed on 1 February 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ongsotto, Rebecca, and Reena Ongsotto. Philippine History Module-based Learning. Sampaloc Manila: Rex Book Store, Inc, 2002.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Halili, Maria Christine. Philippine History. Sampaloc Manila: Rex Book Store, Inc. 2004.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Duka, Cecilio. Struggle for Freedom: A Textbook on Philippine History. Sampaloc Manila: Rex Book Store, Inc. 2008.



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