Battle of Bangkusay

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The Battle of Bangkusay, which took place on 3 June 1571, was a naval battle that marked the last resistance movements of the natives of Manila against the Spanish conquerors. Tarik Sulayman (or Rajah Sulayman, according to some sources) led a troop of more than a thousand Moro warriors from Pampanga into Bangkusay channel to face the Spanish forces led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The natives were defeated by the Spanish forces led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, enabling Spain to establish itself throughout Manila and its neighboring towns.

The First Spanish Forces to Arrive in Manila

Shortly after the Spaniards colonized Cebu and the Visayan Region, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who was forced to leave Cebu and Iloilo by Portuguese pirates, heard of the prosperous city of Manila. He immediately planned to conquer the kingdom and on 30 May 1570, he sent voyagers which consisted of 600 Visayan natives and 120 Spaniards under the command of Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo to head on to Manila to study the city’s potentials and negotiate the establishment of a Spanish fort in the city.

During this time, Manila was flourishing under the rule of a local chief, Rajah Sulayman.  It was located south of the Pasig River delta and was well fortified with a wooden fort.

When the Spaniards arrived in Manila from their docking place in Cavite, they were initially accepted by the leaders. When Sulayman learned of the Spaniards’ intentions, he became hostile and asserted that the Tagalogs would not submit to Spanish sovereignty. Shortly afterwards, the Spanish fleet fired a cannon to signal the expedition’s return, but Sulayman thought of this as an attempt to attack the city and so he ordered a retaliation for Spanish forces who were still inside the city on 24 May 1570. The natives were defeated by the superior Spanish forces, forcing them to retreat. The Spanish forces returned to Panay to report to Legazpi their findings about Luzon.

The Battle of Bangkusay

In 1571, a year after the first battle between the Tagalogs and Spaniards, Legazpi himself led the Spanish troops to conquer Manila. It was recorded that Legazpi left Panay with 27 vessels, 280 Spaniards, and several hundred Visayan auxiliaries.

Upon landing in Manila on16 May 1571, Legazpi met with the three native chieftains of Manila: Laya, Lakandula, and Sulayman. Although Sulayman showed hesitation at first, all three chieftains declared themselves friends of Spain. The following week, Legazpi declared that Manila belonged to the King of Spain and that he had the right to give parts of the land to those who wish to settle within the city.

The Tagalogs, who felt insulted with Legazpi’s announcement, decided to wage a war against the Spaniards. Thousands of warriors from Agonoy and Macabebe in Pampanga led by Tarik Sulayman met in Tondo to launch an attack. Other warriors from nearby provinces followed suit and reached Manila through the Bangkusay Channel.

Upon hearing the news of an impending attack, Legazpi asked Lakandula to convince the warriors to lay down their arms, but they refused.

On 3 June 1571, Legazpi and his fleet went to the Bangkusay channel to face the native warriors. A fierce battle ensued, and the natives were again outnumbered by the Spanish forces. When the battle ended, the surviving natives were forced to accept Spain’s sovereignty over Manila. Thus, Legazpi established a city on the site of Manila on 4 June 1571.

Nameless Hero of the Battle at Bangkusay

On 3 June 2016, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) unveiled a marker in Macabebe, Pampanga to honor “The Young Leader of Macabebe.” This was to debunk the belief that it was Rajah Sulayman who led the revolt against the forces of Legazpi and led the Moro troops from Pampanga into battle.

Although some reports say that the teenager’s name was Bambalito, Tarik Soliman, Bangkaw, or Tarik Soliman Bangkaw, the NHCP settled with the title “The Young Leader of Macabebe.” The said names did not have documentary evidence to support such claims.

The marker’s inscriptions described the hero as someone who “led more than 2,000 Moro warriors from Macabebe, Hagonoy, and other parts of Pampanga to expel Spaniards from Luzon, 31 May 1571.”

NHCP’s recognition of the nameless hero was also in response to [[Holy Angel University]] Center for Kapampangan Studies (CKS) executive director Robby Tantingco’s request to put a marker for the Macabebe martyr. Legazpi and chroniclers, who did not record the hero’s name, only wrote accounts of his bravery. In 1934, town officials built a monument for him and called him the “King of Macabebe.”

The CKS also launched ‘’The Nameless Hero’’  a book written by NHCP researcher Ian Christopher Alfonso. It aims to revisit primary, secondary, and tertiary sources on the battle with hopes of appreciating the role of the youth in nation building.


Sembrano, Edgar Allan M. “Historical error corrected: Rajah Soliman out, nameless hero” in 2016 ‘’The Filipino Express’’; Jersey City [Jersey City]

Henson, Mariano Angel. “A Historical Analysis of His Life Works And Works On Local History, 1948-1975”. ‘’Asia Pacific Journal of Advanced Business and Social Studies’’.

San Agustin, Gaspar de. ‘‘Conquistas delas Islas Filipinas’’.  Manila: San Agustin  Museum, 1998.

Piedad-Pugay, Chris Antoinette. “The Battle of Bangkusay: A Paradigm of Defiance against Colonial Conquest.” 2012. (Accessed on 25 January 2021).

NHCP corrects error over true hero of Battle of Bangkusay”.‘’’’. (Accessed on 26 January 2021).



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