Caquenga's Revolt

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Caquenga's Revolt was a revolt that occurred in 1607 in modern-day Rizal, Cagayan. The leader of the revolt was Caquenga, an animist priestess who acted as a spiritual head of her Malaueg community, which was a village named Nalfotan. The coming of a Dominican friar, Fray Pedro, into Nalfotan triggered the revolt that spread throughout the surrounding region.[1]


With the creation of the Nueva Segovia diocese in 1595 in the Cagayan Valley, Catholic missionaries from Europe began flooding into the region to convert the indigenous inhabitants to the Catholic faith. Per the Dominican account, Pagulayan, the chief of Nalfotan, had tried contacting Catholic missionaries for years. Fray Pedro then accepted the invitation and went to Nalfotan to visit Pagulayan and the Malaueg people. To his astonishment, he found a church erected and the people waiting to adopt the religion. However, Caquenga, an indigenous animist leader, or priestess, apprehended the coming of the friar. Christianity posed a threat to her indigenous animism, and Catholic missionaries and Spanish officials worked continuously to eradicate animism. In response to this threat against her spiritual beliefs, she gathered a group of followers and they revolted against the priest.[2]


One night, after crying for liberty, Caquenga and her Malaueg followers tore down their houses, killed their livestock, destroyed their fields, and fled to the mountains. In the mountains, they joined Nalfotan's enemy village and made plans to fight against the Catholic missionaries and their supporters. Sensing potential danger, Pedro and Pagulayan sent a Nalfotan local to go talk to the enemy village's leader, Furaganan. The local convinced Furaganan to go down to Nalfotan and talk to Pedro and Pagulayan. The three men made peace and the two villages did not fight. Furaganan made the claim that Caquenga was a slave that formerly belonged to his mother. Seeing that as an opportunity to dispose of Caquenga, Pagulayan gave Caquenga over to Furaganan and she entered back into slavery.

Despite this peace treaty, the rebels continued to fight. Caquenga's followers left Furaganan's village displeased. They entered the Catholic Church in Nalfotan, desecrated the sacred relics, and burned the structure down. The Dominican historian said the following of the desecration: "They tore the ornaments of the mass into pieces, to wear as head-cloths, or as ribbons. They tore the leaves out of the missal, and drank from the chalice, like a people without God, governed by the devil."[3] One rebel took the image of the Virgin Mary and shot it with arrows, mocking the Christian God while doing so.

These rebels were eventually apprehended, and the belligerent who shot the image of the Virgin Mary was publicly executed, presenting a threatening reminder to the people what would happen to them if they continued to rebel and defile the sacred objects of the Catholic Church. However, neither this execution nor the enslavement of Caquenga stopped the rebellions. More revolts broke out in surrounding villages, and the missionaries and colonial officials struggled quelling them. The Dominicans attributed all of these rebellions to Caquenga, "a sorceress priestess of [the devil]."[4]


While Dominican accounts are not specific as to how long the revolt lasted, it is clear that Caquenga's followers caused significant damage to Nalfotan and the surrounding region. However, after nineteen years of proselytization in Nalfotan, Dominicans claimed to have baptized 4,670 people. According to the Dominicans, they achieved this through the help of Pagulayan and his sister, Balinan. Both devoted themselves entirely to the Catholic Church and served the Dominicans faithfully. They proved to be very useful during times of rebellion and drought.[5]


  1. Fluckiger, Steven James (October 2017). "Caquenga and Feminine Social Power in the Philippines". World History Connected. 14 (3). Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  2. Fluckiger, "Caquenga."
  3. Diego Aduarte, Historia de la Provincia del Sancto Rosario de la Ordende Predicadores en Philippinas, lapon y China… (Manila: Colegio de Sacto Thomas), 1640, 1:350, accessed from Biblioteca Virtual de Patrimonio Bibliografico, accessed May 2, 2017. English translation by Fluckiger, from "Caquenga and Feminine Social Power in the Philippines"
  4. Aduarte, 1:349
  5. Aduarte, 1:351-352