Fernando Bustamante

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A painting of Hidalgo depicting the assassination of Governor-General Bustamante. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/National Museum of the Philippines)

Fernándo Manuel de Bustillo Bustamante y Rueda (died 11 October 1719) was the Governor-General of the Philippines from 9 August 1717 to 11 October 1719.[1]


Prior to his appointment as governor-general, Bustamante was the alcalde mayor of Trascala, Nueva España (Mexico).[2] He arrived in Manila in 1717 to assume his position as governor-general.[3] He succeeded Martín de Urzúa. Before his appointment, Jose Torralba served as acting governor-general.

As Governor-General (1717-1719)

During his term, he ordered the construction of a fort in Labo in Paragua (present-day Palawan) in 1718 upon the request of the Christianized natives in the area.[4] He also reestablished the garrison in Zamboanga in the same year.[5] He sent a diplomatic mission to Siam (present-day Thailand), which resulted in the establishment of a Spanish trading factory on the banks of the Chow Payah river.[6] However, he eventually drew the anger of the Siamese after ignoring the delegation sent by them.[7]

He also initiated measures to reorganize the colonial government and its finances.[8] Prior to the start of his term, it was noted that the colonial government was in control of the senior magistrate of the Real Audiencia and Torralba.[9] Many civil as well as ecclesiastical officials were involved in private trade, which led them to neglect their duties.[10] The colonial government's finances were in disarray, and smuggling of funds from Mexico were discovered.[11] In order to stop this, Bustamante prohibited smuggling, forced the merchants to pay their duties, and imposed fines on erring officials.[12] As a result, he was able to collect sizeable funds (293,000 pesos) enough to sustain the colonial government.[13]

Bustamante also conducted an investigation regarding the finances of the colony, and found out that the government has a shortage of over 700,000 pesos.[14] He accused the magistrates of the Audiencia, especially Torralba, of graft and corruption.[15] Before taking action, he first sought advice from Archbishop Francisco de la Cuesta, the religious orders, and the University of Santo Tomas which was under the Dominican friars.[16] Archbishop Cuesta and other ecclesiastical authorities advised against the reconstitution of the Audiencia.[17] The Dominicans argued that Bustamante can discipline the members of the Audiencia, but he cannot remove them unless commanded to by the Council of the Indies.[18] The Jesuits on the other hand were in favor of reconstituting the Audiencia.[19]

Bustamante heeded to the Jesuits, whose advice was favorable to him.[20] He had Torralba and other members of the Audiencia arrested and imprisoned, except the magistrate Gregorio Manuel de Villa.[21] Villa protested against the action of Bustamante and sought sanctuary in the convent of Guadalupe.[22] As a result of that, along with the spread of rumors that a conspiracy is formed to assassinate him, Bustamante released Torralba from prison even though he was accused of corruption. He also made him a judge of the Audiencia despite Archbishop Cuesta and the other religious' opposition.[23] Torralba issued warrants against his enemies, who then sought sanctuary at the Manila Cathedral.[24] Bustamante sent his soldiers to attack the cathedral, violating the right of sanctuary.[25] Archbishop Cuesta and the religious condemned this action and questioned the legitimacy of the Audiencia, now under the administration of Torralba.[26] Archbishop Cuesta even excommunicated Torralba.[27] On the morning of 11 October 1719, Bustamante ordered the imprisonment of Archbishop Cuesta, the Dominicans, the superiors of the religious orders, and other supporters of the Archbishop.[28]


In the same day, the religious, those who sought refuge in the churches, and a great number of people marched towards the residence of Governor-General Bustamante.[29] Those who sought refuge at San Agustin Church "joined the crowd, and promoted the sedition, all providing themselves with arms."[30] Alarmed, Bustamante ordered the guards to keep back the crowd, and ordered the fort to discharge artillery at the crowd.[31] However, his orders might have not been followed as the cannons were aimed so low that it only hit the esplanade at the fort.[32]

The crowd, including the Jesuits, eventually arrived at the doors of the residence.[33] Some guards and soldiers fled out of fear and laid down their arms.[34] The crowd entered the first hall, where they were faced by Bustamante who was holding a gun.[35] One of the religious approached and tried to talk to him, but he drove him away.[36] He tried to shoot a citizen who was standing nearby, but it missed.[37] He then drew his sabre and wounded the citizen, which led to the citizen and the others to attack him.[38] His right arm was broken, and his head suffered blows from a sabre.[39] His son, riding his horse and holding his sabre, tried to rescue him, but he was attacked by the crowd.[40] Dying, Bustamante was dragged in a hammock into a dungeon, and a slave stabbed him twice in the heart.[41] He was left in the chapel of the royal prison.[42] The dean of the cathedral summoned a surgeon to attend to his and his son's injuries, but as he returned with bandages, Bustamante died.[43] Archbishop Cuesta and the others were freed.[44]

The painting of Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo depicting the event incorrectly depicts the Dominicans, who were imprisoned by Bustamante, as the perpetuators of his assassination.[45] Fr. Fidel Villarroel, OP, a Dominican historian, said that Hidalgo was misled by Antonio Regidor, a mason who espouses anticlerical sentiments, to depict the friars as the murderers of Bustamante.[46]


After the death of Bustamante, Archbishop Cuesta assumed the position of acting governor-general.[47] After a public funeral was organized for Bustamante and his son, an investigation regarding their deaths was opened.[48] Torralba, who was reinstated as an official by Bustamante, testified against the slain governor-general.[49] It was proposed that the persons who took refuge at San Agustin and joined the crowd be investigated, however, it was concluded that to do so would "too greatly disturb the community... and that to carry out this plan would likely to cause some disturbance of the public peace."[50] The investigation was suspended, and a report regarding the proceedings was sent to Madrid.[51]

In Mexico, the guardian of Bustamante's children, Balthasar de Castañeda Vizente de Alhamba, filed a criminal suit against four citizens for the murder of Bustamante and his son.[52] Eventually, the case was forwarded to the new Governor-General of the Philippines, Toribio Jose Cosio.[53]

Archbishop Cuesta, after serving as acting governor-general, was censured for being lax in investigating Bustamante's assassination, and was transferred to Nueva España where he became Bishop of Michoacán until his death on 30 May 1724.[54]


  1. Carlos Quirino, Old Manila, ed. María Eloísa G. Parco-de Castro, 2nd ed. (Quezon City: Vibal Foundation, 2016), 292.
  2. Quirino, Old Manila, 292.
  3. Quirino, Old Manila, 292.
  4. Diego de Otazo, SJ, “The government and death of Bustamante,” in The Philippine Islands 1493-1898, trans. Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson, vol. 44 (Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1906), 151-2.
  5. Quirino, Old Manila, 292.
  6. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 152.
  7. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 152.
  8. Charles Henry Cunningham, The Audiencia in the Spanish Colonies As Illustrated by the Audiencia of Manila (1583-1800) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1919), accessed 19 January 2021, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/41443/41443-h/41443-h.htm#pb275, 274.
  9. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 274.
  10. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 274.
  11. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 274.
  12. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 274.
  13. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 274.
  14. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 274.
  15. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 274.
  16. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 275.
  17. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 275.
  18. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 276-7.
  19. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 276.
  20. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 278.
  21. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 278.
  22. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 278.
  23. Quirino, Old Manila, 292.
  24. Quirino, Old Manila, 292.
  25. Quirino, Old Manila, 292.
  26. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 156.
  27. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 156.
  28. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 156; Quirino, Old Manila, 292.
  29. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 156.
  30. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 157.
  31. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 157.
  32. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 157.
  33. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 157.
  34. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 157.
  35. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 157.
  36. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 157.
  37. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 158.
  38. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 158.
  39. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 158.
  40. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 158.
  41. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 158.
  42. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 158.
  43. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 158.
  44. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 158.
  45. Levine Lao, "2-volume UST history charts evolution of higher education in the Philippines," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 January 2012, https://lifestyle.inquirer.net/32045/2-volume-ust-history-charts-evolution-of-higher-education-in-the-philippines/#ixzz6jILdSL3f
  46. Lao, "2-volume UST history charts evolution of higher education in the Philippines."
  47. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 159.
  48. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 159-60.
  49. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 160.
  50. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 161.
  51. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 161.
  52. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 161.
  53. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 162.
  54. Otazo, SJ, “The government," 160.



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