Rajah Sulayman (1558-1575) was a Muslim ruler of Manila, a fortified Tagalog Muslim polity on the southern half of the Pasig River delta. He was related to the sultan of Brunei by marriage. He and his co-rulers Rajah Matanda and Lakandula were the three reigning monarchs when a Spanish expedition led by Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo—through the order of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi—arrived in 1570. According to the Spaniards, he was said to be the youngest and the most aggressive of the three rulers.
His adoptive son, baptized Agustin de Legaspi, was proclaimed the paramount ruler of Tondo upon Lakandula’s death. However, along with Lakandula’s sons and most of Sulayman’s adoptive sons, Legaspi was executed after being implicated in the Tondo Conspiracy.
Ruler of Pasig River Delta
Sulayman's territory was along the southern half of the Pasig River wherein several villages where located. He imposed taxes to Chinese traders who wanted to anchor their junks along the river and engage in trade with the local village-settlers. In 1570, the Spanish conquistadors Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo—through the order of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi—arrived in the island. While wanting to accept the friendship of the Spaniards, he was unwilling to submit to their authority. Sulayman led his warriors to wage war against the foreign invaders, arming themselves with stakes, wooden palisades, culverins, and cannons with lighted fuses. On 5 June 1570, a war broke out. Having superior weapons and excellent fighting skills, the Spaniards defeated the natives and burned all houses in Manila before returning to Panay.
Arrival of Legazpi
Sulayman refused to cede power to the Spaniards. Legazpi had a large fleet and a strong force of 280 Spaniards, 600 Visayan natives, and some Latin Americans. Sulayman assembled his own troops. He failed to gain the support of Rajah Matanda, Lakandula, and crucial allies from the datus of Hagonoy, Bulacan. Sulayman called for aid from Tarik Sulayman, a datu from Pampanga.
Tarik Sulayman sailed his warships down the Pampanga River to meet Rajah Sulayman at the Bay of Bangkusay. A naval battle ensued between the Spaniards and the natives. As the Spaniards were highly experienced in naval warfare, they were able to destroy much of the natives’ warships. Tarik Sulayman perished in the battle, while Rajah Sulayman escaped and fled to Pampanga. Manila was easily ceded to Legazpi, who made a deal with Lakandula and Matanda. Manila was declared a city in June 1571 and became the seat of the Spanish empire in Asia. The Battle of Bangkusay also marked the beginning of the Muslim-Christian conflict. As Manila was an outpost of the Sultanate of Brunei, its sultan and his vassals did not take lightly the capture of Manila. Muslim datus from the region launched subsequent raids on the Spaniards. King Philip II declared Manila as the capital of the Philippines in 1595.
- Limos, Mario Alvaro. “The Rise and Fall of Sulayman, Matanda, and Lakandula, the Allied Rulers of Manila”. Esquire. Accessed on 11 February 2021.
- Quirino, Carlos. 1995. Who's Who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books.
- “Rajah Sulayman”. Bayani Art. Accessed on 11 February 2021.