The Sumuroy Rebellion of 1649-1650 was one of the earliest uprisings against the Spanish regime in the Philippines. It was orchestrated by Agustin Sumuroy, a Waray, who rose in arms on 1 June 1649 over the polo y servicio or forced labor system by the Spaniards. The rebellion started in Palapag, Northern Samar and spread to adjacent areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao before they were effectively crushed by the Spanish authorities.
Cause of the Rebellion
As one of the world’s leaders in navigation, Spain had many shipbuilding sites in the Philippines during the early colonial period, where they employed Filipino natives from within the area. Due to losses of galleons, however, some of the shipyards were closed. Others which were left to operate included the Cavite shipyard. Through a decree issued by Governor-General Diego Fajardo, carpenters from Manila were drafted and additional carpenters and laborers from each province were demanded. The carpenters of Palapag, Samar resented the decree because it would mean spending indefinite time away from their families.
As soon as the inhabitants of Palapag saw men being collected and sent to the harbor of Cavite, they began to meet in the house of Sumuroy and his father to organize their insurrection. Don Juan Ponce a very influential man; Don Pedro Caamug; and Sumuroy were appointed leaders.
In response to the decree, Sumuroy and his men killed Father Miguel Ponce Barberan, the local parish priest of Palapag. They hurled a javelin at him on I June 1649, which sparked the start of the rebellion. Most of the neighboring villages in Ibabao, Samar burned churches in solidarity with the rebellion.
The Spread of the Rebellion
Inspired by the boldness of the Waray rebels, the natives of Camarines, Sorsogon, Masbate, Cebu, Iligan, Cagayan, and Mindanao followed suit. Camarines denounced the presence of the Spanish forces in the area while in Sorsogon, the father guardian of the Franciscan order was banished and the alferez (military personnel) was executed. Moreover, the natives of Cebu pulled off attacks on the Spanish authorities while in Iligan, the Manobos seized the neighboring city of Cagayan. Finally, the natives of Mindanao region who were inspired by the attacks, orchestrated revolts of their own. In the mountains of Samar, Sumuroy and his men established a rebel government.
The Crushing of the Rebellion
Surprised and threatened by the looming strength of the rebels, the Spanish government decided to dispatch an army from Zamboanga to subdue the Sumuroy rebellion. One of the captains of the fleet was Juan de Ulloa. He commanded Lutao soldiers along with his sergeant-mayor, Francisco Macombo.
Meanwhile, the position of Father Barberan as the local parish priest of Palapag was given to Father Vicente Damian. Don Pedro Caamug, one of the masterminds and leaders of the uprising, decided to descend from the mountain and murder Father Damian along with his two aides. On 11 October 1649, they burned the newly built church that the rebels had burned before.
On the evening of 2 July 1650, Macombo led an assault to the fortified hideout of the rebels in the mountains called “palapag mesa.” There, the rebellion was ended, and the hideout was set on fire.
Pardoning of the Rebels and the Death of Sumuroy
Don Gines de Rojas, a Spaniard, pardoned those who have been insurgents before, including Don Pedro Caamug. He then lived a quiet life and even served as governor of his village.
However, even as Sumuroy and his father survive the assault, he refused to surrender and was beheaded by his own men as demanded by Don Gines de Roxas.
Borrinaga, GE. 2015. “Seven Churches”. Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, Vol. 43, No. 1/2 (2015), p.23 (pdf).
Dery, LC. 1991. From Ibalon to Sorsogon: A Historical Survey of Sorsogon Province to 1905. New Day Publishers, Quezon City.
“A detailed account of the Sumuroy rebellion as told by a Spaniard”.Kahimyang. Accessed on 15 January 2021.==Citation==