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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rajah Soliman (Rajah Sulayman)

Rajah Soliman
(Rajah Sulayman)

Rajah Soliman was the last native ruler of Maynilad, then a Muslim Kingdom on the southern delta of the Pasig River. He was considered as the “greatest king of Manila”

and its most important native chief when Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo landed there in 1570. Spanish sources refer to him as Rajamora or Raja Mura, the Spanish transcriptions of Rajang Mura meaning Young Raja. He was also known as Ladya Soliman or Raja Sulayman. He was related by marriage to the Sultan of Brunei. His wife was a daughter of a close relative of the Brunei Sultan. He ruled Manila jointly with his uncle Rajah Matanda.

In the light of the genealogy of Fernando Malang Balagtas (1503-1589) a descendant of a royal family in Borneo, Rajahs Matanda, Lakandula (ruler of Tondo) and the father of Rajah Soliman were first degree cousins. Rajah Soliman, therefore, was a nephew of both Rajahs Matanda and Lakandula.

As a native pretty state ruled by Rajah Soliman, Maynilad was defended on the shoreline by stakes and wooden palisades, with a gate which was guarded b “bombardiers and warriors, livestock on hand” and provided with native made artillery composed of culverins, cannons and lantakas. Soliman and his warriors had learned to use gunpowder and to manufacture weapons, including cannons and lantakas from the Chinese who had come to their shores centuries ago. These weapons were made in a storeroom by the house of Soliman.

The large house of Rajah Soliman marked his affluence. It was said to contain many valuable things, like gold, copper, iron, porcelain, blankets, wax, cotton, and wooden vats full of brandy. His furniture alone was said to cost thousands of ducats.

When the first Spanish expedition headed by Martin de Goiti reached Manila in 1570, Rajah Soliman would not allow them inland. He gave instruction that he would meet the Spaniards on shore. He came bearing himself haughtily, and his words sounded as a warning to the Spaniards: he was willing to make peace with the Spaniards, but they must remember that his people were not like the pintados (referring to the Visayans ) who were “subservient”. He further started that his people would not tolerate any abuse and “they would repay with death the least thing that touched their honor”. Then Soliman left without inviting the Spaniards into the town.

Rajah Soliman’s behavior showed that he was no friend to the Spaniards, to use the words of Martinez de Zuniga. And in the afternoon of the first meeting which was probably June 4,1570, Soliman’s men, armed and holding lighted ropes in hand, conducted bold inspection of the Spaniards on shore. It irritated the Spaniards but they kept their cool for the sake of peace.

This mission of peace spoken b Goiti in his conferences with Rajah Soliman implied recognition by the Maynilad rulers of their vassalage to the king of Spain and payment of tribute as a token of that vassalage.

Rajah Soliman would not accept peace on that basis. He let it be known to Goiti that he would never pay tribute. He considered the implication of Goiti’s proposition as an affront to his honor and dignity.

On the morning of the second day (June 5), Soliman sent an envoy with a message to Goiti that no Spaniard could bring their ships into the river since tribute had been asked. So Goiti asked for another meeting and immediately went ashore and entered the fort. In the meeting held with the Maynilad rulers, terms of peace were discussed that Spaniards would be allowed settlement in Manila and no tribute would be exacted.

In the afternoon of the drawing up of the peace pact and despite it, the Spaniards became anxious at the news they received that Rajah Soliman was mustering all his warriors for a “military review” but the shots would be directed in the air. Causing more suspicion to the Spaniards was the rumor that Soliman was just waiting for the rain when the Spaniards muskets could not be fired and then he would attack the Spaniards.

Caused by misunderstanding, hostilities ensued the next day. As a result, the Spaniards, superiorly armed, attacked and burned Maynilad. Many of its inhabitants perished and the large house of Soliman with its valuables turned into ashes.

Some of those captured by the Spaniards stated that in opposition to his uncle, Rajah Soliman ordered the attack on the Spaniards and had fired the first shot which pierced the side of Goiti’s ship.

In 1571, the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi cameas head of the second Spanish expedition to Maynilad. It was in pursuance of the order of the King of Spain to colonize the Philippines.

Rajah Soliman would not welcome him. But through the prodding and intercession of his uncles, Rajah Matanda and Lakandula who were convinced of Legazpi’s honeyed words of goodwill, Soliman reluctantly went with them to conclude a pact with the Adelantado.

By the terms of the agreement, the Spaniards were allowed to settle in the old site of the burned town of Maynilad and would have the right to collect tributes from the inhabitants. The Maynilad rulers and their descendants were granted exemption from paying tributes.

Legazpi formally took hold of Maynilad. And the native rulers remained faithful to their pledge of frienship to him.

In the latter part of 1571, Rajah Soliman, together with Lakandula went with the expedition of Martin de Goiti in Pampanga to serve as interpreters in the pacification of the province. About this time also, Rajah Matanda, who had no children by his legitimate wife, gave word to Legazpi that his nephew Rajah Soliman be his heir and successor and given the senorio or chieftainship of Maynilad. Shortly, Rajah Matanda died and Leagzpi formally declared in the name of the King of Spain Rajah Soliman as heir and successor of his deceased uncle. Rajah Soliman received the senorio of Maynilad with Spanish approval in April of 1572.

Two years after the death of Legazpi in 1574 Rajah Soliman and Lakandula headed a local revolt in towns north of Maynilad. It arose over the system of government apportionment of encomiendas to the Spanish officials. Certain lands of Soliman and Lakandula were given and assigned to encomenderos in utter disregard of their patrimonial rights.

Initial conciliatory talks between Fray Geronimo Marian the two leaders held in Pagaga were unacceptable to Rajah Soliman so that he took his men to another village. He was found to pose the greatest problem to Marin, because he “did not act fairly in whatever the Spaniards were concerned, nor did he regard them with friendly eyes”. With the aid of Capitan Juan de Salcedo, the conciliator effected peace first with Lakandula, and later, Soliman yielded to the assurance that the rebel’s complaints would be given due attendance by the Spanish government.

After this incident, the name of Rajah Soliman was no longer mentioned in Spanish accounts and chronicles. The exact date of his death, therefore, remains unknown and has become the topic of controversy among present day historians. Some writers, however, boldly presume that Rajah Soliman lived in the person of Agustin de Legazpi, a leader of the Tondo Conspiracy (1587-1588) who died in 1588.