FFE Magazine

Lakandula: the peaceful king takes his Stand

History-Mascot-Kuya-Rogelio-var-3-updatedBefore we proceed with today’s history, I want to ask you a question. When I say ‘Tondo’, the district in Manila, what comes to your mind?


Certain events in history have influenced the way we look at Tondo today, but did you know that Tondo was once a kingdom? The kingdom of Tondo (or Tundu, according to an artifact called the Laguna Copperplate Inscription) was also the most powerful one among the kingdoms of Manila during its time. It may not have been the enchanting castles-type of kingdom. But it had gold, and monopoly over the distribution of coveted goods from the Ming Dynasty in China. It also had the life and verve of a wealthy commercial centre.


But all that changed one day in 1571 with the arrival of a certain man from Spain.


However, that’s just part of the tale I’ll be sharing today. What I have in mind is a small revolt in old Tundu. The revolt was a short one, but it left a huge mark on the first Manileños.


It was the father of all revolts — the one that sparked all other uprisings made against the oppressive Spanish colonisers in Manila. The date was 6 November 1574 and at centre stage is a king named Lakandula.


The kingdom and the king


During those times Tundu wasn’t concentrated within the area of the Tondo we know today, bordered by Navotas and Caloocan. The Manila Bay Tondo was just the capital of the kingdom. Based on the spread of the Kapampangan language throughout the kingdom, researchers say Tundu extended beyond Bulacan to as far north as Pampanga. Its size, control of Chinese goods (Tundu practically controlled all of Southeast Asia’s Chinese goods distribution!) and economic importance made it more powerful than the Kingdom of Maynila and even the ancient 13th century Kingdom of Namayan (are you surprised to discover our country once had all these kingdoms?).

An artist’s rendition of Lakandula

An artist’s rendition of Lakandula

It has been established that Lakandula was king of northern Manila or Tundu by 1558. By the 1570s his brother, Rajah Ache, ceded his throne to their nephew Rajah Sulayman, king of the southern Muslim Maynila. Another source mentioned that the three kings of Manila traced their roots to the Royal Family of Brunei. Lakandula and Rajah Ache’s mother, they said, was the daughter of a sultan.


Not much else is said of Lakandula before the first governor-general of the Philippines, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, arrived and conquered Manila in 1571. Actually, Manila wasn’t conquered per se — it was slowly occupied via a peace pact that allied Legazpi and the three kings Lakandula, Rajah Ache and Rajah Sulayman.

Stamp featuring Rajah Sulayman, issued 1962

Stamp featuring Rajah Sulayman, issued 1962

Legazpi then secured an acknowledgment from the three kings: they said they would consider themselves the vassals of Spain provided they retained some of their royal and political power over their people. With peace and allies in his hands, happy Legazpi started to establish the walled city of Intramuros. Without further ado, he proclaimed Intramuros the capital of the Philippine Islands and the seat of the Spanish government in the region, with him on the head of course.


The governor-general and the kings, especially Lakandula, had a peaceful relationship. The helpful Lakandula even fortified Intramuros with Chinese weapons. Soon after, the king was Christened Don Carlos Lacandola after Charles I of Spain.


At one point, Lakandula sided with Legazpi when Manila was attacked by his nephew Rajah Sulayman and Kapampangan Tarik Sulayman in a resistance known as the Battle of Bangkusay. Lakandula even served as Legazpi’s ‘spokesman’ in an expedition to pacify Pampanga and Bulacan. In August 1572, the unlikely alliance suddenly ground to a halt with the death of Legazpi by heart failure.


A new man on the block


Enter Guido de Lavezaris, former royal treasurer of the 1540’s Villalobos Expedition and the new governor-general of the Philippines by order of Philip II of Spain. Unlike Legazpi, the new man on the block was ruthless in his command and dispatched his soldiers farther north and east to conquer more land. Within two years of his reign, he was able to conquer and establish settlements in Ilocos and Camarines.


Lakandula remained faithful to Spain despite the change in leadership, though nothing was said of the relationship between the king and the new governor-general in historical records. He later even helped Lavezaris stop Chinese warlord Limahong from successfully invading Manila.

A cartoon depicting the encomienda system applied by the Spanish crown to all colonised nations

A cartoon depicting the encomienda system applied by the Spanish crown to all colonised nations


But the trouble began when Lavezaris’ encomienda system (or the parcelling off of lands and resident native to Spanish soldiers and officials as reward for their work) started to affect more of Lakandula and Sulayman’s people. Contrary to a pact the kings made with Legazpi, Lavezaris stripped Lakandula, Sulayman and their people of their lands and were forced to pay tribute.


The natives fight back


Under Lavezaris, the Spaniards committed extortion and unjust acts to force natives to pay tribute. The Augustinian friar Martin de Rada revealed that the tax was worth three times more than it should be. Because of that, the oppression of the Manileños under Spain forced the native kings to break the peace pact in the name of justice.


6 November 1574 — Lakandula and Sulayman staged a revolt in Navotas while Limahong still posed a threat to Spain. The revolt is known among historians in various names, including ‘Lakandula revolt’, ‘Sulayman revolt’, ‘Manila revolt of 1574’ and, because sea crafts were involved, ‘First battle of Manila Bay.’


The revolt held its ground against the Spanish forces, so Lavezaris gave friar Martin and Juan de Salcedo (his chief troubleshooter) the task of forging a peace treaty with the native kings. Lakandula welcomed the offer of peace, but Sulayman was wary of the Catholic presence among his Muslim community. A separate treaty was then made that secured Muslim Maynila’s autonomy. Lakandula’s north, on the other hand, remained under direct Spanish control.




The death of Lakandula is still shrouded in mystery, but sources mentioned he passed away in 1575. Tundu was then ruled by his nephew Agustin de Legazpi, Sulayman’s adopted son. De Legazpi would soon lead another revolt 12 years later, called the Tondo Conspiracy or the Conspiracy of the Maharlikas (the Filipino elite) where Kapampangan noblemen or datu from Manila, Bulacan and Pampanga — yet another exciting chapter of the noblemen class of Manila. But we should reserve that for another date.

The Maginoo according to the Boxer Codex.

The Maginoo according to the Boxer Codex.
The Maginoo are a pre-Hispanic class of noble Tagalog residing in Maynila

Lakandula and Sulayman sowed the seeds of opposition against Spain during the revolt in 1574, a sentiment that never left the hearts of Filipinos who lived under Spanish rule. Manila became a hotspot for battle through the years. At the surface, the Manileños during colonial rule were law-abiding citizens of the Philippines under Spain. But underneath was a growing resentment towards the colonisers and a clamour for freedom.


In time, full-scale revolution was called in the central provinces of Luzon under the banner of Katipunan. The rest, as they say, is history.


Today, Lakandula still makes his presence felt around the Philippines. Many schools are named after the peaceful king. The Republic of the Philippines’ highest honour is called the Order of Lakandula, awarded to those who serve in the name of civic service.

‘Even in Tondo there is Heaven’ is a 1986 novel by Andres Cristobal Cruz

‘Even in Tondo there is Heaven’ is a 1986 novel by Andres Cristobal Cruz


All that talk of double-crossing and conspiracies has made me quite tired! But I bet your idea of Manila and Tondo has changed because of today’s story, yes? But the Tondo of today also has its little surprises. For example, did you know that ‘Da King’ Fernando Poe Junior and the king of Philippine comedy Dolphy called Tondo their first home? Other notable Tondo natives include Katipunan supremo and Philippine hero Andres Bonifacio, Asia’s Songbird Regine Velazquez-Alcasid and former actor, president and current Manila mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada?


This just goes to show there’s more than meets the eye.



Are you surprised to learn that Manila was once the site of a powerful kingdom? Are you from Tondo? Do you have any memories of place? Share your ideas here!






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