• Beyond Distances: Guam, the Philippines and Spain

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    Ma. Isabel Ongpin

    I WAS in Guam on holiday in late February. Guam is the largest island of a group known as the Marianas Islands in the Pacific (i.e. Tinian, Saipan, Rota, etc.). The Spanish named it Ladrones (Thieves) in a fit of pique when Magellan and his crew on their way to the Philippines sought harbor there and were robbed. I looked around for some Spanish traces as Guam was simultaneously colonized with the Philippines by Spain for almost 400 years. I only found a Plaza de España somewhere near the cathedral in Agaña (Guam’s capital) which seemed a new addition though I must admit I had very little time to continue searching.

    Back in Manila and conversing with Instituto Cervantes Director Carlos Madrid, I was bowled over when he gave me a book on Guam that he had researched and written in Spanish, with the English translation done by National Museum Director Jeremy Barns.

    The book is titled Beyond Distances, Governance, Politics and Deportationin the Marianas Islands 1870-1877. It is obviously focused on a certain period of Spanish and Pacific Island history (including the Philippines), but despite its limited range, one gets the historic drift of the past of these places as it relates to the context of 1870-1877.

    Briefly, Guam was governed from Manila, as the latter was the more prominent trading city, part of the world trade route through the Manila Galleon trade and therefore, the more developed territory, economically, politically, if not socially. And it was the nearest Spanish colony to Guam. Nothing intrinsically faulty with Guam; it had its own culture, society and colonial structure, except that it was a backwater and therefore not as experienced in world trade and influence as the Philippines. It was also underpopulated.

    So much so, that in the Spanish mind it was the most faraway place among its colonies, the least known in effect and therefore, a likely choice to send its exiles.

    Exile seems to have been a favorite governance or police action that Spain would impose on its political opposition in the 19th century, maybe even before, as it was a way of doing away with political troublemakers. There were Filipino convicts in Guam prior to the period we are talking about. The book did not dwell on whether they had been convicted in the Philippines and exiled to Guam, or whether they lived there and broke the law. On this note, Guam family names seemed quite Filipino: Matangtaotao, Masga, Mangloña, Taysacan, Songao, Jocog. One wonders as the eastern Philippines could not have been too far away for mariners from both islands.

    Between 1870 and 1877, Spain was wracked by political turmoil as the Carlists (followers of Carlos, a pretender to the Spanish throne who was the uncle of the reigning queen, Isabel II) challenged the dynasty in place. There was as well the beginning of liberal tendencies in Spanish politics with the Cadiz Constitution and Assembly versus the monarchists. In other words, turbulent political times which made the established order sentence to exile its dissenting members. These were Carlists, and at times, liberals or republicans.

    As anyone who is familiar with Philippine history, the 1872 Cavite Mutiny was led by a Filipino sergeant with apparent Filipino complicity. The Cavite Naval Yard workers had heard the rumor that their exemption from tribute would be imminently rescinded. There were also other disgruntled members of the population elsewhere, particularly in Manila who joined the plot (in fact they went ahead of schedule by a day), and raised a rebellion, an upheaval in the Cavite base which so challenged the Spanish colonial government that it went on a rampage, executing all those suspected to be involved, including Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora (Gomburza) after show trials. After these draconian measures, the Spanish colonial government veered toward arrest and accusing without trial any Filipinos suspected or known to have liberal tendencies, which of course was the ilustrado class, the educated, fairly well-to-do prominent persons in Philippine society, many of them actually of Spanish descent born in the Philippines.

    21 exiles
    Thus, the aftermath of the Cavite Mutiny produced about 21 exiles, 10 of them clerics (aside from Gomburza who were executed), and the following lawyers—Joaquin Pardo de Tavera, Antonio Maria Regidor, Enrique Paraiso, Jose Basa, Bartolome Serra, Gervacio Sanchez and Pedro Carrillo—and native entrepreneurs—Balvino Mauricio, Crisanto de los Reyes, Maximo Inocencio, Vicente Zabala, Ramon Maurente Luciano, Jose Basa Enriquez, Maximo Paterno Ynsian.

    They were sent off to Guam without any notice to the Guam authorities (the mailboat between Guam and Manila traveled only twice a year and was the only official communication between the islands). Curiously, three of the 21 were exiled to Spain led by Enrique Paraiso (because he was a Mason) and the governor was one sympathetic to the organization. In any case, 21 deportees from the Philippines arrived in Guam with no prior notice which meant that the place had no official accommodations for them. So, they were parceled out to prominent families, convents, other make-do sites. The Chamorros (native Guamanians) were hospitable enough and properly stunned to note how well-to-do, sophisticated and worldly these exiles were, particularly the entrepreneurs. One of this latter brought 21 pairs of trousers, 25 shirts, 18 white jackets, writing implements, monogramed items.

    Imprisoned in Agaña
    After some time, for the sake of better governance and possibly because of infractions committed, the exiles were imprisoned in the Tribunal in Agaña from which some of them escaped (Regidor and Baldovino). The escape seems to have been a case of bribing the guards for the ease that it was carried out. Eventually, an amnesty was given to the exiles but it took long in coming (from Madrid to Manila to Guam), and by various means the exiles came back to Manila or elsewhere, some with harrowing tales of the experience of their return voyage. Paterno and others had the means to charter a boat upon the arrival of the amnesty, but it led them astray and they were dumped in the Solomon Islands from where they had to pay their way onto another boat to Hong Kong before arriving in Manila.

    The point is that Spain considered Guam the premiere place of exile for political troublemakers. By 1874 the Overseas Ministry of Spain with this attitude sent into exile 274 Spaniards to Guam via Manila which caused a political upheaval in both places for not being prepared for so many and for not having the means to keep them well-fed, healthy and sheltered. In all there were three mass deportations from Spain which caused mayhem in Guam.

    And so Beyond Distances goes on to give the premises and the details of exile, the plight of the exiles, the troubles they caused Guam and its inhabitants (some exiles were common criminals). We also get the temper of the times in 19th-century Spain’s tumultuous politics, a disorder that would cause it to lose its colonial possessions and delineate the beginnings of the liberal and republican tendencies among the ilustrado class in the Philippines. This would soon culminate in the Propaganda Movement, the emergence of Rizal and the Philippine Revolution, which would produce its own new set of Filipino exiles to Guam led by Apolinario Mabini. The next book must be about them 25 years later upon the American Occupation.

    Of course the book’s focus is Guam and Chamorro society but Guam’s being ruled from Manila brings the Philippines and its history of the time into focus too.

    Beyond Distances is an informative, historical and sociological study of events using never before mentioned original historical documents that focus on the deportations between 1870-1876 in three places—Spain, the Philippines and Guam. It should be of interest to everyone from these areas.

    Carlos Madrid, who spent years researching the data in Guam and in Spain, has contributed to our history facets yet unknown as well as paid tribute to Guam’s own heroes who defied Spanish colonialism (they too were influenced by the liberal tendencies from Europe, particularly Spain). His book is dedicated to one of them, Luis Baza.

    Beyond Distances is published by Vibal Publishing Company.

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