The British occupation of Manila
By Ma. Isabel Ongpinhttp://www.manilatimes.net/national/2006/july/07/yehey/opinion/20060707opi5.html
IN Philippine history, there was a brief British occupation of Manila from 1762-64 as a result of the Seven Years’ War fought between France and England. Spain became a British enemy when it sided with France due to ties between their royal families. The British Occupation was confined to Manila and Cavite while Simon de Anda, acting as a de facto Spanish governor general, kept the countryside for Spain with the help of Filipino soldiers.
The less than two years that the British ruled the Philippines is glossed over in most Philippine history books or class discussions save for the interesting detail that Indian soldiers known as Sepoys, who came with the British, deserted in droves and settled in Cainta, Rizal, which explains the uniquely Indian features of generations of Cainta residents. For that matter, French mercenaries that came with the British did the same thing.
However, the British occupation of Manila is much more interesting and cataclysmic than first thought. It reflects 18th-century war behavior among European powers, their colonial proclivities and the reputation of Manila as the center of trade and commerce, culture and art, wealth and luxury, at least in the minds of the British elements concentrated in India, as well as British Navy officers who dreamed of capturing a galleon fully laden with silver from Mexico as it traveled Philippine waters. After all a precedent had been set by Lord Anson who captured one galleon off Samar that brought him incredible riches, high naval rank and the attention of generations of ambitious British Navy personnel who wanted to do the same.
Finally, someone has researched and written a book about the British occupation of Manila depicting what the real motives were for capturing Manila, how they rationalized these less-than-altruistic reasons for coating and how it was managed. Simply put, the British came to plunder what they could with the British officers personally amassing stolen items of not only material value but irreplaceable historical value to this country. Read all about it in When Britain Ruled the Philippines 1762-1764 by Shirley Fish, an expatriate Manila resident for the past 11 years who took an interest in this event and has produced a superb account of it based on meticulous research both in the Philippines (Filipinas Heritage Library) and in England (British Library/India Office Library and the Public Records Office at Kew). Ms. Fish, a freelance writer and researcher, has told the story for the first time. And it is quite a tale. It look four years of research and another few years of frustration and dismay as two university presses in the Philippines and one commercial publishing house turned down the manuscript as irrelevant Philippine History, a major error, in my opinion.
Along with the idea of conquering for personal profit which was a traditional privateer type compulsion at he time of the British conquest of Manila, there was the British East India Company’s interest in Mindanao where they had sonic kind of trading relationship with the ruling sultans in defiance of Spanish sovereignty.
The British India Company was a commercial enterprise based originally in India but about to settle in Hong Kong for the opium trade and cause the Opium Wars.
The long-term pragmatic view of the British was that if they succeeded in capturing Manila and realistically could not hold on to it long term, they could surrender it back to Spain in exchange for getting their hands on Mindanao along with the plunder and ransom of Manila.
Thus, the minute Manila was in their hands the churches and government offices were ransacked, valuables were taken and historical documents such as Augustinian records of their Philippine experience, government papers regarding Mindanao as well as the copper plates for the grand 18th-century Murillo Velarde map of the Philippines were spirited away. Along with the naval stores at the Cavite Naval Yard, the paintings in the Governor General’s Palace, the contents of Intramuros churches and the possessions of Spanish families in Intramuros were also stolen.
Plunder was not the only crime. Rape, homicide and vandalism rampaged through the city. To top it all, the British demanded a ransom of P4M from the Spanish government for losing Manila. Since there was only Archbishop Rojo, the acting governor and the minuscule Spanish community to talk to, it was they and not the Spanish government that coughed up wh4 they could which was far from what was demanded. Finally, when one galleon loaded with silver was captured, the hapless Spaniards asked that the ransom be reduced for the value of the silver. This ploy did not work with the single-minded British.
Other important effects of the British invasion were of national dimensions. For the first time Spaniards were shown to be vulnerable to others in these climes. Diego Silang mounted his revolt and was in contact with the British who encouraged him in his fight against Spanish tyranny. Another Filipino rebel, Juan de la Cruz Palaris, also rose in revolt with 6,000 soldiers. The Chinese sided with the British against the Spanish after years of persecution for which after they left, the Chinese concerned also fled to escape Spanish vengeance.
When the peace treaty ending the Seven Years’ War was finally officially acknowledged in Manila, the British left taking their booty with them.
General Draper, commander of the army, Rear Admiral Cornish, commander of the navy and Governor Drake, the British East India official who was the head of government, all went home rich. Draper built or bought an estate in the north of England called Manila Hall. Rear Admiral Cornish bought his own large estate in England and retired a rich man. Governor Drake who was born and raised in India, returned to India wealthy with new possessions including paintings from the Governor General’s Palace.
Uniquely, the British East India Company presented an invoice to the British government itemizing what it had invested for the invasion of Manila, a declaration of what it had acquired and after some computation presented a bill for the difference in their favor, of course.
I could go on but I think it is best that you read the book for yourselves and thank Shirley Fish for having persevered in her task.