Swish of the Kris - Chapter 17


In April, 1898, General Basilio Augusti y Davila, head of the Spanish government in the Philippines, became aware of the approach of a hostile American squadron under Dewey and issued a proclamation which read in part:


"Between Spain and the United States of North America hostilities have broken out.

"The North American people, composed of all the social excrescenses, have exhausted our patience and provoked war with their perfidious machinations, with their acts of treachery, with their outrages against the laws of nations and international treaties.

"The struggle will be short and decisive. Spain, which counts upon the sympathy of all nations, will emerge triumphantly from this new test., humiliating and blasting the adventurers from these States that, without cohesion and without a history, offer to humanity only infamous traditions... in which appear united insolence and defamation, cowardice and cynicism.

"A squadron manned by foreigners, possessing neither instruction nor discipline, is preparing to come to this Archipelago with the blackguard intention of robbing us of all that means life, honor and liberty. Pretending to be inspired by a courage of which they are incapable, the North American seamen undertake, as an enterprise of capable realization, the substitution of Protestantism for the Catholic religion you profess and to take possession of your riches.

"Vain designs! Ridiculous boastings!

"Your indomitable bravery will suffice to frustrate the attempts to carry out their plans… against the shouts of our enemies let us resist with Christian decision and the patriotic cry of 'Viva Espana.'

"Manila, 23rd of April, 1898.

        "Your General,

        "Basilio Augusti y Davila."

In spite of this bombast, well worthy of the best efforts of Figueroa 400 years earlier, the inferior Spanish fleet fell before the armament of Dewey and a cessation of hostilities followed, with a treaty of peace signed with Spain on December 10, 1898.

By the terms of this treaty, Spain ceded to the United States the territory of the Philippines, and a new opponent came to Mindanao to engage the Mohammedans.

The arrival of the Americans was not accompanied by an immediate occupation of Mindanao and Sulu. The Moros had a brief breather before lifting up the kris against the krag rifle.

The spring of 1899 saw 50,000 American soldiers engaged in the quelling of Filipino insurrections in the north. While these operations were in progress, the isolated and cut-off Spanish garrisons in Mindanao and Sulu suffered horribly. All of the southern posts lacked supplies and many of them were wiped out. The Spanish garrison at Tataan on Palawan Island was slaughtered to a man, and the posts of Bongao and Siasi were abandoned. All of the Spanish forces in the south were concentrated at Zamboanga and Jolo to wait relief by the American army.

Finally, on May 18, 1899, Captain Pratt with 185 men of the 23rd U. S. Infantry, arrived at Jolo to relieve the Spanish garrison.

In December of the same year, troops of the same regiment occupied Zamboanga and the Toledo blade became sheathed forever in Mindanao.

During the whole of the Spanish-American War, the Moro country was cut off from the world. There was little direct communication from Manila, and all the news from Spain was forwarded from Singapore, via Sandakan, Borneo. It was more than a month before Zamboanga knew of the beginning of the Spanish-American War. At one time, the Spanish Padres of Zamboanga received word that Boston had been captured by the troops of Spain.

The American forces arriving to garrison Mindanao and Sulu, found the Moros well in command of the territory fairly earned by more than 300 years of warfare. They found the Moros ill-disposed to give up the territory to the American forces.

The delicacy of the situation was reflected in the orders given to the American troops, who were instructed "to relieve the Spaniards, extend American jurisdiction with as little trouble as possible, and to expect no reinforcements."

Certainly the Moros were well within their rights in attempting to resist this new invader. Without their knowledge, Spain had sold their territory into American hands and there was still a great question as to the validity of the Spanish title to Moroland.

The American troops found Mindanao and Sulu in a terrible state of anarchy and banditry. Outlaw bands ravage the country and in no place was to be found safety from Moro attacks. The Moro country had quickly reverted to a condition of feudalism, with each individual Datu holding the power of life and death in a small barangay. The swish of the kris was unrestrained, and bandits passed through the country slaughtering the last of the Spaniards.

Into such situation came the first law to Jolo in July, 1899. In August of that year Major-General Otis, Military Governor of the Philippines, sent Brigadier General J. C. Bates to Jolo to negotiate a treaty with the Moros. General Bates was appointed as the agent of the United States government to act as intermediary between the military authorities and the Sulu Moros.

The Sultan and the Moro Datus were at this time of the belief that the evacuation of the Spaniards had transferred their country back into their own hands. It was explained to them that the American government had taken over the affairs of Spain and the Sulu now had a new master. It was a very delicate situation.

After a great deal of preliminary negotiation, which was hampered by the alleged illness of the Sultan and various abortive attempts on the part of the Moros to frighten the American occupants, the Moros presented on August 9, 1899, the following document to the American government in which they stated their opinion of their rights.

Agreement Proposed by the Sultan

Article One - The Sultan can hoist the American flag in Sulu together with his own, but if the Sultan goes to foreign lands he can fly his own flag to show his rank as ruler of Sulu but his subjects need fly no flag so long as they have the written authority of the Sultan.
Article Two - The Americans shall pay tot he Sultan $200 per month, to the Datus $100 per month and to the advisers $50 per month.
Article Three - The Americans are not allowed to occupy any of the islands on the seashore of Sulu except by permission of the Sultan and his Datus; and they must pay a profit to the Sultan, whatever is arranged. If no arrangement is made the Americans cannot force an entry into Sulu.
Article Four - The Americans will respect the dignity of the Sultan and his Datus; above all, will respect the Mohammedan religion; they will not change or oppose execution of the same.
Article Five - The sultan and his Datus and advisers can keep arms for fighting.
Article Six - The Sultan can give written authority to people for sailing and trading in all of the islands; at the same time, these people have to go to Jolo to obtain permission of the American Governor and all other nations can trade in the islands by giving notice to the American Governor.
Article Seven - The Sultan can take duties from trading vessels of any nation coming to the islands. The Americans shall not oppose this for it is a gift of God to the people of the land.
Article Eight - In case of dispute between the American Governor and the Sultan, the Sultan may communicate direct with the Governor-General in Manila.
Article Nine - The Sultan shall prevent piracy and give orders that it shall not happen but if orders are not obeyed we will notify Governor of Jolo and together suppress it.
Article Ten - If any American goes about the country he shall notify the Sultan and receive an escort. If he goes without an escort and anything happens to him the Sultan shall not be responsible.
Article Eleven - If any American subjects ran away and come to us we will give them up to the Americans; the same shall be done with our followers who run away to the Americans.
Article Twelve - If the Sultan have (sic) trouble with European nations, the American government shall stand by him as a protector.
Article Thirteen - In case the Americans have trouble with the subjects of the Sultan, they shall not at once resort to arms, but examine the facts of the case.
Article Fourteen - The Americans shall not judge any Moro and shall not settle any dispute between Moros, and shall not judge any dispute of the Mohammedan religion.
Article Fifteen - If the Americans should not like to stay in Jolo they are not authorized to sell Jolo to any other nation without consulting the Sultan.
Article Sixteen - The Americans and the Sultan to hold to this agreement.

This agreement, signed by the Sultan and nineteen of his head men, was of course unacceptable to America. After a great deal of argument, another agreement was drawn up between General Bates, representing the United States, and his Highness, the Sultan of Sulu. This agreement, known as the Bates Treaty, was duly signed and approved by the President of the United States, in all its provisions except the one relating to slaves. President McKinley placed his approval on document on October 27, 1899, thus cementing the first negotiations with the Moros.

The Bates Treaty is given here in its entirety.
Article One - The sovereignity of the United States over the whole Archipelago of Sulu and its dependents is declared and acknowledged.
Article Two - The United States flag will be used in the Archipelago of Sulu and its dependencies, on land and sea.
Article Three - The rights and dignities of the Sultan and his Datus shall be respected; the Moros shall not be interfered with on account of their religion; all of their religious customs shall be respected, and no one shall be persecuted on account of his religion.
Article Four - While the United States may occupy and control such points in the Archipelago of Sulu as public interests may seem to demand, encroachment will not be made upon the lands immediately about the residence of the Sultan of Sulu, unless military necessity required such occupation in case of war with a foreign power; and where the property of individuals is taken, die compensation will be made in each case.
Article Five - All trade in domestic products in the Archipelago of Sulu, when carried on by the Sultan and his people, with any part of the Philippine Islands, and when conducted under the American flag, shall be free, unlimited and undutiable.
Article Six - The Sultan of Sulu shall be allowed to communicate direct with the Governor-General in Manila in making complaint against the commanding officer of Jolo or against any naval commander.
Article Seven - The introduction of firearms and war material is forbidden, except under specific authority of the Governor-General of the Philippines Islands.
Article Eight - Piracy must be suppressed, and the Sultan of Sulu and his Datus agree to heartily cooperate with the United States authorities to that end, and to make every possible effort to arrest and bring to justice all persons engaged in piracy.
Article Nine - Where crimes and offenses are committed by Moros against Moros, the government of the Sultan will bring to trial and punishment the criminals and offenders, who will be delivered to the government of the Sultan by the United States authorities if in their possession. In all other cases, per sons charged with crimes or offenses will be delivered to the United States authorities for trial and punishment.
Article Ten - Any slave in the Archipelago of Sulu shall have the right to purchase freedom by paying to the master the usual market price.
Article Eleven - In cases of trouble with the subjects of the Sultan, the American authorities in the Islands will be instructed to make careful investigation before resorting to harsh measures, as in most cases serious trouble can be thus avoided.
Article Twelve - At present, Americans or foreigners desiring to go into the country shall state their wishes to the Moro authorities and ask for an escort, but it is hoped that this will become unnecessary as we know each other better.
Article Thirteen - The United States will give full protection to the Sultan and his subjects in case any foreign nation should attempt to impose upon them.
Article Fourteen - The United States will not sell the Island of Jolo or any other island of the Sulu Archipelago to any foreign nation without the consent of the Sultan.
Article Fifteen - The United States government will pay the following monthly salaries:

Mexican Dollars
To the Sultan 250
Datu Rajah Muda 75
Datu Attik 60
Datu Calbi 75
Datu Joakanin 75
Datu Puyo 60
Datu Amir Hussein 60
Hadji Butu 60
Habib Mura 50
Sherif Saguir 15

Signed in triplicate in English and Sulu, at Jolo, this 29th day of August, A.D. 1899 (13 Arabuil, Abril 1517)

        (Signed)        - John C. Bates, Brigadier General, U.S. Army.
        - Sultan of Sulu
        - Datu Rajah Muda
        - Datu Attik
        - Datu Calbi
        - Datu Joakanin


It should be pointed out that his treaty was only concerned with the Moros of Sulu. There remained all of the Moros incorporated under the Sultanate of Mindanao with whom no agreement was made.

The American forces were soon to encounter opposition from the Lanao Moros of Mindanao, After a centuries-old struggle with Spain, the Sultan saw no reason for permitting the new and untried American forces to enter Mindanao without a struggle. The krismen rallied for a new conflict.

In Mindanao, in the vicinity of Malabang, the Americans found thirteen Mohammedan settlements containing a fighting population of more than 3,600 warriors, each settlement possessing t least one fortified cotta or fortress. The troops first occupied the Malabang country in 1899, but it was not until 1902 that progress was made as far as Lake Lanao.

The sudden exit of the Spaniards from this territory was assumed by the Moros to be a final and decisive victory, and there was in their minds no though of a possible new antagonist. Accordingly, when the American forces under General Chaffee issued a proclamation of friendship which was worded in an unfortunate manner, the Moros became surly and full of martial spirit.

The proclamation read:

To the Moros of Lake Lanao

Under the treaty of Paris between Spain and the United States, executed in the year 1899, the Philippine Islands, including the island of Mindanao, were ceded by Spain to the United States, together with all of the rights and responsibilities of complete sovereignty. Among the rights thus acquired by the United States is that of commerce and free communication throughout the islands by its civil and military agents and by all its citizens when engaged in lawful pursuits. The responsibility of the government to protect its citizens and agents under these and all other conditions, to insist upon the full recognition of its power to do so by the inhabitants of the Philippines, native and foreign, will not be disputed by any enlightened government or people."

When we consider the fact that the Moros not only had never heard of the Treaty of Paris but were in total ignorance that any such country as the United States existed, we can understand the prompt nature of their resistance. They were logically unable to understand how any nation who had never subdued them had the right to cede their territory over to another power.

After all the peaceful overtures failed, 1,200 American soldiers entered the Lake Lanao country of Mindanao. Moro depredations there had involved the murder of American planters and the theft of cavalry horses. An American force, under the command of Colonel Baldwin, engaged in a series of serious cotta fights.

The first engagement of magnitude was the terrific battle of Bayang which found the 27th Infantry and the 25th Mountain Battery engaged against the Moros in a struggle which cost the lives of many Americans. The American victory, if it may be called such, was only a partial one, and a fresh expedition became necessary in 1903.

The Moros of this region constructed lakeside cottas of great strength in the vicinity of Bacolod and Calahui. These forts were adequately defended with brass lantakas and scores of fierce krismen. The American troops found the reduction of these forts to be no easy task.

American troops had not participated in such fighting since Revolutionary War days. The fighting was conducted in malarial swamps and darkened jungles, under conditions to try the soul of the bravest. In these first campaigns against the Moros, the Americans learned what Spain had been fighting against for more than 300 years.

Baldwin led the American forces into a country the like of which was foreign to the experiences of any American field officer. The fighting was mostly hand-to-hand work of a guerilla nature. Often the foe was unseen - until it was too late. Sometimes the deceptively silent jungle awoke suddenly and the troopers found themselves hemmed by a rush of frantic krismen. Baldwin's men learned in this campaign the horrors of a juramentado Moro. Secure in their swamps and forests, the Moros were as dangerous as a leopard. The Americans shot repeatedly at men who refused to fall. The troopers walked the jungle trails into Moro ambushes where the first terribly late warning was the gasp of a soldier skewered on a spear thrown from the bush.

Asleep in the jungle camps at night, the Americans' first warning would be the gurgle of an expiring sentry and then the cat-footed Moros would be upon them with flashing kris.

The force was constantly under attack from hostile Moros and the country was ridden with malaria, but the American troopers came through in good order and campaign culminated in the destruction of the cotta of the Sultan of Buhayen and the establishment of Camp Vicars in the Moro country.

These campaigns of these period established the military reputation of one of America's greatest soldiers. Captain John J. Pershing led a force of American troops through the center of Lanao country into a district barely penetrated by Spain. Waging a determined warfare far in the interior swamps of Mindanao, his small force required numerous reinforcements. As a result, detachments from the command of officers senior to Captain Pershing were sent to augment his small detail.

As the campaign was progressing exceedingly well under the able direction of Captain Pershing, the higher military authorities were unwilling to see him superseded in command. Therefore, as the commands of higher officers were sent to reinforce Pershing's force, these officers were detailed to Manila, minus commands. Captain Pershing soon found himself in central Mindanao at the head of an army.

Upon the recommendation of all general officers in the Philippine Department, Captain Pershing was raised from the rank he held to that of a Brigadier General, by order of President Roosevelt.

It is interesting to note that the meteoric career of Pershing received its original impetus at the hands of the Moros of Mindanao. The Mohammedans, soldiers themselves, were makers of soldiers.

The Americans soon found that the military occupation of Mindanao and Sulu was not a matter to be taken lightly. The Spaniard had left the country in much the same condition as they had found it. Little had been accomplished in the way of public works. The fortress at Zamboanga and the walled town at Jolo had small docks which would accommodate vessels of moderate draft. There was no road system, all transportation depending upon native trails.

Over the barangays in the hands of the Datus was the loosely organized control held by the religious and political Sultanates of Sulu and Mindanao. The public school system was practically non-existent. In all of the islands of the Philippine group there were but 120 miles of railroad and this was controlled by British capital.

On April 5, 1903, an American force consisting of Troops A, G and L of the 15th Cavalry; Companies C, F, G and M of the 27th Infantry; two Vickers-Maxim gun sections of the 25th Field Artillery and two Mortar Sections of the 17th Field Artillery set out at dawn from Camp Vicars to carry the war into Moro territory.

The column was almost under continual attack from the Moros. In camp the first night on the trail, one Moro crept within two yards of the sentry post, seriously wounding two soldiers. The advance was conducted under constant fire from Moro snipers and was accompanied by sudden rushes on the part of the krismen with bared weapons.

After a terrific shelling from the mountain guns, the infantry advanced on the cotta of Bacalad, which fell after three days of siege and continual shelling. Nine Moro Datus were killed and the Moro total loss was sixty-nine, most of them killed by the long range fire of the Vickers-Maxims which had opened at a range of 900 yards. American casualties were fifteen killed and wounded.

The troops then moved on to the remaining cotta in Calahui. This fort was bombarded by the artillery for twenty hours at a range of 1,500 yards, supported with Maxim fire into the port holes every half hour. The Moros evacuated in the face of the deadly long range fire and the fort was blown up with gun powder.

Additional reinforcements of American troops gradually spread over the islands, and American army posts grew up in Mindanao and Sulu to establish a thin layer of law and order over the archipelago. The first three years of occupation were almost barren of results. The whole country was in arms against the new owners of the Philippines, and much of the military strength was expended against the Filipino insurrections in the north. The Moros took advantage of the lull to enter into open rebellion against America. In following this course, they were well within their rights.

After some four years of military government, it became apparent that a more stable form of rule was required. The military governors controlled their isolated districts in much the same manner as their Spanish predecessors and their sphere was limited to the country immediately surrounding their posts.

The American government early realized that the problem of the Moro of Mindanao and Sulu was far different from that existing among the Filipino tribes of the north. The Moros were segregated by differences of religion, customs and mannerisms, and the problem was intensified by the hated these Mohammedans held for the Christian Filipinos of Luzon and the Visayas.

Realizing the necessity for a separate form of government for these Mohammedans, the Moro province was created on June 1, 1993, to provide a form of civil government supplemented by military aid.



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Original publication © 1936 E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.

Filipiniana Reprint Series © 1985 Cacho Hermanos, Inc.

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