Blood Compact of Bohol, Legazpi & Sikatuna
Before going to Bohol I was only dimly aware of the 1565 blood compact, or Sandugo in Filipino, between the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna, a chieftain of Bohol. Historically this blood compact is one of the most noteworthy events of Bohol. Naturally, being a lover of things historical, I had to investigate and seek understanding.
We acquired the services of a driver and guide from the Vest Pension House and our first stop of the day was at the traditional site of the Blood Compact. I’m sure no one is exactly sure after 442 years where the specific place is that Legazpi and Sikatuna drank together from a goblet filled with a mixture of their own blood and wine, but the general area is certainly correct. At the small town of Baclayon we pulled off the road and spent several minutes at a larger than life diorama depicting Sikatuna and Legazpi seemingly having a toast. The site is high on a bluff and affords a beautiful view of the Bohol Sea. As I inspected each statue and read the plaques I tried to understand the significance of this pact.
Truthfully, at the time I didn’t get it, and even now I struggle with it. I thought to myself, ‘Why all the fuss over something so tragic?’ I can understand simply marking it as an event from the past to be acknowledged and studied, but people from Bohol actually have a party every year called the Sandugo Festival to mark what can only be considered a start date to 333 years of abject Spanish oppression. For me it brings to mind how the French similarly celebrate their Revolution, one of the most violent and deplorable events in European history.
I asked the guide how she felt about the way the Spanish treated the indigenous peoples here, but as usual I got not much more than a verbal shrug. The Japanese paid some pretty hefty reparations to the Philippines after WWII, but when one looks honestly at the three centuries of Spanish abuse heaped on this place Spain surely owes this country more money than there is in the entire world.
Like other things here there is a dichotomy in how Filipinos look at the subject of Spanish colonization. They desperately want to be proud of their past dealings with Spain, but the only way to do so is to ignore the extremely horrendous way they were treated by them. I see this dichotomy big time in the way Sikatuna and Lapu-Lapu are BOTH celebrated, each for doing the exact opposite thing. In 1521, Lapu-Lapu and his people refused to accept outside dominion and his forces ended up hacking Magellan to death on the beach at Mactan Island, which is just across the Cebu Straits from Bohol. Just 44 years later and Sikatuna accepts Legazpi’s overtures of “friendship” and the rest is history. Of course no one can blame Sikatuna; after all, Legazpi was going to do what he wanted in the name of the king of Spain regardless of what one Rajah from Bohol did.
Interestingly, I found the following excerpt in Wikpedia on the 2006 Sandugo Festival of Bohol.
1. One of the major highlights of the 2006 Sandugo celebration was the "Sandugo Oracles," an hour-long reenactment directed by Lutgardo Labad, which recounted the historic meeting between East and West through interpretive dance, pantomime, song and a narrative soundtrack in Bohol’s native Visayan. The oracles sought to “clarify” the Sandugo legend by going beyond typical reenactments, which only depict Legazpi and Sikatuna meeting, drinking goblets filled with each other’s blood and little else. “The performance highlights the impact on the native population and makes people think anew of their own realities,” Laba said.
2. The oracles presented Boholano priestess Karyapa tugging on Rajah Sikatuna's arm and imploring to ignore Legazpi's arrival in the Philippines. Karyapa's prohecy foretold the destruction of local civilization. The oracles also showed the role of a lesser-known datu Sigala who convinced Sikatuna to accept Legazpi's offer, and the influence of an earlier raid on Bohol by Portuguese slavers.
Obviously, here we have thoughtful and concerned people, like Mr. Labad, trying to figure out how to come to terms with the “dichotomy” I spoke of above. First, he speaks of using this newly concocted “Sandugo Oracles” to “clarify” events by going “beyond” the traditional reenactments to make us “think anew.” I suppose attempting to do that is okay, but what really bothers me is the addition of the “new history,” where supposedly a priestess tried to no avail to dissuade Sikatuna, while this Sigala fellow reminds not only Sikatuna, but all the play-goers, of what awaited the people of Bohol if he didn’t kiss Legazpi’s ass. Rewriting history can be a dangerous thing. So what’s next? Do they slowly wean the celebration away from the Sikatuna’s Blood Pact until eventually it becomes a commemoration of the ignored priestess, Karyapa? If so, I have the perfect name for this future celebration: The "Hindsight is 20-20 Festival!”
President Clinton and his notorious “definition of what is is” comment comes to mind when I think about what history is. To me, history IS a sacred thing; it should be about cold hard truth. My point is that history just “IS,” and just because it doesn’t conform to a modern vision of what it “should be” doesn’t mean it should be rewritten. Of course the festival should continue—it sounds like a grand time—but stay away from “correcting” the events of the past to make them more palatable to those of us in the present. It’s just not right.
My next Bohol entry will have not a single complaint or a bit of negativity in it—I promise! (Famous last words?)
Labels: Bohol Trip