Revisiting the Moro Wars through Jesuit Sources about the Philippine Islands

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 3:50 PM
Salon 2 (Palmer House Hilton)
Tatiana Seijas, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
The Moro Wars as a historical narrative, and a category of analysis, needs revision. The classic timeline of the Moro Wars (1565 to 1663) divides them into a number of phases tagged to Spanish colonial objectives (or failed strategies depending on one’s perspective). A revised narrative of this ongoing conflict would, instead, necessarily underline the economic basis of this conflict in slaving and mark the passage of time according to the perspectives of the Brunei, Maguindanao, and Sulu Sultanates, other Muslim authorities, Indigenous chiefs from Luzon and the Visayas who allied with Spain, as well as the Spanish participants. Scholars who have employed printed ecclesiastical histories have mainly interpreted the Moro Wars as forming part of Spain’s imperial project to expand Christendom and vanquish Islam. This paper re-evaluates these works, like Pedro Chirino’s Relation of the Philippine Islands (1604), as well as Jesuit correspondence, to garner a deeper understanding of how the conflict played out on the ground. Jesuit priests stationed in Mindanao, for example, wrote eye-witnesses accounts of their interactions with Muslim people. A more critical reading of Jesuit sources has the potential to reveal the goals of soldiers and religious leaders (Christians and Muslims) in the wider geopolitical conflict over what state would control trade in the Sulu Sea, and what state would wield sovereignty over the diverse islands of the Philippines Archipelago.