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Siege of Manila
Part of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines
DateNovember 29, 1574
Result Spanish victory

Spain Spanish Empire

Chinese pirates
Commanders and leaders
Spain Juan de Salcedo
Spain Guido de Lavezaris
Spain Martín de Goiti 
Spain Gaspar Ramírez
Spain Galo
300 Spanish soldiers (150 Spaniards and 150 Mexicans)[1]
300 Ilocano warriors
Unknown number of militiamen[2]
62 war junks
4,000 fighters and seamen[3]
Casualties and losses
70 Spanish soldiers
Unknown number of militiamen
400 confirmed, much more presumably

The Battle of Manila (1574) (Spanish: Batalla de Manila en el 1574; Filipino: Labanan sa Maynila ng 1574) was a battle in the Manila area mainly in the location of what is now Parañaque, between Chinese and Japanese pirates, led by Limahong, and the Spanish colonial forces and their native allies. The battle occurred on November 29, 1574,[4] when Limahong's fleet landed in the town of Parañaque and from there, began to assault the fortifications of Intramuros. Initially, the inhabitants were disorganized, and Limahong's forces routed them. Furthermore, the Chinese killed the maestre de campo of the Spanish, Martin de Goiti. This caused them to delay their assault on Manila as Martin de Goiti's house was an obstacle in their march.[5]

Limahong's forces laid siege to Manila until a force led by Juan de Salcedo of fifty Spanish musketeers broke the siege.[3] Having been defeated at Manila, Limahong retreated and abandoned his plans to invade Manila and instead settled in Pangasinan.[6] A year later, forces again led by Salcedo defeated Limahong. This led to the Viceroy of Fukien to travel to the Philippines for the initial purpose of securing the release of Limahong, but ultimately establishing diplomatic relations between China and the Spanish Philippines.[3]


The first Spanish expedition arrived in the region in 1565, but the city was not founded until 1571. Once established, Manila became a central center of commerce with multiple nations from South Asia, as well as China and Japan, which traded with porcelain, silk, and wood. Manila's fame as a prosperous city spread quickly around southern Asia, attracting the interest of pirates and marauders.[7]

In 1574, Chinese warlord Limahong set out for Manila. He had been just expelled from China by the imperial fleet in a battle in Guangdong. He was looking to move his headquarters to the Philippine islands, where he could obtain more significant gains with less difficulty.[8] After capturing a Chinese trader ship that carried Spanish sailors, he found out Manila only had a garrison of around 200 Spanish soldiers available, half of whom were Mexicans (Criollos, mestizos and Indios)[1] so he judged it would be easy to capture the city in a surprise attack.[9]

In November, guided by the Spanish prisoners, Limahong arrived in Luzón with a fleet of around 60 junks, gathered to expel the Spaniards and take the city. His contingent comprised 2000 soldiers, 2000 sailors, and 1500 colonists,[10] including entire families, ransom women captured in China and Japan, farmers, carpenters, artisans, doctors, and all goods necessary to establish a settlement.[9][11][12] He only left a small part in the island of Batán, where he had taken refuge from the Chinese imperial fleet.[10]

A Japanese lieutenant named Sioco (likely a Spanish language corruption of "Shoko") helped Limahong,[13] and according to Japanese sources, he acted in alliance with factions of wokou, meaning that probably an essential part of their forces were Japanese pirates.[14][15][12] Spanish sources also describe the invaders as wielding catanes, a corruption of the Japanese word katana, along with more traditional Chinese weapons.[10] It is also apparent he had a Portuguese translator in his fleet.[16]

Opposing forces

According to all sources, both sides were matched in weapons and equipment. The main difference in the battle was seemingly the superior experience and training of the Spanish soldiers, as well as their defensive positions, the opportune arrivals of reinforcements, and other tactical considerations.[10][17] Both armies employed arquebuses and small artillery pieces, as well as swords and daggers. The Asians carried long-tipped pikes (described as being "enough by themselves to undo the thickest hauberks") and several kinds of sabers, catanes, and scimitars. Among protective equipment were steel armor, mail, and cloth gambesons, especially worn by the Asians. The pirates also used a great quantity of gunpowder hand grenades and incendiary artifacts.[18]


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Limahong's fleet was spotted by Spanish posts in the northern part of Luzón, commanded by Juan de Salcedo and Francisco de Saavedra. Three messengers were sent by sea, but lack of wind caused the pirate fleet to catch up with them, forcing the Spaniards to abandon the boats and continue on foot by land. Consequently, it was impossible to send the message in time.

First attack

On November 30, Limahong deployed Sioco to perform a night raid with 400-600 pirates and capture the unaware city by surprise. However, the plan failed. Limahong had ordered the execution of the Spanish prisoners upon arriving at the beach; as the pirates did not have the prisoners' knowledge of the whereabouts anymore, Sioco's expedition fell in dangerous currents, losing three boats and being drifted by mistake towards Parañaque. Sioco continued on foot to Manila while towing the launches with ropes.[10]

Modern San Agustín Church, built over the destroyed original.

The pirates were spotted after several attacks on Manila locals, who mistakenly believed that Sioco and his group were Muslim bandits from Borneo. Governor Martín de Goiti was informed in his house near the old San Agustin Church. Still, he dismissed it and only sent ten guards to find out what was happening without informing the garrison.[8] The pirates quickly killed the guards and besieged the house, where Goiti's wife, Lucía del Corral, taunted them from the window. Infuriated by the insults and checking out the house was still well fortified, Sioco ordered it to be set on fire. Finally understanding the dire situation, Goiti and the few men inside sallied out against the pirates in a suicide attack.[8] The governor was elderly and sick at the time, but tradition has that he jumped from a low window in his rush to engage his enemies.[16] It is also believed that the Chinese pirates cut his nose and ears as human war trophies.[2] The house was destroyed, the only survivors being Del Corral and soldier Francisco de Astigarribia.[10]

With Goiti dead, Sioco resumed his march towards Manila, but the locals had heard the battle and warned the garrison in time for the defense to be prepared. The next in command was Lavezaris, whose house was located at the opposite point to the city.[2] Sioco's force was met outside the walls by a nearby team of 20 arcabuceros commanded by Lorenzo Chachón, who harassed them into stopping. However, their numerical advantage allowed the pirates to encircle Chacón and press on them, killing eight before the rest could cut their way toward the city. The Chinese pirates gave pursuit, but another company of 80 Spanish soldiers under Alonso Velázquez attacked them from the flank. Sioco, realizing tactical advantage was lost and likely fearing the intervention of more Spanish reinforcements, called for a retreat to Cavite, where they had accorded to reunite with Limahong.[10]

Sioco and his forces embarked on Limahong's fleet and planned a second attack after resting for two days. For his part, Lavezaris summoned all the nearby soldiers to Manila and built fortifications, rightly predicting a new assault. The situation in Manila was conflicted, as many still believed the pirates worked for the raja of Borneo, so Lavezaris arrested two local Muslim chieftains, Numanatay and Rajabago, suspecting they might be enemy insiders. The truth is unknown, although the two later were revealed to have been strangled in their cells.[19] Shortly after, Salcedo reached Manila with his reinforcements, so Lavezaris promoted him to the maestre de campo title vacated by Goiti, leaving Salcedo's command to Gaspar Ramírez, Velázquez's ensign.[20] Spanish forces by this point were 150-200 Iberian soldiers and 200 Ilocano warriors from Bauang, along with an unknown number of militiamen.[2]

Second attack

On the night of December 2, Limahong's fleet was spotted arriving in Manila. The first artillery exchanges happened at daybreak when the fleet anchored down and deployed 1,500 pirates commanded again by Sioco. Their launches were sent back to the ships so they would be properly motivated to fight without any possible retreat.[18] After setting fire to many coastal houses with incendiary grenades, including the San Agustín Church, Sioco ordered his troops to divide into three contingents, hoping to attract the Spaniards outside, where they could envelop them from three sides. However, Lavezaris predicted his strategy and forbade his soldiers to leave the walls, not even when the Chinese fleet moved to find better shooting positions, as the Spanish defensive positions allowed them greater safety to return fire and inflict damage. Finally, Sioco's hand was forced under fire, and he gave the order to assault the walls in a two-pronged attack, leaving his third company in the rearguard.[10]

Late Fort Santiago in Manila.

The citizens initially repulsed all attacks, but one of the Spanish commanders of alabarderos, Ensign Sancho Ortiz, was overwhelmed and shot down, resulting in his bulwark becoming open to the Chinese pirates. The pirates entered the city and engaged the forces of Salcedo and Francisco de León, Manila's mayor. At the same time, Spanish artillery overpowered the Chinese fleet and pushed it out of the harbor. The main battle happened in the streets, where pirates killed León, but shortly after, Sioco was taken down by a Spanish marksman. Unsupported and with their most prominent captains dead, the Chinese pirates were finally expelled from the walls.

While the battle raged, turbulence took place behind the Spanish lines. Assuming the Spaniards would be defeated, groups of natives capitalized on the battle to sack empty houses, and a mass of slaves broke out intending to escape. They stole launches and tried to flee through the Pasig River, but they did so with such haste that several boats were overturned and many slaves drowned; they were also attacked by other natives, who saw the chance to take revenge for previous servitudes and enmities. There were also riots in Tondo and Mindoro, where the locals sacked Christian churches and took hostages among the clergy members to offer to Limahong as tributes in case of his victory.[21]

Salcedo drove the pirates to the beach and inflicted many casualties. Still, they were forced to return to the walls when Limahong returned with several ships to deploy reinforcements of 400 soldiers. Limahong also called one of the three companies left by Sioco, gathering around 1000 men, but he judged it useless to try any more assaults and called out the attack. His men were sent to sack the nearby places while Limahong set two stranded ships on fire, hoping to deviate Salcedo's attention, but the Spanish captain saw through the ruse and fell over the sackers. Ultimately, Limahong summoned all his soldiers to his ships and abandoned the shore altogether under fire from Manila.[10]

Last movements

Don Galo-Limahong Monument - November 30, 1574 - in Barangay Don Galo, Parañaque

Limahong headed to Parañaque, which he pillaged, while Salcedo rebuilt Manila and prepared for a possible third attack. Confusion occurred when many torches were spotted at the beach by night, but they turned to be just locals of Luzón looting the pirates' corpses. Afterward, the city was informed that Limahong's fleet had retreated northwardly. After the battle, one of the local militiamen, Galo, was rewarded with the Spanish title of don due to his bravery and leadership.[22]

While Lavezaris called in forces from Panay, Camarines, and Cebu to gather a chase fleet, Salcedo was sent to solve the riots in Tondo and Mindoro. He convinced chieftain Lakandula to surrender and free the hostages, who had been tortured with fire.[21]

Chase to Pangasinan

The remnants of Limahong's fleet were later discovered on an island of the Agno river in Pangasinan, where Francisco de Saavedra had traveled to warn the Ilocans against the pirate. Limahong had installed his settlement there, spreading propaganda about a supposed victory over the Spaniards and falsely promising a rule without tributes, hoping to cause a revolt against the Spanish. Saavedra was betrayed by the natives, who sold him to Limahong, but he realized in time and managed to escape and return to Manila with the news. Three months after, in March 1575, Lavezaris launched the anticipated expedition to punish Limahong, reuniting 60 ships crewed by 250 soldiers, 400 sailors, and 1,700 indigenous warriors, including some locals unhappy with the warlord.

Agno river.

Having found out that Limahong had 2000 fighters, Salcedo blocked the river with chained ships and fortified the shores. After the first contact, he sent his captains Lorenzo Chacón, Pedro de Chaves, and Gabriel de Rivera, along with many warriors, to disable the Chinese ships, capturing some and burning the rest in order to leave the Chinese pirates without a way to escape. Their group found a way into the settlement and battled Limahong's forces in its outer wall, being impeded from advancing further only because they became distracted, sacking the riches and capturing women they found. Nonetheless, they closed the battle, mounting a tight siege on the compound.

The siege went on for four months, hoping to surrender Limahong by hunger. Chinese commander Pesung Aumon arrived unexpectedly to help with negotiations, offering Limahong either becoming a privateer for emperor Wanli or being annihilated by the Chinese fleet. Still, Limahong refused, as he had a plan to escape. After sacrificing his wounded men, the warlord broke out artfully from the siege, moving improvised boats through a channel he excavated secretly, and disappeared into the sea. A last contact happened in Cape Bojeador in Luzon, where Limahong was surprised by a storm before escaping.[10]


The termination of the conflict brought the first political relationships between Spain and China. Aumon asked Lavezaris to be able to pay for the Chinese captives, as among them there were kidnapped noblewomen. The Spanish governor instead gave them away for free, accepting only to send a Spanish embassy to the emperor as a condition.[2] The expedition was directed by churchmen Martín de Rada and Jerónimo Martín and assisted by Chinese merchant Sinsay, a long-time friend of the Spaniards, and carried orders to get commercial relationships. However, although several other embassies were sent, diplomacy became cold due to the mismanagement of the new governor Francisco de Sande.[10][21] For his part, Limahong would be defeated in Palau by the Chinese navy, commanded by viceroy Wang Wanggao of Fujian, and escaped in a single ship, offering his services in Siam and India before disappearing from the historical record.

In popular culture

The battle is mentioned in Walter Robb's essay Walls Of Manila.[23]


  1. ^ a b Schurz, Manila Galleon, 22; Carlos Quirino, "Mexican Connection," 933–934.
  2. ^ a b c d e Marciano R. De Borja, Basques in the Philippines, University of Nevada Press, 2012, ISBN 9780874178913
  3. ^ a b c Charles A. Truxillo (2012). Crusaders in the Far East: The Moro Wars in the Philippines in the Context of the Ibero-Islamic World War. Jain Publishing Company. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-89581-864-5.
  4. ^ Marciano R. De Borja (2005). Basques in the Philippines. University of Nevada Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-87417-590-5.
  5. ^ Bourne, Edward Gaylord (16 June 2004). Blair, Emma Helen; Robertson, James Alexander (eds.). "The Philippine Islands, 1493-1803 — Volume 04 of 55". Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  6. ^ Lee Khoon Choy (26 March 2013). Golden Dragon And Purple Phoenix: The Chinese And Their Multi-ethnic Descendants In Southeast Asia. World Scientific. p. 62. ISBN 978-981-4518-49-9.
  7. ^ Dennis O. Flynn, Arturo Giráldez, European Entry into the Pacific: Spain and the Acapulco-Manila Galleons, 2017, Routledge, 9781351938624
  8. ^ a b c Graham Gerard Ong-Webb, Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Securing the Malacca Straits, 2006, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 9789812304179
  9. ^ a b Fei Hua Li Shih Hsüeh Pao, Volúmenes 8-12, 1978, Philippine Chinese Historical Association
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gaspar de Agustín, Conquistas de las islas Filipinas (1565-1615), 1698
  11. ^ Charles A. Truxillo, Crusaders in the Far East: The Moro Wars in the Philippines in the Context of the Ibero-Islamic World War, 2012, Jain Publishing Company
  12. ^ a b César V. Callanta, The Limahong Invasion, 1979, Pangasinan Review Press
  13. ^ Yosaburō Takekoshi, The Story of the Wako: Japanese Pioneers in the Southern Regions, 1950, Kenkyusha
  14. ^ Birgit Tremml-Werner, Spain, China, and Japan in Manila, 1571-1644: local comparisons and global connections, 2015, Amsterdam University Press
  15. ^ Charles Ralph Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650, 1967, University of California Press,
  16. ^ a b Juan Caro y Mora, Ataque de Li-ma-hong á Manila en 1574; reseña histórica de aquella memorable jornada
  17. ^ Miguel de Loarca, Relación de las Islas Filipinas
  18. ^ a b “La relación del suceso de la venida del tirano chino del gobernador Guido de Lavezares: Épica española en Asia en el siglo XVI:”
  19. ^ J.A. Ramos, Articulos Varios de Isabelo de Los Reyes y Florentino Sobre Etnografia, Historia y Costumbres Del Fais
  20. ^ Govantes, páfina 59. La jornada del 30 que había salvado la ciudad dando tiempo á que llegase Salcedo y á prevenirse contra el ataque sufrido el 1.° de Diciembre, fué el origen de la fiesta cívico-religiosa llamada de San Andrés, que el Ayuntamiento celebra todos los años.
  21. ^ a b c Memorial del Cabildo de Manila, 1576
  22. ^ District I - Barangay Don Galo
  23. ^ Robb, Walter (1939). Filipinos. Manila: Carmelo & Bauermann. pp. 210–215.

14°35′N 120°58′E / 14.583°N 120.967°E / 14.583; 120.967