Voyeur History, Part III: God Led Them to Gold



Following the conquest of, or surrender to, or acceptance of peace from the Spanish invaders (we could not really know) by the people of Cainta and Taytay, as documented in the book, Lucban (A Town the Franciscan Built), Juan de Salcedo began his expedition to the Paracale Mines.


If we are to believe the chronicles from Spanish sources, this expedition proved to be a daunting one, which only underscored the “heroism” (quotation marks mine) of “the brave young Juan de Salcedo.” He “departed with a force of eighty selected soldiers and some natives to be used as guides…arrived at the town of Mahayhay (note the spelling of the place before it became Hispanized into Majayjay) after three days of hard walking through rough roads and miry places, provoked by the rainy season.” Take note of the next sentence: “and through God’s mercy they were able to escape from the holes that the natives made in the road and filled with spikes.”


The “native” apparently did not accept the peace promised by the Spanish forces. Juan de Salcedo encountered a rugged terrain – “a great cliff in one side and in the other big hill with strong fort and the hill was so steep that the only way to get to get to the top was by creeping.” Interesting also is the other information taken from another source indicating how the “natives” were ready to fight these invaders: “Likewise, they had placed big trees on all the trails thus obstructing the pass. Near the town they had another fort on the road not as rough as the first one, but they dug big holes in it and filled them up with spikes.”


As a digression, when the Vietnamese gave the Americans one of their first solid defeat, we were in awe of how jungle warfare was used to such an advantage by the “natives.” But these accounts of the natives’ in our own land repulsing the advance of the Spanish colonizers never kept us in awe; for some reasons, our history books preferred that facile description of the natives embracing the new religion.


The chronicle, however, persists in narrating the adventure of Juan de Salcedo, the brave captain.


Outstanding in the tale is the fact of Salcedo making two attempts to find Paracale. The first one failed. What happened was, somewhere at a certain point of the trip, a “native” squealed. He told Salcedo that the guides were not telling him the right direction to Paracale. They were in fact lost in transit.


For those who know their geography, you may wonder why go through Mahayhay in order to get to Paracale. One has to look at the present map of Laguna, Quezon and Camarines to realize how the allure of gold fueled the zest for adventure of these conquerors as they waded through rivers, streams and forests to get to the other side, to get to the port of Mauban.


I did the exercise of trying to track the journey of this expedition. In the book on Lucban, one paragraph talks of the details of the travel. Salcedo found a “Moro” (to the Spanish conquerors, everyone was a follower of Mahomet) named “Moro Amindanao.” This man, a head of the village tried to escape first, explaining how he was trying “to escape from the Spaniards as he was told they were unruly, ferocious, and used to robbing and killing, but now realized that all this was not true, so he wanted to be their friend and was thankful to him.” This was the perspective of Salcedo.


This Moro, eventually, promised to give Salcedo paddles for the vessels but captain was to go to Alitas.


Again, in my attempt to retrace the path of this conquistadores, I did see a place called Alitas near Mauban. It is still far off Paracale but you could imagine how Salcedo pursued his search for the treasures of Paracale.


When Legaspi did not hear any words from Salcedo after a long period of time, he asked a group to track him and persuade him to abandon his quest for the Paracale Mines and return to Manila. The search team would find “Juan de Salcedo and his companions, so starved, they could hardly recognize them.”


Salcedo was not happy with the order from his grandfather (Miguel de Legazpi) to return to Manila. The book describes Salcedo as being “downcast for his plans were primarily to pacify those towns (these would be what would compose the Camarines) and discover the Rio de Vicol (Bicol River?)”.


It was said that Salcedo went on to have meetings with the natives, promising to be back “to restore peace and friendship among them and the Spaniards. After this talk, he set them free again (italics mine).


It is written also that Salcedo eventually saw the “Mines of Paracale.” He stayed for days in the area; on January of 1572, he journeyed back to Manila.