Fortress of Empire – Rene Javellana, SJ

Book cover of Fortress of Empire by Rene Javellana, SJ

Book cover of Fortress of Empire by Rene Javellana, SJ

Rene Javellana, SJ’s Fortres of Empire book is perhaps the best reference, so far, to introduce the reader to the fortifications in the country. These are oft forgotten aspect of Philippine heritage and the dark history that it represents. It is not too large and is full of beautful colored pictures of structures, details as well as places. Archival images as well as artist’s rendering and isometric drawings of some forts and watchtowers are included.

From the “About the Book:”

Beginning in 1565, Spanish colonists built fortifications to protect themselves and their emerging settlements. Over the next three hundred years of colonial rule, a string of permanent fortifications was built throughout the Philippine archipelago, not bypassing even tiny and remote islands. This defense net was built to contain perceived enemies of Spanish hegemony.

While focusing on the architecture of fortifications and documenting the architectural initiaive of the military and of local communities, Fortress of Empire: Spanih Colonial Foritifications in the Philippines, 1565-1898 situates this initiative in the social and historical forces that constrained people to make the Philippines a fortified archipelago.

The book surveys briefly ancient and indigenous fortifications giving a brief background of the intricate society and warfare as well as development with the arrival of the European colonialists. From the ijang of the Batans, the muog of the Tagalogs, the ilihan of the Visayans and the kuta of the Muslims to the fuerzas and baluartes of the Spanish colonial period.

Sample page showing Punta Cruz in Maribojoc, Bohol

Sample page showing Punta Cruz in Maribojoc, Bohol

Perhaps, if not for the British’s insatiable need (or greed?) for Chinese tea, the current societal landscape of the country would have been different. Because of this development, a hundred years, from the middle of the 18th – the 19th centuries, of Muslim slave raiding has affected the country far more greater than in the previous centuries and greatly affected it when compared to the rest of maritime Southeast Asia.

And this is where the book is devoted to: the defensive, and later, offensive response of the then Spanish colony to these incursions and deparadations.

The author provides a map of locations, both existing and no longer existing structures that were built across the country from fortress churches, fort to watchtowers. It’s a good start, however, as its not exhaustive as I expected it to be.

Page showing map where fortifications, fortified churches as well as watchtowers have been recorded

Page showing map where fortifications, fortified churches as well as watchtowers have been recorded

During my travels and research, there were some that were left out like the ones found in Doong Island off Bantayan Island, the ruins of the Luyang fortress in Carmen and some others in Carcar, Alegria, Boljoon and Malabuyoc. But I see the list as a starting point for additional research.

What I do like about this tome is how several structures from fuerzas to baluartes are illustrated. One important feature are the various isometric drawing that shows the reader how these looked like before. The Bibliography and end notes also provides very important references for additional readings.

Sample page showing the watchtower in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur. Note the artist's rendition of the structure

Sample page showing the watchtower in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur. Note the artist's rendition of the structure

Just like the Great Churches of the Philippines, another beautiful introductory book on Philippine churches, this is published by Bookmark in 1997. Images were done by Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. Book design and maps by Felix Mago Miguel while isometric drawings were done by Evelyn Esguerra.

This 214 page book is still avaialble in major bookstores in the county and is priced at just P800-P900 ($17-$19 at $1=P48). I got my copy at half the cover price during an international book fair in Manila around three years ago.

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4 Comments

  1. Where can we get the book” Fortress of Empire”? Is it available at the local bookstores?

  2. Pingback: The Defenses of Currimao – theberntraveler

  3. Pingback: Baluarte de San Diego, Manila's oldest fort - Simbahan

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