Fortresses and watchtowers, a neglected chapter of history

fortress.jpg A more detailed three part post on the Muslim slave raids in the 18th – 19th centuries can be found starting with the post entitled Tea, Trade and Tears: the Muslim Slave Raids of the 18th – 19th Centuries.

Conquest and colonization of the archipelago was not an easy task for the ruling Spaniards as they have made not a few enemies who were intent of sabotaging their efforts. Not only are the enemies limited within the country but outside powers like other European colonizers were lusting to expand as well. To cite a few:

  • hostile tribes who refused Spanish rule like the Caraga of Surigao and some mountain tribes in Cagayan have to be fought off or prevented from attacking the established settlements and towns
  • with the rise to power of the Sulu Sultanate aided in part by the British and the flourishing of Batavia (Jakarta in Indonesia) as center of trade, and thus the need for more human capital led to the Muslim slave raids during the onset of the habagat (southwest monsoon) in the 17th and 18th centuries and thus affecting greatly the development of many coastal towns in Luzon and the Visayas and some parts of Mindanao
  • the British, Dutch, Chinese and local pirate attacks (the latter was more of taking advantage of the fear brought out by the Muslim slave raids) were constant threats

Spanish interests and the gains made in Christianizing the inhabitants have to be protected and thus, a series of forts, fortified churches and convents and a string of watchtowers were erected across the country.

Of these structures, only those made of stone and mortar mostly survive today. Unfortunately, except for some major forts and a few watchtowers which are still in good condition, many have been demolished to give way to modern constructs. Several are crumbling, like the one from Daanlungsod in Oslob (pictured above) and rotting as these are overgrown with vegetation and further weakened. The Linapacan fort in Northern Palawan is an example. Subject to the elements, those found at the coasts are at the mercy of the advancing sea or in the case of a fort in Zambales, eventually covered with lahar. A few still are titled together with the land to foreigners and resort owners who convert it into rooms for paying clients.

There is a need to preserve what remains of these fortifications as these are a part of our rich colonial past.


  1. When we went to Oslob last week bai, on our way back to Boljoon, I was able to count around three watchtowers. One was already made a part of a residence, while another one was still intact.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen them already but they’re just along the coast.

    Anyway, where is Daang Lungsod located? Is it near Nueva Caceres? If so, then that photo of yours above may have been one of those that I saw..

  2. bai, Bermejo’s watchtowers stretches from Carcar all the way to Santander. I’ve taken photos of them all except those in Carcar which I can’t seem to find.

    As for Daanglungsod, its located farther south of the main poblacion of Oslob bai.

  3. How many watchtowers are still there bai? I hope that almost everything of it is still there, hehe.. I’ve read somewhere that there are more or less 3 dozen (of the original ones built by Bermejo) from Santander to Carcar..

    Might go back to Oslob this semestral break (October).

  4. I do remember the watchtower sa sitio Bantayan, Brgy Tuyom, Carcar when I was growing up since my grandfather’s lands were near it. I will look for it when I go back next week and see who owns the site.

  5. Pingback: Fortress of Empire – Rene Javellana, SJ | Simbahan

  6. Pingback: Is this a watchtower or small fort in Pitogo, Quezon? - Simbahan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *