By Dr. Jaime C. Laya
… in the battles of 1891 and 1895 (Maranao vs. Spain) have been largely forgotten. To lowland Filipinos, Datu Akadir Akobar (also known as Amai Pakpak meaning “father of Pakpak”) is little more than a casual mention in Marawi news stories—Camp Bagong Amai Pakpak, Amai Pakpak Medical Center, Amai Pakpak Avenue—and a bust in Manila’s Rizal Park. The datu deserves more.
Marawi was originally named Dansalan, founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Atienza on the shores of Lake Lanao in 1639. The Maranao promptly laid siege and Atienza withdrew to Iligan. Not till August 1891 did the Spanish return: Governor-General Valeriano Weyler headed an expedition.
Weyler arrived while a feast was in progress. Forewarned, Datu Akadir had strengthened two defensive cotta (fort), equipping them with lantaka (cannon) and surrounding them with ditches and deep pits camouflaged to conceal sharpened stakes that would skewer anyone who stumbled in. The defenders, however, were outnumbered and outgunned. The battle ended with hundreds killed on both sides. The two cotta fell although Datu Akadir was able to escape.
Fearing the rumored approach of several hundred vinta bearing thousands of warriors, Weyler retreated. The Maranao regrouped, rebuilt Fort Marawi, and retaliated with raids on Spanish towns on Northern Mindanao’s coast. This provoked Weyler’s successor Governor-General Ramon Blanco to dispatch a large expedition including gunboats bought in Hong Kong, disassembled and brought up to the Lake to demolish Maranao cotta and settlements.
On March 17, 1895 therefore some 5,000 soldiers commanded by Gen. Gonzales Parrado approached the fort, announced by a marching band and bugles. Stymied by continuous lantaka fire and the staked pits, Gen. Parrado set up artillery on a nearby hill and began a barrage that quickly broke the fort’s eastern wall.
The Spanish forces charged and captured the fort, overcoming spears hurled and boiling water poured by defenders from above. Hundreds perished, including 23 datu. Survivors escaped but Datu Akadir and his son Anggay remained, hiding in a secret chamber (digo-digo). At midnight they emerged to make a final, suicidal charge. The datu’s body was never identified, his identity concealed by his fellow Maranao out of pity and respect.
In Stories Rarely Told (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 2013), Augusto V. de Viana reprints Abdulla Timan Madale’s Sunday Manila Times article of June 2, 1958, “Datu Akadir and the Battles of Marawi.”
Madale concludes, “If you will go to Marawi, you will see an elevated ground beside the road going to the Provincial Capitol. It was unmarked except for a rotting tree which once stood near the fort and a deep canal where muddy water passed on its way to the Agus River. In the hearts of the Maranaos, this spot evoked memories of a crimson flag of the defenders of Marawi. They believed that Akadir Akobar and his men did not die in vain thought they remained unheralded in history books.”
Let us hope that the bravery of the fighters in the recent Philippine Armed Forces vs. Maute Battle is long remembered.
Notes: (a) Pakpak was the name of a daughter of Datu Akadir Akobar; (b) It was Governor-General Valeriano Weyler who authorized the “Women of Malolos” to organize a school over the objections of the parish priest; (c) Unrest was building up under Governor General Ramon Blanco. The Katipunan was founded in 1892 and grew in strength notwithstanding Blanco’s conciliatory stance toward Filipino (indio) grievances. The Katipunan was discovered in 1896, near the end of Blanco’s term. He authorized Jose Rizal to render medical service in Cuba and was against the hero’s execution, but the religious orders were evidently more powerful.
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