Conquest and colonization of the archipelago was not an easy task, thus the construction of forts in the Philippines. For the ruling Spaniards, these protected their new found settlements. 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
- mountain tribes in Cagayan have to be fought off or prevented from attacking the established settlements and towns
- Muslim slave raiding in the middle of the 18th to the middle of the 19th centuries. The rise to power of the Sulu Sultanate necessitated the need for human capital in its trade with the British.
- the British, Dutch, Chinese and local pirate attacks were constant threats
Forts in the Philippines
Spanish interests and the gains made in Christianizing the inhabitants have to be protected. Thus, a series of forts, fortified churches and a string of watchtowers were erected across the country. Forts like the major ones in Intramuros, Cebu, Iloilo, Misamis de Cagayan (Cagayan de Oro now) and in several cities. Watchtowers dotted the coastal landscape from Luzon to Mindanao. Fortified churches like the ones in Cuyo, Culion, Agutaya and Capul ensured were refuges in times of raids.
Of these structures, only those made of stone and mortar survive today. Unfortunately, many have been demolished to give way to modern constructions. Several are crumbling, like the one from Oslob in Cebu (pictured above). Others are rotting as these are overgrown with vegetation and further weakened. Subject to the elements, those found at the coasts are at the mercy of the advancing sea. In the case of a fort in Zambales, eventually covered with lahar.
There is a need to preserve what remains of these fortifications as these are a part of our rich colonial past.