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La Naval de Johannesburg

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The World Cup fever may have already subsided, but I just couldn’t ignore one glaring trivia related to last month’s Spain-Netherlands tussle.

Only a few people today know that last month’s 19th FIFA World Cup™ wasn’t the first time that Spain faced and defeated the hardy Dutch boys. In World History, the Netherlands used to be a part of the huge Spanish Empire under King Charles V. The subjugation continued up to the reign of the king’s son, King Philip II (yep, we got our country’s name from him). During the revolt against Spain, the Dutch also sent their naval force to battle the Spaniards in another Spanish colony: the Philippines.

There were five great battles which occurred right here on our turf, mostly in 1646:

16 March — Five Dutch fleet attacked Isla de Mariveles (near Isla de Corregidor). There were only two Spanish galleons at that time, but, through the intercession of the Holy Virgin Mary (thanks to the frightened crew’s recitation of the Holy Rosary, as written by chroniclers during the said event), they were able to ward off the Dutch invaders.
29 July — The Dutch returned with seven large vessels and almost a thousand men. The battle, fought in the waters between Romblón and Marinduque, was said to be one of the bloodiest naval battles during that time, lasting from seven in the evening up to four in the morning. Again, the Dutch lost the battle.
31 July — The escaping Dutch were pursued by both Spaniards and Filipinos, catching up with them in the waters of Mindoro. Much more damage were inflicted on the supposedly battle-ready Dutch.
15 September — In Manila, one more Dutch squadron remained. The Spanish galleons who figured in the preceding battles against the Dutch invaders had been reinforced a newly constructed galleon that was intended for México, but now prepared for war. The three galleons sailed from Cavite and saw their parley in Cabo de Calavite (Calavite Point). The Dutch were overwhelmed after a five-hour battle, forcing to escape the scene.
4 October — Coincidentally, the Dutch were defeated a final time during the month of the Holy Rosary. But the following year, the Dutch returned for a vengeance (particularly in the Spanish port of Cavite). They, however, faced the same humiliating defeat.

In all these naval victories, all the men –both Spaniards and Filipinos– fervently prayed for the intercession of the Virgin of the Most Holy Rosary. All these victorious naval battles against the Protestant Dutch were considered miraculous since most of the ships which defended the young nation were not intended for battle. They were galleons in the first place, ships intended for trade. That is why the once mighty city of Manila (Intramuros) used to celebrate an extravagant feast during October called the La Naval in thanksgiving for Mother Mary’s intercession. And up to now, the city of Ángeles in Pampanga still holds a feast in honor of its patroness, Nuestra Señora del Santíssimo Rosario de La Naval de Ángeles.

Some wise guys claim that these great battles should never be taught in the study of Philippine History because it was not part of Philippine History at all but of Spanish History in the Philippines. Really now. But they fail to recognize that these naval battles were indeed crucial to the study of Philippine History. The Philippines was still young, still fortifying itself into becoming the nation that we know today. Although we always say that there are no ifs in history, it is still interestingly scary to note that if the Dutch did defeat the gallant Spaniards and Filipinos, then the Philippines would have been a Protestant nation rather than Christian. Or worse, there would have been no Philippines (i.e., Luzón, Visayas, and Mindanáo) to speak of.

From naval battles to soccer, it seems that the Dutch are no match for the Spaniards. History does repeat itself sometimes, albeit in a different setting. =)

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