1582 Cagayan battles

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1582 Cagayan battles
Result Spanish victory
Spain Captaincy General of the Philippines Wokou
Commanders and leaders
Spain Juan Pablo de Carrión Tay Fusa
40 soldiers
1 galley
5 small support ships
1 light vessel
1 junk
18 sampans
1000 rōnin
Casualties and losses
10-20 killed Several hundreds

The 1582 Cagayan battles were a series of clashes between the Spanish Empire colonizers of the Philippines led by Captain Juan Pablo de Carrión, and Wokou (possibly Japanese pirates) headed by Tay Fusa. These battles, which took place in the vicinity of the Cagayan River, finally resulted in a Spanish victory.

This event is a recorded battle between European regular soldiers against samurai warriors.[citation needed] This unique event pitted musketeers, pikemen and Spanish rodeleros against mostly Japanese and Chinese pirates, mostly formed by rōnin, soldiers, fishermen and merchants (both legitimate and smugglers).[1] Spanish sources record the name of their leader as Tay Fusa, Tayfusu or Tayfuzu. This does not correspond to a Japanese name, but could refer to a medieval chieftain (大夫), called Dàfū in Chinese or Taifu in Japanese.[2] The pirates had 18 Sampans which are flat bottomed Chinese fishing wooden boat. The word "sampan" comes from the original Hokkien term for the boats, 三板 (sam pan), literally meaning "three planks"[3]


Japanese sampan-like river boat. Dating from before 1886 are relatively flat bottomed Chinese wooden boat.
Rōnin, or masterless Samurai

Around 1573, the Japanese began to exchange gold for silver on the Philippine island of Luzon, especially in the provinces of Cagayan, Metro Manila and Pangasinan, specifically the Lingayen area. In 1580 however, a ragtag group of pirates forced the natives of Cagayan into submission. These raiders were called Wokou.

In response to the piracy, the Governor-General Gonzalo Ronquillo commissioned Juan Pablo de Carrión, hidalgo and Navy captain of the Spanish navy.

The general governor of the Philippines wrote to the king Philip II on 16 June 1582.[4]

Los japoneses son la gente más belicosa que hay por acá. Traen artillería y mucha arcabucería y piquería. Usan armas defensivas para el cuerpo. Lo cual todo lo tienen por industria de portugeses, que se lo han mostrado para daño de sus ánimas.

The Japanese are the most belligerent people here. They bring artillery and many arquebusiers and pikemen. They wear body armor. All provided from the works of the Portuguese, whom they have shown to them for the detriment of their souls (sic) ...

Carrión took the initiative by utilizing the technological superiority of Western ships, and shelled a Wokou ship in the South China Sea, removing it from action. A retaliation came from the pirate leader Tay Fusa, who sailed toward the Philippine archipelago with 10 ships. To counter this, captain Carrión gathered forty soldiers and seven boats: five small support vessels, a light ship (San Yusepe) and a galley (La Capitana).[citation needed]

As they passed the Bogueador cape, the Spanish fleet encountered a Wokou Sampan. It had recently arrived at the coast and its sailors were abusing the native population. The Spanish Captain, although outnumbered by the Wokou, engaged in naval battle with the Sampan, eventually boarding it. The Spanish rodeleros then faced armored Japanese rōnin who were wielding katanas. The Wokou also had muskets, which had been provided by the Portuguese. The deck of the sampan became a battlefield, with Spanish pikemen at front, and arquebusiers as well as musketeers at the rear. Eventually the Spanish troops defeated the Wokou, thanks to the improvised parapet and the superior quality of Spanish armor and weaponry.[citation needed] The Spanish soldiers were also much more experienced with firearms than the pirates.[citation needed] The low accuracy of Japanese muskets was also reported to a Korean king[who?] during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) and in the early 1580s when wokou pirates had raided ships from Korea, China and Philippines.[5]

The flotilla continued down the Cagayán River, finding a fleet of eighteen sampans. The Spanish flotilla forced their way through using artillery, and disembarked onto the shore. They dug in, erecting the artillery unloaded from the galley in the trenches, and continually bombarded the pirates. The Wokou decided to negotiate a surrender and Carrión ordered them to leave Luzon. Pirates asked gold in compensation for the losses they would suffer if they left, which was outright denied by Carrión.[citation needed]

Afterwards the Wokou decided to attack by land with a force of soldiers six hundred strong.[citation needed] The Spanish trenches endured that first assault, then another. In response to Spanish pikes being seized by the Wokou soldiers, the Spanish oiled the shafts of their pikes in order to make them difficult to grasp. The thirty remaining Spanish were running low on gun powder after the third attack, which had almost breached the trenches. They left the trenches and attacked, routing the remaining Wokou.[citation needed] The Spanish plundered the Wokou's weapons that were left on the battlefield, which included katanas and armor, and kept them as trophies.[citation needed]

With the region pacified, and the arrival of reinforcements, Carrión founded the city of Nueva Segovia (now Lal-lo).

Pirate activity was sparse afterwards. The commercial activity was focused in Lingayen Bay, in Pangasinan, on the port of Agoo and consisted principally of deerskin trade.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Contemporary Maritime Piracy: International Law, Strategy, and Diplomacy at Sea By James Kraska [1]
  2. ^ Miura, Shumon (1976). Tōnan Ajia kara mita Nihon. Tokyo: Shōgakkan. p. 109.
  3. ^ Merriam Webster online dictionary
  4. ^ Borao, José Eugenio (2005), p.2
  5. ^ "The annual records of the Joseon Dynasty" (in Chinese). Retrieved 2013-08-29. 上曰: “與我國人何如? 或曰: ‘倭不能馬戰’ 云, 然耶?” 時言曰: “馬戰亦非極難之事。 倭賊初則不能, 終亦能之矣。” 上曰: “倭賊不能射, 而人莫敢敵, 何?” 時言曰: “我國人見賊, 則先潰以走爲能事。 將則雖不忠, 畏有軍律, 不敢先走。 軍之走者, 不可勝誅, 惟其不可勝誅, 是以走耳。 倭賊雖不能射, 兩矢之間, 忽焉到前, 我國之人雖曰善射, 遠則不中, 近則倭劍可畏。 發矢之後, 恐其短兵來接, 未得發矢, 射亦不足恃矣。 倭雖善用劍, 我國人若持劍而進, 則可以敵矣。 我國人則不能如此, 皆以走爲善策, 走且不及, 則爲賊所殺。 賊見我國之人, 或走或死, 樂爲之赴戰。 是以, 倭之氣增長; 我之氣沮喪矣。