Monday, July 11, 2011

Enigmundia: Tactics used by the Spaniards to Convert the Heathens

Not Professor Susan Russell, but rather Marian Rivera as Amaya wearing an
example of indigenous armor worn before the Spanish Friars came a'calling.
I happened upon an interesting article / lecture by Professor Susan Russell here talking about the tactics used by the Spaniards to conquer -- er -- convert the godless Filipinos (who weren't Filipinos yet because the land hadn't been renamed the Philippines in honor of Philip yet) to Christianity.

For those of you with very little time on their hands, here are key points of her lecture (which is the second one on the page):
  1. A majority of the population of the "Philippines" at the time was organized into scattered communities with no central authority -- which made it easier for the Spaniards to do their work;
  2. The Muslim Sultanates, found mostly in the southern islands with some presence further north, never fell to Spanish rule;
  3. Before he met his end against Lapu-Lapu, Magellan successfully converted Rajah Humabon and 800 of his followers after Magellan's people were able to cure the Rajah's grandson of an illness;
  4. Legaspi conquered a Muslim Filipino settlement in Manila in 1570;
  5. Islam spread slowly through the Philippines and would likely have dominated the archipelago if not for Spanish intervention.
She also cited several key practices that help the Spaniards win converts:
  1. Mass baptisms -- given the friar to Filipino ratio, this was the only way to convert huge numbers quickly; it was aided by the fact that Filipino animist / syncretic beliefs of the various settlements also believed in the potency of holy water;
  2. Reduccion policies -- the practice of resettling the small hamlets and thorps into artificially created towns helped the Spanish enforce their will (which included paying taxes) on the populace... when the population stayed and didn't eventually wander away back to their original homes;
  3. Attitude of the clergy -- many of the early missionaries learned the many (more than 200) languages (not dialects, there are even more of those) of the Philippines at the time in order to preach to Good News;
  4. Attitude of the clergy 2 -- many of the clergy at the time also stood up against abuses and excesses of the Spanish military, winning the favor of the indigenous population;
  5. Adapting the faith to the local context -- where possible, the clergy sought to supplant existing beliefs; where there once was a minor god, the priests inserted a saint; where there once was an animist festival for the harvest, an appropriate religious celebration was held instead; and so on.
A lot of this will be useful in setting up the initial political climate in my Filipino-esque take on Karameikos. I'm actually quite happy to hear about the reduccion policies as it helps justify abandon hamlets and settlements. It also makes me think about those rumored settlements where the denizens were all aswangs and other creatures who preyed on other towns -- it must have been fun when the soldiers and priests rounded them up to join the common folk.

Have I mentioned that some of the animist beliefs echo stories of faeries and little people and strigoi and wereboars of other countries? I'm quite thankful for the work of GM Dariel on Hari Ragat because it means I won't have to bust my butt too much when it comes to the 'monsters'.


  1. Your campaign is sounding pretty cool. I like the ideas you are incorporating into it.

  2. I have to say I consider it a big plus for Amaya that they resisted the temptation to put Marian Rivera in some kind of brass bikini and call it armor :)

    There's a reason why Hari Ragat doesn't include the colonial element; I think Filipinos have to stop thinking that our history began with the arrival of the Spaniards.

    That said, let me know what I can do to help with your setting's development. The more Philippine-based settings written from our perspective, the better!

  3. @Padre - thanks for the kind words, I hope that the final product is worth the wait!

    @Dariel - your offer is much appreciated!


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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