First Battle of the Pasig River

Ang Unang Laban ng Elogong Pasig
La Primera Batalla del Rio Pasig

معركة الأول لنهر باسيج





Pasig River, area of modern-day Makati City


Hispanized Tagalog victory, Principalia victory, conversion of Tagalog Muslims to Roman Catholicism


Tagalog Muslims

Un-Hispanized Tagalog Christians

Hispanized Tagalogs


other Principalia members


Lakan Malakas

Kuya Suleyman

Lakan Tangkad

Magat Abba

Fernando de Tondo

Carlos Apolaqui

Juan Puyat

José Manansala

Enrique Abdula

Apolaki Mendoza


1,331,321 tribal warriors

4,112,121 soldiers, 900,211 former colonial soldiers

Casualties and Losses

821,211 dead (estimate)

2,313,213 dead (estimate)

The First Battle of the Pasig River (Tagalog: Unang Laban ng Elogong Pasig, Spanish: La Primera Batalla del Rio Pasig, Arabic: معركة الأول لنهر باسيج) was fought around the banks of the Pasig River north of Manila during the Philippine Tribal Civil War. The war was fought between the Muslim Tagalog tribes and the Hispanized Catholic Tagalog and Kapampangan tribes led by Principalia members as a result of Philippine independence from Spain. Despite losing the battle, the Muslim Tagalogs were able to hold of the Principalia armies for weeks until Lakan Malakas, the leader and lakan of the Muslim Tagalogs retreated to the province of Pangasinan to receive aid, which eventually led to the Second Battle of the Pasig River which ended up with a Muslim Tagalog and Pangasinan victory. The battle began shortly after Sri Ahmed Bolkiah, Karim Bin Talib and Hua Jun freed the Philippines from the Spanish Empire.

Principalia Reaction to Philippine Independence

The members of the elite Principalia fought against the independence movement against Spain. The Principalia generally had mixed and conflicting views on the Philippine independence. The Kapampangans, once of the most Hispanized and pro-Spanish tribes in the Philippines fought for Spanish re-colonization of the Philippines. Fernando Lakandula de Tondo, a descendant of Lakan Dula, the ruler of the Kingdom of Tondo, spearheaded with Hua Jun's invading Chinese armies. Fernando de Tondo's brother, Cristóbal Lakandula supported the Philippine independence. The two never got along, and often fought over who would become the heir to Tondo's throne. Fernando Lakandula was very loyal to Spain and the Roman Catholic Church and did as he was told, therefore most of the inheritance went to him. Little was ever told about their ancestor, Lakan Dula who ruled what was once the Kingdom of Tondo, now the Spanish Provincia de Tondo. Cristóbal spent his time trying to find what was the Philippines before contact with Spain. Fernando would often tell the elders which resulted in his beatings in a church. The Principalia members were very angered by the Philippine independence. A portion of Tagalogs had been reverted to Islam and re-established small settlements in the Pasig River and Manila Bay area which angered the Principalia members even more. Cristóbal Lakandula observed the Islamic religion and became fascinated by it. He especially observed the Arabic script.

Principalia Wages War against Muslim Tribes

The Principalia governors, including that of the Lakandula family blamed the Muslim tribes for kicking out Spain. Apolaki Mendoza, a Catholic priest who was a descendant of a prominent datu, criticized the Muslim Tagalogs and those who fought for independence of "disobeying masters". The Kapampangans eventually declared war against the Muslim tribes of the Pasig River area and began to attack the settlements. Fernando Lakandula joined in the movement against the Muslims. He led Catholic Tagalog armies and both worked to baptize and revert Muslims to Roman Catholicism. 

Cristóbal Lakandula Converts to Islam and Joins Tagalog Muslims

Fernando Lakandula chose Cristóbal Lakandula to help him fight the Muslim Tagalogs during the Principalia invasion of the Pasig River and Quiapo settlements. Fernando Lakandula worked to subdue the Muslim chiefs, and gave Cristóbal the job of baptizing and converting Muslims back to Roman Catholicism. Cristóbal eventually became too sickened when he saw Muslim women being captured, along with burning mosques with the erection of crosses. In what is now Makati City, he met Magat Abba, a prolific Muslim fighter and imam. Here is where Cristóbal Lakandula converted to Islam and changed his name to Jamal Abdul Lakandula. News then got to him that Lakan Tangkad was killed in battle. During the Principalia invasions, he defended families from Kapampangan and Hispanized Tagalogs. He taught them defensive techniques inside their homes and tricked Fernando Lakandula into giving him guns and arms, giving Fernando the impression that he was converting people and recruiting them to the Principalia.

Cristóbal/Jamal Lakandula Becomes Ruler of Pasig

Following the death of Lakan Tangkad, Jamal Lakandula then promised the Muslim Tagalogs a victory and soon rose to prominence. His first move was to harass Hispanized Tagalogs in the city. Eventually he became the Lakan of the Pasig River settlements. Upon converting Muslims to Roman Catholicism, he sent bands of armies to kill Hispanized Tagalog soldiers. He was often referred to as Lakan Malakas ("strong king" in Tagalog) and renamed himself that.

Jamal Lakandula/Lakan Malakas Declares War on Principalia

Lakan Malakas then officially announced himself as the former Cristóbal Lakandula and declared war against the Kapampangan and Hispanized Tagalogs. In the Pasig River area, Lakan Malakas also introduced a Catholic priest by the name of Fernando Mendoza, the brother priest of Apolaki Mendoza to Islam. Fernando Mendoza also converted to Islam and changed his name to Kuya Suleyman, in honor of Rajah Suleyman. Fernando Lakandula was enraged by this and called Lakan Malakas's decision a "complete betrayal" and "act of evil and Satan". Lakan Malakas initially declared war on the Hispanized tribes of the Principalia. He said, "My war is not against Christians, but those who love the tyranny known as Spain." 

War Breaks Out

The war was on between the same ethnic group, of different religions. A Kapampangan governor by the name of José Manansala tried to launch an invasion against a Muslim settlement in the northern Pasig River. About 10,211 Hispanized Tagalogs tried to subdue an army of only 1,221 Tagalog Muslims, who all fought to the death. The Hispanized Tagalogs surrounded the barangay of an unknown name, to try to exhaust the Tagalog Muslim army. The fighting lasted for a week which involved several retreats by the large Kapampangan army until José Manansala finally fled. During the second attempt, both forces reinforced themselves. José Manansala arrived back with a Kapampangan named Juan Puyat, who was a former colonial general with a combined force of 102,121 Tagalogs and Kapampangans and surprise-attacked Kuya Suleyman's small force of 900 soldiers. The fighting lasted for four days, until Kuya Suleyman was on the brink of retreating. Lakan Malakas's army of 2,000 Muslims ambushed the large Principalia army from behind who retreated to Manila Bay. In what is now San Juan, Fernando Lakandula attacked another Muslim settlement who was governed by Rajah Magat Abba, the man who was responsible for Lakan Malakas's conversion to Islam. Magat Abba's unprepared army of 2,131 was ambushed by the Kapampangan army of 30,312. Using marksmanship and archery skills, the Kapampangan army retreated again. Carlos Apolaqui, another Kapampangan leader and former colonial commander, teamed with Apolaki Mendoza to build a force of 503,311 Hispanized Tagalogs and 422,121 Kapampangans. Lakan Malakas waited on the other side with only a force of 231,121 Muslims and non-Hispanized Christians. Both tried to surprise-attack each other. The two Kapampangans attempted to surprise-attack the Tagalog Muslims by crossing the Pasig River from the north and attacking the southern settlements. Lakan Malakas's army waited at the banks and fired cannons at the naval force, which didn't retreat. By the time Mendoza and Apolaqui's army arrived at the shore, they small army of 2,131 warriors attacked the 853,121 enemies. Again, they were surrounded. The fighting lasted for one month, where each soldier fought to the death leaving only 102 Tagalog Muslims alive. This defeat shocked the Principalia and Hispanized population in Luzon. Fernando de Tondo eventually took upon himself to lead an army of 1,000,002 Hispanized Filipinos. He, along with the other Principalia generals, including Juan Puyat and José Manansala. Eventually, they found a way to sneak behind Lakan Malakas and Kuya Suleyman's army of 50,000. The armies met in what is now southeastern Manila. The two armies literally met and Fernando de Tondo forced Lakan Malakas to surrender in order to survive. Lakan Malakas said he'd rather die a martyr, and ordered his army to attack. Despite fighting to the death and giving the Principalia forces a huge blow, Lakan Malakas was eventually defeated. He and Kuya Suleyman fled to Pangasinan to receive aid.

Principalia Occupies Pasig River

Lakan Malakas's failure to put an end to the Principalia put the Muslim settlements under more doom of constant invasions by Hispanized Tagalogs and Kapampangans. The Principalia came to occupy the Pasig River and Quiapo settlements. Fernando de Tondo re-introduced Roman Catholicism into the area. Many Tagalog Muslims eventually did convert to Roman Catholicism simply for safety. However, violent opposition ensued. Muslim chiefs were either forced to convert to Roman Catholicism or be killed and replaced with Principalia governors. 


The battle remained a legacy for both Tagalog Muslims and the Catholicized Tagalogs. For Tagalog Muslims, the length and amount of Hispanized Filipinos it took to defeat Lakan Malakas initially proved the Tagalog Muslims to be an unstoppable group of fighters. For the Catholics, it symbolized victory over Muslims. Lakan Malakas remained a fighting symbol for the Muslims living in Quiapo and the Pasig River. 

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