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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Tamblot: The Shaman Who Fought Spain


What ensues when a clash arises between colonial subjugation and primitive belief? The history of Bohol province offers us a glimpse into it. Often referred to as a “religious revolt,” the Tamblot uprising of 1621 is marked as one of the two prominent and momentous revolts which transpired in the island province of Bohol throughout the Spanish colonial regime’s era in the Philippines after Ferdinand Magellan’s arrival exactly a century before.

Tamblot, Philippine Heroes
Image: Bayani Art
 The other one, of course, was Francisco Dagohoy’s rebellion in 1744. To begin with, let us discover what Tamblot means. According to Blair & Roberston, “Tamblot was a "tumanan" or a hermit. He was a "biki" or high priest of the local organized religion in Bohol dedicated to the god Ay Sono. The other priests or biriki were Kator Kukon of Tagobas, Antequera; Hibor Tasing of Ilihanan, Cortes; Bula-od of Batuan, Bohol; Tam-isan of Loon, Bohol; Tagbakan of Tubigon, Bohol; and Pagali of Carigara, Leyte. Tamblot was a "sab-o" or seer who could know the future. He received a bugna or revelation from god. The Boholanos, even before the coming of the Spaniards, already believed in the first man, the flood, paradise, and the punishment after death.”


The first seeds of the revolt were first sown after the arrival in 1596 of two Jesuit priests – Father Juan de Torres and Gabriel Sanchez – arrived in the town of Baclayon. According to oral narratives, it was Doña Catalina de Bolaños – the mother of the encomendero (holder of an encomendia) in Bohol – who invited the two priests over. With their arrival in the town, so did the contagion of Catholic faith start to arise.

Unfortunately, for the conquerors, peace was never their companion in their settlement in Bohol. A few years following Torres and Sanchez’s arrival in the province, some 300 Maguindanao Moro led by Datu Sali and Datu Sirongan assaulted and permeated through Baclayon, forcing the colonial settlers to evacuate to the town of Loboc, a town “with a safe distance from the coast.” In this town, the colonizers had founded Seminario Colegio de Indios, a school for the children of the local ruling classes.

Tamblot, Philippine Heroes
Image: The Aswang Project
Things reached another height when the question of religion began to seep in deeper into the Boholanos’ consciousness. Alongside the gradual conversion of the townspeople to Christianity, Tamblot sent out a challenge to the Spaniards: whose God is more powerful? The challenge revolved around production of rice and wine from bamboo stalks. In the end, Tamblot’s prayer to Ay Sono emerged to be more powerful over the Spanish priest’s Latin prayer to his God. This conflict gave birth to the Spaniards’ baseless conclusion that the Tamblot’s victory in the challenge was “trickery” and “the demon’s work.”


By 1621, the conflagrations of the religious war had engulfed Bohol. Tamblot, the babaylan (native priest), convinced his people to reject Spanish oppression and advocated a return to the faith of their forebears. In response, 2,000 Boholanos acceded to the babaylan’s call and kick-started the uprising against Spanish colonialists. The battle had ended on New Year’s Day in 1622, when the colonial regime had crushed Tamblot and his forces.

Province of Bohol
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Today, the Bohol province’s official blag carries two bolos – one of them, in honor of the gallantry fought in the religious war against colonialism led by Tamblot, the babaylan, reminding our people that – as the province’s official declaration for the flag and seal wrote – “a true Boholano will rise and fight if supervening factors embroil them into something beyond reason or tolerance.”

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Written by Karl Patrick Wilfred M. Suyat, IFY Books

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