Bullfighting in The Philippine Islands

¡Qué corridas de toros en Filipinas! Tarde de toros en Manila

Publicado Por: C. CARLISTA FELIPE II DE MANILA diciembre 4, 2021

Many will wonder if there was once a bullfight in the Philippine Islands during the time of the golden years of Filipinas under the Kingdom of Spain. For our Filipino readers, who don’t have an idea what bullfighting is about, bullfighting is a physical contest and entertainment between the bullfighter and the bull. It is performed in the circle ring, where the bullfighter will attempt to paralyze or kill the bull according to their rules. The bullfighting is still in practiced today in the kingdoms of Spain and also in Portugal, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela etc. But what we will pursue to discover now is that the bullfighting was held in Filipinas, mainly in Manila, and other provinces of the archipelago.

Let us note first, that the bull is not native to the Philippines, during the old days these bulls that are used here are imported from China, Mexico and to some other parts of Hispanic kingdoms in America. The first and oldest bullfight in Filipinas was performed on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the year 1619 during the time of Gobernador-General D. Alonso Fajardo y de Tenza, a murcian knight, −this was according to a very rare print recorded in Sevilla−. It was followed on the 4th of February 1630; a bullfight was held to celebrate the new martyrs of Japan: San Pedro Bautista (a well-known missionary friar in Philippines) and his companions; another was on 11th & 12th of December 1708 when the successful happy birth of Prince Fernando José. Several arenas were built for the bullfights but they were destroyed for different reasons. After the successful victory of the Spaniards and Filipinos against the moors in Jolo, Governador Urbiztondo permitted an arena to be built in Plaza de Arroceros located in Ermita. In Plaza de Paco near the walled city of Old Manila, they built in 1885 a Circo Taurino, a bull circle or ring. They were also established in Batangas with the help of the madrileños and andalusians that were living there. Also, it was reached in Iloilo, they called it in the modern time as «Pasungay»−it means horn of the bull− and it was held every third Saturday of January during their town feast until last 2019, after that, it was prohibited by the local government because of the so called «Animal cruelty». But the modern bullfights in Iloilo are different from the past, it is now a fight between the two bulls against each other.

The last bullfights took place in the Sunken Garden in 1953, 1954, 1956 and in 1957. It was performed by the Portuguese rejoneador (Horsemen-bullfighter) José Rosa Rodríguez, the Spanish Matador Manuel Navarro, the Mexican José Luis Vázquez, the north american bullfighter Bette Ford and the Portuguese Manuel Dos Santos.

What a great tradition and heritage that Mother Spain gave to us that served as entertainment to thousands of Filipinos with the blessing of the Church through the centuries!

Lawrence Cawas, Círculo Carlista Felipe II de Manila