JUAN DE LA CRUZ (PALARIS)

(1733-1765)

Pangasinan Freedom Fighter

 

 

 

Juan de la Cruz, later to be known as Palaris, was the leader of the second revolt in Pangasinan during the Spanish times.He was born on January 8,1733 in Binalatongan, Pangasinan.

 

His father, Santiago de la Cruz, was a former cabeza de barangay. His mother was Catalina Ugnay. They were both natives of Binalatongan.

  Dela Cruz was extraordinarily big, thus earning the sobriquet, ”the giant’s son.” He was fond of playing with calves. Also usually fat and strong, he ran races with horses and grappled in a tug-of-war with the

carabaos.

 

As a boy, the town priest taught him the rudiments of reading and writing Spanish. Being intelligent, he could easily read many books.

 

He was 22-years-old when his parents died, leaving him alone to support his brothers and sisters. His grandfather adopted them. It was during this time that he witnessed an incident that rankled in him and make him lose his respect for the Spanish authorities. It was that of the priest slapping and kicking a native boy for not hiving kissed his hand. The insurrection in Pangasinan that he would lead also had its beginnings thereabouts. It coincided with the British invasion.

 

The insurrection started in Binalatongan. Residents of the town defied the tribute collectors on the ground that with the British occupation of Manila, the colonial government no longer existed. They demanded that partial payments made earlier in the year be returned. The rebels also asked that certain officials be deposed and that the native-born be allowed to hold office. They resented being forced to work without pay as laborers in the repair of roads and the construction of ships and buildings.

 

On November 3, 1762, De la Cruz, now known as “Palaris” or “Palaripar,” led Pangasinan revolt together with his brother Colet, Juan de Vera Oncatin, and two Hidalgo brothers. A certain Andres were appointed master-of-camp of the province.

 

The early confrontations between the British and the Spaniards were mostly diplomatic. During this time, Spain was at war with England, the former being an ally of France in the Seven years War. English troops had already occupied Manila. To add to the dismay of Spanish authorities, another revolt farther north of Luzon was being waged by Diego Silang, an Ilocano, and his wife, Gabriela.

 

At the start, Palaris, backed by his followers, simply intimidated the Spanish authorities to give in to his demands, but when they succeeded in seizing an abandoned armory in Lingayen, they turned combative. Now armed, the rebels would have been formidable force. Owing to their lack of military skills, however, they were as vulnerable as before to the onslaught of Spanish troops.

 

Obviously, the people of Pangasinan were deeply Christianized. Dominican priests’ residing in churches in the province played a decisive role in the suppression of Palaris’ revolt. They served as the bridge of communication between the rebels and the Spaniards. The people genuinely respect them. There were threatened with death by rebels, no one was inflicted any serious physical injury.

 

The priests were constantly in touch with Palaris. They implored him to cease the rebellion. Palaris told them that he was willing to do so, but not the people. Having tasted freedom and its fruit, Pangasinenses were not about to give these up. And they had reason not to. Between 1762 and 1763, the ruling class of most of the towns of the province was made up of Pangasinenses appointed or elected. The only Spaniards in positions of authority who remained were the priests.

 

However, on March 1, 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed, signaling the end of the Seven Year War. Spain was freed to concentrate on the military campaign in Pangasinan.

 

Spanish officials were slowly reintroduced into the region. At first, the people received them with jubilation; believing that real reforms would be forthcoming. But the new imposition of new taxes told them that would again be in place. Another revolt flared up.

 

In contrast to the first stage of the insurrection, this second phase was marked by much cruelty and ruthlessness on both sides. Eventually, the rebels were routed by the combined forces of Spanish and Ilocano troops. The surviving rebels retreated into the forest, but were hunted down and publicly hanged. Some of them were quartered. Their corpses displayed for all to see.

 

As Palaris, his own sister, Simeona, betrayed him to the gobernadorcillo on January 16, 1765. The theory behind this betrayal was that the Spanish authorities had threatened his family and relatives with harm if they tried to hide him.

 

During his trial, Palaris declared himself the author of the rebellion and asked the forgiveness from God, the king of Spain, and from all the priests in the province. He was hanged on February 26, 1765. Gradually, peace-and old order-returned to the province.

 

The town of Binalatongan was renamed San Carlos. It was rebuilt far from its original site (it was razed during a battle by Palaris, who had conducted a scorched-earth policy).

 

For Pangasinan, there would be no other freedom fighter after Palaris.

 

 

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