Copyright © 2006 by Antonio Enriquez
Jesuits Return to Fort Pilar: 1666---No Way!
Cornerstone of the fortaleza was placed on June 23, 1635, in New Samboangan (ancient name Naawan, and present day Zamboanga); it was called La Fuerza Real de San Jose; the garrison and the fort was commanded by Captain Juan de Chavez, who, two months earlier, came with 300 Spanish regulars and 1,000 Visayan auxiliary; though built in two‑three months time (details and facts vary from one historian to another), it was of stone and mortar (question is: where did they get so much stone?), and had no equal elsewhere in the region "to Samboangan's by either the Portuguese or Spaniards themselves."
It was abandoned in 1663 when Gov. Sabiniano de Lara, crouched in a musty corner in Intramuros, anticipating the Chinese corsair Cogseng’s threat to invade Manila, ordered all Spanish "able‑bodied men" to shield him from Cogseng, who had just overran Formosa. A great blunder it was, politically and militarily, for Cogseng never made it here, having given up the ghost before he could carry out his plan to assault Manila. He had either caught a virus, as was rumored, or had died of consumption.
When the Spanish forces, with the inevitable missionaries of course, at their heels, returned in 1719, 56 years or so later, was the time the fort of Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza was constructed, more massively, over the old foundations of Fort San Jose.
The forts’ builders: San Jose fort ‑‑‑ a Jesuit and architect‑geometrician, Melchor de Vera, planned and constructed the San Jose fort; what we have today, called Fort Pilar, was built by an Army engineer, Juan de Sicarra.
Here's the error on the marker of Fort Pilar, and the correction of Fr. Hilario Lim y Atilano, who, while he was around found great pleasure in pointing out to anyone, who could listen, as a way of explanation, the swapping of “S” to “X,” in the suffix "SJ"; he being an "ex" or former Jesuit, unfrocked.
I paraphrase what I can recall of his words:
The Jesuits didn't return in 1666; no way they could for the decree for the fort's restoration came in 1668, and was implemented 51 years later, that is, in 1719; it was then through the order of Fernando Bustillo y Bustamante that the "Jesuits were only too glad to comply."
The marker with the aforementioned error remains uncorrected on the brass plaque by the national government---for all, Indios, Whites, Brown, Black, Yellow, whatever color, to see, using the usual refrain: no funds; read, comatose and unconcerned!