The History channel showed a documentary about what was claimed then as pirates of the Sulu seas from Mindanao, Philippines. The documentary was on how these raiders were actually plying their trade before and during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. This bit of history would not have been taught and learned from Philippine history subjects in school.
The Spanish established their colony on the southern tip of Mindanao in Zamboanga. Fort Pilar was constructed with ten (10) meter-high wall fortification all around. This was the base of the Spaniards to facilitate their trade. Zamboanga is very close to Basilan, the Tawi-tawi and Sulu group of islands and the Maguindanao area where there we three different tribes of seafaring Filipino Muslims. The three tribes were known as Balangingi-Samal, Ilanuns and Sultanate of Sulu, all which were employing Taosogs who were excellent warriors.
The three tribes are not really pirates during the times they were plying their trade of capturing people and selling them as slaves. Slave trading was a business then and they were not raiding ships in high seas. What they did was go and land in different shores posing as fishermen. Without any warning, draw their 1-meter long swords and take as many slaves as they can. Once captured, the slaves’ palms are punctured and tied to each other. The slaves are loaded in their 25 to 27 meter by 6 meter boats that has 30 to 34 oarsmen and sails. It was said that their boats were the fastest that Spanish Galleons could not even give chase.
The History documentary was actually focusing on how the tribes were able to organize a flotilla of a hundred ships or more with more than 3,000 men. This happened when the three tribes connived to raid Fort Pilar. The Spanish were stricken with fear upon seeing the number of boats and the army they were to face.
How were the hundred or more boats gathered? Well, the three tribes had some sort of a pact on how to go about their business and employing Taosogs as their warriors. One tribe could set out to sea with a few boats then drop-by each of the several bases of the tribes along the shores. They would call upon all available seafarers to join the expedition. As they go along, their numbers grow.
The slavery trade of the three tribes ended only when the Spaniards ordered three steamboats from England. The steamboats were faster, easier to navigate and had various armaments to take on the tribes. Spaniards were now able to chase and follow the boats to their bases and conduct raids. It was said that the conflict between the tribes and the Spaniards did not stem from business or trade but was more on belief, religious belief.