Remembering the 214th year of Basi Revolt and the 200th Year of the Paintings

The bloody defeat and gruesome execution of our heroic forebears in the 1807 Ambaristo Revolt are the strongest, most unsettling, and easily the most memory-imprinted among the images conveyed by the “The Basi Revolt” paintings that were done 14 years after the event.

As we observe the 214th year of the revolt and the 200th year of the paintings, let us re-think the perspective that our rebelling ancestors were “defeated”, by reviewing relevant archival documents that date back to the decades following the uprising.

We share with you some excerpts here, from the Spanish documents kept by the National Archives of the Philippines whose archivists also translated the same into English –

“I must say that with due consideration the matter in question should not be taken lightly and that its implementation will be a prickly, troublesome and sensitive affair for the reasons I shall explain. There is no doubt the action which will benefit the wine revenue in this province the most would be to extend the monopoly to the said liquor; but as experience has shown that the deep-seated customs of the people cannot be tampered with without entailing unfortunate consequences, good reason and prudence dictate in this case that it would be good policy to take a moderate path which will gradually achieve the desired results.”

— Spanish colonial government official Manuel Montoro’s letter to the “Administrator general of the Wines and Liquors Revenue of these islands”, written in Laoag, 7 September 1846, in response to the clamor that the wine monopoly be re-established as government policy.

For a video on a brief history of the revolt and of the paintings created on it, please click this link —

Thanks to the National Archives of the Philippines.