HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 63 no. 1 (2017)

Rich and Beautiful, but Deadly: Esteban Rodríguez de Figueroa and His Quest for Mindanao

John N. Crossley



In trying to understand the interactions between the invading Spaniards and the local people of the Philippines, Esteban Rodríguez de Figueroa is an intriguing figure. He came to the Philippines with Legazpi in 1565 and remained for thirty years until his death in 1596. While most are loud in his praises, even some of the Spanish records are condemnatory of this powerful figure. He promised to be a defender of the local people yet was an oppressor of them. He was certainly ambitious. He was lauded by Governor Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, but the latter’s son Luis Pérez, who succeeded as governor, was much more skeptical of him. Rodríguez was desperately keen to command, seeming even to want to own, Mindanao, but ultimately he was unsuccessful in his quest. On the other hand his legacy to Manila was his large contribution to the new Jesuit College of San José, which early on was intended to accommodate native students. How much did Esteban Rodríguez de Figueroa live up to the words in the title?