Seven Seas relives forgotten chapter in Philippine History

By Mike BaƱos
May 14, 2019


The Seven Seas Water Park and Resort in Barra, Opol, Misamis Oriental is slowly gaining a reputation as a world class tourism destination.

However, it seeks to do more than merely amuse guests as they experience the facility’s water rides and other attractions. In fact, the park’s theme centers around a forgotten chapter in Philippine history that history teachers and their students can revisit with a field trip to Seven Seas.

Prominently featured as center pieces of the park’s pirate themed attractions are replicas of Dutch privateers which waged a series of battles with the Spanish colonizers of the Philippines during the first five decades of the 1600s.

“We secured one of the pirate ship replicas from a water theme park in Indonesia, and the other two we built from scratch using steel and concrete” said Elpidio M. Paras, President and CEO of UC-1 Corporation which owns and operates Seven Seas during a recent interview with the CDO Bloggers.

“We came up with the idea of using them to educate while they amuse our guests on this particular forgotten chapter in Philippine history since the VOC in particular was based in Batavia (present day Jakarta, Indonesia).”

In the center of the half hectare tsunami pool is a replica of the wreck of the RINJSBURG, which the oral tradition of legends from the 1600s say was a pirate ship skippered by the scion of Olivier Van Noort, the first of the Dutch navigators to successfully circumnavigate the globe.

Facing the pool is a reconstruction of Fuerte de San Agustin, a cotta or fort cum watchtower supposedly armed with cannon taken from the Dutch East Indiaman AMBOINA while the events tent entrance facade is a replica of the wreck of BRUINVIS, a Dutch fluyt that extant records say was either scuttled or blown up by the Spanish during this period.

The Spanish-Dutch Wars in the Philippines, 1600-1646

According to historical sources, this period marked the height of the Spanish-Dutch Wars in the Philippines, when Dutch privateers harassed foreign and Spanish trading ships in a bid to wrest the colony from the Spanish crown.

Privateers were essentially ships privately owned armed and crewed by private individuals holding a government commission and authorized for use in war, especially in the capture of enemy merchant shipping and seize control of the seas.

During this time of war, naval resources were auxiliary to operations on land so privateering was a way of subsidizing state power by mobilizing privately owned armed ships and sailors.

Being a privateer was only legal in relation to the countries which issued the papers,  so as far as the Spanish crown was concerned, the Dutch privateers were pirate ships.

In a series of battles spanning five decades, the Spaniards with the help of native Filipinos successfully turned back the Dutch time after time, from December 14, 1600; again in 1609 at the Battle of Playa Honda by Spanish governor-general Juan de Silva; and again on the Second Battle of Playa Honda on April 1617, when a Dutch fleet of 10 galleons under Joris van Spilbergen was defeated by a Spanish armada of seven galleons led by Juan Ronquillo.

From 1640 to 1641, a Dutch flotilla of three ships patrolled near Embocadero de San Bernardino to capture galleons coming from Acapulco, Mexico with no success.

However, the wreck of the RIJNSBURG, AMBOINA and BRUINVIS and the FUERTE DE SAN AGUSTIN are historically and culturally most significant because of the Battles of La Naval de Manila, a series of five naval engagements fought in Philippines waters in 1646, when the forces of Spain repelled various attempts by the Dutch to invade Manila, during the Eighty Years' War.

The outnumbered Spanish forces, which included many native Filipino volunteers, consisted of two (later, three) ancient, rotting Manila galleons converted to men-of-war by stripping guns from the fort of Manila, a galley and four brigantines.

The duo outfought a Dutch fleet of nineteen warships, divided into three separate squadrons. The Spanish-Filipino forces inflicted heavy damage on the Dutch flotilla, forcing them to abandon their invasion of the Philippines.

The victories against the Dutch invaders were attributed by the Spanish and Filipino troops to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

On 9 April 1652, the victories in the five sea battles were declared a miracle by the Archdiocese of Manila after a thorough canonical investigation, giving rise to the centuries-old festivities of Our Lady of La Naval de Manila. The victories of the Filipino-Spanish forces over the Dutch pirates also ensured that the Philippines would remain a Catholic and not a Protestant nation.

Olivier Van Noort and the RIJNSBURG

Built in 1637 at Amsterdam by the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC or the Dutch East India Company) the Dutch pinnace RIJNSBURG was owned by the VOC and in service for the Kamer van Amsterdam.

The VOC was established in 1602, and remained a major trading industry until 1798. Following its establishment on the site of the razed city of Jayakarta by the Dutch in 1619, Batavia became the center of the VOCs trading network in Asia. Monopolies on nutmeg, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon were augmented by cash crops like coffee, tea, cacao, tobacco, rubber, sugar and opium.2

To safeguard their commercial interests, the VOC and the colonial administration, which replaced it in 1799, progressively absorbed surrounding territory.

The RIJNSBURG was a VOC type pinnace class weighing 100 tons burthen (bm) of the type which was used mainly for transport and raiding by the Dutch.

The Dutch built pinnaces during the early 17th century. Dutch pinnaces had a hull resembling a small "fast” galleon, and were usually rigged as a ship (square rigged on three masts2), or carried a similar rig on two masts (in a fashion akin to the later "brig"). Pinnaces were used as merchant vessels, pirate vessels and small warships.

After her first voyage to the East on 11 October 1637, the RIJNSBURG  arrived on 28 April 1638 in  Batavia (kamer van Amsterdam), the capital of the Dutch East Indies (present day Jakarta, Indonesia) and from thence proceeded to India.

In 1638, RIJNSBURG, was lost in a battle with the Spanish,off the Philippines. Local legends have it that the ship fell into dire straits after Olivier van Noort, Jr., led a mutiny and took to piracy, lured by the riches to be gained by attacking the spice ships of the Portuguese in the East Indies, the Chinese and Japanese merchant ships trading with the Filipinos at the time, and the biggest prizes of all, the Spanish galleons plying the Acapulco-Manila route.

Van Noort was the son and namesake of the commander of the first Dutch privateer squadron to battle the Spaniards in December 14, 1600 when they sank the SAN DIEGO, flagship of the Spanish fleet under Antonio de Morga. When the elder Van Noort returned to Holland, he became the first Dutchman to circumnavigate the globe.

But the reckless bravado of the young Van Noort apparently proved to be his undoing, and the pirate ship RIJNSBURG was lost in battle when it rashly attacked a bigger Spanish galleon from Acapulco and was blown in two by the galleon’s bigger cannons.The wreck of the pinnace washed up in the shores of Opol, a barrio of what was then known as the Segundo Distrito de Misamis.

Seven Seas Water Park and Resorts features a full scale replica of the shipwreck on a rock island as its center of attraction for the half hectare tsunami wave pool.


Besides the RIJNSBURG, Seven Seas also features full scale replicas of relics from two other Dutch East Indiamen, the AMBOINA and BRUINVIS.

The AMBOINA was a VOC type spiegelretour class 3-masted sailing ship built in 1629 of 550 tons burthen (bm) which was scuttled by her own crew on Sept. 9, 1647.

The  oral history handed down through generations has it that local officials from the nearby town of Cagayan mustered the local populace to build a cotta or fort named FUERTE DE SAN AGUSTIN (after the town’s Patron Saint) armed with the cannons taken from the wreck of the AMBOINA as a defense against marauding Dutch pirates and privateers, the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Buayan led by Sultan Kudarat,  and Sultan Maputi, respectively; and the far-ranging proas from Jolo of Moro slavers who were also active during this period.

The BRUINVIS was a Dutch fluyt ship built in Amsterdam of 120 tons burthen (bm) and acquired by the VOC in 1645. Records show it first departed Texel as a VOC ship on April 24, 1645 and operated out of Batavia until she was either blown up by the Spanish or by her own Dutch Crew on January 20, 1658 off Maginado in the Philippines.

A fluyt is a type of Dutch sailing ship originally designed by the shipwrights of Hoorn as a dedicated cargo vessel designed to facilitate transoceanic delivery with the maximum of space and crew efficiency. It was not built for conversion in wartime to a warship, butss it was cheaper to build and carried twice the cargo, and could be handled by a smaller crew.

“With these footnotes in a forgotten chapter of Philippine history, Seven Seas hopes to awaken the interest of our guests, especially the youth, in the relevance of history to current events, and keep in mind as they journey through their lives that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we come to a problem that requires transport,” Paras said.



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