The Anting-Anting of Manuelito
by John Maurice Miller
The Anting-Anting is a stone or other small object covered with
cabalistic inscriptions. It is worn around the neck, and is supposed
to render its owner impervious to knife or bullet. Many are wearing
these charms, especially the Tulisanes or outlaws. The Anting-Anting
must not be confused, however, with the scapular, a purely religious
symbol worn by a great number of the Christian Filipinos.
Many of the older Filipinos remember Manuelito, the great Tulisane,
who, more than fifty years ago, kept all the Laguna de Bai district
in a state of fear. His robber band was well organized and obeyed his
slightest wish. He had many boats on the lake and many hiding places
in the mountains, and throughout the country there was no villager
who did not fear to oppose him, or who would refuse to help him in
any way when required to do so.
In vain the Guardia Civil hunted him. Many times they surrounded the
band, but Manuelito always escaped. Many shots were fired at him,
but he was never hit; and once, when he was cut off from his men
and surrounded, he broke through the line, and though fifty bullets
whistled around him he did not receive a scratch.
The officers of the Guardia Civil blamed their men for the bad
marksmanship that allowed Manuelito to escape. They told all the
people that it should never occur again, and promised that the next
fight should end in the death of the outlaw. The people, however,
did not believe that Manuelito could be killed, for he wore on his
breast a famous Anting-Anting that he had received from Mangagauay,
the giver of life and death.
This charm was a stone covered with mysterious signs. It was wrapped
in silk and hung by a string from the robber's neck, and even if a
gun were fired within a few feet of him the Anting-Anting was sure to
turn the bullet in another direction. It was this charm that always
saved him from the Guardia Civil.
Manuelito was very proud of his Anting-Anting, and many times, when
a fiesta was being held in some town, he and his band would come down
from the mountains and take part in the games. Manuelito would stand
in the town plaza and allow his men to shoot at him, and each time
the Anting-Anting would turn aside the bullets. The people were very
much impressed, and though a few of the wiser ones secretly thought
that the guns were only loaded with powder, they were afraid to say
anything; so the greater number thought it very wonderful and believed
that there was no charm so powerful as the Anting-Anting of Manuelito.
For years the Tulisane, protected by his charm, continued to rob and
plunder. The Guardia Civil hunted him everywhere, but could never
kill him. He grew bolder and bolder, and even came close to Manila
to rob the little towns just outside the city.
At last the government grew tired of sending out the Guardia Civil,
and ordered a regiment of Macabebes to hunt and kill the Tulisane
and his men.
Manuelito was at Pasay when news was brought to him that the Macabebes
were coming. Instead of running from these fierce little fighters, he
decided to meet them, and many people offered to help him, believing
that the Anting-Anting would turn away all bullets and give them
victory. So Manuelito and many men left the town, built trenches in the
hills near San Pedro Macati, and waited for the Macabebes to appear.
They had not long to wait. The Macabebes, hurrying from Manila, reached
San Pedro Macati and soon found that Manuelito was waiting to fight
them. They left the town at once and advanced on the Tulisane trenches.
It was a great fight. From the other hills close by many people watched
the battle. Five times the Macabebes advanced, and were forced to
fall back before the fierce fire of the Tulisanes. But the Macabebe
never knows defeat, and once more their line went forward and in one
terrible charge swept over the trenches and bayoneted the outlaws. In
vain Manuelito called on his men to fight. They broke and ran in every
direction. Then, seeing that all was lost, Manuelito started to follow
them; but a volley rang out, and, struck by twenty bullets, he fell to
the ground dead. The Macabebes chased the flying Tulisanes and killed
that of all the band only a few many, safely reached the mountains.
While the Macabebes were chasing the outlaws, many people came down
from the hills and stood around the body of Manuelito. They could
hardly believe their eyes, but the many wounds and the blood staining
the ground proved that the great Tulisane was indeed dead.
What of the Anting-Anting? Had it lost its power?
One man timidly unbuttoned the shirt of the dead robber and pulled out
the charm. The mystery was explained. Fixed firmly in the center of the
Anting-Anting was a silver bullet. There was but one explanation. The
Macabebes had melted a statue of the Virgin and used it to make bullets
to fire at Manuelito. Against such bullets the charm was useless,
but against ordinary lead it never would have failed. Had not the
people seen Manuelito's own men fire at him?
The charm was taken from the neck of the dead Tulisane and many
copies were made of it. Even to this day hundreds of people are
wearing them. They will tell you about Manuelito's great fight and
also about his famous Anting-Anting.
"But," you say, "the Anting-Anting was useless. Manuelito was killed."
They answer, "Yes, Seņor, it is true; but the Macabebes used bullets
of silver. Had they used lead the story would have been different. Poor