One of the earliest imprints of Spaniards in Mindanao are mostly felt in forts and courtyards, among them is the still-standing Fort Militar, originally named Fuerte de Alfonso XIII. It stands as a garrison, watchtower, infirmary, and stockage which originally cover an expanse of more than 100 hectares overlooking both Yllana Bay and the Tukuran River.
I am first fascinated with the idea of this fort when chancing upon tourism clips and photographs years ago. Now was just the right time since a teambuilding require me to stay overnight in Tukuran. Whiling away time, I would rather check the sites myself and learn about its history and origins.
There are three existing structures in the Fuerte de Alfonso XIII. One is the garrison that faced the Tukuran River in barangay Militar in the Municipality of Tukuran. Accessing it is easy because it is very near the national highway connecting the municipality to Sultan Naga Dimaporo en route to Cotabato City. The second structure is located in Sitio Bomba, overlooking Yllana Bay.
Because it is a trade route histories back, many merchants pass by Tukuran from Yllana Bay up to Pangil Bay which connects Tukuran to the greater Misamis where another Spanish colony is thriving. As a result, Iranun pirates usually attack the locale coming from Yllana Bay thus the reason why the one in Militar has cannon fodder while in Sitio Bomba does not have one.
The route from Tukuran to Misamis is very important to the Spaniards that they name it Trocha de Tukuran a Misamis, one that values so much to Spain since traders freely come and go.
The unfortunate state of the fort is fast becoming footnote to history. It was not given full attention both by the National government through respective agencies like NHI, the National Museum or the National Parks Development Authority and even the Department of Tourism who just perfunctorily featured the fort in one of the destinations to Zamboanga del Sur, and particularly in Tukuran.
The one in Sitio Bomba was already scavenged for gold treasures and already, the structure was dug up and left to rot. The one in Barangay Militar is also not being protected whereby the structure is surrounded by houses and residents. It has already been shun of its historic importance and perhaps, its place in modern society.
If one wishes to reconnect to the past, one must go through the challenges of piecing together what remains at the present. This is my reconnection to what has been in 1888 until its completion in 1890 when it was all glorious and failure to protect residents from marauders is an ignoble duty of a soldier. These structures stand as a testament of how elaborate forts are made by Spaniards and how efficient their communication is at those times where mobile phones and even simpler communication gadgets are not available at their disposal.
Fuerte Alfonso XIII is one great foundation of what is present Tukuran which means to “construct” from the root-word of “Tukud”. It’s rich historical significance and legacy by both the Iranun’s attempt to take on the fortress in Ozamis through attacking the traders in the Trocha de Rukuran a Misamis and finally, through the ingenious efforts of the Spaniards to repel them. In both events, they formed part of how the history of Tukuran has on the greater part of the Spanish hold in the island of Mindanao.
How to get there: By public transport from Pagadian City, Tukuran may be reached by a jeepney which is around 30 minutes. From the poblacion, one can take a tricycle for Php 10.00 to get to these sites.