The 1582 Cagayan battles were a series of clashes between the Spanish colonizers of the Philippines led by Captain Juan Pablo de Carrión, and Wokou (possibly Japanese pirates) headed by Tay Fusa. These battles, which took place in the vicinity of the Cagayan River, finally resulted in a Spanish victory.
This event was the only recorded battle between European regular soldiers against samurai warriors. This unique event pitted musketeers, pikemen and Spanish rodeleros against mostly Japanese and Chinese merchants (both legitimate and smugglers), fishermen, rōnin, and soldiers. Spanish sources record the name of their leader as Tay Fusa, Tayfusu or Tayfuzu. This does not correspond to a Japanese name, but could refer to a medieval chieftain (大夫), called Dàfū in Chinese or Taifu in Japanese. The pirates had 18 Sampans which are flat bottomed Chinese fishing wooden boat. The word "sampan" comes from the original Hokkien term for the boats, 三板 (sam pan), literally meaning "three planks" in their Chinese dialects.
Around 1573, the Japanese began to exchange gold for silver on the Philippine island of Luzon, especially in the provinces of Cagayan, Metro Manila and Pangasinan, specifically the Lingayen area. In 1580 however, a ragtag group of pirates forced the natives of Cagayan into submission. These raiders were called Wokou.
In response to the piracy, the Governor-General Gonzalo Ronquillo commissioned Juan Pablo de Carrión, hidalgo and Navy captain of the Spanish navy.
The general governor of the Philippines wrote to the king Philip II on 16 June 1582.
Los japoneses son la gente más belicosa que hay por acá. Traen artillería y mucha arcabucería y piquería. Usan armas defensivas para el cuerpo. Lo cual todo lo tienen por industria de portugeses, que se lo han mostrado para daño de sus ánimas.
The Japanese are the most belligerent people here. They bring artillery, many arquebusiers and pikemen. Body armor. All provided from the portuguese industry, showed to them for the bad of their souls (sic) ...
Carrión took the initiative by utilizing the technological superiority of Western ships, and shelled a Wokou ship in the South China Sea, removing it from action. A retaliation came from the pirate leader Tay Fusa, who sailed toward the Philippine archipelago with 10 ships. To counter this, captain Carrión gathered forty soldiers and seven boats: five small support vessels, a light ship (San Yusepe) and a galley (La Capitana).
As they passed the Bogueador cape, the Spanish fleet encountered a Wokou Sampan. It had recently arrived at the coast and its sailors were abusing the native population. The Spanish Captain, although outnumbered by the Wokou, engaged in naval battle with the Sampan, eventually boarding it. The Spanish rodeleros then faced armored Japanese ronin who were wielding katanas. The Wokou also had muskets, which had been provided by the Portuguese. The deck of the sampan became a battlefield, with Spanish pikemen at front, and arquebusiers as well as musketeers at the rear. Eventually the Spanish troops defeated the Wokou, thanks to the improvised parapet and the superior quality of Spanish armor and weaponry. The Spanish soldiers were also much more experienced with firearms than the pirates.The low accuracy of Japanese muskets was also reported to a Korean king during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) and in the early 1580s when wokou pirates had raided ships from Korea, China and Philippines.
The flotilla continued down the Cagayán River, finding a fleet of eighteen sampans. The Spanish flotilla forced their way through using artillery, and disembarked onto the shore. They dug in, erecting the artillery unloaded from the galley in the trenches, and continually bombarded the pirates. The Wokou decided to negotiate a surrender and Carrión ordered them to leave Luzon. Pirates asked gold in compensation for the losses they would suffer if they left, which was outright denied by Carrión.
Afterwards the Wokou decided to attack by land with a force of soldiers six hundred strong. The Spanish trenches endured that first assault, then another. In response to Spanish pikes being seized by the Wokou soldiers, the Spanish oiled the shafts of their pikes in order to make them difficult to grasp. The thirty remaining Spanish were running low on gun powder after the third attack, which had almost breached the trenches. They left the trenches and attacked, routing the remaining Wokou. The Spanish plundered the Wokou's weapons that were left on the battlefield, which included katanas and armor, and kept them as trophies.
With the region pacified, and the arrival of reinforcements, Carrión founded the city of Nueva Segovia (now Lal-lo).
Pirate activity was sparse afterwards. The commercial activity was focused in Lingayen Bay, in Pangasinan, on the port of Agoo and consisted principally of deerskin trade.