Manuel Antonio Rojo del Rio
Portrait of Manuel Antonio Rojo del Río Lafuente y Vieyra (also spelled ‘Vera’ and ‘Veiyra’; b. Tula, Mexico 1708-1764 Manila) Oil on canvas Canvas 33 x 24 ¾ inches, in an antique frame 38 x 30 inches Inscribed on verso: ‘El Illmo (illustrious) Sr. D.D. Manuel Antonio Roxo (Rojo) del Rio y Vieyra Arzobispo de Manila nacio en Tula de N.E. (Nueva España) y murió en 1764’
PROVENANCE: a USA estate
Manuel Rojo del Rio was born in Mexico, a criollo (of Spanish heritage). His father was Captain Manuel Rojo del Río y Lafuente.
The younger Manuel was a brilliant student from his youth. He opted for an ecclesiastical career, and after studying in Mexico City, he moved to the University of Salamanca in Spain where he obtained the degrees of Doctor of Theology, Baccalaureate in Law, and Doctor of Sacred Canons. On his return he was canon of the Cathedral of Mexico. For his studies in law he was part of the Tribunal of the Inquisition of New Spain from 1746. In that same year he was appointed ordinary inquisitor (Inquisition) of the bishopric of León of Nicaragua, as well as of the dioceses of the Philippines and Yucatan.
Rojo del Rio was installed as 16th Archbishop of the Archdiocese Manila (a/o 1759) and was appointed Governor- General of the Philippines (1761-1762) after the death of the preceding Governor (in the absence of a successor, the Archbishop assumed the position of Governor-General) during the 1762 invasion by the British.
"Through the mist, the stupid and negligent authorities of Manila mistook them (the British ships) for Chinese trading-junks; but it was the fleet of the English Admiral Cornish, with a force of five thousand British and Indian soldiers under the command of General Draper. For her defense Manila had only 550 men of the ‘Regiment of the King’ and eighty Filipino artillerists. Yet the Spaniards determined to make resistance from behind the walls of the city.
"Surrender of Manila to the English.--The English disembarked and occupied Malate. From the churches of Malate, Ermita, and Santiago the British bombarded Manila, and the Spaniards replied from the batteries of San Andres and San Diego, the firing not being very effective on either side.
1.) See Shirley Fish, When Britain Ruled the Philippines 1762-1764; The Story of the 18th Century British Invasions of the Philippines During the Seven Years War, self-published, 2003 (extensive bibliography)
“On the 25th, Draper summoned the city to surrender; but a council of
war, held by the archbishop, who was also governor, decided to fight
on. Thirty-six hundred Filipino militia from Pampanga, Bulacan,
and Laguna marched to the defense of the city, and on the 3rd of
October two thousand of these Filipinos made a sally from the walls
and recklessly assaulted the English lines, but were driven back with
slaughter. On the night of the 4th of October a breach in the walls
was made by the artillery, and early in the morning of the 5th four
hundred English soldiers entered almost without resistance. A company
of militia on guard at the Puerto Real was bayoneted and the English
then occupied the Plaza, and here received the surrender of the fort
“The English agreed not to interfere with religious liberty, and honors
of war were granted to the Spanish soldiers. Guards were placed
upon the convent of the nuns of Santa Clara and the beaterios, and
the city was given over to pillage, which lasted for forty hours,
and in which many of the Chinese assisted.”
This is one of the few portraits of Manuel Rojo del Rio in existence. We know of only two others, both in Mexico. This is the only one depicting him as an older man, around the time he was in the Philippines.
His Bishop’s mitre appears to the left, and his family coat-of-arms was painted on the upper right.
Manuel Rojo del Rio died in Manila. He was interred in the Manila Cathedral. His remains are still there, but lost. The Cathedral was destroyed by American bombers during WWII.
3.) David F. Barrows (General Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Philippine Islands), A History of the Philippines. New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company, 1903; open source at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38269/38269.txt
4.) John Foreman, writing in The Philippine Islands, said of Rojo that he was “said to have died of grief and shame in prison (1764) through the intrigues of the violent Simon de Anda y Salazar.” Anda “escaped from Manila with much of the treasury and documents, assumed full authority on behalf of the Real Audiencia of Manila, established the provisional government and raised an army in Bulacan (later Pampanga), and launched the resistance against the British. All early negotiations between him and the British forces in Manila proved unsuccessful, as he returned unopened all letters sent to him that did not address him as the legitimate Governor-General of the Philippines, something that the British refused to do until the death of Archbishop Rojo, on January 30, 1764.”