One of the lowest moments of the Imperial Spain in the Philippines was the period of British occupation (1762 - 1764). The Spaniards did not only faced external invasions but also internal threats. Manila, Cavite and Pasig were under siege by the British forces from India. The Provinces of Ilocos, Abra, Cagayan and Pangasinan were in violent rebellions. Squashed in between these regions were the Provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga and Zambales, where Governor Simon de Anda y Salazar struggled to maintain the Spanish sovereignty. The town of Mabalacat, among others, became the refuge of many besieged Spaniards and their families from Manila. Also, Mabalacat became an important bastion of the Spanish forces against the rebels of the Provinces of Ilocos, Cagayan and Pangasinan and the British invaders of Manila.
Mabalacat: a Safe Haven from the British Attacks in Manila
In January 1762, Spain became entangled in the Seven Years’ War between Great Britain and France. Great Britain declared war against Spain because of the latter’s alliance with France. The Philippines, being a Spanish colony, became vulnerable to British aggressions. British India, on August 1, 1762, sent an expedition to attack Manila. More than a month later, on September 23, 1762, the powerful British fleet appeared at the Manila Bay. Sensing an impending defeat, Governor Manuel Antonio Rojo commissioned Don Simon de Anda y Salazar, the youngest member of the Royal Audiencia, as lieutenant-governor of the Philippines. He was sent to the provinces with a task to keep them loyal to Spain. He eventually established his Spanish capital at Bacolor in the Province of Pampanga.
Meanwhile, Manila staged a desperate defense against the invading enemies. Manila residents and provincial reinforcements fought with remarkable courage under the leadership of Rojo. But under the systematic batterings of the British forces led by Brigadier General William Draper, Manila fell on October 5, 1762. Then a period of looting followed. The victors robbed the establishments, churches, convents, private houses and stores. The pillaging lasted for three days. Many Spaniards, religious and lay, scampered for their safety to the provinces.
With the destruction of their convents, the Convent of San Juan de Bagumbayan and the Convent of San Nicolas de Manila, the Augustinian Recollects escaped for their lives among their missions in Zambales and Pampanga. Fr. Francisco de la Virgen de Magallon and his secretary hid at Mabalacat from the beginning of the hostilities up to February 1763. Together with Fr. Basilio de Santo Tomas de Aquino, the resident missionary of Mabalacat, they maintained among the inhabitants of Mabalacat loyalty to Spain under the leadership of Lieutenant-governor Simon de Anda y Salazar.
Lieutenant-governor Simon de Anda y Salazar found devoted support from the natives of the Zambales missions, which historically included Mabalacat, Bamban and Capas. He promptly praised the 300 native soldiers from Bolinao and 400 from Babayan who volunteered to save Manila from the British invaders. This military contingent, measly armed with arrows and spears, were led by the brave Recollect Fathers. The contingent crossed the almost impenetrable rugged mountains of Mabalacat to join the other Spanish forces from Pampanga. Along the way, Fr. Agustin de San Miguel, the Minister of Babayan, died. Reaching Mabalacat, however, the contingent was falsely informed that the Spaniards had already assaulted the British in the City of Manila. The contingent went back to hometowns.
Mabalacat and the Revolts of Ilocos and Pangasinan (1762-1763)
In Northern Luzon, the defeat of the Spaniards by the British convinced the natives that the Spaniards were not invincible. Rebellions broke out, notable of which were that of Juan de la Cruz Palaris in Pangasinan and Diego Silang in Ilocos.
On November 3 1762, Juan de la Cruz Palaris spearheaded a revolt against the excesses of Don Joaquin de Gamboa, the Mayor of the Binalatongan, Pangasinan. General Anda sent his lieutenant-general, Don Antonio Panelo, to jail the Mayor and pacify the natives. But the natives wanted more; they demanded the total abolition of the tributes and the expulsion of the Spaniards from the province. Outnumbered, the Spanish soldiers left Pangasinan. 
More than a month later, on December 14, 1762, Diego Silang staged a revolt against the Spaniards because of the many troubles, losses and injuries the Ilocanos suffered under Don Antonio Zavala, the Mayor of the Province of Ilocos. Silang successfully overthrew the Spaniards from Vigan. 
To prevent the imminent collapse of the Spanish empire, Anda sent troops from Pampanga to quell the rebellion. First, Don Fernando Araya was sent to Pangasinan with thirty-three Spaniards and four hundred native soldiers. However, the rebellion persisted. Second, Don Manuel Arza was sent to Pangasinan together with one hundred eighty (180) men. Arza was also instructed to destroy remaining rebels of Ilocos.
The town and mission of Mabalacat became an important launch pad of Spanish offensives against the revolting provinces. The rough mountains of Mabalacat became the avenue for the transport of soldiers and communications to and from the provinces still loyal to Spain. Native soldiers from Zambales and Pampanga armed with arrows and lances as well as Spanish and Provincial soldiers armed with guns and canons, converged at Mabalacat for the Pangasinan campaigns. The Aetas and Zambals, who were living independent lives in these mountains, served as laborers and transporters of weapons and ammunitions across the provinces. Anda attributed the successes of the campaigns to the industry, influence and assistance of the Religious of the Province of San Nicolas.
With his consolidated forces, Anda threatened to burn and destroy Ilocos and all its inhabitants. Silang, on the other hand, realized that his forces were ill-equipped and ill-prepared. He formally accepted the British offer of alliance on November 4, 1762. The British conferred on him the title of Alcalde Mayor of Ilocos. With this authority, he started collecting tributes and even ordered the imprisonment of the friars. A dissatisfied citizen, Miguel Vicos, with the blessing of the Bishop, treacherously shot and killed him on the 28th of May 1763.
On the other hand, Juan de la Cruz Palaris was betrayed by his sister to the authorities. He was brought to Lingayen, Pangasinan where he was quartered. His body parts were displayed at the six bridges of Binalatongan, Pangasinan to inflict fear among the townspeople.
The Seven Year’s War ended in 1763, a few months after the capture of Manila. The diplomats of the warring states who met at Paris agreed that the Philippines should be restored to Spain. But owing to the slowness of the communications, it was not until April 1, 1764, that the actual turn-over of Manila was effected.
These historic international and national events emphasized the geographical importance of the town and mission of Mabalacat in Luzon. Thus, the Order of Augustinian Recollects decided to keep the mission of Mabalacat despite its slow progress and discouraging results.
Martinez de Zuñiga, A Historical View of the Philippine Islands: Exhibiting their Discovery, Population, Language, Government, Manners, Customs, Productions and Commerce, trans. John Maver, Esq., vol. II (London: T. Davison, Whitefriars, 1814), 165-166.
Fr. Francisco de la Virgen de Magallon a N. P. Vicario General, 17 July 1764, Archivo General lb. See Gregorio Ochoa del Carmen, Historia General de la Orden de Agustinos Recoletos, tomo VIII, 1755 – 1796 (Zaragoza: Imprenta Editorial Gambon, 1928), 176-178.
Dr. Simon de Anda y Salazar a Vuestro Majestad, Manila, 23 July 1764, Archivo Provincial de los Agustinos Recoletos, Marcilla, Carpeta 61, Legajo 30, Numero 10. See Gregorio Ochoa del Carmen, Historia General de la Orden de Agustinos Recoletos, tomo VIII, 1755 – 1796 (Zaragoza: Imprenta Editorial Gambon, 1928), 179.
Martinez de Zuñiga, A Historical View of the Philippine Islands: Exhibiting their Discovery, Population, Language, Government, Manners, Customs, Productions and Commerce, trans. John Maver, Esq., vol. II (London: T. Davison, Whitefriars, 1814), 222-223.
Martinez de Zuñiga, A Historical View of the Philippine Islands: Exhibiting their Discovery, Population, Language, Government, Manners, Customs, Productions and Commerce, trans. John Maver, Esq., vol. II (London: T. Davison, Whitefriars, 1814), 227-228.
Don Simon de Anda y Salazar, Manila, to Your Majesty, 23 July 1764, Archivo de la Provincia de San Nicolas de Tolentino, de la Orden de Agustinos Recoletos, Marcilla, carp. 61, leg. 3.º num. 10. See Gregorio Ochoa del Carmen, Historia General de la Orden de Agustinos Recoletos, tomo VIII, 1755 – 1796 (Zaragoza: Imprenta Editorial Gambon, 1928), 178-182.
Gregorio Ochoa del Carmen, Historia General de la Orden de Agustinos Recoletos, tomo IX, 1797 – 1835 (Zaragoza: Imprenta Editorial Gambon, 1929), 59.