an american the filipino muslim respected and feared
- From: "Rajah Dimabili" <bernardsongco@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 17 May 2006 22:56:07 -0700
The Philippine Constabulary boasts of many heroes and legends among its
ranks. Here is one American officer that is recognized and honored as a
warrior by one of the world's fiercest warriors, the Moros -- the
Muslin natives of southern Philippines.
Leonard Furlong was a slim, dark American, always impeccably and
carefully groomed. Because of his slight frame and slender wrists, he
seemed ill-adapted for service in the Philippine Constabulary -- an
organization of rough fighting men who took the jungle in their stride.
Furlong was to develop - in the opinion of many - into the greatest
warrior of them all. His short, wild life was assumed by many to have
been an unhappy one. There could have been no other reason for that
dashing, frenzied career of battle that he waged in Mindanao.
Decades after Furlong had fired his last shot, he is still remembered
by wrinkled and ancient Moros on the very sites of some of the Cotabato
battles that the brave Captain of the Constabulary participated in. The
Moros talked of the old days of murder, piracy and ambush, when the
kris had been the law of the land and the measure of a man and his
courage. Talk of battles and conflicts and you have the ear of an eager
They recall many of the great names that serve as milestones in their
recollection of their many battles against the Constabulary; the great
campaigner Allan Fletcher of the Scouts, called "Papa" by Moros,
Filipinos and Americans; the prodigiously strong Lieutenant Whitney;
the brave Lieutenant Cochrun; and a young and valiant soldier named
Jesse Tiffany. With each name, a nod, a smile, a confirmation of
acknowledgement of great courage and combat skills - the greatest
praise a Moro can bestow on another man.
The name Furlong brings a glint of recognition, respect and admiration
to the eyes of the Moros. AS they talk of Captain Furlong, they give
homage to this great American fighter, a soldier respected by the very
warriors he fought. And they labeled him "the most desperate fighting
man of all."
Furlong had no peer among the earlier combat officers of the
Constabulary. He fought all over the Moro country, having been
stationed in Davao, Cotabato, Lanao, Siasi, Cagayan and Dansalan, to
mention a few. His record shows six years of combat without a single
furlough. He is recognized to have been one of the greatest combat
officers to see service in the Philippines.
Since early 1904, Furlong began to acquire a reputation as a relentless
fighter. it was said that he would lead a force of half a dozen
constabulary men where a company of infantry would hesitate to
In July 1904, Second Lieutenant Furlong of the Cotabato Constabulary
was stationed in Kudarangan. In the camp were also three companies of
infantry and two of Scouts. Every time the soldiers ventured out from
the camp, it was inevitable that the Moros would ambush the patrol,
kill and maim the soldiers, and leave, as silently and swiftly as they
came, with the soldiers' rifles. As a result of these forays, General
Leonard Wood ordered a scouting party be sent to determine the strength
of the Moros.
The surrounding grounds of Kudarangan were swamp grounds, with the wild
tigbao grass reaching ten to twenty feet in height, and criss-crossed
by narrow, barely perceptible trails. It was a terrain perfectly suited
for ambush and silent death. A handful of men who knew the trails could
lie in wait and massacre a hundred with hardly any loss on their part.
A few weeks prior to the issuance of General Wood's directive, Company
F of the 17th Infantry was ambushed and decimated by the Moros. Out of
a total of thirty six men, the Moros killed two officers and seventeen
soldiers. Reports stated that the infantry barely saw the attacking
force that almost entirely annihilated them.
Leonard Furlong commanded the scouting detail ordered by General Wood.
Leading a force of fourteen raw Constabulary recruits, he penetrated
seven miles in the territory of Baba ni Manikup, one of Datu Ali's
premier generals. Furlong and his men killed the defenders and captured
several rifles. In the ensuing battle, he lost two of his men, and,
despite the distance and repeated skirmished, brought their bodies
back, fighting all the way to the very edge of Kudarangan encampment.
His service record is filled with dozens of such daring exploits and
Furlong was loved and feared by the Moros, by those who served under
him as well as those who fought against him and his men. He was also
known as a remarkable pistol marksman. He had a fine eye for the
details of the terrain and was the best map maker in the Constabulary.
Although frail in appearance, his endurance on the trail was not
surpassed by an officer of the corps. His recklessness in combat gave
him the reputation of leading a charmed life. The Moros believed him to
possess a powerful anting-anting that protected him in battle against
bullets and blades.
Because of his customary method of entering a field of battle ahead of
his men and then go berserk fighting the Moros at close quarters, he
was equally credited with possessing supernatural powers and was
unbelievably feared by the Moros as an unearthly being -- a
devil-warrior. He was one of the few men who saw service in the
Philippines that was revered and admired by the fierce kris-wielding
Among the legends surrounding Furlong, his campaign hat had a legend of
its own. Furlong would approach the walls of a hostile cotta (a Muslim
fort) followed by his own fierce and loyal Moro soldiers. Inside the
walls of the cotta would be hostile Moros, eager and waiting for
battle. Furlong would throw his campaign hat sailing clear over the
walls of the miniature fort with the understanding that anyone who
recovered the hat became its owner. For both the attacking and
defending forces, the sight of the hat flying over the walls signalled
the beginning of battle. Furlong and his soldiers vied against each
other in scrambling over the walls, engaging the enemy ruthlessly, and
recovering the much coveted campaign hat. In all his years of fighting
in the jungles of the Philippines, Furlong had never lost his hat.
In the history of the Constabulary, Furlong is the only man to be
recommended for the Medal of Valor on four different occasions. In July
1906, Furlong was ordered to apprehend or kill the murderers of Pvt.
McDonald of the 19th Infantry. Information received identified the
killers as belonging to a force of Muslims commanded by Sultan Dimbara
and were located at the barrio of Bugasan in Cotabato.
With a force of five Constabulary, two Scout soldiers and four Moros,
Furlong arrived at Bugasan at daylight on July 9. His entire force had
only six rifles between them. They surrounded the house where the
killers were reported to be hiding and Furlong ordered the inhabitants
Furlong and his men found themselves confronted by a group of 100 armed
bandits who immediately surrounded them. In one of the most dramatic
and bloody hand-to-hand fighting of the period, Furlong personally
killed six of the attacking Moros. He was able, miraculously, to
extricate his force without a single loss or injury. Leading his men,
he fought, shot and hacked a passage through the wall of screaming,
fanatical krismen. Fighting hand-to-hand, in extreme close quarters,
Furlong and his men fought bravely despite the incredible ten to one
odds against them.
Furlong's implementation of his duties was exemplified by his
elimination of Kali Pandopatan, the Sultan of Bulding. The Kali had
been double dealing with the American government. Furlong, accompanied
by a dozen Constabulary, went to kali's cotta for a conference. Once
inside the fort, they were set upon by the forces of Kali. Armed with
barongs, the Moros rushed at the soldiers. Backing his party into an
angle of the fort walls, Furlong used his limited resources to the
maximum and fought bravely. After wave upon wave of bloody engagements,
Furlong and his men emerged victorious.
Records show that on April 28, 1907, Furlong was in the Taraca Valley
of Lanao in an advance on a cotta. AS the soldiers crossed the open
country before the walls of the fort, First Lieutenant James L. Wood,
received a bullet piercing his left thigh, knocking him to the ground.
A group of barong wielding warriors began their wild charge toward the
soldiers. Corporal Malaco stood by the lieutenant's side and fought off
the attackers. Furlong, with his customary dash and daring, led his men
to the rescue and dispersed the attackers.
A few weeks later, another encounter occurred in the same vicinity.
Furlong's men, divided into two columns, were fired upon from a cotta
on the left flank. Leading one column, Furlong led the advance through
a thicket of bamboo. The fort was defended by a wall fifteen feet high
and protected on three sides by a deep moat with the fourth wall along
the bank of the Rumayas river. The walls were reinforced with sharpened
Furlong's order to surrender was greeted by taunts and jeers from the
Moros and renewed rifle fire. The gateway of the fort was selected by
Furlong as the point and focus of the attack. Using a battering ram,
Furlong with Corporal Malaco and four privates attempted to break in.
They were fired upon by the Moros, resulting in the death of one
soldier and the wounding of two others. The attacking force was able to
make it to the top of the walls but were repelled by the defenders.
Furlong and his group retreated and reassessed the strength of the
A private was sent to reconnoiter and probe for weaknesses in the
fort's structure. Crawling through the underbrush, the soldier found an
opening in the protective wall on the river side. A general assault was
made with Furlong being the first through the opening and into the
fort. The defending Moros were overcome by the unexpected attack from
within and behind. Seventeen Moros were killed in ensuing battle and
Furlong's forces suffered three more casualties. On September 2, 1907,
Furlong and Malaco were awarded the medal of Honor.
In 1911, as attempts to disarm and control the natives of southern
Philippines were renewed, cotta warfare flared anew and the
juramentados wrought havoc on the American soldiers. Under a state of
siege from the individual fanatics was Jolo, the Moro capital. In one
incident, a single juramentado penetrated the protective city walls
through a drainage and killed seven soldiers in the streets of Jolo
before he was stopped by a barrage of rifle shots from the troops.
During this period, Furlong was approaching the nadir of his dramatic
career. The new standard bearers for the Constabulary were Whitney,
Tiffany, Crites and Cochrun. Leonard Furlong was burned out physically
and he was harassed and placed under strain and tension by the charges
leveled at him by his superiors in Manila. He was charged with
unnecessary brutality in his famous Taraca Valley expedition. Furlong
immediately terminated a short vacation to return and defend himself.
He was indicted of the charges and tried. Furlong, however, was
vindicated of any wrong doing and was, instead, recognized for his
exemplary courage and leadership and was promoted to captain.
Detailed as Senior Inspector in lanao, Furlong still demonstrated the
skill and talent that made him a military fighting genius. But his old
vitality had faded and gone. He was tormented by the thoughts of his
pat trial and the publicity it generated. Despite his acquittal, many
rumors and innuendoes plagued and haunted the American warrior. A
strange, sensitive man, Furlong broke down under the strain and
pressure of responsibility and the cumulative effect of many years of
fighting in the Philippine jungle. On June 21, 1911, he was sent to
Manila for observation and treatment.
On the evening of July 9, Furlong dined with his fellows officers at
the mess, giving no outward sign of the depression that had cast it
shroud and darkened his life. At nine o'clock of the same evening, he
greeted two officers he passed on the way to his quarters. A few
moments later, a single gunshot reverberated through the halls of the
officers quarters. Rushing into Furlong's room, the officers found him
dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Furlong was certainly one of the most daring and unquestionably one of
the greatest, individual fighting men who served their country and
dared pacify and subjugate the islands of the Philippines. In his
short, full life, Furlong lived and fought a dozen lifetimes. He died
and ended his life like his battles. For when the fighting is finished,
when the din of battle is but a memory replaced by the haunting silence
of the dead and dying, when the blood encrusted kris lies fallen to
rust and dull, it is time for a soldier to leave... never to return.
Leonard Furlong's memory will live forever in the archives of the corps
he served so well, and in the memory of the Filipino people he so
bravely and gallantly fought with.. and against.