Limahong’s fleet patrolled the seas in the 1570s. Born in Tui-Chiu, he volunteered for the crew of the pirate Tia-La Ong when he was still a teenager. Working his way up through the pirate ranks, he was appointed captain when Tia-La Ong died, inheriting everything. That inheritance included a somewhat tense relationship with China’s emperor, who tolerated the pirate’s existence in exchange for at least some sort of cooperation and respect. When the emperor didn’t get it, and when Limahong continued rampaging through China’s coastal villages, he put a price on the pirate’s head.
Limahong was looking for a place to hole up for a while when he seized a ship that had just come out of Manila. Hearing stories of the riches that were supposed to be waiting for him there, he decided that it was time to skip out of China and set up shop in the Philippines.
In November 1574, he sailed to Manila with his entire fleet, totaling 74 ships and 2,000 warriors. (Some sources claim that he had as many as 200 ships and 10,000 warriors.) The initial attack was a nighttime foray into Manila to test defenses, and that was when things went weirdly sideways. The camp master’s wife heard the distant scuffle of the relatively small group of men who Limahong sent (about 600). They were wrongly reported not as pirates but as angry natives. Thinking that’s who was at the door, she reportedly yelled out the window, “Go away, dogs, or you will all die today!” When the message got back to the pirates, it didn’t go over well.
The pirates regrouped, invaded again, and made it a point to set the house on fire. Martin de Goiti, the unfortunate master of the camp, had his ears and nose chopped off and presented to Limahong. His wife survived, and the arrival of reinforcements sent the pirates scattering.
Limahong’s general, who had been in charge of the first assault, lied and told him that they had landed too far away from camp for an assault. They decided to wait three days before commencing a full-scale invasion. By that time, more Spanish troops had arrived, and they ultimately drove back the attacking pirates. Limahong turned his attention to other coastal villages, raiding and pillaging nearby Spanish settlements instead.
In August 1575, a joint Spanish and Chinese effort nearly succeeded in trapping him, but he managed to escape. He also dropped out of the Spanish history books. One of the only subsequent mentions of him afterward is that he was seen in Guangdong before disappearing.