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The Philippine Revolution (1896-1898)
(Excerpted from The Filipino Americans (1763-Present):
Their History, Culture, and Traditions
, by Veltisezar Bautista

In Manila, in its suburbs, and in the provinces of Luzon, the Katipunan became the talk of the town.  This happened after copies of the publication Kalayaan were circulated among the people.  However, the new members were rash and impatient so nightly meetings had to be held.  It was, thus, inevitable that the suspicions of the authorities were aroused.  Rumors about the meetings circulated in Manila and caused worry particularly among the Spanish friars.

In fact, the friars blew the rumors out of proportion to force Spanish Governor-General Blanco, who was unsympathetic to them, to act on the matter.  He, however, did not.

The discovery of the Katipunan was the result of a misunderstanding between two Katipuneros.  The Katipuneros were Teodoro Patiño and Apolonio de la Cruz. Both of them were working at the Spanish-owned Diario de Manila.  As an action against de la Cruz, Patiño revealed the secrets of the society to his sister, Honoria, an inmate at the orphanage in Mandaluyong in the suburbs of Manila.  She was shocked about the revelation and she cried.  A madre portera, Sor Teresa saw her cry.  Then the sister asked Patiño to tell all he knew to Father Mariano Gil, the parish priest of Guadalupe and one of those trying to convince Governor-General Blanco to act quickly.

In the afternoon of August 19, 1896, Patiño disclosed the secrets he knew to Father Gil.  The friar rushed to the printing shop of Diario de Manila and, with its owner, conducted a search of the premises.  The friar sought hidden evidence of the existence of the secret society.  They found the lithographic stone used to print Katipunan receipts, which was confirmed by Patiño. “So here they are,” Father Gil might have whispered.  A locker was forced open.  There he found a dagger and other documents.

“Arrest Them!”  A series of arrests of prominent Filipinos, took place.  Even the innocent ones, were thrown in jail or imprisoned at Fort Santiago in Manila.  The implication of some was the offset of a quirk of fate.  The wealthy Filipinos had refused to join the Katipunan.  So Andres Bonifacio, head of the Katipunan, thought that drawing up a list to make it appear that numerous wealthy Filipinos were contributing to the cause would force them to join.  Instead of being coerced to join, however, these wealthy Filipinos denounced or denied any knowledge of the existence of the Katipunan.  The authorities did not believe them.  One of the prominent men, Francisco L. Roxas, was executed.

Emilio JacintoEmergency Assembly.  The news of the discovery of the Katipunan spread rapidly.  Upon learning of this, Bonifacio told his runners to call all the leaders for an emergency general assembly to be held on August 24, in Balintawak, Caloocan.  On the night of August 19, he, his brother Procopio, Emilio Jacinto, Teodoro Plata, and Aguedo del Rosario were able to slip past the Spanish sentries in the area.  Before midnight, they were in Balintawak.  On August 21, Bonifacio changed their code as the original one had been broken by the Spaniards. Afterwards, about 500 of the rebels went to Kangkong from Balintawak—then, to Pugadlawin.  On August 23, Bonifacio met his men in the yard of Juan A. Ramos, son of Melchora Aquino, who later became known as the “Mother of the Katipunan.” Bonifacio asked his men if they were committed to carry on the fight. Against the objections of Teodoro Plata, all agreed to fight until the last drop of blood.  To symbolize the commitment for an armed struggle, Bonifacio led his men in tearing up their cedulas, (residence certificate), shouting: “Mabuhay ang Filipinas!” (“Long live the Philippines”).  For some time, the event was commemorated in the Philippines as the “Cry of Balintawak.”  Later, it was corrected to the “Cry of Pugadlawin.”


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I.  START OF THE REVOLUTION

Andres BonifacioBang! Bang! Bang!.  The first shots of the Philippine Revolution were fired the next day between several Katipuneros and a patrol of Spanish civil guards.  That happened in the sitio of Pasong Tamo in Kalookan. However, the first real battle of the revolution took place on August 30, 1896.  Bonifacio, with about 800 Katipuneros, attacked the Spanish arsenal in San Juan del Monte, which is now the municipality of San Juan in Metro Manila.  The Spaniards were outnumbered and weak. But reinforcements turned the tide in their favor.  The Katipuneros were forced to retreat.  They left more than 150 Katipuneros dead and many more captured.

The revolution spread to several Luzon provinces nearby.  This prompted Governor-General Ramon Blanco to place the first eight provinces to revolt against Spanish sovereignty under martial law.  They were Manila, Laguna, Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Nueva Ecija.

Governor-General Blanco also included in the decree the condition that anyone who would surrender within 48 hours after its publication would not be tried in military courts.  Some Katipuneros were duped into surrendering, only to be subjected to torture.  Due to torture, some Katipuneros revealed the names of some of the other Katipuneros.

Hundreds of suspects were arrested and imprisoned.  Those from the provinces were brought to Manila.  Fort Santiago became so crowded that many Filipinos who were thrown there for suspicion of involvement in the revolution were suffocated to death.  Hundreds of heads of families were transported to the Carolines or to the Spanish penal colony in faraway Africa.

Jose RizalA great number of Filipinos were executed at the Luneta, most notable of whom was Jose Rizal. He was shot at the old Bagumbayan Field on December 30, 1896.  This was ironic as Rizal was innocent of the charge of rebellion.  He was recognized by the Katipuneros for his intellectual accomplishments.  However, he rejected their invitations for him to join the Katipunan.  To his death, Rizal had remained a reformist.  All the tortures and executions, however, embittered the Filipinos more and fanned the fires of revolution in their hearts.  The revolution continued to spread throughout the archipelago.

Revolution in Cavite.  There, the rebels stormed the municipal building of San Francisco de Malabon on August 31, 1896.  The Magdiwang group also attacked the Spaniards in Noveleta.  In Cavite el Viejo, the Magdalo group, under Candido Tirona (a bosom friend of Emilio Aguinaldo), captured the Spanish garrison while Emilio Aguinaldo and his men tried but failed to intercept Spanish reinforcements from Manila.

Aguinaldo retreated to Imus, Cavite Province.  There on September 5, 1896, he defeated the Spanish command of General Aguirre.  Thus, Aguinaldo returned to Imus the hero of the hour, no longer Kapitan (Captain) Miong but Heneral (General) Miong.

Emilio AguinaldoEmilio Aguinaldo An ilustrado, Emilio Aguinaldo studied at San Juan de Letran College.  However, he quit his studies when his father died so that he could take care of the family farm and could engage in business.  When the revolution broke out, he was the mayor of Cavite el Viejo (now Kawit), where he was born on March 22, 1869.  A cousin of Baldomero Aguinaldo, leader of the Magdalo faction, Emilio joined the Katipunan when he was 25.

Betrayal.   There were early signs that the rebels in Cavite were leaning towards the establishment of a new leadership and government.  On October 31, 1896, General Aguinaldo issued two decrees.  They both stated that the aim of the Revolution was the independence of the Philippines.  Therefore, he urged Filipinos to fight for freedom, following the example of civilized European and American nations.  He also proclaimed “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” as watchwords of the revolution.

Although the Magdalo was only one of the two factions of the Katipunan in Cavite, Aguinaldo, who belonged to this faction, made no mention of the parent organization.  The letter K appeared on the seal of both documents, though.  One manifesto announced that they (implying the Magdalo faction) had formed a provisional government in the towns that had been “pacified.”   It was the government’s task to pursue the war until all of the archipelago was free.

According to author Renato Constantino, one was forced to conclude that Aguinaldo and the other leaders of the Magdalo had decided at this early stage to withdraw recognition of the Katipunan and install themselves as leaders of the revolution.

Cavite.  The Spaniards decided to concentrate on Cavite, after they had been defeated in other places.  Governor-General Blanco ordered attacks on rebel troops in early November.   But they suffered heavy losses in Binakayan and Noveleta, Cavite. (Aguinaldo led the Filipinos. Many died, including Carlos Tirona.)

As a result of the defeats of the Spaniards, Governor-General Blanco was relieved upon the instigation of the friars.  He was replaced by General Camilo de Polavieja on December 13, 1896.  Little by little, de Polavieja was able to recapture about a third of Cavite.

Divided They Fall.  The disunity between the rival Magdalo and Magdiwang factions of the Katipunan in Cavite fought independently of each other.  This was a major factor for the success of General Polavieja in his victories in Cavite.  Realizing this, the Magdiwang faction asked Bonifacio, who had refused because he was needed in Morong (now Rizal Province), to mediate.  Later, he finally accepted the invitation.

In the latter part of December 1896, Bonifacio went to Cavite with his wife and brothers Procopio and Ciriaco.  They were personally met in Zapote by Aguinaldo and other leaders.   Bonifacio was received enthusiastically by the Caviteños.

However, in his memoirs, General Artemio Ricarte recounted that a few days after Bonifacio’s arrival, black propaganda against Bonifacio in the form of anonymous letters circulated all over Cavite.  The letters described him as unworthy of being idolized.  The letter writers called him a mason, an atheist, an uneducated man, and a mere employee of a German firm.

On December 31, the Imus assembly was convened to determine the leadership in the province.  The purpose was to end the rivalry between the two factions.  The Magdalo group wanted a revolutionary government to supplant the Katipunan.  Such an idea was objected to by the Magdiwang faction that maintained that the Katipunan already had a constitution and by-laws recognized by all.  The meeting ended without a resolution of the conflict.

First Meeting at Tejeros: The End of the Katipunan.  With the continuing successes of Spanish campaigns against them, the Katipuneros decided to have another meeting on March 22, 1897, to discuss how Cavite should be defended.  This was not even touched on. Instead, it was decided that an election of officers of the revolutionary government be held.  That meant that the Supreme Council of the Katipunan was being discarded, and that would be the end of the Katipunan.

Bonifacio reluctantly agreed to chair the assembly.  Before the voting was started, he admonished everyone that whoever was elected to any position should be respected.  Ironically, after the elections, Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan and initiator of the revolutionary struggle in the country, lost the leadership to Emilio Aguinaldo, who was voted president.  Bonifacio was merely elected to the minor post of director of the interior.  None of the other leaders of the Katipunan, not even Emilio Jacinto, were considered for positions at Tejeros.

When Bonifacio was being proclaimed, Daniel Tirona, a Magdalo, had even questioned this on the grounds that the position should not be held by someone without a lawyer’s diploma.  The angry Bonifacio demanded a retraction from Tirona, who, instead, turned to leave. Bonifacio was about to shoot Tirona when Artemio Ricarte intervened.

As the people began to leave the hall, Bonifacio shouted that he, in his capacity as chairman of the assembly and president of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan, declared the assembly dissolved and annulled all that had been approved and resolved.  Then he left with his men.

Second Meeting at Tejeros:  A Confrontation. Aguinaldo, engaged in a battle in Pasong Santol, a barrio in Cavite, was not present during the elections.  He was notified of his election to presidency in Pasong Santol the following day.  He was later convinced by his elder brother, Crispulo, to leave his men and take his oath of office.  Thus, he and the others who had been elected the day before, except Bonifacio, took their oath of office in Santa Cruz de Malabon (now Tanza), Cavite.

Among those who were installed in office were Emilio Aguinaldo, president; Mariano Trias, vice president; Artemio Ricarte, captain-general; Emiliano Riego de Dios, director of war; Pascual Alvarez, director of the interior; and Severino de las Alas, director of justice.

In the meantime, Bonifacio and his remaining men of about 45 met at the estate house in Tejeros on March 23, 1897.  They drew up a document, now called the Acta de Tejeros, where they cited their reasons for not accepting the results of the first Tejeros convention.  From there, they went to Naic to get away from the Magdalo faction, which they held responsible for the anomalies during the election.  Aguinaldo sent a delegation to Bonifacio to try to convince him to cooperate with the new revolutionary government, which the latter rebuffed.

Rival Government.   In Naic, Bonifacio and his men prepared another document.  The agreement specified the establishment of a government independent from Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government.  Called the Naic Military Agreement, it also rejected the first Tejeros convention and reasserted Bonifacio as leader of the revolution.  To be organized was an army whose members were to be recruited by persuasive or coercive means.

Among the 41 signatories were Bonifacio, Artemio Ricarte, Pio del Pilar as commander-in-chief and Emilio Jacinto as general of the North Military Area (provinces of Morong, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, and Manila).

Emilio JacintoEmilio Jacinto.   The so-called “Brains of the Katipunan,” Emilio Jacinto, was born in Tondo, Manila on December 15, 1875.  His parents were Mariano Jacinto and Josefa Dizon.  At a young age, he learned how to speak a kind of Spanish, sort of pidgin Spanish, on the streets.  Although the family was poor, his parents managed to send him to school.  He first studied at San Juan de Letran College and later at the University of Santo Tomas.  However, as a member of the Katipunan, he was forced to speak Tagalog, the language of the Katipuneros.

He painstakingly mastered Tagalog and wrote most of his articles in this language.  Because of his honesty and intelligence, he became the trusted friend and adviser of Bonifacio.  The two were almost inseparable until late December 1896, when Bonifacio went to Cavite to sort out the differences between two rival factions of the Katipunan and Jacinto went to Laguna as commander-in-chief.  However, they kept in constant communication.  Jacinto died of a fever on April 16, 1899 in Mahayhay, Laguna.

Besides the Kartilla, which became the primer for the Katipuneros, he wrote Pahayag or Manifesto (which had appeared in the only issue of Kalayaan), Liwanag at Dilim (Light and Darkness), Sa mga Kababayan Ko (To My Countrymen), Ang Kasalanan ni Cain (Cain’s Sin), Pagkatatag ng Pamahalaan sa Hukuman ng Silangan (Establishment of the Provincial Government of Laguna), and Samahan ng Bayan sa Pangangalakal (Commercial Association of the People).

Death of Bonifacio.  Bonifacio moved from Naic to the barrio of Limbon in Indang, Cavite.  He was accompanied by his wife, two brothers, and a few loyal soldiers.  By then, Aguinaldo had learned of the Naic Military Agreement.  He immediately ordered Colonel Agapito Bonzon and a group of soldiers to arrest the Bonifacio brothers. “Dakpin sila!” (“Arrest them!”) he might have said.

In the ensuing confrontation, Bonifacio was stabbed in the larynx but taken alive.  His brother Ciriaco was killed, while his brother Procopio was wounded.  Bonifacio was transported in a hammock to Naic, the capital of the revolutionary government.

From April 29 to May 4, Bonifacio was placed on trial, together with Procopio, by the Council of War.  General Tomas Mascardo was one of the members of the Council of War that tried the Bonifacio brothers.

Despite the lack of evidence, the Bonifacio brothers were found guilty of treason and sedition and recommended to be executed.  Aguinaldo commuted the sentence to deportation on May 8, 1897, but Generals Mariano Noriel and Pio del Pilar, both former supporters of Bonifacio, upon learning of this, immediately asked General Aguinaldo to withdraw his order.  Their reason was that there would be no unity among the revolutionaries as long as Bonifacio was alive.  They were supported by other leaders.

Aguinaldo withdrew his order for reversal of the death sentence. As for Severino de las Alas, it was he who had made the false accusations against Bonifacio.

On May 10, General Noriel ordered Major Lazaro Makapagal to bring the Bonifacio brothers to Mount Tala near Maragondon.  He was also given a sealed letter to be opened and read upon reaching their destination.  The letter contained orders to execute Andres and Procopio Bonifacio.  He was warned that severe punishment would follow if he failed to comply with the order. Hence, Makapagal made no hesitation to carry out the execution.  Bonifacio and his brother were buried in shallow graves marked only by a few twigs.

Andres BonifacioAndres Bonifacio.  The founder and organizer of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio was born on November 30, 1863, in Tondo (then a province of Manila), a son of Santiago Bonifacio and Catalina de Castro.  He learned the alphabet in a school.  When his parents died, he was forced to quit school as he had to become the breadwinner for his three brothers and two sisters.

As a livelihood, Bonifacio made canes and paper fans to sell. He loved books and was able to do some self-studying.  In his late teens, he landed a job as clerk-messenger at Fleming and Company, where he was promoted to agent. He sold rattan, tar and other products of the firm. Later, he moved to Fressel and Company, also as an agent.

He read Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, The Ruins of Palmyra, Les Miserables, The Wandering Jew, and read about the presidents of the United States, international law, the penal and civil codes, a book on the French Revolution and some novels.

At a young age, he married a certain Monica.  The marriage did not last long as she died of leprosy.  In 1892, he met Gregoria de Jesus of Kalookan, who became his second wife.  Gregoria later joined the women’s chapter of the Katipunan.

Bonifacio adopted Emilio Jacinto’s Kartilla as the official teachings of the society.  Although its founder, he didn’t intend to become president of the Katipunan.  However, he became president when the first two presidents did not come up to expectations.

II.  THE BIAK-NA-BATO REPUBLIC

Maragondon, Cavite, became the new rebel capital after the Spanish forces had captured Naic.  However, many of the Spanish soldiers had just arrived from Spain and they suffered greatly from the tropical climate.

General Camilo de Polavieja requested that he be relieved as governor-general.  On April 23, 1897, he was replaced by former governor-general of the Philippines, Fernando Primo de Rivera.   Against Primo de Rivera, Aguinaldo and his men were forced to retreat to Batangas Province by Spanish forces.

The Spaniards gained control of practically the whole of Cavite.  Thus, Primo de Rivera extended a decree granting pardon for those Filipinos surrendering beyond the initial deadline of May 17.  There were some Filipinos who took advantage, but the others continued their fight.

Aguinaldo, who had established his headquarters in Talisay, Batangas Province, managed to escape the Spaniards who had surrounded the place.  Then he proceeded with his men to the hilly province of Morong (now Metro Manila).  From there, he and about 500 handpicked men went to Biyak-na-Bato, San Miguel de Mayumo, in Bulacan.  There, Aguinaldo established a new government, which is now known as the Biak-na-Bato Republic.

He also issued a proclamation in July entitled “To the Brave Sons of the Philippines.”  The proclamation enumerated the revolutionary demands as:

  • Expulsion of the friars and the return to the Filipinos of the lands they appropriated for themselves.
  • Representation in the Spanish Cortes, freedom of press, and tolerance of all religious sects.
  • Equal treatment and pay for peninsular and insular civil servants and abolition of the power of the government to banish citizens.
  • Legal equality for all persons.

This proclamation showed that Aguinaldo was still willing to return to the Spanish fold if these demands were met.  That was in spite of the fact that he and his men had already established the Biak-na-Bato Republic.

The constitution of the new republic was prepared by Felix Ferrer and Isabelo Artacho.  They copied it almost verbatim from the Cuban Constitution of Jimaguayu.  It was signed on November 1, 1897.  In accordance with Article I, a Supreme Council was created on November.  Aguinaldo was elected president.

Peace! Peace! Peace!   Governor-General Primo de Rivera realized that he might not be able to quell the rebellion.  Hence, he tried to end it by peaceful negotiations.

The chance came when Pedro A. Paterno, a mestizo who had spent some years in Spain, offered to act as a peace negotiator.  On August 9, 1897, Paterno brought Primo de Tavera’s offer of peace to Aguinaldo’s headquarters.  It took four months before Paterno was able to come up with a peace agreement, now called the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, signed by Paterno as representative of the revolutionists and Primo de Rivera for the Spanish government.

Made up of three separate documents, the peace pact was signed on December 14 and 15, 1897.  The pact provided for an end to the revolution by the laying down of arms by the revolutionary forces of Aguinaldo.  They would then be granted amnesty and allowed to return to their homes.  Aguinaldo and the other leaders would go on voluntary exile to Hong Kong.  They would be given P800,000 by the Spanish government in three installments:

  • P400,000 upon leaving the Philippines.
  • P200,000 when at least 700 arms have been surrendered.
  • The balance upon declaration of a general amnesty.

Spain also promised to pay P900,000 to Filipino civilians who suffered losses because of the revolution.

To be sure that the Spaniards were to make good their promises, Aguinaldo’s camp demanded that two Spanish generals remain at Biyak-na-Bato as hostages.  Also, Colonel Miguel Primo de Rivera, the governor’s nephew, was also required by the Aguinaldo camp to accompany the exiles to Hong Kong.

On December 27, 1897, Aguinaldo, with a check for P400,000, left for Hong Kong with 25 revolutionary leaders.  Those left behind asked Primo de Rivera to give them the balance of P400,000, supposedly to be given to the needy ones among them.  Instead, they were given P200,000, which they then divided among themselves.

Continuation of Hostilities.  There was celebration in Manila the following month. However, although some of the Filipino generals left behind did all they could to surrender the arms from the rebels, some of them were suspicious of the Spaniards.  Thus, they declined to give up their arms.  One of them, General Francisco Makabulos of Tarlac Province, established the Central Executive Committee, which would exist until a general government of the republic would again be established.  For their part, the lower-ranking Spanish authorities continued to arrest and imprison many Filipinos suspected of having been involved in the rebellion.

Thus, the rebellion spread further to the different provinces of the archipelago. including Zambales, Pampanga, Laguna, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Cebu, Bulacan, Caloocan, and Camarines Norte. Far from mere banditry, as the Spaniards termed these acts of resistance, they were, on the contrary, attempts to achieve the objectives of the old Katipunan.  The Pact of Biak-na-Bato was thus a cessation of hostilities only for the compromisers, Aguinaldo and his group.  For the people, the struggle continued.

III. SPANISH-AMERICAN RELATIONS

In 1817, the United States established a consulate in Manila.  After the Philippines was opened to world trade in 1834, several American companies established businesses in Manila.

Even before 1898, American ships already had been sailing to Manila to trade with the Philippines.  The first American ship to reach Manila was the Astrea in the later part of the 18th century.

In the meantime, in February 1895, Cuba, which Christopher Columbus had discovered for Spain in 1492 to become a colony, revolted against the Spaniards.  In answer, Spanish General Valeriano Weyler, commander of all Spanish forces in Cuba, established concentration camps for the rebels and sympathizers.  Being close to the United States, many American businessmen had large investments in Cuba, especially in the sugar industry.  Thus, it was not difficult to obtain American support for the Cuban cause.

In January 1898, President William McKinley sent the U.S. Navy battleship Maine to Cuba in case American citizens needed to be evacuated.  However, on February 15, 1898, an explosion sank the ship in the Havana harbor.  This resulted in the loss of 260 of the crewmen and in a huge outcry from the American public.

Earlier, on February 9, 1898, a private letter from Enrique Dupuy de Lome, the Spanish minister to the United States, which had been stolen from a post office in Havana was published in the New York Journal.  It described President McKinley as a “would-be politician” and a weak president.

The sinking of the USS Maine added fuel to an American public already enraged against the Spaniards because of the letter, although an investigation had failed to establish who was responsible for the explosion.

Commodore George DeweyOn February 25, 1898, Commodore George Dewey in Hong Kong received a directive from the United States.  He was ordered to take his Asiatic squadron to Manila and attack Spanish forces in the Philippines should war break out between Spain and the United States.

Although President McKinley wished to avoid war with Spain, which also wanted to avoid a war with the United States, he ultimately had to give in to pressure from his own Republican Party.  On April 11, 1898, he recommended direct American intervention in Cuba to the United States Congress, which voted for war with Spain.

Meanwhile, Spanish Governor-General Primo de Rivera was relieved of his position after the Conservative Party in Spain, to which he belonged, was replaced by the Liberal Party.  His replacement, Governor-General Basilio Augustin, knew nothing about conditions in the Philippines.  Primo de Rivera had wanted to stay there for a while in the event that Spanish-American relations might turn into a shooting war, in which case it would not have been practical to have a new governor-general in the Philippines.

Governor General Augustin arrived on April 9, 1898.  He announced he would continue his predecessor’s work of pacification and then assumed a wait-and-see position.

The Battle of Manila Bay.  On April 25, 1898, Commodore George Dewey, upon orders, proceeded at once to the Philippines with a squadron of four armored cruisers, two gunboats, and a revenue cutter.  It was led by the flagship Olympia.   They entered Manila Bay in the early morning of May 1, 1898, and engaged the Spanish fleet of 12 ships, headed by Admiral Patricio Montojo, in a battle that lasted for only a few hours.

The more-modern American warships, although fewer in number, proved to be superior to the old and weaker Spanish vessels.  The not-so-hard-fought Battle of Manila Bay was one of the most significant battles in American history because it established the United States as a world power.

For the Philippines, it signalled the end of more than 300 years of Spanish colonial rule.  It also signalled the start of a new colonial rule, this time under the Americans. Dewey requested for army reinforcements because he had no troops to capture Manila.  All he could do while waiting was blockade Manila Bay.

IV. THE EXILES IN HONG KONG

In Hong Kong, the Filipino exiles followed closely the developments in the Philippines and the conflict between Spain and the United States.  They thought of seeking American assistance in their revolutionary cause against the Spaniards.  In the meantime, there was a problem regarding disposal of the P400,000 from Governor-General Primo de Rivera, under the terms of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato.

Isabelo Artacho wanted the money to be divided among themselves.   When Aguinaldo refused, Artacho sued him in the Hong Kong Supreme Court.  To escape the inconvenience of having to go to court, Aguinaldo, with Gregorio del Pilar and J. Leyba, secretly went to Singapore and arrived there on April 23, 1898.  In the afternoon, Howard Bray, an Englishman who had been living in Singapore, gave Aguinaldo the message that E. Spencer Pratt, the American consul, wanted to talk with him.

It turned out that the Americans were thinking of winning the Filipinos over to their side should hostilities between the U.S. and Spain take a turn for the worst.

Pratt gave the impression to Aguinaldo that the Americans would not colonize the Philippines.  He said that if they were going to leave Cuba (“which is just at our door”) alone after driving the Spaniards away, why would they want the Philippines, which was 10,000 miles away.  Aguinaldo then consented to return with Commodore Dewey to the Philippines to once more lead the revolution against Spain, fighting alongside the Americans.

Dewey had already sailed for Manila when Aguinaldo returned to Hong Kong.  But Rounseville Wildman, American consul in Hong Kong, told him that Dewey had left instructions that Aguinaldo’s return to the Philippines be arranged.  He and Wildman met several times after this.  He later suggested that Aguinaldo establish a dictatorial government, which was needed in the prosecution of the war against Spain, but it had to be replaced with a government similar to that of the United States once the war was over and peace was restored.  Wildman and Pratt assured Aguinaldo that their government sympathized with the Filipinos’ aspirations for independence, but they did not make any formal commitment.

“What Shall We Do?” On May 4, Filipinos comprising what was called the Hong Kong Junta met to discuss what to do in the light of the new developments.

Those present were Felipe Agoncillo, temporary president; Doroteo Lopez, temporary secretary; and Teodoro Sandico, Anastacio Francisco, Mariano Llanera, Miguel Malvar, Andres Garchitorena, Severo Buenaventura, Maximo Kabigting, Faustino Lichauco, Antonio Montenegro, and Galicano Apacible.  Aguinaldo apprised them of what transpired in his meetings with Pratt and Wildman, and asked for their advice on what to do.  After discussions, the Junta unanimously decided that Aguinaldo should return to the Philippines to lead the struggle against the Spaniards.

Have Guns, Will Fight.  In preparation for his return to the Philippines, Aguinaldo gave Wildman P117,000 to be used in buying guns and ammunition.  The first shipment for P50,000 arrived promptly, but Aguinaldo never learned from the consul where the rest of the money went.

Aguinaldo’s Return to the Philippines.  Consul Wildman arranged Aguinaldo’s return on the revenue cutter McCulloch, which he and his companions boarded at night to avoid rousing the suspicion of the Spanish consul in Hong Kong.

On May 17, 1898, the ship left and arrived in Cavite two days later.  Aguinaldo was then taken to the Olympia, where he was accorded honors due a general.  Aguinaldo reportedly said that in their conference Dewey had given him assurance that the United States would recognize Philippine independence, which Dewey, however, denied.  It is suggested that, there being no sufficient evidence to prove Aguinaldo’s statement, he had mistakenly thought that Dewey was speaking for the American government.

Renato Constantino (The Philippines: A Past Revisited) points out that historians have treated the time when Aguinaldo was in Hong Kong as a period when the revolution was put on hold.  That was during a time when he and others in Hong Kong were planning its resumption and, with this view, the acts of resistance in the country while Aguinaldo was away were “dismissed as if they were not part of the revolutionary stream.... Actually, the different manifestations of resistance which Aguinaldo so cavalierly branded as banditry just because he had chosen to surrender were the continuing expression of the people’s determination to fight for the goals of the Katipunan.”

Then, Aguinaldo was again in the Philippines, ready to lead the very ones he had branded bandits.

With Aguinaldo’s return to the Philippines, Constantino saw “four major forces on the historical stage”:

  • Spanish colonialism, which was trying to ward off its impending end.
  • American imperialism, which was waiting for such time when it had gathered sufficient military strength in the Philippines before showing its real motives.
  • The Filipino ilustrados, whose main concern was to place themselves in a jockeying position whatever political setup was to emerge. (However, their ultimate objective was supposedly independence, but they were ready to accept becoming an American protectorate or even annexation, just as they readily accepted continuing Spanish rule after the Pact of Biak-na-Bato).
  • And the masses, who still believed in and fought for the revolutionary objectives of the Katipunan.

The people showed that they could continue the struggle without the leadership of those who entered into the Pact of Biak-na-Bato.  However, they were unaware of the “dangers that its (leadership) inherently compromising nature posed for the goal of independence.”

On May 21, 1898, two days after he arrived, Aguinaldo in a letter advised the people to “respect foreigners and their properties, also enemies who surrender...if we do not conduct ourselves thus the Americans will decide to sell us or else divide up our territory as they will hold us incapable of governing our land, we shall not secure our liberty; rather the contrary; our own soil will be delivered over to other hands.”

When news of Aguinaldo’s arrival spread, a number of Filipino volunteers in the Spanish army defected to the Filipino side.  They were assigned to occupy Dalahikan, the Cavite shipyard, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Spaniards.  Munitions were obtained from the captain of the American warship Petrel.

By the end of May, with the growing number of revolutionary supporters, 5,000 Spaniards had been captured. Within a week, Imus and Bacood, in Cavite, and Parañaque and Las Piñas in Morong, were seized from Spanish control, so with San Fernando and Macabebe in Pampanga.  Joining the fight for freedom were the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Tayabas (Quezon), and Camarines.

Spanish Last-Ditch Attempts.  Governor-General Augustin was demoralized by the defection of the Filipinos from the Spanish army to Aguinaldo’s side and Dewey’s victory over the Spanish fleet on Manila Bay.  Nevertheless, he desperately tried to save the situation.

In May, he issued two decrees creating a Filipino Volunteer Militia and a Consultative Assembly.  His purpose was to win over the ilustrados, whom he appointed to both bodies.  However, this backfired because all of those appointed in the militia instead joined Aguinaldo.  On the other hand, the Consultative Assembly, which was headed by Pedro Paterno, the negotiator of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato and who appealed to the Filipinos to stand by Spain, accomplished nothing.

Cavite Falls.  The renewed revolution after Aguinaldo’s arrival from Hongkong immediately became a success. By June 2, 1898, General Artemio Ricarte accepted the surrender of the Spanish commanding general in Cavite.

The Filipinos gained victory after victory.  Within the month of June 1898, almost the whole of Luzon (except for the port of Cavite and Manila) had fallen into rebel hands.  It was these victories by the people that “gave substance to the legal institutions the ilustrados were establishing.

American Duplicity.  All the while, the Americans waited for reinforcements.  Aguinaldo was treated with the courtesies befitting a head of state. Playing safe, the Americans took care not to make any commitments at the same time, continuing to let the Filipinos think they meant well.  Their motive was to use the Filipinos to fight the Spaniards until reinforcements arrived.

The Siege of Manila. The Walled City (Intramuros) was then known as the City of Manila. (The outlying districts were the arrabales or suburbs.) When the Spanish navy was destroyed, many Spaniards had taken refuge there.  When Dewey did not bombard the city after winning the Battle of Manila Bay, the Spanish became optimistic.  They didn’t know that he was just waiting for reinforcements.  However, Aguinaldo seized the opportunity to besiege the city and cut off its food and water supply to force the Spaniards out.  Aguinaldo offered the option of surrender three times, with generous terms, to Governor-General Augustin but these were rebuffed.

V. DICTATORIAL GOVERNMENT

When Aguinaldo had arrived from Hong Kong, he had with him a draft of a plan drawn up by Mariano Ponce.  The plan was for the establishment of a revolutionary government. However, he was prevailed upon by his adviser, Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, to form a dictatorial government instead.  On May 24, 1898, Aguinaldo issued a decree formally establishing such form of government, albeit temporary in nature.  The decree also nullified the orders issued under the Biak-na-Bato Republic.

Having a government in operation, Aguinaldo then deemed it necessary to declare the independence of the Philippines against the objections of Apolinario Mabini, who had become his unofficial adviser.

Mabini considered it more important before declaring independence to first reorganize the government into one that could prove to the foreign powers its competence and stability.  It was Aguinaldo who won.

Apolinario MabiniApolinario Mabini: The Brains of the Katipunan.  Born in Talaga, Tanauan, Batangas Province, Apolinario Mabini played an important role in the Aguinaldo government. Born of poor parents, his poverty did not deter him from pursuing high studies.  His mother wanted him to become a priest.  However, he opted to study law, and he received his degree in 1894 from the University of Santo Tomas.

In 1896, he contracted an illness that left him paralyzed in the lower limbs.  He had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the revolution, but he was released when the Spaniards saw he was paralyzed.  However, in truth, he did have some involvement, having been a member of Rizal’s reformist La Liga Filipina.

While taking his vacation in Los Baños, Laguna, in 1898, he was fetched by Aguinaldo’s men.  The men alternated in carrying him in his hammock. Afterwards, he was made Aguinaldo’s adviser.  Those envious of his position regarded him the “Dark Chamber of the President,” but he is better known in history as the “Brains of the Revolution” and the “Sublime Paralytic.””

VI. PROCLAMATION OF PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE

On June 12, 1898, Philippine independence was proclaimed in Kawit, Cavite.  The Philippine flag, which had been hand-sewn by Marcela Agoncillo in Hong Kong, was first officially raised.  Also, the Marcha Nacional Filipina, the Philippine national anthem composed by Julian Felipe, was first played in public.  The declaration of independence was patterned after the American Declaration of Independence.  It was signed by 98 persons.

Revolutionary Government.  For his part, Apolinario Mabini considered the declaration of independence premature and inadequate, due to the lack of participation of the people.  Thus, he urged Aguinaldo to change the form of government from dictatorial to revolutionary.  That was done on June 23, 1898.  The decree also provided for the creation of Congress.

VII. BACK TO THE WALLED CITY

While the Walled City was under naval blockade from the Manila Bay, in June and July, 1898, Aguinaldo had already accomplished a complete tight land siege around the city.  For the fourth time, on July 7 (since August 1896) Aguinaldo made another demand from the Spanish general to surrender.

The Spanish official, however, refused to do so upon instruction from Madrid.  He was ordered that if it was inevitable to surrender, he should surrender to the Americans, not to the Filipinos.

(In another development, on July 15, 1898, the first cabinet appointments were made.  Aguinaldo’s cabinet was composed of ilustrados, most of whom had been on the Spanish side.  It is also noteworthy that Cayetano Arellano, who was held in high regard even by the Spaniards, was offered the post of secretary of foreign affairs.  However, he declined, pretending to be ill because his loyalties lay with the Americans. Mabini later accepted the position.)

Provinces Recovered, One by One.  By the time the Battle of Manila was to be held, other parts of the country were already in complete control of Aguinaldo’s forces.  In July, the provinces of La Union, Pangasinan, and Mindoro were taken. Generals Manuel and Casimiro Tinio went to Ilocos from Nueva Ecija to Ilocus Sur.  Other forces were sent to Antique and Capiz.

Surrender Negotiations.  After fresh American troops arrived on June 30, July 17, and July 31, 1898, Dewey started negotiating with Governor-General Augustin and with Belgian Consul, Andre, acting as go-between for the surrender of the Spaniards.  Word about this reached the Peninsular Government, which immediately replaced Augustin with General Fermin Jaudenes.  The two powers then very secretly agreed to stage a mock battle between them on one condition—that no Filipino troops would be allowed to enter Manila, clearly an act of betrayal of the Filipinos on the part of the Americans.

Mock Battle of Manila.  All along, Aguinaldo and his forces guarded the city, and waited for the Spaniards to give in to hunger and thirst and surrender.  After the secret deal between the Americans and the Spaniards, General Merritt, who had overall command of the American forces, decided to conduct the “offensive” against Manila from the side of Manila Bay.

General Francis Greene, who headed the second reinforcements, was instructed to tell Aguinaldo and his troops to show their cooperation with the Americans by leaving the area free for the foreigners to occupy.  Although Aguinaldo showed caution by demanding that this request be made in writing, he gullibly withdrew his troops when Greene promised to grant that request after the evacuation.  But Greene reneged on his promise.

Aguinaldo started to get suspicious about the continuous arrival of American reinforcements. He considered them unnecessary because the Filipinos had the situation well in hand. His sentiments were shared by his generals.  They did not, however, do anything about this.  Therefore, the American troops were able to be installed in place.

On the eve of the mock battle, General Anderson, commander of the first reinforcements, even telegraphed Aguinaldo not to let his troops enter Manila without permission from the American commander or else they would be fired upon.

However, the Filipinos were not to be left out of the assault.  On the dark and rainy morning of August 13, 1898, they amassed on the right side of General Arthur MacArthur, who had led the third American reinforcements, ready for battle.

The Americans started their mock attack, with the Filipinos unsuspectingly fighting with all their might.  There was token resistance from the Spaniards.

At about 11:20 a.m., the Spaniards raised a flag of surrender, but it was only noticed at noon.  By 5:00 p.m., the surrender negotiations were completed.  The Spanish authorities agreed to surrender the Spaniards and the Filipino volunteers in the city on the condition that the Americans would safeguard the city and its inhabitants, churches, and religious worship.

The next day, August 14, the document stating the terms of surrender was formally signed by representatives of both parties.  General Merritt then announced the establishment of the Military Government.  It turned out that the mock battle need not have been staged, as the two powers had already been negotiating to end hostilities.

Thus, on August 12, Washington, D.C. time, American President McKinley issued a proclamation directing the suspension of all military operations against the Spaniards.  However, this did not reach Dewey as he had cut the cable between Manila and the outside world after winning the Battle of Manila Bay.  By the time he received it, on August 16, the surrender agreement had been signed.

VIII. REVOLUTIONARY CONGRESS

President Aguinaldo convoked the Revolutionary Congress in Barasoain, Malolos, Bulacan Province.  Those officers elected on September 15, 1898, were Pedro A. Paterno (the very same man who had brokered the betrayal of the revolution at Biak-na-Bato) as its president; Benito Legarda, vice president; Gregorio Araneta, first secretary; and Pablo Ocampo, second secretary.

The leadership of the revolution had been seized by the Cavite elite when Aguinaldo came into power in Tejeros, Cavite.  He then reasserted his (and thus ilustrado) leadership after surrendering in the Pact of Biak-na-Bato and returning from exile in Hong Kong, both with the help of the Americans.

Constitution.  The Congress, which Mabini had envisioned to be a mere advisory, not legislative, body of the president, proposed that a constitution be drafted, overruling Mabini’s objections.  He had meritoriously argued that the constitution had to be framed under peaceful conditions, but he was outvoted by the majority under Paterno. He proposed a constitution, which was rejected.  Instead, one planned by Filipino lawyer Felipe Calderon was considered.

More Provinces Recovered.  In September, 1898, the provinces of Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya were recovered. General Vicente Lukban also rushed to Samar and Leyte where he met little opposition.  On September 15, 1898, in Malolos, Bulacan, President Aguinaldo formally declared the conclusion of the liberation of the Philippines.  By October, General Lukban was in control of the situation Camarines.

On November 29, 1898, the Malolos Congress approved the constitution. However, Aguinaldo refused to sign it due to Mabini’s objections.

Meanwhile, there were still Spanish garrisons in Cebu and Iloilo under General Montero and General de los Rios respectively.  (Montero and his forces later surrendered on December 24, 1898.  General de los Rios was to evacuate to Iloilo on December 26 and leave for Zamboanga on the way home to Spain.)

When Mabini’s objections were satisfied the Malolos Constitution was promulgated on January 21, 1899.  On January 23, 1899, the Philippine Republic was inaugurated in Malolos, with Aguinaldo as its first president.

Despite the proclamation of the Philippine independence and the establishment of the First Philippine Republic, the Philippines did not become a member of the family of nations. Among others, the United States and Spain did not recognize it.  The U.S. had by then decided to annex the Philippines as its territory in the Pacific.

(End of excerpt from The Filipino Americans (1763-Present):
Their History, Culture, and Traditions by Veltisezar Bautista.)


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