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Friday, June 09, 2006
The Filipinos' fight for freedom against Spain 108 years ago was their "finest hour".

THE ROAD TO PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE ON JUNE 12,1898 was strewn with intrigues, battles and bravado, but the endo fo four centuries of Spanish rule in the country was an all-Filipino triumph that was our people's finest hour.

The terms of the truce treaty signed in Biyak-na-Bato (by the Spanish government and the Filipino revolutionary forces) in December 1897 were violated by both the Spaniards and the Filipinos. On February 14,1898, the Junta (council) of exiled Filipino revolutionary leaders and other patriots repudiated the treaty.

A battle between the rebels and the Spanish forces broke out on Febraury 19, just 15 kilometers east of Manila. The American consul in Manila reported that the regime was committing "barbarities" and there were "casualties too horried for an official report....; the vilest cruelties of war are added to the mangling of old men, womens and children to make full the measures of iniquity." These battles and their repercussions went on well into March with the revolutionary forces making headway in Bulacan, Camarines, Laguna, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan.

The 7th regiment of the Spanish army in Cavite, composed of Filipinos, was ordered to attack the rebels on March 24. They refused. Eight corporals were executed. The soldiers still refused to attack; the next day they deserted to the rebels, taking arms and equipments with them.

That same day the Guardia Civil killed 12 and captured 62 unarmed Visayan sailors in Binondo. The next day they executed their captives. The government claimed a conspiracy, but it believed that even innocent passers-by and civil government employees were among those killed. On April 3, Leon Quilat led an attack on the capitol of Cebu -- the revolutions had spread to the Visayas. The Spaniards retreated to Fort San Pedro. The rebels later captured a Guardia Civil detachment in Talisay. The Spaniards, with reinforcements, recaptured Cebu on April 8.

On April 24, 1898, Aguinaldo sent a message to the revolutionaries in the Philippijes to continue their fight against the Spaniards,that "Before long I will not fail to be there with you". Aguinaldo arrived in Hongkong from Singapore on May 2 but news of George Deweys' defeat of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay worried the Hongkong junta. The junta met on may 4 and Felipe Agoncillo, a diplomat of the Biyak-na-Bato republic, argued that Aguinaldo should return to the Philippines immediately.

"President Aguinaldo with his status would be able to rouse the people to rise and oppose the demands of the United States, if the latter intended to colonize their country, or inspire them, if the circumstance would require it, to wage a Titanic struggle for their independence, even if they should succumb in the course of rejecting the yoke of the new oppressor."

On the other hand, Agoncillo also felt that the fundamental principles of the American Constitution would not allow its government to colonize the Philippines. He thought that the Americans might help the Filipinos regain their independence from Spain and that Aguinaldo should be there to keep the Filipinos untied. He was afraid that if the Filipinos fouhgt among themselves, foreign powers would use that as a reason to interfere in Philippine affairs.

The junta eventually decided that Aguinaldo should return immediately to the Philippines. He arrived at the Cavite harbor on May 19 on board and American cutter McCullough and met with Dewey before landing. He left Dewey still hopeful that the Americans would honor PHilipine independence. He was not aware that on this day U.S. President McKinley had ordered his secretaries of war, navy and treaury to occupy the Philippines.

Two days after his return to Cavite, Aguinaldo announced that the Revolution would officially resume at noon on May 31. He asked the people to win over the Filipinos who had joined the native militia organized by the Spaniards to fight the Americans. He also instructed all revolutionary forces to wage "proper" war, otherswise, "the Americans will decide to sell us, or else divide up our territory ....; and our own land will be delivered over to other hands."

On May 22 Felipe Buencamino told Aguinaldo that Governor-General Basilio Augustin, who had replaces Primo de Rivera on April 10, was offering to make Aguinaldo chief of the Philippine armed forces and a brigadier general in the Spanish army. Aguinaldo had Buencamino arrested and jailed until Buencamino defected to Aguinaldo on June 6.

On May 24 Aguinaldo announced the formation of a temporary "dictatorial government" that would administer the islands until a consitutional republican assembly could be organized, which would then appoint a president and cabinet. He referred to America as the "cradle of genuine liberty" that was providing "distinterested protection" to the Filipinos. He also declared the Biak-na-Bato constotution null and void.

On June 2 the Spanish commanding general in Cavite surrendered to Generals Artemio Recarte and Mariano Trias in San Franciso de Malabon. Ricarte and Trias had been appointed to Aguinaldo's native militia and their men had been armed by the Spaniards.

Buencamino had been appointed to take charge of the native militia defending Zapote, while Pio del Pilar was in command of the native militia of Bacoor. Both militia groups defected to Aguinaldo, allowing Filipino forces to enter Manila. They laid seige on INtramuros.

On JUne 3, Augustin reported to Madrid that Aguinaldo had resumed the Revolutiona and that the Spanish commanding general in Cavite had been isolated. Reinforcements sent to rescue him were repulsed in a long battle. By June 8 Ausustin reported that the situation was "very serious" and the "enemy coming from Bulacan,Laguna and Cavite has surrounded the city of Manila." He thought that had Aguinaldo not returned he would have been able to wait for reinforcements from Spain. He did not know that Spain at that time had no reinforcements to send.

Aguinaldo had Buencamino send a letter to Augustin on June 9 asking the governor to surrender. Buencamino informed Augustin that since June 2 the Revolution had taken 2,500 prisoners. more than 5,000 rifles, eight cananons and many friars. He also informed Augustin that Pampanga had fallen to the revolutionary forces and that Spanish forces were surrounded in San Fernando and also in Lipa, Batangas. Augustin did not surrender, waiting it out in Intramuros until he was replaced on August 5.

Aguinaldo issued a decree on June 5 setting June 12 as the day when the Philippines would proclaim its independence. Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista was appointed auditor general of war by Aguinaldo on June 10 and given the task of writing the Act Of the Proclamation of Independence. Dewey declined the invitation to attend.

On June 12 around 4pm, the original Spanish text of the proclamation was read by Bautista to the crowd that had gathered in front of Aguinaldo's house in Kawit. The proclamation declared that Filipinos "are and have the right to be free and independent" and that the Philippines from that day onward "commences to have a life of its own". The document officially severed politial ties between the Philippines and Spain and invoked "the Supreme judge of the Universe" as witness to the Filipinos independence and sovereignty. It also mentioned the "protection of the mighty and humanitarian nation, North America."

The proclamation also referred to the centuries of abuse endured by the Filipino people under Spanish rule, espeically the Guardia Civil, General Blanco, the archbishop and the "greedy friars". The text linked the Revolution to the battles fouhgt by the likes of Soliman and Lakandula, who were independent and sovereign. The Revolution was seen as recovering what had been lost. The martyrdom of Gomburza and Rizal was also cited.

Buencamino then addressed the crowd in Tagalog, asking the people to defend the flag, which Aguinaldo had designed based on various flags of the Revolution. It was made in Hongkong by Dona Marcela Marino de Agoncillo, Delfina Herbosa de Natividad ( a niece of Jose Rizal) and Natividad's eldest daughter, sever year old Lornza. Ricarte interpreted the flag for the crowd; an explanation of the flag's elements was included in the proclamation.

A composition by Julian Felipe just a week earlier, the "Marcha Filipino Magdalo", was played by the Banda San Franciso de Malabon (Banda Matanda) at the June 12 ceremonies. The piece became the national anthem; it was renamed, "Marcha Nacional Filipina." A year later, Jose Velasquez Palma wrote a poem in Spanish entitled "Filipinas,Letras para la Marcha Nacional" The poem became the lyrics of the national anthem, which was renamed "Himno Nacional Filipino".

(Source: FILIPINASMAG/ Reprinted with permission from "10 Events That Shaped the Philippines", Virgilio S. Almario, Emelinda S. Almario and Mary-Ann Asico,eds., National Centennial Commission and Adarna Book Services, 1999.)
posted by infraternam meam @ 9:54 PM  
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