WE WON THE REVOLUTION
Yesterday, when I looked at the date 13 August, I knew it was an anniversary of a really important event that I always cite in my lectures in history and my tours, just didn’t figure it our immediately. Only later did I realize that it was the 114th anniversary of the Mock Battle of Manila in 1898, when the Americans won over the Spaniards and took over Manila after the Spaniards negotiated to just be allowed to have an honorable defeat. Since this is also the month of the start of the Philippine Revolution, this short piece I wrote for my former column “Walking History” from the former newspaper “Good Morning Philippines,” 10 August 2011:
When Ms. Rita Gadi asked me when and where the Philippine Revolution started in 1896, I was stupefied at first. How do you quickly explain that many witnesses produced many answers: Kangkong (23 August), Pugad Lawin (23 August), Bahay Toro (24 August), Sitio Gulod, Barrio Banlat (near Pasong Tamo now Tandang Sora Ave., 24 August), Balintawak (26 August). Historians Milagros Guerrero, Emmanuel Encarnacion and Ramon Villegas wrote in an article in 1996 that the now “official” August 23 Cry of Pugadlawin is erroneous (there was no such place name in 1896 maps of the area), and that it was possible that there were many cries as they were organizing people in different places. In a 1989 column anyway, Dr. Ambeth Ocampo cleared that all those other place names cited were in the area called “Balintawak.” So maybe it’s safer to call it Cry of Balintawak.
The possibility of many cries can be supported by two historians, Dante Ambrosio and Enrico Azicate who in 1995 tried to walk through the places cited in accounts and sure enough, a path can be established that can lead to that important battle in San Juan by early morning of 30 August known as “Pinaglabanan.”
Dr. Guerrero, et al suggested that instead of celebrating the uncertain 23 August cry, it’s better to commemorate the well documented establishment of the Revolutionary Government by the Kataastaasang Sanggunian of the Katipunan on 24 August at the house of Tandang Sora in Banlat. This is where Andres Bonifacio was elected as the first president of the first national government in the Philippines. This is when our bansa was born. With this, I agree with my mentor Dr. Guerrero.
A bigger problem than the contradicting facts of the first cry are misconceptions about the revolution itself. We Filipinos, regrettably, easily forget about the past. And worst, many times we commemorate and emphasize our defeats. By reading history written for us by foreigners, we look at ourselves in the point of view of the other. Thus our colonial mentality and inferiority complex which had a long term effect on us—we feel that all good things about us came from foreigners (remember learning about pamana ng mga Espanyol and pamana ng mga Amerikano?), and that “ginhawa” can only be attained if we go out of this country. One thing we tell ourselves is that we lost the Philippine Revolution, and it was the Americans who helped us defeat the Spaniards with the victory of the “Hero of Manila” Admiral George Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay.
One major thing that I cherished learning from Dr. Jaime Veneracion in one of my graduate courses in UP Diliman is that he emphasized that we won the revolution against Spain and that we must credit ourselves for it as a people.
When Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, tactically agreed to go abroad after his government made peace with the Spaniards, he negotiated with key American diplomats who verbally promised that they will help the Filipinos ensure their independence. One researcher from the National Historical Commission showed me a book by an American historian which stated that there was no evidence that the promise was ever given. This will show us how we must be conscious of perspective when reading history. Facts are not just facts.
On 1 May 1898, the seven-vessel Asiatic Fleet came to Manila Bay under Dewey and in the battle sunk all obsolete twenty Spanish ships. As Dr. Ambeth said, it was a “mismatch.” There was only one American casualty, and he didn’t die of battle wounds but of heat stroke! But Dewey did not have ground forces and so at this point they actually haven’t occupied the Philippines.
As the Americans were returning Aguinaldo back from Hongkong aboard McCulloch, many revolutionaries around the archipelago organized themselves again. Little by little, the Anak ng Bayan returned and took-over different towns from the Spaniards. After one of these battles, the Battle of Alapan, the Philippine flag made by Marcela Agoncillo, daughter Lorenza and Delfina Herbosa-Rizal, was unfurled at Teatro Caviteño in Cavite Viejo (Kawit) on 28 May. Thus we celebrate this as the start of the flag days.
Hearing about the continuous victories of the Filipinos in defeating the Spaniards who were our colonizers for 333 years, Gen. Aguinaldo acted quickly and at 4:02 PM on 12 June proclaimed Philippine Independence at the central window of his mansion in Kawit, [to] the tune of Julian Felipe’s Marcha Filipina Magdalo / Marcha Nacional Filipina. With this self-proclamation of V-S Day (Victory Over Spain), I believe that 12 June of every year is worth celebrating by every Filipino.
One of the 97 signers of the Acta was a certain Col. M.L. Johnson, assumed by many as the representative of Dewey who couldn’t come because it was his “mail day.” Historian J.R.M. Taylor clarified that he was not an official representative but a cinematograph operator. This shows that the Americans don’t have any intention to honor their word. American ground troops came and by 13 August, won against the Spaniards. Atop Baluarte de San Francisco Javier in Intramuros, the Stars and Stripes was raised for the first time. But it was a pre-negotiated battle, so the Spaniards can be defeated with honor, thus the monicker “Mock Battle of Manila.” Filipino troops marched to claim the old capital but they were stopped by the Americans. Sensing finally that the Americans were not to be trusted, he went to Bulacan, organized the Malolos Congress on 15 September, which gave birth to the First Constitutional Republic in Asia by 23 January 1899.
Although this victory was short lived as we fought once again in our war against the Americans, it reminds us that united, we can defeat any long-term problem battling us. With this I say, wake up and be inspired to greet every new morning as we proclaim our greatness. Good Morning Philippines!
Let me dedicate this column to my professor, Dante Ambrosio, who fought for our bayan and wrote about our constellations, thank you and goodbye. You are now part of the stars.