115 years of Philippine Independence (Part 1)


Prior to the colonial era, Philippines is a thriving civilization, diaries of pioneer westerners who arrived in various islands in the country praised the culture, political order and the progressive and organized lifestyle of the people. Many agreed that the early Filipinos, if only were Christians, could be of equal stance with the westerns (citation).

1521, the first Spanish expedition arrived in the Philippines. They were received with utmost hospitality, and the first Catholic mass was celebrated. But later on the real intention was revealed, not to befriend the locals but to subdue them . It was for this reason, the chieftain Lapu-lapu rallied his few but well trained warriors, to stand in front of the great Spaniard Ferdinand Magellan (Portuguese by birth) in the beach of Mactan. The Spaniards were armed with canons, guns and swords. Lapu-lapu and his men for the first time had an experience of  gun powder. Lapu-lapu and his warriors were armed with spears and kalis (local sword). Lapu-lapu wield his famous Kampilan (a broad single edge heavy sword). That battle ended the glory of Magellan; Spain for the first time had a taste of defeat.Image

But that was not the end of the Spanish conquest, for 300 years they ruled over the land, save for the fact that they were not able to fully control the Moro land and those of the Igorots in the high mountains of Cordillera.

After years of oppression, a young man from the peasantry organized a movement called the Katipunan, which became the first Filipino revolutionary movement. Its founder was Andres Bonifacio, known as the Supremo. With his bolo, and a pistol, together with his ill-armed revolutionaries raided Spanish installations.

The execution of Rizal, who sought reform in peaceful way lead more to join the revolution.

On June 12, 1898, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, elected by the revolutionaries as the first President of the Republic, also a katipunero, declared Philippine independence and raised the Philippine flag for the first time.

Sporadic rebellion unfurl in different provinces, the revolution led my Macario Sakay, Diego Silang, her wife Gabriela Silang and hundred more.

Spain is waning, local revolution is gaining momentum, then came the rising power, a break away colony of Great Britain, the United States of America. It forged an alliance with Aguinaldo, local revolutionaries will launch the ground assault as the USA has no enough infantry, while the US navy will confront the Spanish armada in Manila Bay. The war erupted, and with the sure defeat of Spain led to the signing of Treaty of Paris. A treaty that betrayed the Philippine revolutionaries under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.

Anti-imperialism movements in the USA were staged to oppose the annexation of the Philippines. The famous Mark Twain even remarked that a country founded on the principle of freedom and independence is bound to deny a nation’s freedom and independence.ImageImage

A single gunshot started the Philippine-American war. The authorities called it as Philippine insurrection. But one statesman and once again Mark Twain with the other anti-imperialists noted that while it is called insurrection to down play the status, it is a war costing the USA millions of dollar.

With the more advanced weaponries of the US soldiers it was sure that they will soon win the war. But not as easy as expected. One US soldier in his diary praised the military tactics of the revolutionaries. He praised the well-built trenches that made it hard for the US soldiers to advance.

In the Moro land (Mindanao) US is having a hard time conquering the suluks and tausugs. They called the moro warriors “the huramentados”. Armed with kalis (local sword) the huramentados would charge against the US soldiers, unstoppable by the .38 caliber pistol. The huramentados would bound their whole body with strings creating small pockets, thus when shot, the bleeding will not be intense thus could still charge and kill more before he dies. It is for this reason that the .45 calibre pistol was invented to stop the huramentados.

There was also, the so called Balanggiga Massacre, which is a retaliation to a previous attack by Filipino guerillas. The Filipino guerillas killed 48, wounding 26 from the 9th Infantry Batallion. As retaliation Gen. Smith ordered the annihilation of Balangiga, Samar, killing every one above the age of 10, burning every houses. Some historians said some 2000 locals were killed, some claim about 50,000. The US army took the bells of Balangiga church as a war booty, and is displayed in a military camp in the USA to this day.

Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was on the run, battalions of US soldiers were charge to capture him. In that final stand, in Tirad Pass in Tarlac a young General named Gregorio Del Pilar, roughly 17 years old volunteered to face the Americans to buy time for Aguinaldo’s escape. The few, poorly armed unit of Gen. Gregorio Del Pilar put a strong challenge against the Americans. They (americans) could not pass through the narrow path of Tirad Pass, until a local traitor revealed a secret passage, thus leading to the rounding up of the young General’s unit. As they call it, this event was like the 300 brave Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae until a secret passage was revealed.

The Americans were inspired by the young General’s bravery that some took portions of the young Generals possession as a token. They gave him a decent burial. In the young General’s pocket is a letter, which said in part “surely I will be defeated in this battle, you may be able to take my body and possessions, but never my principle and my honor, long live the Philippines!”Image

The capture of Gen. Aguinaldo marked the end of the first Philippine Republic.

1901 mark the American imperialism. For more or less 45 years, US controlled the Philippines.

Fast forward 1941 Japan launched its invasion of the Philippines. Brave Filipino-American soldiers defended the famous fortress of Corregidor and Bataan. One of the bloodiest war theatres in the Asia-Pacific. This time Filipinos and Americans stood side by side, no longer as enemies but as brothers in arms.

McArthur left Philippines to seek refuge in Australia, but the Filipino guerillas kept on. Local guerillas captured a classified Japanese document, which turned the tides of war in the Pacific. It turned out that the document is the blue print of the planned final blow of the Japanese armada. In 1946 Japan surrendered, ending almost 5 years of Japanese occupation.

War is over, and in 1946 US declared the independence of the country!

more than 300 years of Spanish rule, 45 years of American regime, and 5 years of Japanese occupation, Philippines was finally free.

Today we are face by yet another foreign challenge, China! We are tired of fighting; we want to settle things under the rule of law.

But never the less we will live to our promise, as inculcated in our National anthem “Aming ligaya pag may mang aapi, ang mamatay ng dahil sayo” (But it is glory ever when thou art wronged, For us thy sons to suffer and die.)

phil flag

disclaimer: pictures are not owned by the author. no copy right infringement intended, owners who wish to remove the photos may contact the author.


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