I would like to open with Nick Joaquin’s metaphor on the sorcerer’s apprentice and of the cauldron. This is a good metaphor in order to understand our story of nation-building. The story goes that a sorcerer had once an apprentice who was tasked to do the mixing of the magical stew in a cauldron. The sorcerer had told his apprentice already of the ingredients but instructed the latter never to put those ingredients without the former’s permission. The sorcerer knew that it was still too early to put in the ingredients but the impatient apprentice threw in the ingredients for he was too eager already to see the final outcome of the stew. The stew instead fizzled out and was rendered useless.
It is the perfect metaphor to fit in the description of what happened at the dawn of the 20th century in the Philippines. Many had argued that the upper class had taken over the revolution that the people from the lower classes had started. It may seem that the revered illustrados were against the revolution, that they did not want bloodshed, and that they only sought for reforms. But it was the opposite. It was the illustrados who were envisioning the revolution all along. They envisioned not just a petty mindless revolt but a revolution that leads into nation-building. It was what they were planning all along. The next question now was when they started envisioning this idea.
If we look into St. Thomas Aquinas’ philosophies, into the cosmological arguments, we must concede that these series of events that led to what we are right now were consequences of the surrounding circumstances. One thing caused the other, and if we try to look into the root cause of everything, we would end up into the Prime Mover and Cause, which is God. Therefore it will be useless to point on something specific as the catalyst of everything that happened in the Philippines that led to what it is today.
In my narration however, I will set my benchmark on the dark ages of Philippine history, at the time when the archipelago was no more than a stagnant feudal society under the enconmienda system, where there was no sense of nation, no memories of the past, and no certainty of the future. A society cannot stay stagnant forever. The Earth itself was changing. It won’t be long before change overcome the persistence of the stagnant society. Like Newton’s first law, Inertia, once it started to move, it will keep on going.
It started when the Brits invaded Manila in 1762. At that time, the government of the Philippines was cut off from Mexico and from Spain. With no means of communication, the Creoles in the Philippines could have descended into panic. But that was not the case, for even though the Philippines was cut off from Spain, its residents stood ground. They were led by Simon de Anda, who established the interim Spanish Capital in Pampanga. That triggered the idea that the Philippines was feasible for self-governance. Around the same time, the Jesuits were expelled from the Philippines. That started the secularization of the Philippine Churches, employing not only Creoles but also Indios into becoming priest. All the Indios though everlasting started to fade away. A path has been made.
Reform movements began which were at the time seculars and Creole exclusive. The government was forced to take on this movement, reaching its first climax around the 1820s led by Padre Gomez. However, the movement reached its stalemate by the 1820’s because of Mexico’s secession from the Spanish Empire. The kicked out friars from Mexico assumed the positions of the secular priest of the Philippines and the archipelago was placed under direct authority of Spain, with the Viceroy of Mexico gone, granting Creoles some rights over government.
The movement was revived in the 1860’s by Padre Jose Burgos, a Creoles priest that belonged to the secular sector. He was backed by some intellectuals and plutocrats like the Sanciancos, Natividads, Paternos, Buencaminos, Regidors, and Pardo de Taveras. They were the original Kilusang Propaganda, the first illustrados. They were no longer composed of the Creoles alone. Mestizos and Indios had joined the ranks in the movement. The participants of the movement identified themselves as Hijos de Pais, or “Anak ng Bayan“, and for the first time addressed themselves as Filipinos. A nation was conceived.
Under the Captaincy of Carlos Maria dela Torre, the movement reached its zenith. To add it up, the middle-class began to emerge in society due to the economic reforms during the 1820s. The mestizos were granted shared ownership over the agricultural lands with the friars. The commerce finally began to prosper. However, almost everything was quickly suppressed under the rule of dela Torre’s successor, Rafael Izquierdo who was installed after the counter-revolution of the conservatives. He saw the role of the friars vital to governance in the Philippines.
The key figures of the movement including Fr. Burgos were implicated to the mutiny in Fort San Felipe, which was staged by the friars who had someone dress like Burgos and convinced the men at the fort led by Sergeant Lamadrid to stage a mutiny in Cavite and were arrested. The leader of the student body, Felipe Buencamino, was jailed for a while. The Creole faction of the movement were exiled. It was the secularization movement that took the full brunt, with its members suffering their fate on the gallows. Hoping that he would be saved, Francisco Saldua, one of the mutineers, implicated Padre Burgos along with his innocent colleague, the gambler Padre Jacinto Zamora, and already dormant Padre Mariano Gomez, who had been in a life of retirement already. Both the convicted and the witness were sentenced to death by garrote by a mock trial.
The suppression of the secular movement generated ripples in the society that Padre Burgos distinguished as Filipino. The exiled participants like Dr. Gregorio Sancianco, Antonio Ma. Regidor, the Pardo de Taveras, would resume their propaganda in Europe. Mamerto Natividad Sr. would soon be sentenced to death by firing squad. His son, Mamerto Jr., was mistaken as his father only to find the error when he was already in jail. Don Maximo Paterno, before being exiled, sent his pompous son, Pedro, to Europe, who would launch a salon which would serve as the rallying point of the Filipino expatriates who would arrive in Europe. Graciano Lopez-Jaena started his dream of becoming a politician in Jaro. The lawyer Marcelo H. Del Pilar started his maneuvers within the government and would later resume the mass movements. The brother of Burgos’ apprentice Paciano Mercado, Jose, had to change his surname to avoid suspicion.
In Don Pedro’s salon came the politician-wannabe from Jaro who joined the friars’ wishlist for the execution ground, and the scholar from Ateneo, initially wanting to be a Jesuit priest, now pursuing medicine in Europe on Don Pedro’s recommendation. It also attracted maestros de obras, Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo, whose painting would bring the gold and silver in the Madrid exposition and in the celebratory speech dedicated to these maestros that this Atenean, who was accustomed to the “excellente” remarks in his youth, would also have to be accustomed with the remarks of being an “erehe” and to the scornful and suspicious eyes of the Spaniards glaring at him.
As time passed by, the the Filipino expatriates grew in numbers, with the opening of the Suez Canal that shortened the gap between Philippines and Spain, and the increase in numbers of the middle-class principalia in the archipelago. Mariano Ponce, the “Tikbalang” introduced to the movement who were politically active after being enlightened by the liberalism in Mother Spain, the Bulaqueño periodista and lawyer Marcelo H. Del Pilar who went to Spain to avoid arrest warrants due to his scathing articles in the publication Diariong Tagalog and to the mass movements that he had organized.
Juan Luna, who had a brother who would soon obtain a doctorate named Antonio who would contribute immensely to the movement despite his volatile temper, and Felix Hidalgo produced revenues from their art works which became the capital to initiate the publication of their politically motivated articles and activities, with Graciano Lopez-Jaena contributing most in order to continue his Bohemian life as a freeloader. The expatriates enjoyed the liberties that they were having in Spain and with that, they started envisioning the same with the Philippines. The flames of reform movement were burning at their finest, envisioning a revolution comparable to that of the French Revolution.
Jose Rizal departed from his bright future, from his happiness, and wrote his death warrant, Noli me Tangere, the 2nd novel made by a Filipino after Pedro Paterno’s Ninay. Unlike Pedro’s novel, which carried the remnants of the Creole advocacy – the Philippines as Spain’s offspring, the novel ventured into the concept of revolution, secession from Spain, the birth of the Filipino nation and the expulsion of the friars, other than the talks on reform, an untouched idea of a heretic and a pilibuster, both warrants a sentence of death.
With the Filipino society in Spain increasing in numbers, with the addition of engineering students like Jose Alejandrino and Edilberto Evangelista and with the presence of Rizal, Del Pilar and Lopez-Jaena considered as the triumvirate, Galicano Apacibles formally bound these people in the publication that he founded, La Solidaridad, with the natural genius Lopez-Jaena as its first editor and Rizal as the unofficial leader. But soon, Graciano could not carry on with his responsibility and resigned from his post as editor, declaring that he decided to pursue Spanish politics, abandoning the cause. Rizal would be the suitable candidate as successor but he was on leave, doing research on libraries while writing his second novel, El Filibusterismo, which tackled the circumstances leading to a rebellion or revolution while showing the pros and cons of that advocacy.
By the time he refused the position, the members of La Solidaridad chose Marcelo H. Del Pilar as the new editor and by the time Rizal returned to the movement, there was already animosity in the movement, therefore, even though he won against Del Pilar eventually as leader, he renounced his position and returned to the Philippines to establsih the La Liga Filipino, the Filipino counterpart of the Iberian movement. But the Liga did not last long for Dr. Rizal was arrested as he was to depart again after mediating the land dispute in Calamba, because of the heretic pamphlets that was planted in his baggage by the agents of the friars. He was expecting a death sentence hoping that his martyrdom would hasten the development of the nationalist feelings of Filipinos, but instead he was deported to Dapitan or exile which became a place of solitude for him with the news of his beloved Leonor Rivera’s betrothal and death still fresh to him.
While Rizal was out of the picture, La Liga Filipina was divided into two faction: the Cuerpo de Compromisarios who were funding the La Solidaridad of Del Pilar until 1895 when it became bankrupt with Del Pilar conceding to the idea of revolution, silently supporting the other group, the militant Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galangan Katipunang Anak ng Bayan, a secretive group aiming the liberate the archipelago through means of armed revolution which was discovered in 1896 through Teodoro Patiño, at the time it was led by Andres Bonifacio, a former member of La Liga Filipno and Cuerpo de Compromisarios who left those groups for he had no chance on leading it, forcing the Katipuneros into tearing their cedulas in Pugad Lawin and Balintawak in August 1896 and launching their attack on an unchartered territory for the Manileños on the Spanish Garrison in San Juan which ended in failure.
Meanwhile, the Katipuneros in Cavite, backed by the middle-class and intellectuals like Mamerto Natividad and Edilberto Evangelista as envisioned by the propagandistas, successfully took most of Cavite with victories over Binakayan and Imus led by Emilio Aguinaldo, much to the panic of the Spaniards who were left with little forces for most of the Spanish army were deployed in Mindanao. Amidst the desperation of the Spaniards, only one Spaniard stood tall and firm, the Governor-General himself, Ramon Blanco y Erenas, the Marquis of Peña-Plata, removing the influence of the bishops in the government, forcing the bishops into sending emergency telegrams to Spin, taking up a defensive stances for his forces suffered defeat already in Cavite while waiting for reinforcements, amidst the demands to execute Dr. Rizal who was the soul of the rebellion. The reinforcements indeed arrived at mid-December 1896, but much to Blanco’s surprise, along with the reinforcements was his replacement as Governor-general, Camilo de Polavieja, heeding the bishops call and thus removing the only obstruction to Rizal’s execution which was done on the 30th of December 1896, triggering coordinated attacks from the Katipunan led by Bonifacio, from the eight provinces that were originally place by Blanco under Martial Law, which were repelled by the forces of Polavieja, forcing Bonifacio to flee to Cavite under the request of Magdiwang, one of the two factions of Katipunan in Cavite, other than the Magdalo, led by the officers of Cavite El Viejo who were hospitable during the arrival of the Supremo, on which Bonifacio tried to turn both factions against each other instead of mediating, forcing the factions to get rid of Bonifacio and the Katipunan, replacing it with a revolutionary government on which Aguinaldo, who nominated Edilberto Evangelista who unfortunately was killed in Zapote bridge, was elected president in the elections on Tejeros, which outraged Bonifacio who started plotting with Generals Mariano Noriel and Pio del Pilar after denouncing the election that Aguinaldo found out but had forgiven on which Bonifacio exploited by plotting against the revolutionary government with the Batangueños, a plot that was foiled placing Bonifacio on the death row on which Aguinaldo reduced into banishment, causing outrages among Caviteños and former allies of Bonifacio, including Noriel and Del Pilar who demanded the death and execution of Bonifacio which was carried out by the men of Lazaro Macapagal in Mt. Buntis. The two rival factions became united in the expense of Bonifacio’s blood.
Under the offensive led by Polavieja, who would step down on his post, citing bad health, the Caviteños were driven out of Cavite. Under Lachambre, the revolutionary government which was yet to draft a constitution were driven out of Morong. Finally, under Lachambre’s successor, Fernando Primo de Rivera, Aguinaldo holed himself on Biak-na-bato with the revolutionaries where they drafted the Constitution of Biak-na-bato which were signed by revolutionary officers, namely Artemio Ricarte, the commander-in-chief of the revolutionary forces, Lt. Colonel Gregorio del Pilar, the leading commander of Bulacan, Tomas Mascardo, the former right-hand man of Edilberto Evangelista, Lt. Colonel Manuel Tinio, who would succeed his commander after carrying his deceased body back to headquarters, and his commander Lt. Gen. Mamerto Natividad, the man who mainly opposed the truce proposed by Pedro Paterno, a key figure of the reformist faction of the Kilusang Propaganda who had already romanticized the relationship of Filipinos and Spaniards knowing that a conclusion on the battle of Biak-na-bato would ruin his ideals and dreams forver, but unfortunately was killed in skirmish in the outskirts of Biak-na-bato removing the only hindrance to the truth which came into realization when Aguinaldo and his associate were exiled to Hong Kong in exchange for monetary compensation which was used to purchase weapons, with the objection of the faction of Isabelo Artacho who filed a suit in the Hong Kong courts, for they knew that the fighting would resume given the tensions on the other colonies of Spain which the United States started intervening, aiding the Cubans against the Spaniards, climaxing on the explosion of the USS Maine on February 1898, triggering the Spanish-American war which spread to all the colonies of Spain including the Philippines on which Spencer Pratt, the US Consul of Singapore, and George Dewey, the leader of the Asia Pacific Squadron, convinced Aguinaldo into cooperating with the Americans in battling the Spaniards, which started with Dewey’s obliteration of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, giving way for the Filipino exile, including Aguinaldo to return to the Philippines to resume fighting, retaking the claim on continuing on the revolution which was continued in reality by loyalist of Bonifacio.
On May 23, 1898, to take all the glory to himself again, Aguinaldo declared himself as dictator of the Philippines with his loyal generalsa being apponited as dictators to each of the provinces revolting against Spain. It was an easy task or these generals to reconquer these provinces from the Spaniards who had already lost hope. That easy task would soon feed their ego and overconfidence in contrast to the Spaniards who began bargaining through the help of Felipe Buencamino Sr., being summoned and appointed by Governor-General Basilio Agustin, when the Filipinos had already encircled the walled city of Intramuros after the initiatives of the Caviteños who had declared independence for the whole archipelago on June 12, 1898, but Spain, upon knowing Agustin’s bargaining had him replaced by Fermin Jaudenees who imprisoned Buencamino upon his return and struck a deal with the Americans instead, leading to the mock battle of Manila on August 13, handing over the Walled City to the Americans, much to the disappointment of the Filipinos.
Two illustrados were enlisted at the revolutionary government, both were suspicious of the Americans: Apolinario Mabini, who was hired by Aguinaldo who was advised by Mabini to issue a formal proclamation of Independence on June 23, 1898, would become the first prime minister of the Aguinaldo Cabinet and would be known as the Brains of the Revolution, much to Emilio Jacinto and Gregoria de Jesus’ dismay; and Antonio Luna, whose confession led to the execution of Moises Salvador and Jose Rizal in 1896, tried his best to redeem himself by training under Gerard Lehmann on military sciences and establishing the first Filipino Military Academy that envisioning in imposing discipline and unity on the Filipino army that had become fragmented, undisciplined, and only their respective general who had treated themselves as almighty landlords.
Upon learning the entitlement of the leader of the American Forces, Wesley Meritt, as the Governor-General of the Philippines, many of the Filipinos were enraged especially on the exclusion of the Filipinos from the ongoing talks for the Treaty of Paris but due to the manipulations of Meritt’s successor, Elwell Otis, the Filipinos were fooled by the sweet promises of the American until the deliberate resumption of hostilities on February 4, 1899.
The American swiftly placed the blame on the Filipinos thus prompting the US Senate to vote for annexation and the ratification of the Treaty of Paris. The Americans aimed to conquer the islands, trampling upon the fruits of the labor, the blood and sweat of the Filipnios. At the outbreak of the war, the American launched offensive to occupy the outermost defenses of the old Spanish capital, the Spanish blockhouses, stretching from Malabon to La Loma, from La Loma to San Juan, and from San Juan to Malate under the cover of artillery fire from the navy.
The Americans expended much of its military energy to the northern theatre of Manila, aiming to topple the central government of the 1st Philippine Republic, which had its constitution already ratified by the Congress, the monument of the national unity, on the republic’s capital, Malolos, starting in La Loma, where they engaged the veteran forces of the Chief-of-Operations, the Assistant Secretary of War, Antonio Luna, who rushed to the front lines upon the start of the war, wanting to show others, who were in doubt of him, how to be brave, personally carrying the wounded amidst the crossfire, most notably his aide-de-camp, Jose Torres Bugallon, who would later die from his injuries as the Filipinos retreated to Polo where Luna planned the counter-offensive which was launched a week later, initially successful at first with the Filipinos occupying most of Manila, encircling the Americans at Intramuros, but due to the disobedience of the Kawit Battalion, who told Luna that they would only follow orders coming directly from Emilio Aguinaldo, the Filipinos advances would soon fall as the Americans repelled the offensive and began pushing again towards the north, reoccupying Caloocan and forcing Luna to withdraw to Polo again.
After securing the conquered areas, the Americans began to push again northwards, following the Dagupan-Manila train line, forcing the Filipino government to vacate its capital on Malolos and would soon begin the changing the seat of government from one place to another, with the series of defeats giving birth to the cowardly sentiment among the Filipino ruling classes, with the first one being the annexationists which Mabini was able to deal with and the second one being the autonomist, who were enchanted by the sweetened words of the American Commission sent to the Philippines, the Schurman Commission, who were able to pressure Mabini, who was the remaining legal pillar of the Philippine Independence Movement with Luna tendering his resignation from his post because of the insubordination and disorganization of the Filipino forces, which was following by the liquidation of Luna through assassination.
Emilio Aguinaldo, who relied on guerilla warfare, was being chased endless by the American, reaching his dead end on Palanan, Isabela, where he was captured in March 23, 1901, effectively ending the war and the most agitated period in Philippine history.