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Looking Back
Luna’s murder remains unsolved

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:41:00 11/10/2009

Filed Under: Crime, Murder, history

WHEN I WROTE about the contents of Antonio Luna?s bags at the time of his assassination by Emilio Aguinaldo?s Caviteno bodyguards in 1899, I thought readers would be bored and flip to the next page. I was surprised by the e-mail response concerning the use of Boric acid. I didn?t know what Luna used this for and presumed it was mixed with water and used as mouthwash. One reader suggested that it was used as a deodorant similar to tawas. Another theory was that Luna was probably afflicted by ?crotch rot? from his non-absorbent underwear and Boric acid was used to treat this rather embarrassing ailment. Fortunately many readers, starting with CCP chair Emily Abrera, remembered or have heard about Boric acid being used as eyewash.

Antonio Luna?s traveling bags contained about a dozen books. It is unfortunate that the illiterate person who made the inventory did not list down the titles because this would have provided us with the general?s bed-side reading.

There was an empty leather portfolio listed in the inventory and we will never know if it was empty at the time of Luna?s death or was emptied soon after. Did this contain important papers? Did this contain the funds of the Revolution that the late Ric Manapat claimed was entrusted to a certain Ysidra Cojuangco and became the foundation of that great Tarlac fortune.

Anyone who has browsed through the mass of documents known as the ?Philippine Insurgent Records? in the National Library will realize that the Aguinaldo government (or perhaps this was Apolinario Mabini?s influence) was very careful about records. If personal effects such as Boric acid and curling irons in Luna?s bags were listed down, surely more detailed records were kept regarding funds and assets. If Luna really entrusted the funds of the war to Ysidra Cojuangco, documentation will be found some day.

Luna?s bags contained 32 small boxes of cartridges, but where were his weapons? These were probably on his person at the time he was murdered and entrusted to Gen. Jose Alejandrino who said these included: one rifle, one Mauser, one espadin (either a dress sword or a rapier), ammunition and binoculars.

We do not know what these weapons looked like, but they are not as fashionable as those found on Gen. Gregorio del Pilar which included a silver whistle (formerly kept in the National Museum), and a gold-plated revolver (presently unlocated).

En route to Calumpit from San Fernando on March 31, 1899 Luna took out pen and paper and wrote out a short last will and testament that reads: ?First, I leave whatever I have to my mother. Second, if they kill me, wrap me in a Filipino flag with all the clothing with which I was dressed when killed, and bury me in the ground. Third, I wish to state freely that I would die willingly for my country, for our independence without hereby looking for death.?

We are familiar with this tragic story as recounted in history books. Luna received a telegram summoning him to a meeting with Aguinaldo in Cabanatuan. When he arrived there he was told that the president had gone to San Isidro. He decided to wait it out but saw Cavite soldiers he had disarmed for insubordination back in active service. He asked who had reinstated them without his knowledge and approval, and they pointed to the second floor of the house that served as Aguinaldo?s headquarters. While pacing impatiently in the house, Luna heard a shot from underneath the building so he went down to investigate. In the diary of Gen. Venancio Concepcion, it is recorded:

?Before he was able to clear the last step of the stairs, he received a deadly cut with a bolo on the back, and simultaneously all the soldiers present there, some with their rifles, while others with bolos, continued wounding him, until [he] fell dead, with more than 30 wounds inflicted by firearms and steel weapons.

?It is assured by many that Luna expired uttering these words, ?Cobardes, asesinos! [Cowards, murderers!]? and that after Luna had died, an old woman [according to some she was Aguinaldo?s mother] peeped [out from] a window in the presidential residence and in a loud voice asked those who were around the cadaver: ?Ano ba, nagalao pa iyan? [Well, is he is till moving?]??

Luna and his aide, Paco Roman, were buried in Cabanatuan with full military honors corresponding to their rank. In 1902 or 1903, Luna?s body was exhumed by a certain Antonio Jimenez who described the remains as follows:

?I saw in the cranium two marks of two wounds inflicted with a bolo, one towards the posterior part two inches long, and the other towards the front which destroyed the cavity wherein was found the left eye. There were also two wounds more in the bones of the right arm that were well marked. I have also seen several holes in the cranium that possibly were the effects of bullets from a gun.?

Luna?s bones were entrusted to his brother Jose and have never been seen or heard of since. Forensic doctors are solving more celebrated deaths like Napoleon?s or King Tut?s but Luna?s will remain on a long list of unsolved political murders. We may know how he was killed, but we will never really know why. How come the soldiers who did him in were neither investigated nor punished? Who was ultimately responsible?

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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