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Aguinaldo’s missing memoirs

Emilio Aguinaldo was born in Kawit, Cavite, on March 22, 1869. If he were alive today, it would be his 148th birthday. As we all know, he lived a very long life and died at 94 of coronary thrombosis in Veterans Memorial Hospital (now Veterans Memorial Medical Center) in Quezon City where he was confined for 469 days before his death. Hounded by controversy to his deathbed, the last issue that swirled around him was whether he died a Catholic or not.

Newspaper photos of the aged Aguinaldo receiving communion from a hospital chaplain were presented as proof he had returned to the Church. But this did not sway others who claimed that he didn’t know what was being put in his mouth, or that he was tricked into receiving the host, thinking it was his medication.

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A year before his death Aguinaldo donated his Kawit mansion and all its contents to the government. It is now under the care of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and known as the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine. Unlike the Jose Rizal Shrine in Calamba, Laguna, or the Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, Ilocos Norte, both modern reproductions, the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine is all original and provides visitors with a sense of how Aguinaldo spent his last years.

The original house of wood with a thatch roof is no more because Aguinaldo expanded it into the present mansion that includes the iconic “Independence Balcony” added on the original window where the Declaration of Independence was read on June 12, 1898.

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Aguinaldo’s elegant home has a number of secret passageways that allowed him to go in and out of the house without being seen by visitors: A cabinet turns to reveal a passage into the bedroom; the floor on the side of the bathroom can be lifted to reveal a staircase down to the ground-floor swimming pool and bowling alley; a heavy stone table in the center of the kitchen covers a tunnel that allegedly led to either the nearby church or the town cemetery. All these architectural and design details of the house unfortunately overshadow the work that has to be done in the home library filled with old books, magazines, newspaper clippings and, perhaps, some unpublished manuscripts that await young and curious historians.

Aguinaldo scribbled a lot in his old age. Between 1928 and 1946, he produced in long hand the first volume of his memoirs, “Mga Gunita ng Himagsikan (1964),” translated from the original Tagalog as “Memoirs of the Revolution” (1967). In his preface Aguinaldo says the memoirs were based on a diary he kept, documents he preserved, and family lore gathered from his elders. We do not know whether this diary is extant or whether a promised second volume of the memoirs were fully written out. All we have is an account from his birth and early years, ending with the 1897 Treaty of Biak-na-Bato.

The second volume would cover the resumption of the Philippine Revolution against Spain and the Philippine-American War. Aguinaldo wanted to correct history by making reference to the historian’s confused accounts on the beginning of the Revolution:

“Except for those that were written, other details had been forgotten. Many details showed inconsistencies because not all sources were documented for lack of reliable references. For instance, the right day of the First Cry of Balintawak could not be ascertained. Some say this took place on August 23, 1896 at the old Bonifacio Monument in Balintawak, others claim it happened on August 24, 1896. . . . we now have too many markers for a single event.”

The date we use in our textbooks and official commemorations was chosen by the National Historical Commission over other dates (in August and Sept. 5, 1896) presented by other sources. Aguinaldo stated that this event took place in Balintawak, but the late historian Teodoro A. Agoncillo took the word of Pio Valenzuela and argued for Pugadlawin. Aside from these two places, the other contenders are: Kangkong, Bahay Toro, Pasong Tamo, Pacpac Lawin and, if we are to believe in komiks, Pugad Baboy.

It may add more confusion to our history, but someone should track down Volume 2 of Aguinaldo’s memoirs, his diary and other papers. These are probably tucked away in some secret compartment or forgotten drawer in the Aguinaldo Shrine.

 Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: Aguinaldo, Emilio Aguinaldo, History, Looking Back, memoir, opinion
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