Looking Back

‘Driven by the heat of money’

/ 05:20 AM December 15, 2017

Rene Escalante, chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, shared a scan of a letter found inside old furniture in Fort Santiago. Written from Hong Kong on Feb. 15, 1899, this two-page unpublished letter is signed in Emilio Aguinaldo’s scrawl but was written legibly by a scribe. The salutation reads:

“Yguinagalang at minamahal cong capatid ang unang babayay nito’y ang datnin cayong tiuasay na ualang sacunang ano pa man, gayon din ang iguinagalang cong iniong familia at cung cami naman at mabuti po sa aua ni Bathala datapua’y aco lamang ang siang may taglay na saquit na halos sa bauat arao’y isang paglubha at ang ibang casamahan culang sa isip ay naghihinaquit sa aquin, sa calupitan co sa cayamanan ng bayan hinahauacan.”


Translated from the original Tagalog in full, the letter reads:

“Esteemed and dear brother,


“I hope this letter finds you and your family in good health. We are quite well, thanks to God, although I am the only one afflicted almost daily by a progressing illness due to some of our dull colleagues here who harbor resentment against me because of the strict control over the funds of the country in my care.

“News, that I find hard to believe, has reached me that it seems some of our colleagues there harbor a great desire to claim the money and divide the second or third tranche of the money to be remitted by the Spanish government, such that if this happens, some were already tempted, or were taken in, or driven by the heat of money, to overlook the purity and aims of the country. So where is the good fellowship, the unity of aim? Why, even I have been seen to wish my self-interest? I cannot refuse giving small amounts to the poor who have nothing to eat without depleting the funds of the country. Here we are patiently having sinigang every day so that we do not tarnish the Representacion that they say, or maybe that’s why they say to you there that my reputation is being maligned to cause disappointment. Nevertheless, in and out, we have to find out who act this way, who have no other aim but to crush and divide our unity in order not to reach the goal, so on this matter I hope you will help me bring light to the confused.

“I want you to know that we here are being maligned to silence the Spanish Consul; the same with the funds received on the first of three tranches that was deposited in two banks for 101 years with interest of 4 pesos annually. The principal has not been spent, not a single centavo, and the funds from Biak-na-Bato we use piecemeal. The said deposit is in my name following the orders of and what was agreed with [Pedro] Paterno, who accompanied me when I deposited the funds, and we thought it best not to touch the funds or invest in what is risky as I may be blamed and I will lose face, the same for you, or us all.

“My brother, counting on our long and good relationship, I repeat my hope that you will not give in to or be convinced by those whose minds are clouded by money and those of our comrades who want to get what is not theirs by right. You and Baldomero [Aguinaldo] decide the means to send the funds here without falling into the wrong hands.

“What was given to Miguel Malvar has been received here at noon; the steamer Yueng-san and other comrades arrived and gave to me the whole amount to the last centavo, and he even has some funds for personal expenses.

“Isabelo Artacho arrived here on the 6th of this month [February] at 7 in the morning and headed straight to the house of Jose Ma. Basa, looking for a big house that he could rent for himself. We didn’t know that he was here until late afternoon when we came across him at the main road and I invited him to stay with us. He declined on the spot, saying he had rented his own house already. I was taken by surprise, and felt something I couldn’t place; I thought that he had a lot of money earned from our dear blood, because if I am not mistaken he did not know how to care for the funds of the country nor give an accounting or liquidation. I thought this was the fate of the inner hardships a humble person like me should endure.

“Please accept my warm embrace and the same to all of our countrymen.”


Let’s hope more documents come to light to complete what we know of Philippine history.

Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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