Sunday, September 23, 2018
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Pinoy Kasi

Revolutionary stamps

History classes and books tend to gloss over our First Republic (of the Philippines, as well as in Asia) as short-lived, with the Americans taking over and quickly establishing full control over the islands.

Not enough is said about the government structures set up with this revolutionary government on June 12, 1898, and the extent of their being functional during the Philippine-American War.  Unexpectedly, I stumbled on proof of the extent of the revolutionary government while looking for information about stamps.

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Many years ago at a local antiques fair, I found someone selling “Katipunan stamps,” which were also called Aguinaldos. These were stamps issued by the revolutionary government and had a basic design of a triangle, a sun, three stars and KKK, for the Katipunan’s full name. These were printed in 1898-1899 and had various purposes. One was as postage stamps, to send out letters. There were also newspaper stamps used, as the name implies, to mail out periodicals. There were also “recibos,” proof that a person had paid a fee to government.

Recently, on an impulse, I searched through the internet for more information on the Katipunan stamps and found a site called stampcircuit.com. It has postings from auction houses selling not just the Katipunan stamps but also “covers” or envelopes where the stamps were actually used, with the name and address of the sender as well as the recipient, and postmarks showing where the letter originated.

Here are some examples of the covers:

One was postmarked Bacalor, with “El Jefe local de Magalang” (the local chief of Magalang) as the addressee. Another item being sold, which only had the stamps, were postmarked “Correos Filipinas, Ylagan” (Philippine Post, Ilagan). Another cover was addressed to “jefe local del pueblo de Quesada” (local chief of the pueblo of Quesada) and posted in La Trinidad (presumably the same La Trinidad in Benguet).

Still another cover was addressed to the “presidencia de Kingwa, Bulakan,” the presidencia being a local government. I had to look up Kingwa; it seems this was the old name of Plaridel, Bulacan, which was also the site of a battle on April 23, 1899, between the Americans and Filipinos. The young general Gregorio del Pilar was able to stop the advance of the American Cavalry, but Filipinos eventually had to retreat when additional troops were sent.

I was intrigued, and dug up more information from a Percy A. Hill in the January 1935 issue of Philippine Magazine. Hill wrote a long article about the revolutionary government stamps, as well as “cantonal issues of Negros.”  Another revolutionary government had been set up on Negros Island during the Philippine-American war, with its own stamps carrying the words “Dios—Patria—Ley—Fraternidad—Igualdad” (God, Country, Law, Fraternity, Equality).

Hill also mentioned that Bohol had its stamps, and the internet shows samples of the rather crudely designed issuances. (I’m actually suspicious about these stamps because they were supposedly discovered by a Jose Marco, the same person who fabricated the Code of Kalantiaw.)

Notwithstanding Marco’s Bohol stamps, we do know the Malolos government had a functional postal service. It was a government, too, that was collecting revenues and issuing receipts through the stamps. One of the “recibos” issued, for example, was for a fee to allow cattle to be transferred.

Hill also wrote about his collection of town postmarks of the revolutionary postal service, with “over 200 different towns.”

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Although the revolutionary government’s stamps were never recognized by the International Postal Union, Hill said some of the letters using those “katipunans” found their way to Hong Kong and China.  Curiously, one of the covers sold by an auction house had an envelope with revolutionary stamps, supposedly signed by Emilio Aguinaldo, and sent, according to the postmark, from Pulupandan, Oriental Negros to an August Dietz Jr. living in Richmond, Virginia.

The date of the postmark was Feb. 27, 1927, well into the American colonial period.  Apparently, the cover was a souvenir item, but which might have used real stamps from the Malolos Republic. Whether the envelope made it to Virginia or not is a mystery.

So, there you have it—another aspect of Philippine history that needs more research, and which might help us to better appreciate our June 12 celebrations.

mtan@inquirer.com.ph

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