Looking Back

Two Aguinaldo documents in Tagalog

While most people break a sweat in the gym, using the updated ergonomic versions of medieval torture instruments, I prefer walking.

Walking that starts from the Edsa-Ayala MRT station, passing through malls, parking lots, and elevated walkways to the new commercial development beside Makati Medical Center and back, makes about 7,000 steps. To make the 10,000-step quota, I do malling without cash and credit cards to avoid the temptation to snack and shop. Warming down by window-shopping has the added benefit of reaping restraint and perspective, as I browse over goods I cannot buy.


My exercise routine has made me so familiar with SM, Landmark, Glorietta, and Greenbelt that I can tell you which stores and what items are on sale. I can tell you where to buy herbal hand-crème, a pre-owned Patek Philippe Nautilus, upsized pork siomai, a 16th-century map of the Philippines, and keyless doorknobs.

Last Monday, the afternoon sun forced me to ditch the elevated walkway for street-side walking on the eastbound side of Ayala toward Buendia, where buildings blocked the sun, casting a long shadow that made walking tolerable. Air-conditioning wafted out from office lobbies, too. This path led me to Salcedo Auctions for a preview of lots that will go on the block this weekend. As a historian, I am drawn to paper; I wondered aloud why sketches by National Artist Jose Joya, particularly male nudes, have been coming out of closets in droves.


Also, two typewritten Tagalog documents, on “Veteranos de la Revolucion” letterhead and signed by Emilio Aguinaldo, reminded me of an Apolinario Mabini descendant ranting about the high prices paid for anything owned or even touched by Jose Rizal, and the pittance those from the “Sublime Paralytic” would bring. Aguinaldo material should come at a bargain, not because he is the hero Filipinos love to hate, but because he lived too long and left many documents and relics.Dated Jan. 23, 1948, the first document is a description of the monument at the site of the Battle of Alapan where, after his victory on May 28, 1898, Aguinaldo first unfurled the flag that represents our nation today. To commemorate this event annually, the date and site are at the center of National Flag Day celebrations. Aguinaldo described the monument as a female personification of Filipinos, holding a flag with her right hand and a broken chain on her left; standing on three mountains emblazoned with three stars representing Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao; and with pillars with torches in the background. He failed, however, to explain its symbolism.

Turns out it is a solicitation letter from a weary Aguinaldo hoping that the monument, sponsored by veterans of the revolution, will be completed, and that many people out for a VIP Guest of Honor invitation from the government would attend its inauguration and the accompanying parade. He closed with an urgent appeal to the zeal and pockets of the veterans, so that donations for this worthy cause would be remitted directly to Felipe Orcullo, veterans head in Alapan, or to the veterans headquarters for forwarding to Alapan.

Dated June 20, 1948, the second document is the text of a speech delivered in the birthplace of Gregorio del Pilar in Bulacan, Bulacan. Aguinaldo recounted their first meeting in August 1897 when Del Pilar, together with some soldiers, went to Biak-na-Bato to volunteer for the cause of the Philippine Revolution. “Nagkaibigan kami at minahal ko siyang mabuti” (We became friends and I loved him well), declared Aguinaldo, who said Bulacan was honored by a gallant son.

After an encounter and victory in Paombong, then Captain Del Pilar was promoted to the rank of colonel, and the rest is history. Had Tirad Pass developed differently, Aguinaldo and Del Pilar would have both remained alive. Aguinaldo recounted wanting to fight alongside Del Pilar, but the “boy general” insisted that he escape. Del Pilar sacrificed his life to delay the enemy so Aguinaldo would live to fight another day and hopefully bring the revolution to a successful end.

While these postwar Aguinaldo typescripts cannot compare with 19th-century manuscripts in the hand of more colorful figures like Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, or Antonio Luna, all of which set auction records, these documents are still collectible and, when brought together with others, provide a glimpse into the complex personality of Aguinaldo, who has been sadly fossilized in monuments and textbooks.

Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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