Two wild men
Looking Back

Two wild men

Wildman is a name you may find in footnotes of books and articles on the first decade of the United States annexation of the Philippines (1898-1908). It may be confusing at first, because there are two Wildmans: Rounsevelle Wildman (1864-1901), US consul general in Hong Kong and Edwin Wildman (1867-1932), vice consul. Both had personal knowledge of the Spanish-American War as it played out in the Philippines. In addition, Edwin was special war correspondent in Manila, whose privileged access resulted in the book “Aguinaldo: A Narrative of Philippine Ambitions” (1901).

In 2019, I went through five boxes containing the Wildman Papers in the US Library of Congress and focused on Philippine-related material, like the negotiation over the purchase of the original manuscript of “Mi Ultimo Adios” in 1907-1908 that was traced to Josephine Bracken.

One of the things that I found in the archive sheds light into the infighting in Hong Kong, regarding the disposition or division of the funds Emilio Aguinaldo received from the Spanish government following the 1897 Pact of Biak-na-Bato. As the fund has not been fully accounted for, it is the source of a lot of gossip and innuendo. My thesis adviser told me once that while researching on the economic history of Burma, he came across untapped primary sources in HSBC archival envelopes marked “E. Aguinaldo.” Rounsevelle’s papers described Hong Kong, with about 600 Filipino refugees, as “the Seat of the most mischievous nest of Philippino Insurgent Leaders outside of Luzon.” When he received raw intelligence reports that the Filipinos were plotting to assassinate George Dewey, the consul general mapped out where the important leaders lived and paid for surveillance. The Spanish Consul did the same and also knew the following addresses:

“Gregorio Agoncillo, Near 27 Morrison Hill Rd; Dr. Galicano Apacible, 27 Morrison Hill; Crisanto Lichauco, 3 Chancery Lane; Faustino Lichauco, 2 Beaconsfield Arcade; M Marti (Spaniard), 24 Elgin St; Jose Ma. Basa, 47 Remedios Terrace Arbuthnot Road; Howard Bray (English), “Tarawera” Upper Richmond Road, and others in the same address listed as: Cheney Duncan, Lewis L. Etzel, F. W. Sutterle a.k.a W.F. Sylvester; R.H. Parker a.k.a. R.P. Howard.”


I intend to trace all these addresses on my next visit to Hong Kong. Rounsevelle described Aguinaldo as a “necessary evil,” who “had more qualifications for leadership than any of his rivals.”

Another document stated: “… I do not doubt that he would like to be President of the Philippine Republic, and there may be a small coterie of his Native advisers who entertain alike ambition, but I am perfectly certain that the great majority of his followers, and all the wealthy educated Philippinos have but the one desire—to become citizens of the USA. As for the mass of uneducated natives, they would be content under any rule save that of the friars.”

“My correspondence with Aguinaldo has been strictly of a personal nature … his letters are childish, and he is far more interested in the kind of cane he will carry, or the breast plate he will wear, than the figure he will make in history. The demands that he and his Junta have made upon my time is excessive, and most tiresome. He is a man of petty moods, and I have repeatedly had letters from Consul Williams requesting me to write Aguinaldo a friendly letter congratulating him on his success, and reminding him of his obligations … Aguinaldo has for some weeks been getting what Admiral Dewey called a ‘Big Head’ and writing me sulky childish letters.”

I hope to find Aguinaldo’s “childish letters” one day as well as the letters of Isabelo Artacho who declared: “I do not believe that Aguinaldo and his few desperate lieutenants would ever have been able to have brought about the present unhappy war … My people were fighting not for the Independence of the Nation then, but for Independence from Spanish Rule. We had but one ambition—to become a part of the great North American Nation. The Military mistook us for Savages, and made it easy for Aguinaldo to win the majority to his ambitious and wicked schemes.”


Wildman claimed a faction of the Filipino leaders considered Artacho “not only abler, but better fitted for the supreme command. The reason they gave for preferring Aguinaldo, was that among the common people it was believed that Aguinaldo could not be hit by a bullet. The understanding was that Artacho should be Second only to Aguinaldo in command of the Insurgent forces.”

Artacho challenged Aguinaldo for leadership and sued to force his hand into dividing the Biak-na-Bato money deposited in Aguinaldo’s name in HSBC and Chartered Bank of India, Australia, and China. I wonder how college students learning history from primary sources are doing. Philippine history isn’t as simple as textbooks make it out to be, a closer reading of history proves that it is, to use a current social media phrase, complicated.



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