Looking Back

The ‘Rizaline Islands’

Artemio Ricarte was a general in the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War who was better known by his nom de guerre “Vibora” (Viper). He served under Andres Bonifacio in the Katipunan and later under Emilio Aguinaldo in the First Republic. He was exiled to Guam by the enemy because, like Apolinario Mabini, he refused to take an oath of allegiance to the United States. We know that Mabini eventually took the oath in order to return to the country of his birth and die. Ricarte steadfastly refused to take the oath when he was already on Manila Bay, so he was not allowed to land in Manila and was deported to Hong Kong.

Ricarte would have been a hero in our textbooks if had not lived too long. He would have been a hero in our textbooks if he had not sided with the Japanese who occupied and terrorized the Philippines and the Filipinos during World War II. Perhaps Ricarte would be a hero to us today had he died young, had he died a glorious death on a battlefield.


If one conducts a research on Ricarte, one will find some of his writings that would brand him an oddball. One of the curious documents he left us was a constitution for the Philippines that he finished in August 1914 on the summit of Mount Halcon in Mindoro. August 1914, of course, is better remembered for the beginning of World War I, so this may explain why Ricarte’s draft constitution was forgotten.

Another reason for the neglect is that Ricarte’s constitution sought to change the name of the islands from that of a 16th-century Spanish king, Felipe II, to that of the National Hero Jose Rizal. In the first chapter and article of the Ricarte


constitution, he states: “The territory formerly known by the name of Philippine Islands will be named in the future as Rizaline Islands.” This territory included Guam, but unfortunately forgot to mention Sabah, the Spratlys and  Scarborough Shoal.

Chapter 1, Article 3 states: “The name Filipino which up to the present has been borne by those born in the Rizaline Islands will be substituted by that of Rizaline, in harmony with preceding articles.” The next article elaborates: “All the Rizaline (Filipinos), as a collectivity, will be formed into a ‘Nation’ under the name of the Rizaline Republic, adopting as a flag the ancient and well known one of three colors (red, blue, and white), with a sun and three stars.” That is the flag born of the Declaration of Independence in Kawit on June 12, 1898, and it has seen us through numerous battles since.

There have been many proposals to change the name of the Philippines, and our problem is that like it or not, it is the Spanish period that formed what we know of the Philippines today. Since we do not know what name the archipelago had before the coming of the Spaniards, we can at best only go back to the names of individual islands, not the Philippines as we know it today. There was a move to change the name of the Philippines to “Maharlika,” which would have made us Maharlikans today. There was another junked proposal that we go back to the Islas del Poniente (Isles of the West) that was more neutral than Filipinas, but the complication there was that the inhabitants of the Islas del Poniente would be Ponientas, and that sounds too close to “p-ñetas” for comfort.

I wouldn’t want to be a Rizaline or a Rizalino either, but what I find fascinating with the Ricarte constitution was not only that he wanted to name the country and people in honor of Rizal but also that all the military zones of the Revolutionary Army were not just numbers or geographic names but names of people whom Ricarte considered heroes. He divided the army into six zones, the first two being: the Burgos zone, which covered Ilocos Norte and Sur, Cagayan, Isabela, Abra, La Union, Nueva Vizcaya, Benguet further divided into three districts named Pingkian (the KKK name of Emilio Jacinto), General (Antonio) Luna and General (Candido) Tirona; and the Jocson Zone that covered Pangasinan, Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija that were broken down into three districts—Heneral (Luciano) San Miguel, General (Maximino)

Hizon, and Francisco (Paco) Roman, who was assassinated with Antonio Luna in 1899.

I will not bore you with all the names of the military zones and districts, but by showing the individuals thus honored, one can wonder: Why did Ricarte start naming districts from the north of the country downward? Like Ferdinand Marcos, Ricarte was from Batac, Ilocos Norte, so that may explain why the first military zone covered it, just as the present regions of the Philippines as set down in the Marcos period begin with Ilocos Norte. This may explain why regionalistic Ilocanos say that the sign above the crucified Christ, “INRI,” stands for Ilocos Norte Region I!

Ricarte’s list of military zones is not confined to the names of dead military men and generals because Apolinario Mabini and Graciano Lopez Jaena are included. Not all the names are of people, because “Maktan,” the site of the battle between Magellan and Lapu-lapu in 1521, is also commemorated. Even the turncoat or grand “balimbing” Pedro Paterno is also included in the list. So what begins as just a list of military zones and districts can be read as a biased way of remembering Philippine history.


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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, artemio ricarte, History, Looking Back, opinion, Philippine Revolution, Rizaline Islands
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