Turbulence fractured revolution of 1st Republic
CANBERRA—President Aquino’s Independence Day speech in Iloilo City traced the regional origins of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish rule in 1896. It drew a turbulent picture of conflict between autonomous regional revolutionary movements in the Central Visayas and the Luzon-based First Philippine Republic proclaimed by Emilio Aquinaldo on June 12, 1898, in Kawit, Cavite.
The official narrative presented in the President’s speech glossed over, if not understated, the unofficial version offered by historical evidence showing that the conflict was more bloody than the benign official reconstruction of the revolutionary saga. In his speech at Casa Real in Iloilo before the diplomatic corps, the President declared, with no trace of embarrassment: “On this day 117 years ago, the Filipino people rose up as one community, to break free from injustice. That time of colonization is long gone, yet the obstacles we face remain, and in fact have taken on an evolved form.”
He went on to say in another speech that “we have truly freed ourselves from the bonds of colonizers.”
“On the other hand,” he added, “we now face a new challenge: combating corruption and poverty… It is clear; it is through unity that our heroes won our freedom, and it is also through unity that we will likewise overcome the challenges of today.”
In a clear pitch for government propaganda on good governance, the President said: “We began to tread the straight and righteous path to reestablish a government that truly works for its people, and truly represents their concerns. Our promise: Our growth will leave no one behind, whether in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Each Filipino will benefit from our development. We cannot have a situation where only those at the top can improve their lots in life, while others are left to fend for themselves.” (It calls to mind the owners of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and the farmers to whom the estate has been redistributed under land reform, but who are still waiting for their land titles.)
Five years after the Aquino administration took office, the promises made remain unfulfilled. The statement that Filipinos rose up “as one community” in the revolution against Spain is a falsification of history and flies in the face of historical evidence showing that the revolutionary movement was fractured—one part based in Luzon, led by the Aguinaldo dictatorship in Kawit, and the other, the Visayas rebellions led by Gen. Martin Delgado, whose provisional Revolutionary Republic was seated in Santa Barbara, Iloilo.
Although both the Tagalog-dominated Aguinaldo dictatorship and the Santa Barbara forces fought to overthrow Spanish rule, the revolution was deeply cleaved by its Luzon and Visayan wings. Delgado’s Federal Republic of the Visayas did not recognize the Aguinaldo government and, in fact, ignored and disobeyed its decrees.
The President’s speech at the Santa Barbara Independence Day celebration only summarily and superficially noted the fractured uprisings in the Visayas—including those in Aklan, Capiz and Cebu—quite apart from that in Santa Barbara and in Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.
Papers produced by Ilonggo scholars on the “Rise and Fall of the Federal Republic of the Visayas,” including one by Dinggol Divinagracia, published by the Newsletter of the Ilonggo Nation, tend to show that the Visayas revolution was virtually autonomous from the Luzon uprising led by Aguinaldo. In his study, “History Reborn: The Federal Republic of the Visayas” (June 12, 2007), Divinagracia wrote: “Spain had already formally surrendered to the Federal Republic of the Visayas even before Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was proclaimed Philippine president in Malolos, Bulacan, on Jan. 23, 1899. The Independent Visayan Republic has never been under the jurisdiction of Aguinaldo’s ‘Katagalogan’ Republic of Luzon.”
A paper written by Jose Manuel Velmonte, a research associate at the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center, found that “the Visayan revolutionary elites not only had sophisticated political ideas but also resented attempts by Malolos to assert its authority.”
A Tagalog military expedition sent by Malolos to Panay was “met with hostility.” The Luzon force, led by Generals Ananias Diokno (from Batangas) and Leandro Fullon, was regarded by the Visayan revolutionaries led by Delgado as an “invasion force.” Other papers at the UP Third World Studies Center also showed that Diokno’s forces not only looted Visayan homes but also raped the women, reinforcing fears of the natives that they were invaders.
Another Filipino scholar, Dr. Luis C. Dery, said Mindanao and its islands “never fell under Aguinaldo’s politico-military control and sovereignty.” In fact as late as August 1898, much of Northern Luzon, Southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao remained outside of Aguinaldo’s republic; thus, “several military expeditions were sent to these places to bring them to recognize the First Philippine Republic.”
The Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Visayas and Mindanao proclaimed by General Delgado during the Nov. 17, 1898, “Cry of Santa Barbara” in Iloilo was replaced on Nov. 23, 1898, by a politico-military government restricted only to the provinces in the Visayas, according to papers at the UP History Department. The leaders preferred instead an arrangement of a national federation composed of the separate states of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao because of the many separate islands of the Visayas and Mindanao. The Visayan revolutionary leaders decided to consolidate the cantonal governments in both Central and Western Visayas with the Panay government based in Iloilo, conceiving the Federal Republic of the Visayas.
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