No way, Uncle Sam
History is replete with stories of how men of courage and faith chose to endure deprivation and suffering, sometimes even death, in defense of their principles and personal beliefs.
When Burmese (Myanmar) leader Aung San Suu Kyi was being held in detention by the military junta that ruled her country, she learned that her husband Michael Aris, who was in the United Kingdom, was sick with terminal cancer. They had fallen in love while she was studying at Oxford University in London, and she accepted his marriage proposal on the condition that “should my people need me, you will help me do my duty by them.”
The military regime refused to grant Michael and their two sons visas so that Suu Kyi could be with her dying husband. She could leave the country, but she would not be allowed to return. Her decision was to stay and carry on the fight for freedom. Both Suu Kyi and Michael kept the promise they made when they were married. She would continue to serve her people and he would help her. Michael died in 1999. Suu Kyi, under detention, went into mourning alone.
In October 1967, Lieutenant Commander John McCain (now a US senator) was flying a Navy A-4E Skyhawk over Hanoi when his plane was hit by surface-to-air missiles. Knocked out on ejection, he recovered consciousness as he hit a lake in the center of the city. When the Vietnamese realized they had a prized captive—McCain was the son of the commander in chief of US forces in the Pacific—he was offered early release mainly as a propaganda move. The US Code of Conduct for its soldiers provided that releases prior to the end of hostilities be in the order of capture, that is, first in, first out. There were more than 300 Americans in captivity since 1964.
McCain refused the offer, realizing that accepting it was not only unpatriotic and a violation of the Code of Conduct but also harmful to the morale of “less-connected” POWs and embarrassing to his father. For his refusal, he was tortured and badly beaten by his guards and when the beating was over “he lay on the floor, bloody, arms and legs throbbing, ribs cracked, and several teeth broken off at the gumline.”
Next week the nation— well, maybe not the entire nation but, at least, the Philippine Army—marks the sesquicentennial (150 years) birth anniversary of one of our greatest patriots—Gen. Artemio Ricarte.
By virtue of his being elected captain general of the Filipino Army at the Tejeros Convention in March 1897, Ricarte is considered as the “Father of the Philippine Army.” He served as its commanding general from March 22, 1897 to Jan. 22, 1899. Since the Filipino Army is considered the forerunner of what is now the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Ricarte is also recognized as the first AFP chief of staff. (Incidentally, let me mention that his 2-year term as army chief was longer than that of most AFP chiefs of staff in the last few decades.) Although lacking presence or charisma, he had the reputation as a vicious and deadly fighter, hence his nom de guerre “Vibora” (viper).
While some Filipinos belonging to the affluent and educated classes readily collaborated with the American authorities who had just replaced the Spanish colonial regime, there were also a good number who vowed to continue the struggle for independence, refusing to surrender to the new colonizers. One of them was Gen. Artemio Ricarte.
Born of poor parents in Batac, Ilocos Norte, on Oct. 20, 1866, Ricarte was preparing for a teaching career when he joined the Katipunan in the struggle for independence and got involved in several skirmishes with Spanish forces during the revolution. With the arrival of the Americans, he was suspicious of their intentions and warned Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo that they were even more dangerous than the Spaniards.
During an attempt to enter Manila, he was captured, together with Apolinario Mabini and other revolutionaries, by US forces and deported to Guam in January 1901. With the capture of General Aguinaldo and the fall of his government, Filipino prisoners and exiles who took an oath of allegiance to the United States were released and sent home. Ricarte and Mabini rejected the offer.
In 1903, the two were shipped back to Manila. Mabini, a very sick man, decided to take the oath of allegiance in order that “I may see our homeland before I die.” Ricarte refused and was transferred to another ship bound for Hong Kong.
While in Hong Kong, he continued his activities in support of an independent republic. A few months later, he returned to the country as a stowaway on a British freighter. He immediately contacted his friends and supporters, urging them to rise up against the United States. He was captured by US troops the following year and sentenced to six years in prison for rebellion. While in detention he was visited by a number of American officials urging him to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. Ricarte repeatedly refused their offers.
After completing his 6-year prison term, he was again made to sign an oath of allegiance to the government. Ricarte refused and was deported to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong he moved to Yokohama, Japan, where he remained for almost 30 years, until the beginning of World War II. The Japanese flew him back to the country and he remained here for the rest of the war. Ricarte joined the Japanese forces led by General Yamashita in their retreat to the north. At age 78, Ricarte died in Ifugao province in July 1945.
Some people consider Ricarte a traitor for collaborating with the Japanese. We had people who collaborated with the Spaniards and the Americans while the fight for independence was still going on, and they are referred to as illustrados.
For Gen. Artemio Ricarte, the man who refused to kowtow to Uncle Sam, the verdict is already in:
Ricarte’s remains are buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
His home in Batac City is now a historical shrine—the Ricarte National Shrine.
Although not too many people in the AFP are aware of this, the Western Command headquarters of the AFP in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, is named Camp Artemio Ricarte in honor of its founding father.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.