Emilio Aguinaldo Day

"He is a victim of misrepresentation and misanalysis of historical events."


Part 1

President Rodrigo Duterte has released Proclamation 621 declaring March 22, 2019 as Emilio Aguinaldo Day in commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of the country’s first president General Emilio Aguinaldo. The proclamation also designates the National Historical Commission of the Philippines as the lead agency in the implementation of activities relevant to the celebration.

Proclamation 621 says,

“WHEREAS, as the first President of the Republic, Aguinaldo symbolized the desire of the nation to be self-reliant, independent, and free from oppression, and

WHEREAS, the State recognizes the necessity to rekindle the Filipino spirit through the lessons of history and encourages every citizen to emulate and honor our forefathers;”

I often find myself criticizing actions and pronouncements of President Duterte on many issues but I must say that I agree with this particular proclamation.

Indeed, Aguinaldo symbolized, and still does, the desire of the Filipinos for independence and freedom from oppression. Prior to being the first president, Aguinaldo was the revolutionary leader, who despite the acute lack of arms and ammunitions, fought and led thousands of revolutionists in the battlefield. He won actual battles that led to the declaration of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898. He fought two wars against world powers—first against Spain in the revolutions of 1896 and 1898, then against the Americans during the Philippine-American war. Aguinaldo’s battlecry was INDEPENDENCE.

I also agree that rekindling the Filipino spirit through the lessons of history is crucial especially at this point when generations of Filipinos that no longer know our country’s glorious history of valor. Filipinos fall prey to historical revisionism and I do not only refer to the period of Martial Law and the Marcos dictatorship but also our quest for independence during the years of the revolution.

So-called modern historians and students of history twist and bend what truly happened by failing to rely on primary and secondary sources (those who lived through the revolution, and those who talked with those who experienced the revolution), and by supplanting the context of historical events with modern analysis. We judge our heroes based on our political ideals NOW, not what our heroes knew THEN.

We fail to appreciate that our revolutionists were mostly young. They operated in the 19th century when modern political concepts were yet at their birthing stage. Aguinaldo himself declared Philippine independence when he was 28, and became President at 29 years old. Yet, the Philippines was the first Asian country to declare independence from foreign colonizer.

In effect, we miss the real lessons of our history. Moreover, we pit our heroes against each other, which leads to disrespect. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo is a victim of misrepresentation and misanalysis of historical events, and his role in such events.

A perfect example is how the General was portrayed in the films Heneral Luna and Goyo by Jerrold Tarog. Both films are largely FICTION supposedly based on historical facts but many of those who saw these took Tarog’s works as historical documentaries. The makers of the film obviously wanted to destroy Aguinaldo, not educate viewers about our history. By doing this, Tarog and company mislead Filipinos and contribute to the skewed understanding of important historical events.

Another example is the article, “With new declaration, questionable hero Emilio Aguinaldo now has a day” by Catalina Ricci Madarang of Interaksyon. The title already reveals the writer’s bias. Calling Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo a questionable hero right off the bat tells the readers that the article is really about discrediting the General.

Madarang used three important historical events to paint Aguinaldo as a villain—General Antonio Luna’s death (the writer even thanked Tarog’s film for surfacing Aguinaldo’s supposed “role” here), Andres Bonifacio’s execution, and the Tejeros Convention.

The piece is full of loopholes, inaccuracies, and historical misrepresentation.

First, let us tackle the controversial Tejeros Convention. Madarang wrote, “Aguinaldo manipulated the convention and elections of the Katipunan at the Tejeros Estate in Cavite.” This is very wrong in many respects.

It should be understood that Andres Bonifacio went to Cavite after he lost battles in Manila and nearby areas, and he was already running from the forces of Spain. He was invited to Cavite by the leaders of the Magdiwang group led by the Alvarezes, Gregoria’s (Bonifacio’s wife) relatives. At this point, Emilio Aguinaldo and his men from Magdalo already won several battles. Aguinaldo has become quite popular because of these victories. The Magdalo and Magdiwang were the two revolutionary groups in Cavite. When Bonifacio arrived in Cavite, he immediately aligned himself with the Magdiwang. Perhaps this was because the leader of the group was his wife’s uncle. There are several accounts of how Bonifacio conducted himself in Cavite and how he favored Magdiwang over Magdalo.

It should also be mentioned that while many of the revolutionary leaders in Cavite were members of the Katipunan, a big number of those fighting against Spain were not. They were revolutionaries but were not Katipuneros.

The Tejeros Convention was an attempt to establish a revolutionary government that would supplant the Katipunan owing to the fact that many revolutionary forces were not Katipuneros. To explain this further, let me quote a fellow history enthusiast and member of the groups Tunay na Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas (TUKLAS), Inc. Virgilio Leynes (Basilio Ibabawan on Facebook) who wrote Interaksyon about the erroneous Madarang piece:

“In this article, Aguinaldo is made to appear a sinister, scheming politician who allegedly cheated Bonifacio and had him killed. The truth is the Tejeros elections was a brainchild and project of Bonifacio. He and the Magdiwang of Alvarez clan, a relative of Bonifacio’s wife, initiated the convention and ran it. Bonifacio acted as Chairman and Artemio Ricarte, another Magdiwang, Secretary, who distributed the ballots. There were only eight delegates from the Magdalo because they, including Aguinaldo, were manning the trenches, in the face of the impending attack by the Spaniards in Pasong Santol, Salitran, in the town of Dasmarinas, Cavite.

The fact is, it was Bonifacio who was politicking, because instead of going to the battlefield and helping in the defense of the town, he was manning a convention and the election. The other facts that are simply overlooked are as follows: Bonifacio’s null and void declaration was invalidated by the delegates through Santiago Rillo (from Batangas), who took over the chairmanship and confirmed all acts of the convention, including the election of the officers. Failing in this, Bonifacio claimed there was cheating and demanded that all elected officials vacate their positions, which the Magdalos refused to accept. Also failing in this, he launched a coup d’état but it was nipped in the bud by Aguinaldo.”

The Tejeros Convention was organized, dominated, and managed by the Magdiwang. It was also held in one of their bailiwicks—Tejeros. How could General Aguinaldo manipulate it when he only had a handful of men there and he, himself was absent and manning the battlefield?

More next week.

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook.

Topics: Elizabeth Angsioco , Emilio Aguinaldo Day , President Rodrigo Duterte , Proclamation 621 , National Historical Commission of the Philippines
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