The draft Pact of Biak-na-Bato (2)

"This is how exciting studying the real events in Philippine history is."


Last week, I wrote about what was said to be the first draft of the historic Pact of Biak-na-Bato based on the handwritten manuscripts of General and President Emilio Aguinaldo that I transcribed.

This was dated Aug. 4, 1897 when the party of Pedro Paterno went to Biak-na-Bato in Bulacan where the headquarters of the revolutionists was transferred after the fall of Cavite. It was Paterno’s assertion that he went to the revolutionaries voluntarily but with the knowledge of then Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera to seek from the forces of Aguinaldo the conditions by which they would agree to give peace a chance, meaning, putting a stop to the revolution.

The first draft contained the following nine conditions from the leaders of the revolution: the removal of all Spanish priests to be replaced by Filipino priests in all curates and dioceses; separation of Church and State; the transfer of ownership of all estates from priests to the municipalities that have jurisdiction over them; Philippine representation in Spanish Court; equal treatment by government of all Tagalog and Spanish citizens; half of all government positions to be given to Tagalogs; freedom of speech and expression, including freedom of assembly and of the press; free all political prisoners and send them back home; and payment of three million pesos (P3,000,000.00) to the revolution.

These demands were quite impressive because it was done in 1897 when concepts such as separation of Church and State, human rights (particularly freedom of expression, assembly, and of the press), land distribution, and equal treatment of all by government were yet to be understood and embraced by the people. This just goes to show that our revolutionists were advanced and progressive in their thinking, and really pursued democratic ideals. They were truly pushing for the welfare of the country and the Filipino people then.

Because I know that the demands contained in the draft agreement were very different from the contents of the official Pact of Biak-na-Bato promulgated on Dec. 15, 1897, or more than four months after Paterno’s first visit, I wanted to corroborate what Gen. Aguinaldo said in his notes with other primary sources on the matter so I sought the help of my colleagues in Tunay na Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas (TUKLAS), Inc.

Very interestingly, the same demands were mentioned by Mariano Ponce in his letter to Blumentritt (Jose Rizal’s friend) from Hong Kong dated 27 January 1898 as contained in the book Mariano Ponce Cartas Sobre La Revolucion (pp. 105-108). Ponce defended the revolutionaries led by Aguinaldo and told Blumentritt that Spain was lying in its propaganda against the Filipinos and that he (Ponce) has seen the documents leading to the final pact. Ponce stressed that the revolutionaries’ demands were for the people to have a better quality of life and proceeded to enumerate the demands also mentioned by Gen. Aguinaldo.

There is some discrepancy in the dates of the accounts. What is clear from Aguinaldo’s note was Paterno’s date of arrival which was August 4, 1897. He did not say how long Paterno stayed but it was clear that the draft was formulated during that visit because at the end of his handwritten note, Aguinaldo said “Ganito ang uri ng Unang Plataforma ang dinala sa Maynila ni Don Pedro Paterno at kasamahan”. His last sentence was, “Subali, hindi sila lubhang nagtagal ay nagbalik dito sa “Biak na Bato”. Clearly, there was another visit soon after the first.

Onofre D. Corpuz’s Saga and Triumph accounts on Biak na Bato (p144) carries different dates. He wrote that Paterno had an audience with the Governor General in Malacañang on Aug. 1, 1897. On Aug. 4, Paterno left for Biak na Bato and he arrived at Pres. Aguinaldo’s headquarters on August 9. The dates do not jive with what Aguinaldo wrote.

So I consulted “The Philippine Insurrection Against the United States” by John Taylor known as the Philippine Insurgency Records (PIR) and subsequently changed to Philippine Revolutionary Records (PRR). This is a compilation of documents regarding our war against America. Volume 1 (pp359-364) carries the draft agreement in Spanish and a translation in English. This version of the draft was purportedly signed by Gen. Aguinaldo, Mariano Llanera, and Mamerto Natividad.

The translated version said that Paterno arrived on Aug. 9, 1897 which, I think was the basis of O. D. Corpuz’ book.

The version in the PRR carried five, instead of nine demands which read as:

“I. Expulsion of the religious orders, or at least regulations prohibiting them from living together in cloisters.

The representation of the Philippines in the Spanish Cortes.

Application of true justice in the Philippines, the same for the natives as for the Spaniard. The same laws in Spain and the Philippines. The native to have a share in the higher offices of the civil administration.

Adjustment of property, of taxes and parishes, in favor of the native.

Proclamation of the individual rights of the native, as well as his liberty to combine with others in associations, and the liberty of the press.”

While there was no mention of money in this enumeration, there was repeated mention of funds, (P3,000,000.00) in the preceding paragraphs the receipt of which was the condition before the revolutionaries would surrender their arms.

Having examined these different documents, it would appear that Paterno could have arrived in Biak na Bato on the ninth and not on the fourth as written by Gen. Aguinaldo although he started his travel on the fourth.

While the number of conditions for peace appears to have decreased, the contents are actually similar. PRR’s no. II contains three of the handwritten note’s nine demands. One can say that the version in the PRR documents may be considered as a watered-down version of what appears in the Aguinaldo notes. Still, in essence, they contained the same demands as also mentioned by Ponce in his letter to Blumentritt.

With the Biak-na-Bato money which in the final pact amounted to a lot less than the initial three million (that bought modern arms and ammunition), our revolutionaries were able to fight our next colonizers—the Americans.

This exercise that I did made me realize how Gen. Aguinaldo and our revolutionaries fought for our people’s welfare no matter what their conditions were. This is how exciting studying the real events in Philippine history is.

Understanding our past enables us to appreciate our heroes and what they gave so we may enjoy our rights now.

@bethangsioco on Twitter 

Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

Topics: Pact of Biak-na-Bato , Pedro Paterno , Emilio Aguinaldo , Philippine Revolutionary Records , John Taylor

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