"He has become more human in my eyes."
My preoccupation with the writings of General and First President Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy continues. I have been intermittently going back to Hen. Miong’s unpublished writings after finishing my project with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the publication of “Talang Buhay ng Supremo And. Bonifacio sa Kabite.”
To my group TUKLAS’ (Tunay na Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas) pleasant surprise, the book has been receiving very good feedback. People say that they have acquired a better understanding of the context within which some important events during the Philippine revolution happened. Some went as far as saying that they now better understand Gen. Aguinaldo and that their opinion of him changed. Even just for these, I feel good with the decision to make public Gen. Aguinaldo’s handwritten manuscript bearing the same title.
Recently, I took a look at a very thick scrapbook of letters. The first page has a small brown envelope that bears the General’s handwriting that read, “Correspondencias entre Amorosos Con la Senta. Maria Agoncillo.” At the lower part he wrote, “Abierta 17, Jun. 1929.” Like a teenager, my heart skipped a beat in excitement because the thick scrapbook contained the exchange of love letters between Hen. Miong and Maria Agoncillo!
Gen. Aguinaldo was first married to a remarkable Caviteña, Hilaria del Rosario (February 17, 1877–March 6, 1921) on January 1, 1896. Coincidentally, this was also the day that Kawit’s Capitan Municipal then formally joined the Katipunan.
Hilaria was active in the revolution like Hen. Miong. She established the Hijas de la Revolucion (Daughters of the Revolucion) which eventually became the Asociación de la Cruz Roja (Red Cross Association). Eventually, this became the Philippine National Red Cross. Thus, it can be said that Hilaria del Rosario-Aguinaldo was the founder of the PNRC.
Because she was with Gen. Aguinaldo in many revolutionary undertakings, she was also being pursued. She was eventually captured by the Americans in 1900. The couple was reunited after Gen. Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901. The couple had five (5) children namely: Miguel Aguinaldo, Emilio Aguinaldo Jr., Maria Aguinaldo-Poblete, Carmen Aguinaldo-Melencio and Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay. Former Supreme Court Justice Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera was a granddaughter of Hilaria and Hen. Miong. Hilaria passed in March, 1921 of pulmonary tuberculosis.
It is public knowledge that Gen. Aguinaldo and Don. Felipe Agoncillo (the country’s first diplomat and husband of Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo, the maker of the first Philippine flag) worked closely during the revolution. Aguinaldo entrusted F. Agoncillo with the important responsibility of seeking recognition for the Philippines’ independence from foreign countries. Felipe was a top lawyer and he held the General, a high school dropout, in high esteem. The two kept their close friendship beyond the revolution. Felipe often visited Kawit and Miong was reported to have visited Taal a number of times.
Maria Agoncillo (February 15, 1879- May 29, 1963) was of the wealthy Agoncillo clan of Taal, Batangas. She was the niece of Felipe Agoncillo. Since Hen. Miong periodically visited Taal, it was natural that the two would meet.
The love letters kept by the General covered more than a decade, from June 1929 to November 1939. A cursory count indicates that there are more than 500 letters in the scrapbook. A good number of these were during the months leading to their wedding on July 14, 1930. Both were already advance in age then and they did not have children of their own.
The way Gen. Aguinaldo kept the scrapbook was very interesting. He arranged the letters chronologically. Some of his letters were even numbered while he noted the dates when he received the letters from Maria. The letters were glued (some together) to the scrapbook. This created problems for me. Since it was Hen. Miong who did the numbering and notation, I am of the opinion that it was he, himself, who did the scrapbooking while they were still together. This in itself was a labor of love and spoke volumes about his affections for Maria. She passed in May 1963, some nine months earlier than Miong’s own passing in 1964.
Virtually all the letters were written in Spanish with a sprinkling of few Tagalog sentences here and there. This is a problem for me because I almost failed my Spanish subjects back in the day in UP. This fact made me think about some anti-Aguinaldo modern historians who said that Gen. Aguinaldo did not know Spanish because he did not finish his education.
Still, like a giddy school girl, I attempted to read some of the letters and there were a lot of “kilig” moments even if I did not understand everything. The brave general who led and won battles, who faced the military might of Spain and America, was pleading with Maria to already agree to marry him! I could only say WOW. I was chuckling to myself saying, “isang Maria lang pala ang katapat ng magiting na Heneral. Pinahirapan siya ng husto.”
The letters show the romantic, vulnerable, and sentimental sides of the valiant revolutionary Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. He signed his letters as Miling but Maria adressed him as Mili.
There are letters that mention other big names and events during the revolution. These stand out to me. I will be on the quest to fully understand what the General told Maria about the revolution. One would think that he would be open, direct, and candid. He would not need to be guarded because it was after all, Maria.
I am excited and thrilled to really work on the love letters. Towards what, I still do not know. For now, because of these, I see the General and First President as a romantic. This makes him more human in my eyes.
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