"His greatness was best seen from the eyes of the ordinary people."
“Aguinaldo was one of the greatest men ever produced by the Malayan race. The people will forever remember him as a symbol of our revolution for freedom and independence at the turn of the century. The people will enshrine him in history and in their hearts unto eternity.” — President Diosdado Macapagal
On February 6, 1964 at 3:05 in the morning, General and President of the First Philippine Republic Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy passed away after 489 days of being confined at the Veterans Memorial Hospital. Heneral Miong, as he was fondly called, was almost 95 years old then.
Then-President Diosdado Macapagal proclaimed a 20-day period of mourning and renamed the armed forces headquarters from Camp Murphy to Camp Emilio Aguinaldo as we now know. The body of the General was then brought to his historic residence in Kawit, Cavite, then to the Metropolitan Cathedral for a requiem mass on February 14. The following day, Hen. Miong was in the House of Representatives (HOR) for Necrological Services. Here, Justice Sabino Padilla, a close friend of the General, House Speaker Cornelio T. Villareal, Senate President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and President Macapagal spoke about the gift to the nation that was Gen. Aguinaldo.
The body was then brought to the Malacañan Palace where many people paid their last respects to President Aguinaldo. He was bought back to his Kawit home where he was laid to rest. Apparently, the General wanted to be buried under the balcony of his house where the Philippine independence was declared but the Malacañan burial committee and the family changed this because of lack of space.
During the necrological services at the HOR, Justice Padilla paid tribute to Hen. Miong and said Rizal and Aguinaldo were the real pillars of Philippine independence. While Rizal set the course of independence, he said that Aguinaldo was the leader who aroused the consciousness of the people into realizing such a course. Justice Padilla said, “Aguinaldo with his telescopic vision, was endeared in the hearts of his fellowmen. His humility and uncompromising concept of freedom and welfare of the people added greatly to his stature both as a soldier and a statesman.”
Speaker Padilla said that Aguinaldo gave his life to the ways of peace and conciliation without losing sight of the basic objective of liberty. He added that, “In war and in peace, Aguinaldo epitomized the nation’s commitment to freedom and the development of his country in concert with free nations. Like Rizal, Aguinaldo saw the dawn of freedom break but more than this, he saw its fulfillment as fully as he realized the increasing responsibility on the part of the people who would get the utmost rights, rewards, and benefits.”
Senate President Marcos described Aguinaldo as a true soldier, a symbol of liberty and democracy. He said, “He was the true soldier indeed, and a living symbol he was, he watched his own people pilloried him, his land confiscated, but he bore them with dignity, for he was a soldier, a true soldier of an era gone.” He said that Aguinaldo was the leader who broke the path for Asian nationalism of the twentieth century. “For while Rizal was the prophet, while Bonifacio organized the Katipunan, while Mabini built the political frame, there was only one leader, and that leader was Aguinaldo.” Marcos added that General Aguinaldo moulded with his hands and watered with his blood the first republic established by a brown people.
For his part, President Macapagal called Gen. Aguinaldo as the Father of the Revolution. He said that the ideals of freedom and democracy that Aguinaldo and other revolutionists espoused have remained, embedded into our national being, permeating our every act as a nation. He added that while Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. del Pilar were the precursors of the revolution that Andres Bonifacio started, it was Aguinaldo who gave it body and substance.
Touching on the Aguinaldo-Bonifacio controversy, Macapagal said that when rivalry for leadership arose between Bonifacio, the initial leader of the revolution, and Aguinaldo, the successful military leader, “it became inevitable for the success of the revolution that one of the two rivals should predominate. It would have been disastrous to the revolution to have two competing leaders.” The president added that the greatness of Aguinaldo’s heroism cannot be enhanced by paeans of praise.
This is very true because while researching for this piece, I went through many reports about Hen. Miong’s demise. Tributes and praises from well-known personalities and politicians abound but what struck me most were the pictures showing ordinary folks paying their last respects to their beloved General and President.
One picture showed the grief-stricken 85-year-old Felipe Fernando as he stood by the coffin of the late General, his commander in the revolution. Fernando was Hen. Miong’s supply officer in San Mateo. Many surviving veteran revolutionists did a vigil for the General. There were pictures of them lining up and saluting as they view Hen. Miong’s body. One report said that some revolutionists were weeping unabashedly in public. Hen. Miong’s comrade-in-arms also saluted when his bier passed them by. This gesture speaks volumes about how they considered the General.
Since the General was already almost 95 years old when he passed, it is safe to say that the surviving veterans were much younger than him. It is possible that many of them did not have the chance to fight side by side with the general BUT it was evident that they knew and understood their shared heroism.
There was also a picture of one of the General’s household assistants wailing in front of the coffin. The grief was palpable from the image. Most evident in the pictures were the throngs of people that accompanied Gen. Aguinaldo as he was transferred from place to place. There were crowds everywhere he was brought.
Despite the many years that Gen. Aguinaldo was vilified, people continued to respect and love him. This they again showed when he passed on. While it is nice to hear tributes from officials, Hen. Miong’s greatness was best seen from the eyes of the ordinary people.
Truly, Aguinaldo was a gift to the Filipino people. His and the other revolutionists’ heroism is enough reason to take pride in being Filipino. It is my hope that the present generation sees this.
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