Emilio Aguinaldo was
a prominent revolutionary during his time and he was the First president of the
Philippine Republic. As a young man his eyes had been open to politics, local
problems, and the Filipino struggle for independence, and despite all his
hardships he always tried to keep himself out of conflict and prevent himself
from making enemies. He might not have been the best leader in his time but he
definitely changed the landscape of the Philippines, and without his involvement
in the Philippine Revolution things would not be the same as they are today.
His controversial, impulsive and notable decisions are still worth noting in
this day and age, and we should take them as somethingto learn from. We learn
about our past to better our future. How do Emilio Aguinaldo’s decisions affect
our current situation today?
Emilio F. Aguinaldo y
Famy was born on March 22, 1869 to Trinidad Valerio Famy and Carlos Aguinaldo. As a young child, Emilio Aguinaldo was taught
to be kind and was described to be a meek and shy boy as he was growing up,
traits he had until he grew up. He had many hardships in his childhood but he
managed to get through all of them with the loving people in his life, growing
to be a successful and one of the most controversial leaders of his time.
His mother did not
receive the best education and worked as a cigarette-maker in the government’s
tobacco factory in Cavite. With this job she became successful and earned the
position of “Teacher and Directress” of the factory, meeting all
kinds of new people along the way, Spanish and Filipino, becoming regarded as a
respectable lady. One day, she won the heart of Carlos Aguinaldo who was
working at the Administration of the Public Lands, and their relationship
flourished into a family of 8.
Carlos Aguinaldo was
a clerk at the mayor’s office in Fort Cavite, working without salary, learning
about the job he had to do as he went along. After some time spent working, he
eventually received regular pay and slowly rose to the position of
“Oficialde Mesa” (desk clerk). Despite the condition of the
Philippines, where a select few had access to education, or complete a career
of their choice, he became the temporary mayor of Factoria or San Isidro, Nueva
Ecija, which he was able to hold for a good amount of time. He worked
diligently and was a remarkable figure as one of the “learned” and a
brilliant lawyer, who
would never handle a case without merit, ensuring that all his clients won
their lawsuits fair and square for the love of weighing scales and blindfolds.
Emilio Aguinaldo was
never too fond of his studies and often preferred to pursue his other
interests. However, that never really bring him down during his childhood. Aguinaldo
in childhood, like his parents before him, was favored by many around him who
saw him for his kindness.
His father, at the
age of 48, was struck paralyzed, being unable to move half of his body. The
doctors that came to him, even the physicians who came from places as far as
Sta. Ana in Manila, were not able to treat his condition which gradually got
worse over time. He died on October 6, 1878.
This took a toll on the life of Emilio Aguinaldo and everyone else in
his life. Cavite el Viejo was weeping, disheartened by his loss. With
Aguinaldo’s father dead and education in Manila becoming more expensive, the
family’s resources were dwindling and Aguinaldo quit school to help his mother
manage their properties and expenses.
The sacrifices and
struggles of Aguinaldo’s family when his mother was confronted with another
problem: her sons had to be conscripted to the army, which she greatly feared.
She often took extensive measures and resorted to all means possible to prevent
any of her children from being conscripted. When the time came for Emilio
Aguinaldo to be conscripted, his mother thought of a clever plan: appoint him
in the position of Cabeza de Barangay. He served as Cabeza de Barangay and in
his position his eyes were opened to the local problems within the community.
What particularly irked him the most in the community was the different and
disunified factions that separated Cavite el Viejo, and how he could unite them
was his main concern. During his time serving his community he observed that
there were two particular factions that separated them into two halves: one led
by Carlos Aguinaldo, his father, and another lead by Mr. Candido Tria Tirona. He
then addressed the problem as municipal captain and first approached the
opposition, making his argument in an attempt to win them over.
He tells Tirona that
the large-scale community projects, to be accomplished, would require the
entire community to unify, stating that the strength and progress of the town
needs the fuel of healthy relationships among its people. Tirona promises to
help in unifying the town, and as a result, the town was united.
However, the bold
decision of unifying of the town came with backlash from Aguinaldo’s clan
members, chiding him for not having consulted them prior to the decision of
unification, and reminding him of past incidents involving his father and the
lies that spread about him. His family,
out of love and respect for their father, found that it was difficult for them
to forgive his enemies and would not yield his plea for unity. He was touched by their statement although he
saw the incident as something to learn from and overcome. In spite of all of this, Aguinaldo, with his
belief that unity triumphed over sentiment when there was a greater cause on
the horizon, insisted on convincing the opposition to join his fold so that
they could focus on liberating the country from a greater opposition: the
found the noble causes of the secret societies joined by his fellow countrymen
appealing, and he saw their deeds to be important and patriotic. The night he
took his oath as municipal captain, he also formally joined the Pilar Lodge of
Masonry in Imus, Cavite.
During his time in
Masonry, he took the time to persuade and recruit the citizens of his town, and
his work was recognized by the lodge, as he was rewarded the Triangle of the Pilar Lodge. It was a huge reward, because during those days
joining a secret society regardless of cause was risky. Affiliations with any
secret society could easily land you in a prison cell, and Aguinaldo and his
comrades were clearly aware of these risks that could threaten the lives of
many who were involved with him, knowing about the Spanish forces’ relentless
methods of punishment and torture.
In the recruitment
process, there was conflict because there were people who had shown exemplary
love for the country, but could not join the Masonry due to the lack of
requirements. One day, that changed as Santiago Alvarez, an old childhood
friend, had come to visit Emilio Aguinaldo on that one beautiful morning, with
a mission to recruit him. That morning, Aguinaldo was asked to join the
Katipunan, a society founded and headed by Supremo Andres Bonifacio.
As he joined these
secret societies and cherished being a part of them, he urged everyone in his
community to affiliate themselves with either society. He was successful in
building a following for these societies in Cavite el Viejo, pleasing the
Supremo, and establishing a Kawit branch of the Katipunan called the Magdalo
faction, named after Emilio Aguinaldo’s codename in the society derived from
This Magdalo faction
proved to do its job well, and in a short amount of time it gained a decent
number of members with their number surpassing that of the Magdiwang Faction in
The looming threat of
the intensifying persecution from the friars put the recruitment process and
the operations of the Katipunan into a state of extra caution, and they met
toe-to-toe with conflicts and obstacles to overcome.
The struggles of the
Filipinos were made more apparent when the abuses of the Spanish forces were
exposed to the Filipino people. This lit the flaming love for the country and
this passion for the country led him and his fellow revolutionaries as they
fought for their freedom from the Spaniards.
Before the year of
1895 came to a close, the Spanish authorities raised suspicion for secret
societies for revolutionary, liberating causes and in 1896 these suspcions
proved to be valid when the wife of Teodoro Patino, who was a Katipunero,
confessed his membership to the Katipunan and the Spaniards managed to collect
enough evidence in the printing office of El
Diario de Manila to prove its
existence on August 19th, 1896. On the day that the Katipunan was
discovered, Andres Bonifacio fled to Balintawak to avoid arrest. That was when
Emilio Aguinaldo learned that it would be difficult to serve two masters and
that the Katipuneros were uncertain of where they were going.
Just before the
outbreak of the revolution in 1896, Rizal was on his way to Spain as he was
permitted to work as a doctor for the Spanish army, but as he was on his way to
Spain, the Katipunan was discovered and Rizal was detained in Spain. The court
ruled that Rizal was guilty and on Dec. 30, 1896, he was executed in Bagumbayan
field by a firing squad. This further
ignited the fire of the revolution, and many more people were called into
joining the revolution.
became the center of the revolution, and as I had mentioned before, the
Katipunan had two factions in Cavite:
the Magdiwang faction and the Magdalo faction and as the revolution
broke out they were on opposing sides. The Magdiwang Faction did not have a
desire in establishing a revolutionary government while the Magdalo faction,
which Emilio Aguinaldo and his family was in, wanted to transition into a
revolutionary government and neither side wanted to reinforce the other during
battles, resulting in more losses for the Katipunan in Cavite.
Andres Bonifacio was
requested to help the two factions reconcile, and it never got anywhere. In the
year of 1897 he was invited to Cavite to discuss revolutionary action and the
reconciliation of the two factions. The meeting occurred in March of that year
in Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabon (General Trias). Little did Bonifacio know
that this meeting was actually a convention where the members of the Magdalo
faction decided to establish a revolutionary government which would one day go
on to replace the Katipunan. During the convention there was an election for
government officials being proposed. Bonifacio lost the presidency to Emilio
Aguinaldo who was then a popular revolutionary figure in Cavite but as
Bonifacio was to be elected as Director of the Interior, Daniel Tirona,
objected to his election with the belief that he was uneducated and incapable
of taking the position despite all he had done for the Katipunan and how
significant his endeavors were as a revolutionary.
we not agree from the beginning that whoever among us was elected in this
meeting will be recognized and respected by everybody?” Bonifacio stood up,
disrespected, he took his revolver and aimed at Tirona, and angrily declared
the results of the election null and void. As this event occurred everyone,
including Emilio Aguinaldo, grew anxious and filled with confusion. I think
that the disunity of the Katipunan was what irked him, but instead of going after
Bonifacio and his cohorts he accepted his situation and decided to ignore him
as he thought petty jealousies would worsen the conflict.
dishonored the new revolutionary government and Emilio Aguinaldo ordered for
his arrest. When his men arrived at
Bonifacio’s camp, they signaled their presence with gunshots, and Bonifacio
went out to investigate and question why they were out to fire at their own
brothers, who were struggling for the same cause. The arresting officers
ignored Aguinaldo and during the process of arrest his brother Ciriaco was shot
to death and Procopio was left wounded in critical condition. Why Emilio made
the decision to arrest Bonifacio was unknown, but it is one of the many
controversial decisions he made during the revolution.
On May 4, 1897, the
Bonifacio brothers were sent to the revolutionary government’s court for trial.
The court concluded that the brothers were guilty of treason and on May 10,
1897, they were sentenced to death in Maragondon, Cavite. Emilio Aguinaldo was disheartened when he
learned about their decision, and he claims he never thought he would have an
enemy in the common struggle against Spain. However, his comrades insisted on
showing the Bonifacio brothers no mercy for defying the Revolutionary
Government and because they felt the cause of the revolutionary was in danger.
Because of the demand to punish them and because of allegedly strong evidence
of their acts, he carried out with the execution. Their execution left the
leadership of the revolution in the hands of Emilio Aguinaldo but this did not
last too long as his forces were eventually defeated, with Cavite falling into
the hands of the Spaniards. Forced to retreat to Bulacan, he established
headquarters and in July 1897, he established a republican government called
the Biak-na-Bato Republic, and in its
constitution, it declared the separation of the Philippines from the Spain.
Written in the constitution were these words, according to Agnes T. Narag,
author of Philippines: Our Land and
separation of the Philippines from the Spanish monarchy, and their formation
into an independent state with its own government called the Philippine
Republic, has been the end sought by the Revolution in the existing war, begun
on the 24th of August, 1896.
Then from August to
November 1897, Pedro Paterno established a truce between the Spanish
authorities and the Filipino revolutionaries, known as the Pact of Biak-na-Bato with the condition that under the peace treaty
Aguinaldo would be sent to Hong Kong for voluntary exile where he will be
living as a free man and that Spain pay the sum of 800,000 pesos in three
Emilio Aguinaldo was
not in favor of the decision but went along with it to prevent further
bloodshed. On Dec. 27, 1897, Aguinaldo
left for Hong Kong. The truce however died months after signing the peace
agreement and the fighting between the Spaniards and the Filipinos continued
During the events of
the Philippine Revolution, Spain was losing its grip on its colonies as they
continued to rise up against them. By 1821, Spain had lost almost all its
colonies and what remained in their grip were Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, the
Philippines, and a few other islands in the Pacific.
As Spain was losing
its power, The United States of America were progressing quickly as a nation,
growing into a world power. They had grown politically, militarily, and
economically and wanted to take advantage of Spain’s losses and gain from them.
So, they became invested in the struggles of the people in their colonies and
immediately reacted and openly sided with their pleas for independence. Once
this was expressed tension arose between the two nations and it escalated into
what we know as the Spanish-American war.
The arrival of the
Americans in the Philippines was inevitable as it was part of their plan to
overthrow Spain. Emilio Aguinaldo was heavily involved with the success of the
American conquest, as his help was enlisted by Commander George Dewey, who was
instructed to set up base in Hong Kong where Emilio Aguinaldo was in exile.
requested that he go back to the Philippines resume his leadership of the
Philippine Revolution, and ensured Aguinaldo that they had no intention of
colonizing the Philippines. As he
returned, he was instructed to set up a dictatorial government to organize the
Filipinos. Personally, I wish he had
given more thought about the decision, as it seems that he made his decision
out of desperation, unaware of the risks he was taking and the problems he
would face in the future All he longed for was independence for the country, and
nothing less. He saw this message as hope for the Filipinos, and as the
Americans proved to be victorious over the Spaniards, his confidence in them
had been boosted.
On May 19, 1898, he
returned to Manila and established a dictatorial government where he appointed
himself as President. He proclaimed the Independence of the Philippines in his
hometown of Kawit, Cavite on June 12th, 1898. This was the first
time the Philippine flag was hoisted along with the Philippine national anthem
playing for the first time. On this day, the Declaration of Philippine
Independence was read by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista. Emilio Aguinaldo replaced
the dictatorial government with a revolutionary government, and remained in his
position as president.
July of 1898, he appointed delegates in the Malolos Congress, which was then
inaugurated on September 15, 1898. It ratified the Declaration of Philippine Independence
on September 29, 1898 and drafted the Malolos Constitution which validated the
First Philippine Republic.
the Filipino Siege of Manila, when the Filipino and American forces took Manila
back into their control, and surrounded Intramuros, Governor-General Agustin
was eager to surrender. Contrary to what was expected, he was replaced by
Governor-General Fermin Jaundes, who was specifically instructed to ONLY surrender
to the Americans, and not the Filipinos. This proposal was made to the leaders
of the American forces who consented to a secret agreement.
Spaniards requested the Americans for a mock battle to be staged