The Philippine Revolution, by Apolinario Mabini
Translated into English by Leon Ma. Guerrero
Mabini wrote The Philippine Revolution in 1901-1903 as both an account and critique of the movement that established the first Philippine Republic, as well as of the first years of the Philippines as a self-governing nation. (Part of the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of Apolinario Mabini’s birth.)
This Englishing of Apolinario Mabini’s “La Revolucion Filipina”, commissioned by the National Historical Commission, was done in a little more than a week following May Day 1969 under great pressure of time and official business, and may have suffered in consequence. As in my other translations I have tried to replace Spanish idioms and expressions with their nearest English equivalents whenever possible, instead of undertaking a strictly literal rendering.
The Spanish text used was that published in “La Revolucion Filipina”, II, pp. 261-325, Bureau of Printing, Manila, 1931. Its editor, Teodoro M. Kalaw, then director of the National Library, said the text “is a word for word transcript of the original, written in pencil, which is in the National Library. Mabini made a number of copies of it in his own handwriting, making slight changes in some of them.” The variants noted by Mr Kalaw in his footnotes to the Library’s published text are inserted in italics in the present translation. A number of copying or proof-reading errors have been corrected; for instance, “Bonifacio y sus secretarios” in Chapter VIII should obviously read “Bonifacio y sus sectarios”.
I have kept Mabini’s paragraphing and emphasis.
Mr. Kalaw notes that Mabini Englished his own work. I have not seen this translation, which of course would be authoritative, nor have I seen any others.
It is a pity that a biography of Mabini, however brief, should not be available with his “exemplary history” of the Revolution to whose spirit and substance he gave such significant shape. To make some small amends, perhaps the following notes made by himself in his Guam memoirs will be of interest:
“I was born in 1864 in Tanawan, Batangas.
“I went to school in Manila in 1881.
“I spent 1882-83 in Bawan.
“I returned to Manila to take a course in philosophy in 1884-85.
“I spent 1886-87 in Lipa. During this time I obtained the degrees of bachelor of arts and high-school teacher.
“I studied law in 1888 and was graduated in 1894.
“I was paralyzed in January 1896. I was imprisoned by the Spaniards in October of that year, and released in June the following year.
“I was with Aguinaldo from June 1898 until May 1899. In December 1899 I was captured by the Americans, and deported to Guam in January 1901.”
It remains only to add that he was prime minister and foreign minister of the first Republic of the Philippines, and that he died in poverty and neglect in 1903.
Righteous, perceptive and farsighted beyond the measure of his contemporaries and successors, the very embodiment of the intellectual in a revolution, he was not so intransigent as he was thought to be, as the following pages will show. Among the Filipinos he was one of the few who knew what it was all about.
L. Ma. G.
9th May 1969
Embassy of the Philippines
TO MY MOTHER:
When, still a child, I told you that I wanted to acquire learning, you were overjoyed because your heart’s desire was that a son of yours should be a priest; to be a minister of God was for you the greatest honour that a man could aspire to in this world.
Realizing that you were too poor to meet the expenses of my education, you worked as hard as you could, heedless of sun and rain, until you caught the illness that took you to your grave.
But I was not fated to be a priest. I am, however, convinced that the true minister of God is not one who wears a cassock, but everyone who proclaims His glory by good works, of service to the greatest possible number of His creatures, and I shall endeavour to be faithful to your desires as long as I have the strength to do so.
Now, wishing to place on your grave a wreath woven by my own hands, I dedicate this humble work to your memory; it is a poor thing, unworthy of you, yet the best so far woven by the artless hands of your son,
Although from May 1899 until the following December, when I was captured by the American forces, I not only held no official position but did not even reside near the seat of the Philippine Government, nevertheless, having felt obliged to take up the people’s cause, I believe it also to be my duty to give my countrymen an accounting of my activities now that I think it time to consider them at an end.
From my capture until my banishment to Guam I had the honour to discuss at length the termination of the war and the pacification of the islands with Generals MacArthur and J. F. Bell. A glance at the results of those discussions will give an idea of my conduct.
The said generals began by expressing to me their eagerness that I should contribute to the pacification of the islands for only by these means would the Filipinos attain their welfare. I replied that I ardently desired the same thing and asked them to tell me in what form my cooperation would be of value. They then told me that they would have confidence in me and accept my services only when I had unconditionally recognized American sovereignty in the Philippines, especially if I also helped them in the establishment of the government they judged most conducive to the happiness of the Filipino people. Again I demurred, saying that as soon as I did what they required, my countrymen, in their state of mind at that time, would forthwith withdraw their confidence from me, and, having- thus lost my influence over the Filipinos, I would be useless for the purposes of pacification or any other advantageous objective.
The aforesaid generals thought my reply was only a pretext to remain in a position which they considered to be one of systematic opposition to the Americans’ plans. For this reason, they told me, they were convinced that my intransigent attitude and that of Mr. Aguinaldo were the only obstacles in the way of the sought-for peace, and, since they were determined to achieve it for the good of the Filipinos themselves, they might find it necessary to remove these obstacles by deporting the irreconcilable. I stated that in my judgment the Revolution had been caused, not by mere personal ambition, but by the ungratified aspirations of the people, and I was fully convinced that, if Mr. Aguinaldo and I acted in open disagreement with public opinion, we would be discredited and by the same token unable to prevent the resumption of hostilities, sooner or later, by new leaders. True peace, I said, could be attained only if the Americans should come to know how to win the confidence of the Filipinos, and arbitrary and violent processes would never arouse such confidence; the experience of the Spanish regime had shown that deportations only served to excite hatred and hostility since it was cruel and unjust to impose the double penalty of imprisonment and indefinite exile on persons whose offenses had not been proven in court. I said finally that, far from opposing the plans of the Americans, I had tried to make known in all sincerity the true sentiments of the Filipinos in general and the revolutionists in particular, so that ignorance of these sentiments might not lead to the formulation of a mistaken policy prejudicial to the cause of peace, and that I wanted to preserve my good repute at all costs to be useful not only to the Filipinos but also to the Americans. The latter might err in their estimates; it might happen that despite my banishment and the capture or surrender of Aguinaldo the islands were not pacified; and in that case the help of those Filipinos who had not forfeited the trust of the revolutionists would be indispensable for the achievement of peace, for which end I wanted to keep myself in reserve in default of others better qualified, or at the very least to help these and be of some use to them if need be.
Reflecting now on subsequent events, I find no evidence that my banishment to Guam contributed in any way toward the capture of Aguinaldo and Lukban or the surrender of Malvar and other Filipino leaders; on the contrary, there is reason to believe that this error had more than a little to do with the prolongation of hostilities and loss of lives. Diplomacy having been despised as a weapon fit only for the weak, the struggle could cease only when the revolutionists no longer had the means to continue it. It is not in the ordinary and natural course of events that the weak should overcome the strong. We fought in the conviction that our dignity and sense of duty required the sacrifice of defending our freedoms as long as we could, since without them social equality between the dominant class and the native population would be impossible in practice and perfect justice among us could not have been achieved. Yet we knew it would not be long before our scant resources were exhausted, and our defeat inevitable. The struggle thus became unjustified and indefensible from the moment that the vast majority of the population chose submission to the conqueror, and many of the revolutionists themselves joined his ranks, since, unable to enjoy their natural freedoms — being prevented from doing so by the American forces — and lacking means to remove this obstacle, they deemed it prudent to yield and put their hopes on the promises made in the name of the people of the United States. The surrender of the last partisan bands was followed by an amnesty proclamation, and on 24th August 1902 those banished to Guam were told that they could return to their country should they freely swear to recognize and accept the supreme authority of the United States in the Philippines, and to observe sincere loyalty and obedience to the same, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion. To satisfy a scrupulous conscience — it did not seem to me reasonable or correct to pledge my word without first making sure I should do so — I asked to be taken prisoner to Manila in conformity with the proclamation which provided that “the oath be taken before any authority in the Philippine Archipelago authorized to administer such oaths.” The governor of Guam promised to transmit my petition to the competent authorities, without, however, advising me that he would not know the decision until toward the end of the following December. Nonetheless, I preferred to wait. Then, on the 9th February 1903 the commanding officer of the prison camp handed me a letter from the governor, advising me that I was free to go anywhere except the Philippines, whither I could not return without taking the oath of allegiance.
I asked for time to think it over since it was not so easy for me to come to a decision as it seemed at first sight. In the first place, like any other man, I hold to certain truths which rule and guide my conscience and which constitute my articles of faith. They enjoin me to believe that all authority over the people resides, by natural law, in the people themselves; whence, faced with the idea of taking the oath of allegiance to the authority of the United States in the Philippines, it seemed to me that I would be asking God to sanction an act Contrary to the law or order which He had himself imposed on the world from the beginning of time. My conscience told me it was blasphemy to ask God’s help in doing something He himself abhorred. Furthermore, if freedom of thought and speech was one of the privileges of every citizen of the Philippines, would it be lawful to require me to forswear my beliefs at the very moment that I was promising to lead a peaceful and honourable life? If the practices observed by all civilized nations extended this freedom to include all doctrines which did not promote the subversion of social order and the depravation of customs, could an oath, imposed by the executive power contrary to the spirit of American institutions and a fair interpretation of the laws in force in the Philippines, be considered valid? Having taken an unconditional oath of allegiance to the authority of the United States in the Philippines, would it be lawful for me, without betraying my sworn allegiance, to advocate afterwards the diminution of that authority, asking for the people the self-government publicly promised to the Filipinos for such time as they were fit for it? If any obligation contrary to natural law is essentially null and void, would it not be more practical and salutary to seek another formula which would reconcile the respect due to the law and to the fulfillment of the state’s obligations, with the sanctity of an oath and the promises of the government, so that the Filipinos might not grow to look on perjury as legitimate?
It is true that whoever attempts to govern on the basis of theories alone is bound to fail because the science of government is essentially practical; but it is also true that all practices contrary to theory, that is to say, contrary to reason and science, can fittingly be termed abuses, that is to say, corrupt practices, since they corrupt society. The ruler’s success is always to be found in the adjustment of his practical measures to the natural and immutable order of things and to the special needs of the locality, an adjustment that can be made with the help of theoretical knowledge and experience. The source of all failures in government can therefore be found, not in (mistaken) theories but in unprincipled practices arising from base passions or ignorance. If the Government of the United States has been able to lead the Union along the paths of prosperity and greatness, it is because its practices have not diverged from the theories contained in the Declarations of Independence and of the Rights of Man, which constitute an exposition of the principles of natural law implanted by the scientific revolutions in the political field. If truth is to be found in the synchronization of reason and experience, rectitude lies in the synchronization of theory and practice.
Nevertheless, after many vacillations and soul-searching anxiety, I attained at last the tranquillity produced by a firm conviction. My conscience is clear that it was licit for me to take the oath because it was unavoidable, the reason being that a need more imperious than the love of truth demanded my return to the islands. The more we read the history of humankind, the more must we observe that, in the frequent wars which have inflamed the peoples of the earth from the remotest times to our own days, just as fortresses and cities always had to surrender to the victor, so also reason and justice, many times if not always, had perforce to yield to the exigencies of power. Conquered peoples have submitted to the impositions of the conqueror in order to survive, survival being indispensable for the preservation of the human race, nature’s paramount need or law. Now that the Filipino people have submitted themselves to the authority of the United States to escape their ruin, my continued stay in Guam could have been interpreted as contravening the will of the people, as persisting in a desperate prolongation of the strife. When the people went to war, I thought it my duty to be at their side and help them endure it to the end; now that they feel they lack the strength to continue fighting for their rights, I believe I should likewise be at their side, to tell them not to despair but to have greater confidence in themselves, in justice, and in the future.
The truth is that I never had the courage to rouse up my countrymen when they preferred to live undisturbed. I worked enthusiastically with Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar and others who, after exposing the evils inflicted on the Filipinos by a willful or arbitrary regime, once asked the Spanish Government for the political assimilation of the Philippines as a Spanish province just so that many Filipinos should not seek the remedy for those evils in separatism by organizing a society like the Katipunan or an uprising like that of 1896. Conscious of the calamities and miseries that arise from the subversion of public order, 1 was not a member of the first nor did I join the second. But when in 1898 I saw on all sides the vexation and indignation caused by the blind obstinacy of the Spanish Government, and the cruelties with which it rewarded the services of those who had shown it the dangers of its maladministration in the Philippines and suggested the remedies to avert them, I saw clearly the avowed will of the people and my manifest duty to abide by it and to influence the Revolution so that, destroying only what was outworn and useless in the old regime, it should establish a new one more suitable to the true needs of the Filipinos and more adaptable to the changes or reforms demanded by its advancing civilization. I joined the struggle in the belief that I was following the voice of the people; I quit it now for the same reason.
My past sets the standard for my actions m the future. Instead of organizing fresh uprisings I shall seek the means to avoid them, for that, it seems to me, is the duty in times of peace of every honest citizen who truly loves his country. The same tenacity with which I defended our natural rights during the war is now called for by the conviction that the recognition of those rights by the United States constitutes the surest guarantee of peace and the most trustworthy safeguard against future insurrections. Fighting to the limits of our strength and of reasonableness, all we have accomplished has been to show our love of freedom; now that the United States have seen fit to recognize we are entitled to a measure of that freedom, guaranteeing to each citizen the exercise of certain rights which make our communal life less constricted, it is incumbent upon us to show that all we want are those rights, that all we desire is freedom of action to increase our treasury of culture and welfare, thus accrediting the capacity which justifies our claim to the promised recognition of the remainder of our freedom.
I can avow that the United States will very probably try to fulfill their pledges inasmuch as they know: (1) that their sovereignty has not been sought by the Filipinos but rather has been imposed upon them; (2) that whether the present cessation of hostilities is to become a true peace or a simple truce, more or less extended, will depend on their treatment of the Filipinos; (3) that Spain, in prohibiting in the Philippines the organization of associations or political parties to prevent their becoming spokesmen of the desires of the people, fomented the organization of partisan bands, and, in proscribing the Liga Filipina, opened the way for the Katipunan; and (4) lastly, that any colonial regime, which does not know how to adjust itself to the needs aroused by the ever increasing culture of the colonized and by their ever easier and more intimate intercourse with civilized countries, encourages the separation of the colony and, at the same time, political corruption and decadence in the metropolis. If we should add to these counsels of reason and lessons of history the pride of a people that knows its own power and greatness and thinks it knows the way of the world, we could well affirm that there is no reason for mistrust at this time when we should forget past grievances and sacrifice them for the sake of the reconciliation and brotherly union of Americans and Filipinos. Not only have the United States assured us that this union is the most certain guarantee of our, happiness but, by making themselves the arbiter of our fate, they have compelled us perforce to think it so. So be it, then, but meantime let us labour to make our minds and hearts fit for whatever is worthy and honourable in life in the expectation that time will lift the veil of the future to show us the true way of our progress and happiness.
Now, since my illness requires a less strenuous life, I return, driven by circumstance, to the obscurity from whence I came in order to hide my shame and sorrow, not at having acted dishonourably, but at not having rendered better service. It is not for me, of course, to say whether I have acted well or badly, correctly or mistakenly. However, I cannot close without saying that I have no other balm to sweeten the bitterness of a harsh and melancholy life than the satisfaction given by the conviction of having always done what I believed to be my duty. God grant that I can say the same at the hour of my death.
POLITICAL REVOLUTION AND EVOLUTION
By political revolution I understand a people’s movement aimed at producing a violent change in the organization and operation of the three public powers: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. If the movement is slow, gradual or progressive, it is called evolution. I say people’s movement because I consider it essential that the proposed change answer a need felt by the citizens in general. Any agitation promoted by a particular class for the benefit of its special interests does not deserve the name (of political revolution or evolution).
The inclination toward betterment or progress is a common need or law for all beings, whether individually or collectively considered. So it is that political revolution is generally attempted by a people for whom the desire to improve their condition has become an irresistible need. But against this law there is another, known as the instinct of self-preservation, which restrains the impetuosities of the people by showing them the desolation and misery caused by the use of violence, and by reminding them of the possibility that an influential and unscrupulous class, exploiting the ignorance or corruption of its fellow citizens, may deceive them for the benefit of their special designs, in which case the revolution would worsen rather than improve conditions.
This conflict is resolved by prudence, which counsels evolution. Along this channel improvement is slow, but gentle and without painful convulsions, somewhat like the spontaneous and almost imperceptible growth of a human being. As a general rule citizens prefer to wait because it serves their own convenience and because those turbulent souls who seek in rebellions their personal advancement do not dare raise their heads until the people are frustrated in their aspirations.
But evolution is not possible where the social organization is not adjusted to it, just as a plant grows and flourishes only in suitable soil. When the government takes measures for the stagnation of the people, whether for its own profit or that of a particular class, or for any other purpose, revolution is inevitable. A people that have not yet reached the fullness of life must grow and develop because otherwise their existence would be paralyzed, and paralyzation is equivalent to death. Since it is unnatural for a being to submit to its own destruction, the people must exert all their efforts to destroy the government which prevents their development. If the government is composed of the very sons of the people, it must necessarily fall.
A powerful foreign government determined to impose its authority by force, without regard for the aspirations of the conquered people, can, of course, subjugate them, but such a government will be able to escape uprisings only after utterly extinguishing all the energies of the people in the course of long and sanguinary struggles. However, if the conqueror does not seek room for its excess population but rather a market for its products, strife and slaughter would cause it great injury for it would have to spend much blood and treasure only in order to exterminate the consumers of its products. Consider further the habits of tyranny and despotism and the political corruption that frequent wars and the ambition to dominate foreign lands and peoples necessarily engender in the conquering classes, developments which may increase the discontent of their opposition and produce disintegrating forces in a nation eminently liberal in its customs and heterogeneous in its population; and, starting from the most unfavourable assumptions for the conquered people, it may well be that, due to circumstances that cannot be humanly foreseen, such a people may emerge triumphant from the struggle.
The very same prudence that counsels the citizens to patience, counsels reflexion to the conqueror. It is useless, true enough, to ask that it look after the interests of the conquered country in preference to its own, for its vaunted humanitarian sentiments are as a rule only a mask to hide its real intentions, but, since it is fatuous to go against the laws of nature, it would be a measure of the highest political wisdom for the conqueror to conciliate instead of antagonizing the conquered. Pride, which is always engendered by the consciousness of power, often considers the concessions suggested by prudence as signs of weakness, but it is necessary to keep in mind that, while pride sometimes instills courage and perseverance. in the pursuit of hazardous enterprises, it is always an evil counsellor in determining whether a proposed objective is expedient or not.
The study of the Philippine political revolution should determine whether or not the considerations I have set forth are worthwhile.
SPANISH RULE IN THE PHILIPPINES BEFORE THE OPENING OF THE SUEZ CANAL
The Philippine political revolution is of recent origin, to be found, so to speak, as late as the opening of the Suez Canal in November 1869. Previous uprisings had been provoked by affronts offered to particular regions or persons, and were not motivated by a generally felt need for political reforms; thus they were no better than mere riots. Even the insurrection which broke out in the Cavite Arsenal in 1872 had this character. Fathers Burgos, Gomez and Zamora, who were made to appear as instigators of this movement and as such were executed on the 17th February that year, were only asking for the restitution of the parishes which the friars had seized from the Philippine secular clergy, and for the recognition of the preferential right, which canon law recognized in the latter, to the administration of the archipelago’s parishes.
It could not be otherwise for when the Spaniards established their rule in the islands, toward the middle of the 16th century, the social organization of the Filipinos was still in a rudimentary stage. Where the inhabitants spoke the same dialect and observed the same usages and customs, there was an independent leader who governed his subjects in the manner of a patriarch or tribal chieftain: in Manila, which had a sizeable population, there were two leaders entitled rajahs, one to the north and the other to the south of the Pasig river. Since none of these leaders or chieftains had attempted to unite everyone under one rule, whether by permanent alliances or by force of arms, there did not exist a consciousness of national unity or solidarity. Thus the Spaniards, by dint of pledges of friendship and protection sealed in blood, were enabled to win over peace-loving chieftains, and with their help subjugated the more bellicose by force of arms. Discontent having thereafter grown because the pledged friendship and protection quickly turned into onerous lordship, the Spaniards, justifying whatever means might be used to this purpose, found excuses to rid themselves of those who, suspect because of their position and influence, could lead an uprising. They then prohibited the carrying of arms, leaving the conquered Filipinos so weakened and unarmed that the Mindanao Muslims could sack the coastal towns of Luzon and the Bisayas, often unresisted when the Spaniards still did not have steamships at their disposal.
The Spanish conquest’s ostensible purpose was the propagation of the Catholic faith; it was to snatch infidels from the jaws of the barbarian and the Devil, and enable them to share the benefits of civilization and eternal life — nothing could have been more disinterested and generous. But the conquis-tadores had to run the risks of uncharted seas and struggle against savage peoples and unaccustomed climes, and the goal of doing good to unknown people, by itself, was not and is not sufficient incentive to drive the average man to undertake such enterprises. A more positive incentive was needed, an objective concealed but more realistic, such as to make one’s fortune. America’s gold had roused the cupidity of adventurous spirits. Then again, the conquest of new lands has always meant more possessions, more money. By teaching the natives their own religion and customs the conquistadores could rule their bodies and souls, taming them the better to exploit them. Whether soldiers, priests or merchants, the conquerors went and will go after money, and, whatever their pretensions of humanitarian sentiments, will not put them into practice except as a means to attain their original objective.
Having completed the domination of Luzon and the Bisayas, the Spaniards divided the conquered country into districts which they termed encomiendas. Those who had distinguished themselves during the conquest were given each his own encomienda. with the right of succession. Since the encomenderos, to enrich themselves faster, required their serfs to pay tribute in land according to the industry of each, and since a serf had little left to meet his needs after having paid tribute, he had to give up the crafts he had learned from his forefathers or from the Chinese, Japanese, and other races which had traded with the Filipinos before the conquest, and make his living only from the natural fruits of the soil which were still sufficient for his needs, thanks to the low density of the population. So much for all that humbug about the indolence of the Filipinos. On the other hand, the friars, driven by the zeal and intolerance made famous by the Inquisition in its time, proscribed as heretical and superstitious the religious usages and popular chants which might perhaps preserve the traditions regarding the origin, settlement and culture of the native population of the islands, and in their stead imposed beliefs and practices contrary to the native manner and way of life. This apprenticeship must have been painful for such a radical and violent change of life could not have been accomplished without great cruelties on the part of the conquerors, and unspeakable sufferings and utter exhaustion on the part of the conquered.
This explains how a society that was already beginning to learn the art of living should return to its infancy and to live without consciousness of itself for three centuries. If the Spaniards were to perpetuate their rule, they should perpetuate the ignorance and weakness of the native. Science and wealth meant strength; only the poor and the ignorant are weak. Since it was unavoidable to give the native a measure of religious teaching that he might not revert to his old superstitions, this education should train him to keep his eyes on the skies that he might neglect the bounties of the earth. The native should learn how to read the prayer-books and hagiographies translated into the country’s dialects, but he must not know Spanish because then he would understand the laws and the decrees issued by higher authorities and cease to heed the advice of his parish priest, the friar. He must not read subversive books, and so those coming from abroad or locally published had to be subjected to the strict censorship of the ecclesiastical authorities. Trade with neighbouring Muslim countries was prohibited; Japanese immigration was likewise forbidden and Chinese immigration, restricted. It was sought to stifle the echoes, already much weakened by distance and the difficulty of communications, of the revolutions in the United Colonies of America against England, in France, and in the Spanish American colonies, that they might not awaken the Filipinos from their long sleep, already shaken by frightening nightmares. In short, the Spanish government, working hand in hand with the friar, tried to isolate the Filipinos, intellectually and physically, from the outside world that they might not be subject to influences other than those both judged it convenient to allow.
CAUSE AND EFFECT OF THE EXECUTION OF FATHERS BURGOS, GOMEZ AND ZAMORA
But such isolation was practicable only so long as the Europeans had to go by the Cape of Good Hope or the Straits of Magellan in order to reach the Far East, and before steam and electric power had shortened distances. With the opening of the Suez Canal, the Philippines too was opened to the commerce of the civilized world. As a free and civilized nation, Spain was ashamed to imitate China by forbidding the islands to foreigners; besides, it did not have sufficient strength to compel the great powers, if the heed should arise, to abide by such a decision. Thanks to the increasing ease of communications, events in Europe were already echoing in the cars of the Filipinos who, excited by these novelties, were beginning to think anew. Their awakening became even more thorough when the Filipino secular clergy, led by Father Burgos, appealed to the Spanish throne and Rome for the recovery of the parishes which the Spanish government had taken from them and given to the friars, and, as well, to establish that the friars, confining themselves to missionary work, should turn over all parishes to the Spanish and Filipino secular clergy in accordance with canon law. Since the friars were bound to lose the case because the petition was just and lawful, they put it about that the claimants were really agitators whose aim was to seize the parishes in order to organize an insurrection against the Spanish regime in the Philippines. The religous Orders claimed to be the sole support of Spanish rule and that, if they were removed from the parishes, the whole regime would come tumbling down, citing the precedent of the Mexican revolution which had been started by secular parish priests.
At this stage of the controversy, the garrison of the Cavite Arsenal mutinied. The ringleaders of the clerical dispute, offended because their claims had not been fairly met, were beyond any doubt, said their enemies, also the ringleaders of the insurrection and, as such, they were condemned to death. The trial was held amid great mystery and secrecy; the sentence was hastily carried out; afterward it was forbidden to speak of the affair; and for these reasons no Filipino believed, or now believes, in the guilt of the executed priests.
Although Burgos and his companions, Gomez and Zamora, had worked for the rights of a particular class and not of the people as a whole, yet had they asked for justice, and died for having asked. True, already on the scaffold, Burgos still could not understand why he should die, being innocent, which proves that he had not before then thought it possible that he should have to sacrifice his life for the cause he defended. But these were Christian priests, and they died like Christ, slandered by the friar-scribes, because they had sought to take away from the friars the administration of the parishes, the seat of their power and influence over the masses and the principal source of their wealth. So it is that the Filipinos keep them in grateful and imperishable memory, and the people venerate them as martyrs to justice.
The Spanish government did not know and did not want to know anything about the friars in the Philippines or about the Filipinos. The first, in possession of the parishes, were in continuous contact with the latter, and informed against their personal enemies as enemies of Spain, handing them over to the constabulary to be tortured, and to the authorities to be banished. Those in authority who refused to do what the friars wished lost their jobs, and the most liberal minister in Spain, when in power, did whatever the friars wanted. The friars wanted to make an example of Burgos and his companions so that the Filipinos should be afraid to go against them from then on. But that patent injustice, that official crime, aroused not fear but hatred of the friars and of the regime that supported them, and a profound sympathy and sorrow for the victims. This sorrow worked a miracle: it made the Filipinos realize their condition for the first time. Conscious of pain, and thus conscious of life, they asked themselves what kind of a life they lived. The awakening was painful, and working to stay alive more painful still, but one must live. How? They did not know, and the desire to know, the anxiety to learn, overwhelmed and took possession of the youth of the Philippines. The curtain of ignorance woven diligently for centuries was rent at last: fiat lux, let there be light, would not be long in coming, the dawn of a new day was nearing.
THE SPANISH REGIME IN THE PHILIPPINES BEFORE THE REVOLUTION
There were formerly in Manila Latinity schools where that language was taught together with a little Spanish, the only mandatory requirements for the study of philosophy, theology and jurisprudence in the University of Santo Tomas, run by the Dominicans. The Philippine priests and lawyers who were Burgos’s contemporaries, with the exception of sons of Spaniards, knew Latin perfectly well but hardly any Spanish because the educational system was wholly religious. Of those few Filipinos who had enough financial resources to study in Manila, the majority studied for the priesthood because the friars looked askance at lawyers while priests were held in high esteem by the natives. Later, in order to discourage young Filipinos from going to Spain or elsewhere abroad for studies not available in Manila, there to pick up liberal and irreligious ideas, the friars amended the educational structure and opened medical and pharmaceutical schools, believing that they could thus at least choose the textbooks and teachers most suitable to their purposes: between two unavoidable evils, the lesser was to be preferred. However, such was the thirst for knowledge and learning that many scions of wealthy families preferred to study in Spain and travel about Europe. Among those who went abroad for the express purpose of working for the improvement of the political situation of the Filipinos, Don Jose Rizal, a medical student, and Don Marcelo H. del Pilar, a Bulacan lawyer persecuted byhis town’s parish priest, deserve special mention.
From the political point of view the Philippines was then in a deplorable state. As a mere Spanish possession it did not enjoy constitutional guarantees, so that the King, through the Minister of the Colonies, the member of his government responsible for these matters, had in his hands the whole of the legislative and executive power. In so far as he also appointed and transferred justices and judges at his discretion, he was also the absolute head of the judicial branch. He was represented in the archipelago by the governor general of the Philippines, who was always a military man with the rank of lieutenant-general or captain-general in the army, and who exercised dictatorial authority to suspend at his discretion the enforcement of the decrees issued by the Colonial Ministry when in his judgment they were prejudicial to peace and order in the islands; to banish any citizen or compel him to change his place of residence without being heard in his own defence; to prohibit the publication or importation into the archipelago of books, pamphlets and articles not approved by the official censors; to search domiciles and correspondence without judicial warrant; to prohibit associations and assemblies for political purposes, as well as the exercise of any religion except the Roman Catholic: in brief, to prohibit the exercise of all those natural rights, older than any human law, which are due to any citizen. Thus the country was in effect in a permanent state of war, although peace had reigned everywhere for three centuries.
The governor general was also commander-in-chief of the army in the Philippines. As viceregal patron he appointed all parish priests and other ecclesiastical employees. He was assisted in his multiple functions, although with more independence and greater powers than ordinary secretaries, by the director general of the public treasury, in affairs pertaining to this field; the director general of civil administration, in affairs pertaining to police, public works, communications, agriculture, industry, commerce, mines, forests, public instruction and others; and by the deputy commander-in-chief in military matters.
The governor himself, assisted by the executive secretary, handled official business outside the jurisdiction of the said officials. An Administrative Council had been established to advise him on matters of great weight and importance, and he could also convoke the Council of State, composed, in addition to the high officials already mentioned, of the chief commandant of the naval station and squadron, the archbishop of Manila, and the president of the Manila high court.
All the departments and provincial governments were staffed with peninsular Spaniards, personnel unfamiliar with the country and relieved every time there was a cabinet change (in Madrid). Very few Filipinos secured employment as army officers, as officials in the civil administration, or as judges and prosecuting attorneys. A few Filipinos, more outstanding for their wealth than for their learning, just recently served as members of the Administrative Council, but these positions were unpaid and besides the body was purely advisory in nature. Every government employee tried to make the most of the short time he usually had in office so that dismissal should not catch him unprovided for. In every government centre or branch office the employees covered up for one another because if any of them were to be brought to book their whole class and race would be dishonoured. Any Filipino who denounced the abuses of the Spanish officials and friars was persecuted as a subversive. The archipelago was not represented in the Spanish parliament.
There was no representative municipal government except only in the city of Manila. Town mayors merely collected taxes and enforced the orders of the provincial authorities. They could repair highways with forced labour, but otherwise had neither funds nor authority to undertake other public works. A mayor was not the leader of his community but only the servant of the town’s parish priest and constabulary commanding officer.
REFORMS SOUGHT BY LA SOLIDARIDAD
Faced with this state of affairs, all those Filipinos concerned with the future of their country could not remain indifferent. They foresaw that easier and faster contact with civilized nations would before long awaken in the hearts of the Filipinos their inborn love of the freedoms enjoyed by those others, and that such aspirations, if they were not assuaged by suitable and opportune reforms, would irremediably sweep the people away into insurrection, as had been shown in Europe and America. The abuses being committed in the Philippines found no echo in Spain, nor did the complaints of the Filipinos, because the latter had no representatives in the parliament, and because the friars and the officials of the insular government both had reason to conceal abuses and complaints and to lead the Spanish nation to believe that the natives were content with the existing regime and would rebel if it were changed. On the other hand any political demonstrations in the islands were suppressed and rigorously punished so that neither the statesmen nor the other sectors of the Spanish nation had any idea of the real and true needs and desires of the Filipinos. Since a periodical published in the peninsula as the spokesman of their aspirations might perhaps supply the deficiency, certain Manila residents took it upon themselves to solicit subscriptions and contributions to meet the necessary expenses, and the fortnightly La Solidaridad was published, first with Don Graciano Lopez Jaena as editor, and shortly afterward, Don Marcelo H. del Pilar.
This periodical, after giving a more detailed account of the political condition and sufferings of the Filipinos, made it clear, among other things, that the Filipinos, far from being satisfied with their fate, longed and hoped for from the Spanish government those changes and reforms which would gradually allow them the progressive enjoyment of the benefits of civilization; that the few Filipinos then living in Spain were compelled to give public expression to the desires of their countrymen because statements of this nature were punished in the islands with tortures, forcible changes of residence, and exile; that these desires, derived as they were from needs arising in the natural course of things, far from being diminished by repression, would instead grow until they became irresistible, just as air acquires greater power to expand the more it is confined; that the Spanish government should not let these suppressed desires explode into an insurrection since it should forestall the Filipinos from seeking the cure for their ills in separation ; and that the love and gratitude of the Filipinos toward Spain were the only support capable in the course of time of maintaining Spanish rule in the Philippines inasmuch as only they would not fail in its times of grave danger and distress.
Going on from there to the reforms or improvements which might assuage the people’s anxieties. the periodical asked, among other things, that the insular government cease to be military in nature and become civil; that the powers of the governor general be limited and fixed by law; that the individual liberties sheltered under the Spanish constitution be given to the Filipinos; that the friars be expelled or that at least the parishes be entrusted to the secular clergy; that, except for the posts of governor general and heads of department, which should always be reserved for Spaniards, public offices in the insular government be filled by competitive examinations, such examinations to be held in Spain for half of the vacancies and in the Philippines for the other half; that tenure of such offices be secure; that the constabulary should be reformed or suppressed, etc.
As was to be expected, the friars published another periodical to oppose these claims; their main argument was the incapacity of the native due to his ignorance and inborn laziness. They alleged that the sought for reforms, incompatible with his primitive state, would spoil the native, accustomed as he was to work under threat of the whip — the reforms would, so to speak, be too strong a food for his unsophisticated stomach; that, if their petitions were granted, the Filipinos would ask for more, turning more and more demanding and vexatious, and never satisfied; that really the masses in the country were happy with their lot and paid no heed to La Solidaridad which was edited by a handful of subversives. They were told in reply that the native was ignorant because he was badly instructed, principally because the friars, who were the inspectors of the government primary schools and the private secondary schools, did not want him to be instructed; that notwithstanding official statistics in the Philippines the proportion of persons who could read and write to the total population was, if not equal to, greater than, in the peninsula; that the indolence of the native was largely due to the lack of cheap and easy transport facilities for his products; that reforms were sought precisely so that the native might rise from the primitive state in which he was being kept and so that the government, better informed of his needs, might meet them accordingly; that the number of representatives of the Filipinos in parliament might be fixed in proportion to those who could read and write; and lastly that to clarify and dispel all manner of doubts it would be convenient, by way ofexperiment, to implant some reforms and permit the Filipinos freely and peacefully to express what they felt.
Since these arguments were unanswerable, the organ of the friars had the impudence to declare more than once, with heavy emphasis, that the freedoms enjoyed in the peninsula had been won with blood, not ink. Such provocation was, of course, childish but, for that very reason, rash in the extreme. While all this was taking place the Spanish government remained silent, but its actions showed in a way that left no room for doubt that it was on the side of the friars, abandoning the people who bore all the burdens of the state. Once in a while an outstanding liberal, weary of waiting for his party’s turn in power, would raise the kite of vague promises which, once he had in his hands the cabinet portfolio he coveted, he tried to forget.
Articles published in a fortnightly were obviously not enough to attract the attention of the Spanish government. Seeing that Marcelo del Pilar was editing the paper with rare ability, assisted by a sufficient number of competent contributors, Rizal left its staff to give his work a more fit and forceful vehicle. It was necessary to picture the miseries of the Filipinos more movingly, so that the abuses, and the afflictions they caused, might be publicly revealed in the most vivid colours of reality. Only a novel could combine all these attractions, and Rizal set himself to writing novels. The preface of the ”Noli me tangere” states the purpose of its author, which was no other than to expose the sufferings of the Filipino people to the public gaze, as the ancients did with their sick, so that the merciful and generous might suggest and apply a suitable cure. The principal character of the novel was the only scion of a wealthy family of mixed Spanish and Filipino blood. Ibarra, for that was the name he bore, had been enrolled at a very early age in the Ateneo, the Manila municipal school run by the Jesuits; afterward his father had sent him to Europe to complete his studies. Having had little to do there with his countrymen, it was not to be wondered at that upon his return to the islands Ibarra should know so little about his own country that when Elias approached him in the name of the persecuted and oppressed, appealing to him to work for the reforms that could mitigate their fate, he should answer that he was convinced it was not yet time to change the existing regime in the islands because it was the most suitable for the present state of development of the Filipinos. It could not be doubted that Ibarra really loved his country, and yet, in all faith, he believed what he said because he was happy, because he loved with all his heart a childhood friend, the daughter of the friar who was the parish priest of his hometown, and his love was tenderly returned. In one of those poetic outbursts proper to those in love, he promised his sweetheart, the personification of his native land, that he would undertake at his own cost the construction of public works much needed in the town, such as a good building for a public school.
For his part the parish priest could not allow, and felt it his obligation to prevent, the union of his daughter with Ibarra because the Filipinos and their families were subjected to a thousand persecutions and it were better for her to marry a Spaniard that she might live peacefully in the company of her children. Besides, Ibarra was a subversive who did not even kiss his hand and whose attitude, although polite, was far from the servile submission required from natives. His anger knew no bounds when the town mayor informed him of Ibarra’s plan to build a school-house, and he exploded into such terrible fulminations of reprisal against any who might collaborate in the project that the young man had to have recourse to the provincial governor, the director general of civil administration, and the governor general himself. These authorities lent him their support, but, at the laying of the cornerstone of the school, only Elias saved him by a miracle from certain death.
The young man’s situation became more crucial when another friar fell hopelessly in love with his sweetheart. No Filipino in those times could doubt that the enemy of one friar was the enemy of his Order, and that the enemy of two friars was that of all the religious Orders put together. So it came to pass that, when least expected, a riot broke out to murder the parish priest who, oddly enough, was not to be found in the parish-house, while the constabulary, on the other hand, was able to surprise and capture a number of the rioters. Whoever among the latter refused to point to Ibarra as the leader and instigator of the insurrection was tortured to death; the stronger ones preferred to die rather than to lie, but many gave in to the severity of their sufferings and in the face of death. Ibarra, warned in time by Elias, was able to escape from the torture and fled to Manila, turning himself in to the higher authorities, who had him shut up in Fort Santiago. Elias saved him anew and, once outside the fortress, told Ibarra that he had buried the latter’s money and treasure in a place he described, adding that with these resources Ibarra could live abroad and work from there for the deliverance of his countrymen. Ibarra, because of his wealth and greater learning, would be more useful than Elias, and for this reason Elias, in an effort to save Ibarra from a constabulary pursuit party that was almost upon him, drew them off the track and was killed.
The book contains various other scenes from Philippine life as it actually was which are arranged artistically in the novel to give unity of time and place and heighten the interest of the reader. The work’s second volume, entitled “El Filibusterismo”, continues the story: Ibarra had escaped abroad where he had grown wealthy from trade; moving on to Cuba, as a jeweller, he had won the friendship of the governor general of the island with expensive gifts, and lent him the money needed to secure from the Ministry a transfer to the Philippines, where the governorship was more lucrative. Thus, under another name andwith the security afforded by his position as the new governor general’s intimate friend and confidante, his eyes always covered by enormous dark glasses to avoid his being recognized, Ibarra was able to return to the Philippines and dedicate himself, heart and soul, to his campaign of subversion.
This consisted in deepening the blindness and inciting the base passions of the authorities so that, by carrying to an extreme the abuses and oppressions inflicted on the natives, they should drive the latter from exasperation to rage and thus to revolution. The lamentations of the oppressed reached up to heaven, and, if they did not move the oppressors to compassion, it was because their hearts were harder than stone. But in spite of all the people did not rise, their patience was greater than Ibarra’s, whose heart burnt with the desire to avenge his ruined future and lost happiness. Unable to wait any longer, he prepared a great banquet to be attended by the higher authorities and principal families of Manila, and planted a dynamite mine under the house which would explode before the end of the feast. Then, taking advantage of the confusion such a disaster would cause, Ibarra, at the head of a gang of outlaws who were at his orders, would force his way into Intramuros, take his sweetheart away from the Santa Clara nunnery, and escape with her. A Filipino, to whom Ibarra confided his plans, was so horrified by the proposed crime that he frustrated it, and this led to the discovery of the plot. Ibarra, pursued and mortally wounded, took refuge in the house of Father Florentino, who made him see the error of his ways. Shortly thereafter, overcome by sorrow and remorse because he had not spent his time on useful benefactions, Ibarra died. Father Florentino, to whom Ibarra had left a chest filled with jewels, threw into the sea all the wealth which had been the cause and origin of untold sufferings so that it mightcease to work evil, calling instead on the virtuous youths ready to offer the sacrifice of their pure and stainless blood to obtain from heaven the salvation of the native land.
The foregoing extract from his works shows that Rizal made it his purpose to give, in particular, two pieces of advice which might serve as warnings not only to the Spaniards but also to the Filipinos. By the first, he served notice on the Spaniards that, if the Spanish government in order to please the friar remained deaf to the demands of the Filipino people, the latter would have recourse in desperation to violent means and seek in independence relief for its sorrows; and by the second, he warned the Filipinos that, if they should take up their country’s cause motivated by personal hatred and ambition, they would, far from helping it, only make it suffer all the more. He wanted to say that only those actions would benefit the Filipinos which were dictated by true patriotism, which not only demands the sacrifice to the common good of personal revenges and ambitions, but also requires, when necessary, the disinterestedness and abnegation of Elias. Did the Spaniards know how to profit by this advice to them? Or the Filipinos by that given to them? If the reader has the patience to follow me in this brief study, which I shall try to make impartial so it may be the more enlightening, I hope that at its conclusion he may answer these questions for himself. For the time being let him be content with the observation that very few Spaniards read Rizal’s novels because they had been written by a subversive, and that not many Filipinos read them either because their publication and reading in the islands were prohibited. Sin, says the proverb, is its own expiation.
THE LIGA FILIPINA AND THE KATIPUNAN
It is undeniable that in the Philippines the desire for improvement was great and widespread; it is not possible to explain otherwise the mistrust and hatred that the Filipinos, from the most ignorant to the most cultured, were beginning to feel toward the friars in the measure that they realized that the latter tenaciously opposed all reform. Time there was when the friars were wont to defend the natives against the rapacity of the encomenderos for in those days, the friars being in want and the Catholic religion not deeply rooted, they had great need of the confidence and love of their parishioners, whose trust and candour once exploited, they then became rich and arrogant. How was it that they forgot those sweet and gentle accents that had worked such miracles? It was because whoever acts in bad faith corrupts himself, and the corrupt hearkens not to the voice of reason but to that of passion.
The love and respect that everyone professed for Rizal, Marcelo, del Pilar and all the other patriots who collaborated with them in the great work of national regeneration manifested clearly and openly the political aspirations of the Filipinos. That La Solidaridad had faithfully interpreted those aspirations was likewise shown by the fact that its expenses were met by Filipinos residing in the islands, who were thus risking their personal safety and interests. From the start of the periodical’s publication a number of Manila residents, calling themselves propagandists, distributed the issues which were smuggled into the city, and collected the subscriptions and contributions given by patriots in Manila and neighbouring provinces. At such times as they had occasion to visit the capital, well-to-do and educated persons from distant provinces were also wont to give their help. If the rich men of Manila contributed very little it was because they mistrusted the persons in charge of the funds, and feared for their own interests.
When he realized that these disorderly and ill-coordinated efforts yielded little, Rizal thought of organizing a society called Liga Filipiiia, which was inaugurated a few days before his rustication to Dapitan in Mindanao. The statute of this association was limited to the establishment by the votes of its members of people’s councils in the towns, a provincial council in every province, and a supreme council for the whole archipelago, but did not define the objectives of the association. I do not know if these objectives were defined in the inaugural meeting over which Rizal himself personally presided because I was not present and because I never had close relations with the illustrious doctor. I can only say that the society was dissolved a few days after its inauguration because of the banishment of its founder, and that, when it was reorganized later on the initiative of Don Domingo Franco, Andres Bonifacio, and others, they gave me the post of secretary of the supreme council. We then fixed the objectives of the society in a short program couched in the following or equivalent language: to contribute to the support of La Solidaridad and the reforms it asked; to raise funds to meet the expenses not only of the periodical but also of the public meetings organized to support such reforms and of the (Spanish) parliamentarians who would advocate them; in brief, to have recourse to all peaceful and legal means, thus transforming the society into a political party.
The association did not have a better fate this time for it had to be dissolved after a few months of life. However, it had promising beginnings: the majority of the members of the supreme council were persons known for their learning; patriotism and social status; thanks to the efforts of Andres Bonifacio and others, people’s councils were soon organized in Tondo and Trozo, and others were being organized in Santa Cruz, Ermita, Malate, Sampaloc, Pandacan, etc. Subsequently a small monthly contribution was required from every member, the proceeds of which were applied to the expenses of La Solidaridad, which were the most urgently to be met. The members paid their dues at first; later they stopped doing so on the pretext that they did not agree with the society’s objectives because the Spanish government paid no attention to the periodical nor in fact would do so to any lawful activity. Upon investigation it then transpired that those commissioned to organize the people’s councils had not required previous assent to the society’s program as a condition for membership in the society; and that, on the contrary, Andres Bonifacio, who had recruited more members for the society with his tireless activity, was firmly convinced of the uselessness of peaceful means. The supreme council, which was more of an organizing committee because its members had not been elected by vote, saw clearly that, as soon as the rank and file elected their leaders according to the by-laws, the program would be changed. The council understood for the first time that the masses, whom the Spaniards believed to be brutish or at best indifferent, were in the vanguard where political aspirations were concerned. Realizing that the work of conciliation and compromise was bringing no results, the council declared the dissolution of the society so that the disagreements among its members should not lead to its discovery by the authorities. Those who were in favour of keeping up the fortnightly publication formed one group, called the Compromisarios, because each one engaged to pay a monthly contribution of five pesos to meet its expenses. Andres Bonifacio, for his part, reorganized the society under the name of Katipunan ng manga Anak ng Bayan (Association of the Sons of the People), already with independence as its objective.
The Katipunan grew very rapidly because the insolent and provocative way in which the friars carried out their campaign (against reforms) had exasperated the masses. But if the organization of political associations had been permitted in the archipelago, and if the middle class, which was the most educated and influential, had been able to move freely, it could have undoubtedly calmed the people’s anger and obstructed the growth of the Katipunan since that class was resolutely in favour of the Liga’s program, even after having endured most cruel sufferings, and even more after the Pact of Biak-na-Bato.
FIRST STAGE OF THE REVOLUTION
Less than a year afterward I heard that the Katipunan had spread all over the province of Manila and was beginning to branch out into Cavite and Bu-lacan. I foresaw the horrors which would follow its discovery by the authorities, but, having been unable to obstruct (its activities) before, much less could I do so now when I was already ill and was, besides, considered by the society’s leaders as a very lukewarm patriot. In August 1896 the head of the printing press of the Diario de Manila, having discovered that some of his employees belonged to a secret society, handed them over to the constabulary for the corresponding investigation. Recourse was had to the usual methods of torture, and not only the Katipunan but also the Masonic brotherhood and other societies already dis-solved* like the Liga and the Cuerpo de Compromisarios, were discovered. Warned in time, Bonifacio and his followers were able to flee to the mountains, and from there ordered the people’s councils to rise or join them so as not to fall in the hands of the constabulary. The Spanish authorities, following the advice of the friars, decided to teach a terrible exemplary lesson and for this purpose seized not only the katipuneros but the Masons as well and all those who had belonged to the dissolved societies. Convinced that the insurrection could not be the work of the unlettered but rather of the country’s educated class, they also ordered the arrest of all the prominent Filipinos in every province. The fate of the captured was cruel and horrible. The katipuneros had managed to put themselves beyond reach of the persecution in time, and only those who were not, were arrested. Since the latter were tortured to compel them to admit their complicity in the insurrection, and they knew nothing about it, they could not escape these sufferings. Many died as a result; many were executed under sentence of courts-martial; many others, shot without any trial at all; and still others, suffocated in grim dungeons. Those who suffered only imprisonment and deportation were lucky. Rizal was shot on the 30th December 1896 as the principal instigator of the movement, and those really guilty of giving cause for the Filipinos to hate the very name of Spaniard were praised for their patriotism.
Shortly before the outbreak of the insurrection Rizal, in order to put an end to an indefinite exile, had offered his medical services to the Spanish army campaigning in Cuba. The government having agreed to his proposal, he was taken from Dapitan and kept aboard a warship anchored in Manila Bay, awaiting transport to Spain. It was during this time that the insurrection happened to break out. Nonetheless the governor general sent Rizal on to Spain, whence he had to be sent back soon after because the judge advocate of the continuing court-martial demanded custody of Rizal to answer the charges against him that might appear from the evidence. Although Rizal’s banishment to Dapitan eliminated all possibility of his active participation in the movement, he was found guilty of having been its chief instigator because, had it not been for the articles he had published in La Solidaridad and for his novels, the people would never have taken to politics. This judgment was totally incorrect because political activities in the Philippines antedated Rizal, because Rizal was only a personality created by the needs of these activities: if Rizal had not existed, somebody else would have played his role. The movement was by nature slow and gentle, it had become violent because obstructed. Rizal had not started the resistance, yet he was condemned to death: were he not innocent, he would not be a martyr.
In contrast to Burgos who wept because he died guiltless, Rizal went to the execution ground calm and even cheerful, to show that he was happy to sacrifice his life, which he had dedicated to the good ‘ of all the Filipinos, confident that in love and gratitude they would always remember him and follow his example and teaching. In truth the merit of Rizal’s sacrifice consists precisely in that it was voluntary and conscious. He had known perfectly well that, if he denounced the abuses which the Spaniards were committing in the Philippines, they would not sleep in peace until they had encompassed his ruin; yet he did so because, if the abuses were not exposed, they would never be remedied. From the day Rizal understood the misfortunes of his native land and decided to work to redress them, his vivid imagination never ceased to picture to him at every moment of his life the terrors of the death that awaited him; thus he learned not to fear it, and had no fear when it came to take him away; the life of Rizal, from the time he dedicated it to the service of his native land, was therefore a continuing death, bravely endured until the end for love of his countrymen. God grant that they will know how to render to him the only tribute worthy of his memory: the imitation of his virtues.
Such cruelties could do no less than arouse general indignation, and, rather than suffer them, the rebels preferred to die fighting even though armed only with bolos. Besides, the movement had more success in Cavite because the government forces there consisted only of small constabulary detachments scattered in different towns of the province, except for the port and arsenal which the rebels were unable to take. At that time the Katipunan had two people’s councils in the province, one called Magdalo in Kawit led by Don Baldomero Aguinaldo, and the other, the Magdiwang in Noveleta under the orders of Mariano Alvarez. There were also a number of katipuneros in San Francisco de Malabon who obeyed the latter. Upon receiving Andres Bonifacio’s order to rise, the katipuneros, helped by their friends, were able to surprise the constabulary barracks and kill the Spanish officers and sergeants in command. With the handful of arms thus captured, the citizens of Noveleta, under the command of Don Artemio Ricarte, threw back the forces of General Blanco on the 9th November 1896, while those of Kawit, under the orders of Don Emilio Aguinaldo, the town mayor, and of Don Candido Tirona, who died in the encounter, were able to retake, on the 11th of the same month, the powder-magazine of Binacayan, which had fallen to the Spaniards a few days before.
On the basis of these gains, the two people’s councils took provincial jurisdiction, the towns of Kawit, Imus, Bacoor, Perez Dasmarinas, Silang, Mendez Nunez, and Amadeo falling under Magdalo, and the remaining towns in the province under Magdiwang. Invited by some friends, Andres Bonifacio went to Cavite to unify the endeavours of the two, but Magdalo already paid little heed to his authority and orders. Fortunately, Don Edilberto Evangelista, a Manilan who was a civil engineer graduated from the University of Ghent in Belgium, put his services at the disposal of the insurrection and directed all the entrenchment and defence woi’ks which would give the Spanish forces so much trouble. General Polavieja, at the head of a considerable force, boldly decided to overrun the province of Cavite, and Edilberto, who was conducting the defence of the Sapote river, died fighting heroically on the 17th February 1897. From then on the Spanish forces were able to take one after the other the towns within the jurisdiction of the Magdalo council, whose members were finally compelled to withdraw to San Francisco de Malabon, there to meet with the Magdiwang and arrive at an agreement with the latter on the most appropriate measures for the defence of the province. For that purpose the members of both councils, together with the principal military leaders, gathered in the estate-house of Tejeros on the 12th March 1897. The assembly, presided over by Bonifacio, agreed on the election of a central government which would take charge of the general business of the insurrection. Don Emilio Aguinaldo was elected president, and Don Mariano Trias, vice-president. Bonifacio was elected director of the department of the interior, but, affronted when some of those present opposed his appointment because he was not educationally qualified, he walked out of the meeting, declaring that, as head of the Katipunan, he did not recognize the validity of the decisions reached. Nevertheless those elected took possession of their offices and, in high dudgeon, Bonifacio went off with his two brothers to the mountains of San Mateo; but (Mr Aguinaldo sent after him) two companies of soldiers were sent after him with orders to arrest him. Bonifacio resisted, and as a result he was wounded thrice, and one of his brothers and three of the soldiers were killed. The soldiers were able to take Bonifacio and his other brother to Naic, thence to Maragondon, and afterward to Mount Buntis where the two brothers were shot.
The general opinion finds no justification, not even mitigation, for such a manner of proceeding (on the part of Mr Aguinaldo). Andres Bonifacio had no less schooling than any of those elected in the aforesaid assembly, and he had shown an uncommon sagacity in organizing the Katipunan. All the electors were friends of Don Emilio Aguinaldo and Don Mariano Trias, who were united, while Bonifacio, although he had established his integrity, was looked upon with distrust only because he was not a native of the province: this explains his resentment. However, he did not show it by any act of turbulent defiance, for, seeing that no one was working for reconciliation, he was content with quitting the province for San Mateo in the company of his brothers. When it is considered that Mr Aguinaldo (the elected leader) was primarily answerable for insubordination against the head of the Katipunan of which he was a member; when it is appreciated that reconciliation was the only solution proper in the critical state of the Revolution, the motive for the assassination cannot be ascribed except to feelings and judgments which deeply dishonour the former; in any case, such a crime was the first victory of personal ambition over true patriotism.
This tragedy smothered the enthusiasm for the revolutionary cause, and hastened the failure of the insurrection in Cavite, because many from Manila, Laguna and Batangas, who were fighting for the province (of Cavite), were demoralized and quit, and soon the so-called central government had to withdraw to the mountains of Biak-na-Bato in Bulacan. It could afford to remain there because the Spaniards ceased to attack it to cut down their casualties. Besides, Don Pedro A. Paterno offered himself to General Primo de Rivera as a negotiator with the leaders of the insurrection for what they called an honourable peace. Mr Paterno was a purely volunteer mediator, that is to say, he had no official standing. The general’s purpose was to keep the revolutionary chieftains abroad because, once there, watched constantly by the operatives of the Spanis.h consulates, it would be very difficult for them to arm an expedition and return to the islands, and with this in mind he offered them money, safe-conduct and free passage. Reflecting that they would be compelled by lack of arms to surrender later under worse conditions, the chieftains accepted the offer, encouraged by a design to spend the money on the purchase of arms with which they would return to the archipelago at the first favourable opportunity. It was agreed that the government would give P400,000 to Mr Aguinaldo and his companions in Hongkong, P200,000 to the chieftains remaining in the islands, and P200,000 more some time after, perhaps in the light of the subsequent conduct of the chieftains who surrendered. For this part Mr Aguinaldo promised to order all the people in arms to surrender and turn over their weapons to the Spanish authorities.
To all appearances the pact of Biak-na-Bato gave the leaders of the Revolution an advantageous way out of an indefensible position. Since both parties were acting in bad faith, one of them could not complain if the other broke its pledges. But such a solution was far from enough to quench the general state of excitement because there was no public announcement of any specific covenant on the political reforms hoped for by the people. The Spanish government believed that, with the voluntary expatriation of some leaders and the unconditional surrender of some others, peace would soon be restored, but it was wholly mistaken. Only the grant of the reforms sought by La Solidaridad could have restored a spirit of peace, but, precisely to avoid such concessions, the Spanish government was using all the means suggested by diplomatic guile and skill. And so it came about that many of the discontented remained afield with forebodings of grave and unpredictable events.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE REVOLUTION
Because I had been a member of the Liga Filipina and one of the compromisarios, I too was indicted and imprisoned as one of the instigators of the rebellion. However, I had suffered a paralytic stroke six months before the uprising and I attribute to this circumstance my not having been beaten up and shot together with Don Domingo Franco and others. In the event I was covered by General Primo de Rivera’s amnesty proclamation and set free by virtue thereof after having been confined for almost nine months in the prisoners’ section of the San Juan de Dios hospital in Manila. Months afterwards I moved to the town of Los Banos, and thence to Bay, in the province of La Laguna, where I drafted a scheme for the organization of a general uprising, which I judged to be imminent in view of the general restlessness. This transpired two months before the declaration of war between the United States and Spain, which was soon followed by the annihilation of the Spanish fleet in the Philippines by Admiral Dewey on the 1st May 1898, and Mr Aguinaldo’s return to the islands. When the latter, upon arrival, proclaimed to the people the readiness of the United States to help the Filipinos regain their natural rights, everyone thought that the government of that country, recognizing Mr Aguinaldo as the representative of the Filipino people, had entered into a formal agreement with him, and so each province, acknowledging his indisputable leadership, went into action to fight the Spanish forces within its boundaries. This impression was confirmed by the vague and equivocal statements of the American commanders.
One of the copies of the scheme which I had drafted reached Mr Aguinaldo’s hands by chance, and he thereupon wrote, although he did not know me, asking me to help him. Although I was just as unacquainted with him, I wanted to help in the common endeavour as far as I was able, and I called on him at Cavite port on the 12th June 1898, the very day on which the independence of the Philippines was being proclaimed in the town of Kawit. I immediately asked him about the agreement he had concluded with the United States Government, and to my great surprise learned that there was none, and that the (American) consul in Singapore, Pratt, and Admiral Dewey had only given him verbal assurances that the United Sates Government did not want any part of the islands and that it designed only to help the natives destroy the Spanish tyranny so that all the Filipinos could enjoy the blessings of an independent government. I realized then that the American representatives had limited themselves to ambiguous verbal promises, which Mr Aguinalclo had accepted because he ardently desired to return to the islands, fearful that other influential Filipinos should (rob him of glory and) reach an understanding with the Americans in the name of the people. I realized also that the proclamation of independence which was being made that day was premature and imprudent because the Americans were concealing their true designs while we were making ours manifest. I foresaw, of course, that because of this want of caution the American commanders and forces would be on guard against the revolutionists, and the United States consuls on the China coast would sabotage the purchase of arms for the revolution. However, unable to prevent the proclamation because I had arrived too late to do so, I kept my peace and set myself to studying in detail the measures most urgently called for in the existing situation.
The sudden general uprising had at one blow destroyed the structure established by the Spanish administration in the provinces and towns of the archipelago, and it was therefore urgently necessary to found a new structure so that anarchy might not lead to fatal consequences. I proposed a scheme reorganizing the provinces and towns in the most democratic form possible in the circumstances and, with Mr Aguinaldo’s approval, it was carried out without loss of time. I followed this up with another proposal for the creation of the (government) departments needed for the orderly working of the central administration, as well as of an assembly or congress composed of two prominent residents of each province to advise Mr Aguinaldo and propose measures for the common welfare and the attainment of the longed for rights. This congress would not have legislative functions because the state of war required a concentration of powers necessary for swift action, but I considered its creation indispensable so that the provinces should not distrust the dictatorial authority of Mr Aguinaldo. He approved my proposal and offered to make me the head of one of the new departments. I was not sure I was fit for the job because of my illness, and declined the offer, but for the time being I handled the limited amount of business regarding foreign relations until such time as Mr Arellano, who had been offered this portfolio because of his recognized competence, should take over. By this time General Anderson’s brigade had already landed in Cavite, and the remaining forces commanded by General Merritt were beginning to arrive, making relations with the Americans more troublesome. On the other hand, the siege of Manila by the Filipino forces was stalled because of the lack of coordination in the activities of the columns operating in the different zones, and Aguinaldo, who, by virtue of his prestige, could alone impose such unity, could not make up his mind to take personal command of the operation. If the Filipinos had been able to take Manila before the arrival of General Merritt’s forces, relations with the Americans would have been cleared up from the start. But it did not turn out that way. The Americans landed in Parañaque and attacked Manila, ignoring the Filipino besieging forces. Many Filipino military commanders were of the opinion that this behaviour was sufficient cause for the opening of hostilities against the Americans, but I advised Mr Aguinaldo to try to avoid the conflict at all costs because otherwise we would be facing two enemies, and the most likely result would be the partition of the islands between them.
After the capitulation of Manila, the Philippine Government moved from Bacoor, Cavite, to Malolos, Bulacan, where the newly created Congress held its first session. The first results of this assembly’s deliberations were the ratification of the proclamation of independence prematurely made in Kawit, and the decision to draft a constitution for the establishment of a Philippine Republic. I should note that, although Mr Arellano had not yet assumed office as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, his deputy, Don Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera, had taken over the business of the department, so that I was then simply Mr Aguinaldo’s private adviser. As such I advised him to address a message to Congress, reminding it that Congress should not draft a constitution because it was not a constitutional convention; that neither could Congress enact laws because it had no legislative functions; and that its principal and urgent duty was to determine the best system for the organization of our armed forces and the raising of the funds needed for their maintenance, the plans agreed upon to be submitted to him. He was to add further that it was not the opportune time for the drafting of a constitution since the independence of the Philippines was not yet officially recognized; that, once independence had been embodied in a constitution, the Philippine Government would be unable to negotiate any agreement with any other government except on the basis of recognition of such independence, since otherwise the Government would be violating the fundamental law of the State; and that, in those arduous circumstances, I was of the opinion that the Government should have freedom of action to negotiate an agreement which would prevent the horrors of war with the United States, on condition that such an agreement should bring positive benefits to the country and recognize the natural rights of the citizens. Mr Aguinaldo submitted my opinion to the consideration of the members of his cabinet, I do not know in what terms; what I certainly know is that not only Avas my advice rejected but I was also bitterly criticized for holding tyrannical ideas and inculcating them in the head of the government. On account of these unfortunate services political scandal-mongers nicknamed me “Devil’s Advocate to the President”. Seeing that my advice was not only useless but even resented by the cabinet members, and fearing that they would blame me for their own failures, I tried to disassociate myself from Mr Aguinaldo, moving to another house against his wishes, but he immediately ordered the installation of a telephone connexion between his house and my new residence, so that, to my discomfiture, I continued to play the part of devil’s advocate. I limited this to giving my opinion on matters of great gravity and importance, and suggesting to Mr Aguinaldo that it was his duty to lend his support to the actuations of his secretaries so long as they did not give evidence of unfitness or sufficient motive to believe they were abusing his confidence.
After a long wait, Mr Arellano finally stated that he could not discharge the office of Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in view of which Mr Aguinaldo insisted that I should take charge of the department. I accepted for the purpose of seeking an understanding with the United States Government before the proposed constitution was voted upon by the Philippine Congress, and assumed office on the 2nd January 1899. All my efforts failed because the Treaty of Paris, concluded on the 10th December the previous year, had vested in the Congress of the United States the authority to determine the civil rights and the political status of the Filipinos, and Congress — according to the emphatic assurances of General Otis — would not exercise that authority so long as the Filipinos were up in arms. Since the administration in Washington had a majority in Congress, it was very likely that the latter would take a decision in accordance with the wishes of the administration; but if we surrendered unconditionally, leaving our political fate at its mercy, the Americans would no longer have any doubts about our unfitness because, by not defending our freedom, we would be showing our little understanding and love for it. We had therefore to choose between war and the charge of unfitness. Amid this crisis, the Constitution of the Philippine Republic, already definitely voted upon and approved, was sent to the government for promulgation. I was still trying to delay it because of the gravity of the situation, but seeing that, on the one hand, the representatives were obdurate and threatened a scandal, and that, on the other hand, an understanding with the American Government was impossible because of its refusal to recognize our juridical existence and its insistence on unconditional surrender, I had to give in especially since Mr Aguinaldo too was in favour of the promulgation. I did not yet have reason to even suspect that the most determined advocates of the promulgation of the Constitution would be the least ready to defend it at the least sign of danger to their persons and interests. Apprehending that war was inevitable, I limited my efforts to preventing the aggression from coming from our side, convinced that our weakness could not justify any provocation.
Meantime, on the other side of the sea, in the capital of the Republic of the United States, things were happening which merit all possible attention. The ratification of the Treaty of Paris was being postponed and delayed in the Senate by the stubborn opposition of the Democrats, and this persuaded President McKinley to stage what is called a coup d’etat. In the night of the 4th February 1899 the American forces started an action that led to the outbreak of hostilities, and the news was immediately communicated to Washington. The likelihood of new complications with Spain, and perhaps with other powers, put an end to all opposition, and the treaty was ratified by the Senate on the 6th February. The amount of $20,000,000 stipulated for the cession of the Philippines was appropriated by Congress on the 2nd March. The instruments of ratification having been exchanged on the 11th April, the price for the cession was paid on the 1st May, thus consummating the purchase and sale.
Elsewhere Senator McEnery, explaining the administration’s objectives, proposed in the Senate that the United States declare it did not intend to annex the islands permanently, but rather to prepare the inhabitants for an autonomous government which would promote American and Filipino interests. For his part, Senator Bacon, expressing the wishes of the opposition, proposed an amendment asking the United States to declare that it renounced all purpose of exercising sovereignty, jurisdiction and control over the islands, since its intention was to hand over their government and administration to the Filipinos when the latter should have established a stable government worthy of recognition. This amendment was put to a vote, and 29 senators voted in favour, and another 29 against. The Vice-President of the United States, Hobart, as President of the Senate, broke the tie by giving his casting vote to those against, thus leading to the approval of the McEnery proposal, that is to say, the administration’s policy. Under this proposal the Philippines can be neither a territory nor a state because it should not be permanently annexed to the United States, but, as property bought by the United States, the latter can dispose of the Philippines at its discretion, that is to say, without the limitations of its Constitution. If the United States is the absolute owner of the islands, Congress has absolute power to legislate on them, and hence can fix at its discretion the political status and civil rights of the inhabitants. If the latter enjoy life and liberty, it is not because they have an inborn right to them, by virtue of natural law, but because the United States Congress so wishes. Undoubtedly President McKinley destroyed the Spanish tyranny, but, apparently, only in order to replace it with another in the American manner. It is interesting to observe that the Republican Party, led by a Lincoln in its beginnings, freed many millions of slaves in the United States, while, led by a McKinley in its greatest period of vigour and prosperity, it made the United States the absolute owner of many millions of Filipinos. The immortal Washington, speaking of the Constitution of the United States, said that so long as the civic virtues did not wholly vanish among the classes of North-American society, the distribution of powers made in that Constitution would not permit an unjust policy to become permanent. God grant that the Americans do not forget the father of their country, or defraud his fond hopes!
END AND FALL OF THE REVOLUTION
As I had foreseen, our improvised militia could not withstand the first blow struck by the disciplined American troops. Moreover, it must be admitted that the Filipino forces stationed around Manila were not prepared for an attack that night: General Ricarte, in command of the detachments in the south, and General San Miguel, commander of the eastern zone where the attack began, were then in Malolos. Little accustomed to war, the Filipino commanders and officers hardly appreciated the value of military instruction and discipline so that the emplacements were not served with anything approaching order and precision. The Filipino general staff had not studied or laid down any plans for offensive or withdrawal movements in case of an outbreak of hostilities. Mr Aguinaldo, who had scant appreciation of the advantages of a unified command and coordinated tactics, had made no provision for the prompt restoration of communications among the various army units should a sudden retreat interrupt the telegraphic system. Mr Aguinaldo wanted to keep the forces around Manila under his direct orders, commanding them from his residence in Malolos, although he could not devote himself completely to the proper discharge of the duties of this command because of his preoccupations as head of the government and the conceit of personally deciding many matters which should have been channelled through the departments of the central administration. Only after the outbreak of hostilities, when the telegraph lines had already been cut, did he name General Luna commander of the forces operating around Manila, but by that time the various army units had already evacuated their old emplacements, and communications among them had become slow and hazardous. Furthermore, Luna resigned his command shortly afterward because the War Minister had disapproved one of his dispositions. However, he resumed command of the defensive operations north of Manila when the Philippine Government was compelled to leave Malolos for San Isidro in the province of Nueva Ecija. Luna was able to raise fresh forces in Calumpit, forming a number of companies composed of veteran soldiers of the former native army organized by the Spanish Government, and with these troops as a core he imposed a stern disciplinary system to stop the demoralization of our troops. But many commanders, jealous of their authority, withheld from him the effective cooperation that was necessary. This led to the cashiering by brute force of commanders who did not recognize his authority, or the court-martialling of those who abandoned their posts in the face of the enemy, or the disarming of troops that disobeyed his orders.
In spite of all these obstacles, Luna would have succeeded in imposing and maintaining discipline if Aguinaldo had supported him with all the power of his prestige and authority, but the latter was also beginning to grow jealous, seeing Luna slowly gain ascendancy by his bravery, audacity, and military skill. All those affronted by his actuations were inducing Aguinaldo to believe that Luna was plotting to wrest from him the supreme authority. After the Calumpit bridge had fallen to the American forces, due mainly to the scarcity of ammunition, Luna came to see me in San Isidro and entreated me to help him convince Mr Aguinaldo that the time had come to adopt guerrilla warfare. I promised to do what he wanted, while making it clear to him that I doubted I would get anywhere because myadvice was hardly heeded in military matters inasmuch as, not being a military man but a man of letters, my military knowledgeability must be scant, if not non-existent. I could not keep my promise because after our meeting I did not get to see Mr Aguinaldo until after some time when he came expressly to seek my advice on whether or not it would be expedient to reorganize the cabinet. Unable to overcome my sense of propriety even in those circumstances, I answered in the affirmative, and, having relinquished office to mysuccessor, Don Pedro A. Paterno, in the first days of May 1899, I left for the town of Rosales near Bayambang. Some weeks later Mr Aguinaldo sent a telegram asking Luna to see him in Cabanatuan for an exchange of views, but when Luna arrived in Cabanatuan he met not Aguinaldo but death by treachery plotted by the very same soldiers whom he had disarmed and court-martialled for abandonment of their post and disobedience to his orders (he did not find Aguinaldo at home and was treacherously murdered by the soldiers who were on sentry duty there). Colonel Francisco Roman, who accompanied Luna, died with him. While Luna was being murdered. Mr Aguinaldo was in Tarlac taking over command of the forces which the deceased had organized. Before his death Luna had his headquarters in Bayambang, and had reconnoitred Bangued to determine if it met the conditions for an efficacious defence in case of a retreat; what is more, he was already beginning to transport there the heavier pieces of ordnance. Nothwithstanding, Aguinaldo established his government in Tarlac, wasting his time on political and literary activites, a negligence which General Otis exploited by landing his infantry in San Fabian while his cavalry, wheeling through San Jose and Umingan, took San Quintin and Tayug, thus cutting all of Mr Aguinaldo’s lines of retreat and giving the death-blow to the Revolution.
Until now I cannot believe that Luna was plotting to wrest from Mr Aguinaldo the high office he held although Luna certainly aspired to be prime minister instead of Mr Paterno, with whom Luna disagreed because the former’s autonomy program was a violation of the fundamental law of the State and as such was a punishable crime. This is shown by a report in the newspaper La Independencia, inspired by Luna and published a few days before his death, which stated that the Paterno-Buencamino cabinet would be replaced by another in which Luna would be prime minister as well as war minister. When a few days afterward Luna received Mr Aguinaldo’s telegram calling him to Cabanatuan, Luna thought perhaps that the subject of their meeting-would be the new cabinet; he did not expect an attempt to assassinate him precisely at the critical juncture when the Revolution most needed his strong and skilled right arm; nor could he believe that a licit and correct ambition should inspire fear in Mr Aguinaldo who had named him commanding general of the Philippine army. Luna had certainly allowed himself to say on occasion that Aguinaldo had a weak character and was unfit to be a leader, but such language was only an explosive outlet for a fiery and ebullient temperament which saw its plans frustrated by the lack of necessary support. All of Luna’s acts revealed integrity and patriotism combined with a zealous activity that measured up to the situation. If he was sometimes hasty and even cruel in his decisions, it was because the army was in a desperate position due to the demoralization of the troops and the lack of munitions; only acts of daring and extraordinary energy could prevent its disintegration.
The death of Andres Bonifacio had plainly shown in Mr Aguinalclo a boundless appetite for power, and Luna’s personal enemies exploited this weakness of Aguinaldo with skillful intrigues in order to encompass Luna’s ruin.
To say that if Aguinaldo, instead of killing Luna (allowing Luna to be killed), had supported him with all his power, the Revolution would have triumphed, would be presumption indeed, but I have not the least doubt that the Americans would have had a higher regard for the courage and military abilities of the Filipinos. Had Luna been alive, I am sure that Otis’s mortal blow would have been parried or at least timely prevented, and Mr Aguinaldo’s unfitness for military command would not have been exposed so clearly. Furthermore, to rid himself of Luna, Aguinaldo had recourse to the very soldiers whom Luna had punished for breaches of discipline; by doing so Aguinaldo destroyed that discipline, and with it his own army. With Luna, its most firm support fell the Revolution, and, the ignominy of that fall bearing wholly on Aguinaldo, brought about in turn his own moral death, a thousand times more bitter than physical death. Aguinaldo therefore ruined himself, damned by his own deeds. Thus are great crimes punished by Providence.
To sum it up, the Revolution failed because it was badly led; because its leader won his post by reprehensible rather than meritorious acts; because instead of supporting the men most useful to the people, he made them useless out of jealousy. Identifying the aggrandizement of the people with his own, he judged the worth of men not by their ability, character and patriotism but rather by their degree of friendship and kinship with him; and, anxious to secure the readiness of his favourites to sacrifice themselves for him, he was tolerant even of their transgressions. Because he thus neglected the people, the people forsook him; and forsaken by the people, he was bound to fall like a waxen idol melting in the heat of adversity. God grant we do not forget such a terrible lesson, learnt at the cost of untold suffering.
I am sorry that the logic of events should take me to such painful conclusions, but I aspire to be a critic and I must tell the truth. Having written these memoirs only to seek in the past the most useful lessons for the present and the future, I have tried to be impartial. I have also tried to render judgment on events and not on particular individuals, but, in adjudging the Revolution, I could do no less than pass judgment on the man who did not recoil from crime in order to embody the Revolution in himself from beginning to end. I am sure that I have chronicled events as I saw them happen or heard about them, and that I have passed judgment on them as dispassionately as possible, but, if I have been mistaken or unjust by involuntary omission or because of wrong information, I am ready to correct my mistakes or make such amends as may be proper. If in the course of my narrative I have often made reference to myself, it has not been from a desire to single myself out to others’ disadvantage but only to indicate my personal participation in the great drama of the Revolution, sometimes as a mere spectator, at other times as a member of the cast, and thus to provide a gauge for the trustworthiness of my account. I do not see anything wrong in examining our past in order to draw up a balance-sheet of our failures, mistakes and weaknesses; whoever voluntarily confesses his sins shows at least a praiseworthy and honourable purpose of amendment and correction. The evil would lie in concealing them, and in their discovery and exposure by a stranger, not to put us right but to sully our name. Their concealment, moreover, would encourage evil-doers, while their exposure teaches us useful lessons. I should have liked to make this essay something of an exemplary history of the Philippines, displaying side by side the vices and the virtues of each individual, and the disadvantages and advantages of each institution, in the conviction that in this world the most perfect being has his imperfections, and the most imperfect his perfections. But such a task is beyond my abilities. Also, the collection of the material necessary for this kind of work requires a long period of laborious study and research for which I lack the time. I am content, therefore, within the measure of my ability and means, to prepare the way for others better qualified.
Going back to Mr Aguinaldo, I hope and pray that my observations, made without rancour and only in the performance of a painful duty, will not increase the bitterness in his heart but will rather awaken in him an ardent desire to make up for his past and recapture the general esteem with noteworthy acts of unselfishness and abnegation. When I was already a prisoner in Manila, in the hands of the American authorities, I hinted to Mr Aguinaldo, writing in El Comercio to correct an item in the Manila Times, that his only salvation was a glorious death on the battlefield. Shortly afterward, in another article published in La Fraternidad, I repeated this hint more explicitly and clearly, comparing him with Mr Kruger. I knew that these articles would not please the American authorities, but I was convinced that, with Aguinaldo meeting death in a supreme effort to defend our national freedom, such an heroic act would restore his reputation and at the same time honour the Filipinos. However, my suggestions were not followed. I have no complaint because, even if Mr Aguinaldo had proposed to act in accordance with them, I understand that it is not always possible to do what one wants. Moreover, it might be that his crimes were so grave that Providence would not judge him worthy of immortality, or that it would be for his own good to hear the judgment of public opinion so that repentance might touch the sensitive fibres of his heart. The frustrated Andres Bonifacio was wont to say when he was still alive that we should fear no one except History, and indeed History is implacable in doing justice, and its judgment is terrible against the offender.
Be that as it may, Mr Aguinaldo should not despair. As I have just indicated, he can still make up for his past and recapture the general esteem with worthy deeds. He is still young and has shown a natural sagacity in making the most of circumstances for his own ends, questionable as they were because he lacked the culture and virtue demanded by his office. Mr Aguinaldo believed that one can serve his country with honour and glory only from high office, and this is an error which is very dangerous to the common welfare; it is the principal cause of the civil wars which impoverish and exhaust many states and contributed greatly to the failure of the Revolution. Only he is truly a patriot who, whatever his post, high or low, tries to do the greatest possible good to his countrymen. A little good done in an humble position is a title to honour and glory, while it is a sign of negligence or incompetence when done in high office. True honour can be discerned in the simple manifestations of an upright and honest soul, not in brilliant pomp and ornament which scarcely serve to mask the deformities of the body. True honour is attained by teaching our minds to recognize truth, and training our hearts to love it. The recognition of truth shall lead us to the recognition of our duties and of justice, and by performing our duties and doing justice we shall be respected and honoured, whatever our station in life. Let us never forget that we are on the first rung of our national life, and that we are called upon to rise, and can go upward only on the ladder of virtue and heroism. Above all let us not forget that, if we do not grow, we shall have died without ever having been great, unable to reach maturity, which is proper of a degenerate race.
I shall not end these remarks to my countrymen without putting on record the boundless disgust I felt whenever I heard of the rape of Filipinas by Filipino soldiers. I admit these were isolated cases, very difficult to prevent in times of general disorder and the uncontrolled outbreak of passions, but I am sure that the first instances would not have been repeated if the commanders concerned had punished such outrages energetically and without hesitation. How shall we get foreigners to respect our women when we ourselves set the example of offending them? Can we Filipino men expect to be respected when our women are not? In the chivalrous tradition of ancient times the principal virtue of the knight without fear and without reproach was respect for womanhood because the custom of protecting the honour and life of the weak and defenceless surely showed greatness of soul and nobility of heart. It should be realized that this virtue was not merely necessary in the legendary age of romance but one of the great imperatives in the life of peoples since, if woman finds simple respect and consideration within her customary ambit, she quickly acquires that sense of dignity which protects her from many frailties, a dignity which, passed on to her sons, instils in them courage and fortitude for great enterprises and heroic deeds.
Lastly, I hope that this succinct narrative will give a clearer and more correct appreciation of the political needs of the Filipinos and of their fitness for democratic government. The Spaniards as well as the Americans have looked upon the Filipinos as half-savages unfit for such a government because they have always confused lack of experience with personal aptitude. One who is unfit for civilized life does not want it because he does not need it, and for this reason the Igorots and Aetas and other really half-savage tribes in the archipelago are happier living in the mountains and forests than in the towns. The Spanish Government claimed that political aspirations were to be found only in the hearts of a few educated Filipinos but not among the masses of the country, yet the latter, unable to prove the Government wrong otherwise because they were forbidden to petition, rose in rebellion led by Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo, both men of little learning. The United States Government shares the same belief, and I hope that this essay, by showing it the past, will help to lead it out of error and prevent the horrors of a new revolution.
Of the reforms previously sought from the Spanish Government, the United States Congress has to this date granted only that referring to certain individual rights, whose exercise is still restricted by the authority of the Insular Government, a government which continues to be absolute insofar as the members of the executive branch also make the laws and appoint at their discretion the members of the judiciary. Moreover, the irritating inequality in pay among those who hold the same positions is more general, an inequality which in Spanish times existed only in the armed forces, and which makes impossible an identity of interests among Americans and Filipinos. The constabulary, for its part, is following in the footsteps of its hated counterpart under the former regime. Before my deportation to Guam, when Governor Taft was still only Chairman of the Philippine Commission, I solicited an interview to ask him the extent and limits of the sovereignty which the United States sought to impose on the Philippines. Mr Taft told me very frankly that the United States wanted to exercise the same sovereignty that Russia or Turkey would if they had acquired the islands with the same title, the only difference being- that the Americans, having been reared under a regime of freedom, would try to exercise sovereignty more liberally. I allowed myself to remark that it was more prudent for a government not openly to oppose the wishes of the governed, but I could not continue because he gave me to understand that his explicit instructions did not allow him to discuss such matters with me. The reason was obvious since, in the last analysis, Governor Taft’s instructions were in accordance with the McEnery proposal and the plans of the Washington administration. For that reason I think it is useless to discuss them now. I shall allow myself only the observation that, if the Americans have not been reared under the governmental system which they are now introducing in the Philippines, they cannot consider themselves more experienced and capable than the Filipinos. If the Americans in general are relatively better schooled, the Filipinos, reared under an absolute government during the Spanish regime, have more experience of it and, what is more, know their own needs better. I admit that the Americans have proved their competence and capacity for democratic government, but an absolutist regime is totally different and cannot be practised in the United States because it is contrary to the character and customs of the American people. By temperament and education the citizens of the United States are the least competent and fit for absolute government because the two governmental systems are like two machines with different mechanisms that call for operators with different specialized training to make them work. If the Americans really want to teach the Filipinos the arts of civilization and good government they should establish in the Philippines the kind of government they know, under which they have been reared, and which the inhabitants want to learn. Otherwise, if the Americans persist in maintaining a governmental system which they have not practised and which the islanders reject, they must place at its head men of extraordinary ability, and they are not common in the United States or elsewhere.
I shall end with a question. Would the grant of the reforms formerly sought from the Spanish Government satisfy the Filipinos now? I am very much afraid not, because the aspiration for independence, almost unknown before, now beats strongly at the bottom of all hearts. Its denial, and the threats and violent acts of the Government, only serve to affirm this feeling and to keep it alive; we did not fight and suffer for it for nothing. The denial of independence will doubtless content those who accomodate themselves to any situation in order to enjoy its advantages, but they are very few, and they are despised if not hated by the masses, because they claim the masses are not yet fit for independence when it is they who are giving evidence of unfitness by making it plain they have no political ideal other than their personal convenience. Before my deportation to Guam, those who had unconditionally taken the Government’s side in order to win the official title of friends of peace tried to organize a political party. Since the Government could not promise more than a future autonomy, which did not and does not satisfy the people, it did not suit them to adopt this objective since very few would join them. They therefore asked for annexation as a territory for the time being, and subsequently as a state. The truth is not only that such an objective found and finds no support in any political party in the United States, but also that no American statesman believes in the possibility that the islands may someday become a state of the Union. But this objective was less objectionable to the people, which they considered too ignorant to grow aware of any political game. I had the imprudence to remark that their aspiration was chimerical; that if they wanted something positive, they should work on the Government to give in a little and promise independence in the future; and that I would help them to convince the people that it should also compromise and give up immediate independence. Although I was counselling accomodation to both sides so as to arrive at a compromise, the only foundation of a true peace, I was pronounced intransigent and as such was deported to Guam, where I was held prisoner incommunicado for more than two years. I am ready to forget this personal injury, although injustices never beget peace but rather distrust and the perturbation of minds. Nonetheless, in the belief that it is my duty, I shall be imprudent once more and recommend for the second time the mutual reconciliation of Americans and Filipinos.
This is published with the permission of Mr. David Guerrero.