General Miguel Malvar and the Philippine Revolution – Part II

After the revolt of South America and Mexico from Spain, the Philippines became Spain’s richest possession, and the spirit of colonial exploitation grew. In 1896 the Filipinos, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, revolted.

Reforms, as promised by the Spaniards in the Pact of Biak-Na-Bato, were very slow in coming, and small bands of rebels, distrustful of Spanish promises, kept their arms.

In 1898 the United States went to war with Spain. On May 1, 1898, Commodore Dewey arrived in Manila Bay and totally disabled the Spanish fleet. After the U.S. naval victory at Manila Bay, Aguinaldo, with the assistance of the U.S. Navy, returned to the Philippines and the battlefield. With Aguinaldo’s return, the Filipinos, numbering around 12,000, who enlisted under the Spanish flag in the war against America, defected to Aguinaldo’s banner.

Emilio Aguinaldo’s Portrait at Malacañang Palace

Within a month, Aguinaldo established a government with himself as its leader and issued a declaration of independence in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12. Manila found herself surrounded by Aguinaldo’s troops. Even though American forces had been beefed up, Filipino troops controlled the major approaches to Intramuros and could have easily forced its defenders to surrender by cutting off food and water supplies, but they held back.

Back to the Philippines on June 15, 1898, Malvar was designated the division general and chief of the second zone of operations comprising the Southern Luzon provinces. After two months of battle, he liberated the town of Tayabas, which saw the surrender of a Spanish infantry unit.

The Spanish, to whom surrendering to a people they have viewed for 333 years as inferior and incapable of self-rule would have been an unbearable humiliation, cut deal with the Americans. By early August General Fermin Jaudenes, in command of Intramuros’s defense, was in backroom negotiations with Dewey to arrange a mock battle for the Walled City in which the newcomers would win but in a way that saved face for the Spanish. After the sham battle on August 13, 1898, to preserve their honor, the Spanish garrison defending Intramuros yielded to the Westerners. The scripted battle went off as planned, though not without six American and forty-nine Spanish casualties.

The American forces captured Manila on the same day, and as promised to the Spaniards, they prevented Aguinaldo’s men from entering the city on the grounds that the Spanish were fearful of being killed en masse by vengeful Filipino soldiers. Aguinaldo reluctantly accepted the fait accompli, but some of his generals were irate.

The actions of the U.S. military confirmed the worst fears of the Aguinaldo government: that the United States was out to claim the colony for itself. Now with Manila in the hands of the U.S., and Spain surrendering to the North Americans, erstwhile allied faced each other in an uneasy standoff. Seeking to nullify U.S. gains, Aguinaldo sought diplomatic recognition from foreign governments; it dispatched Felipe Agoncillo as its representative, first, to Washington, D.C., and then to Paris, where Spain and the United States met in October 1898 for a conference to formally end the Spanish-American War, and to determine the conditions under which the victor would receive the spoils. Protesting that there was already in place a legitimate government, Agoncillo was ignored, and refused a place at the bargaining table.

By the end of September 1898, Aguinaldo’s government was in control of much of Luzon. So began a period of self-rule for much of the Philippines. In Batangas, the period lasted from mid-June 1898, when the province was liberated from the Spaniards, until mid-January 1900.

Determined to assert control, in September of 1898, Aguinaldo had moved the provisional government to Malolos Bulacan. There he convened a congress of eminent Filipinos assembled at Barasoain Church. They then set about drafting a Constitution for a Philippine republic.

On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was formally signed. Spain agreed to cede the Philippines to the United States. In return, the United States would indemnify Spain $20 million – or a little less than $3 per Filipino, the population of the archipelago then estimated at 7 million. The treaty also allowed the Spanish ten-year access to Philippine ports and goods for the purposes of trade. For the treaty to take effect, the United States Congress needed to ratify it, and its approval was by no means sure. A vote was scheduled for February 6, 1899.

As the U.S. Senate debated the treaty, friction increased between American and Filipino soldiers stationed in the environs of Manila. Negotiations took place between Aguinaldo and Elwell Otis, but they solved nothing.

On January 23, 1899, the new republican government was inaugurated, with Aguinaldo as President.

On February 4, 1899, two days before the U.S. Senate voted to acquire the Philippines, fighting broke out at the San Juan Bridge in a suburb of Manila, and the Philippine-American War had begun. Miguel Malvar, the commander of the Filipino Army in Batangas, was at his headquarters at Lipa. Malvar remained in Batangas until the end of April and focused his attention on making defensive preparations within the province and readying his fighting forces.

On February 7, Malvar was appointed second-in-command of General Mariano Trias, the overall commander of the Filipino forces in southern Luzon. While Malvar was preparing his troops for the hour of battle, the Filipino troops to the north were absorbing heavy losses. Aguinaldo decided to fight a conventional military campaign against the enemy to defend Malolos, the capital of the Philippine Republic, and to ensure the continuation of his government. However, the conventional operations had been disastrous, and by the end of March, the Americans had captured Malolos and several towns in Bulacan and Pampanga in the following weeks.

To be continued . . .

Sources:

The Filipino Heroes – Maria Odulio De Guzman

Battle for Batangas -Glen Anthony May

Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia 1931 Edition

A History of the Philippines – Luis H. Francia


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