Blog: An uncomplicated mind
It’s up to us to honour our historical roots correctly, and it is not necessary that we wage another revolution or a civil war to settle this issue.
Aguinaldo’s proclamation of Philippine independence came at the cusp of the Spanish army’s defeat in the hands of the Filipino rebels. It was never recognized by Spain or the United States which at the time had also been at war with Spain. In December 1898, American and Spanish peace commissioners met in Paris to settle questions relating to Cuba, the Philippines, and other matters. Felipe Agoncillo, Aguinaldo’s diplomatic envoy, pleaded with the commissioners to recognize the Philippines as an independent nation. The commissioners refused to listen to Agoncillo and went ahead to sign the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, in which Spain gave up the Philippines to the United States for a sum of 20 million dollars.
|Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898. Courtesy of wikipedia.|
|Philippine Independence Day Parade. Photo courtesy of Noel Y.C.|
Aguinaldo’s June 12th declaration of Philippine independence was in itself questionable since he had earlier made overtures to Admiral George Dewey to recognize the independence of the Philippines under the protection of the United States Navy. One can argue that no sensible and patriotic leader of his country would claim independence, yet beg for protection from a foreign army. A U.S. Library of Congress Country Study on the Philippines completed in 1991 contained reports that the United States Department of the Navy during that time had ordered Dewey to distance himself from Aguinaldo so he would not make untoward commitments to the Philippine forces. Besides, Aguinaldo was never in a firm position to declare independence from Spain when the Philippine revolution was not over yet. The most Aguinaldo could accomplish was to proclaim the Filipino aspiration for a government that was independent and free from Spanish control, except this aspiration or desire to be an independent state was already expressed two years earlier after members of the Katipunan, led by Andres Bonifacio, declared a nationwide armed revolution to win freedom from Spain.
|Katipunan Flag as shown at Pugadlawin. Courtesy of wikipedia.|
The Katipunan did not just declare its intention to fight Spain but it also established a national government with elected officials who would lead the nation and the army. There was no holding back the revolution. The Spanish secret police already knew of the dangerous clandestine Katipunan and the Spanish civil authorities had been warned by the clergy of the grave danger the society posed to the Spanish community. Governor-General Ramon Blanco made up his mind to order the “juez de cuchillo” or total annihilation of the Filipino population in identified areas of the uprising. Some, like Rizal, balked at the idea of the timing of the revolution, but to many, the time had come.
|Filipino casualties on the first day of the Philippine-American War.
Photo courtesy of miaojsilva.
The question therefore is not whether we have achieved independence as a nation through the revolution of 1896, or whether the struggle for real independence continues because hostilities between government’s soldiers and the local insurgents and Muslim rebels have not ceased.
| Andres Bonifacio, leader of the Philippine Revolution of 1896.
Photo courtesy of shaiipot.
But then Bonifacio was regarded by those who would proclaim heroes—members of the educated and landed elite in Philippine society—as a mere lowly worker, uneducated and probably illiterate by the standards of our education system today, whereas Aguinaldo was a member of the ilustrado, educated, and also from the landed class. It’s up to us to honour our historical roots correctly, and it is not necessary that we wage another revolution or a civil war to settle this issue.