WHILE Silay City is celebrating its 61st Charter Anniversary today, June 12, the nation is exalting its 120th Independence Day.
Each celebration has a story to tell. Each story has a lesson to share. In my previous articles, I said a lot about Silay. Today, let me share about our independence.
Our Independence Day is coated with few accounts of truth, betrayal, and denial with guile. A handful of Caviteno Katipuneros monopolized the act after the execution of Supremo Andres Bonifacio. Just like Pontious Pilate, Emilio Aguinaldo washed his hands on this issue. He forgot that he was on top of this and by a principle of command responsibility. He is guilty.
The Pact of Biak-na-Bato was an example of “Moro-moro” wherein the Spanish governor general and Aguinaldo did not fulfill their promises. It was clear that there were 400,000 Mexican dollars given to Aguinaldo. Later in his “Memoirs”, Aguinaldo accepted the money from the Spaniards and that could be used as he pleased.
On the next scene, Dewey promised Aguinaldo that if the Katipuneros would help the Americans in defeating the Spaniards, the United States would grant independence to the Philippines. This was denied by astute Dewey later. It was just like the “traitor” talking to a “fool.” American journalists wrote the heroic entrance of the American soldiers in Intramuros.
The Katipuneros were outside the gate waiting for nothing. The American public has painted a picture that the Filipinos considered by the Spaniards as “Indios” (savages) are really like “beasts” that need to be civilized by the Americans this time. Dewey entered into a secret negotiation with the Spaniards on the cession of the Islas Filipinas to the U.S. in exchange for $20,000,000 payable after the signing of Treaty of Paris.
According to my favorite historian, Christine L. Diaz (not related to my wife) as early as May 24, 1898, a few days after the American’s victory against the Spaniards in the Battle of Manila Bay and after the resumption of the Philippine revolution against Spain, Aguinaldo established a government for the Filipinos.
On June 12, 1898, at the height of Filipino victories against Spain in Luzon, Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence in Kawit, Cavite. This is now a new government replacing the government formed by Aguinaldo in May but the aim remained the same: “the struggle for independence of the Philippines until all nations, including the Spanish, shall expressly recognize it, and to prepare the country so that that the true republic may be established.”
While this was happening in Luzon, the “hacendados” of Negros... Aniceto Lacson, Juan Araneta, Nicolas Golez, Timoteo Unson, Melecio Severino, Leandro Locsin and more were not paying attention. Most of the time they were in Silay to feast with other “buena familias” and “ilustrados.”
During the declaration of independence, Filipinos and Americans were there... but not Dewey. The Americans were silent about it and did not show sign of support. On December 21, 1898, some days after the signing of Treaty of Paris and after Aguinaldo learned about its contents, President McKinley issued Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation, where he explicitly announced that the U.S. was taking control of the Philippine Islands.
Just like Aguinaldo, “the fool,” we can only conclude “that the Americans were traitors after all. They had no intention of granting independence to the Filipinos when the Spaniards have been driven away from the islands, as they had either promised or made the Filipinos believe.”
Despite all of these, Aguinaldo proceeded to promulgate the Malolos Constitution on January 21, 1899. He inaugurated the Malolos Republic, the first republic in the Philippines and in Asia.
One favorite author, Teodoro Agoncillo, has this say on the Malolos Constitution: “The Constitution as a whole is a monument to the capacity of the Filipinos to chart their own course along the democratic lines. In a period of storms and stress, it symbolized the Dark Age into Light of Reason.”
If you celebrate Independence Day today, at least you know what you are celebrating - its significance and its insignificance.
Happy Charter Day Silaynons! Mabuhay!