SILAY was said to be the “think-tank” of the November 5, 1898 revolution. The proofs could be taken from the different sources: “Negros Occidental Between two Foreign Power (1888-1909)” by Ma. Fe Hernandez, “History of Negros” by Angel Martinez Cuesta, and that of Maria Kalaw Katigbak’s “Legacy: Pura Villanueva Kalaw.”
I personally like the narration of the late Sen. Jose C. Locsin, who was six years old when the revolution broke out. He said that Silay is the “cradle” of the Cinco de Noviembre Revolution. Graciano Lopez Jaena sought refuge in Silay for two years before embanking for Spain in 1880.(He has relatives and many friends in Silay.)
Graciano Lopez Jaena of Jaro, Iloilo was a propagandist, orator and first editor of “La Solidaridad.” His sentiments (and that of the Silaynons) brewed the eerie feeling that triggered the revolution. In Silay, there was no notable benchmark because there weren’t many Spaniards living in the pueblo.
The El Presidente (Emilio Aguinaldo) revolution in Manila and provinces in Luzon was significant. The Spaniards thought that there would be no adrenaline rush in Visayas and Mindanao. Roque Lopez (Iloilo), head of the “Comite Provincial” was the “paterfamilias” of the revolution in Panay and in Negros.
The revolutionaries were waiting for the ordnance to come from Luzon but no arms arrived. Gen. Roque Lopez encouraged Negros to start the intifada right away. General Aniceto Lacson, leader of the revolution in north Negros, sent a dispatch to Silay to give the go-signal. The “hacendados” gave order to their “jornaleros” to go to war.
The Silaynon leaders were inspired by Socrates. “Let him that would move the world, first move himself.” On record, it was written that Melecio Severino, Leandro Locsin, and Nicolas Golez initiated the revolution in Silay. Senator Jose C. Locsin remembered his Tatay Ando (Leandro Locsin) who owned a pharmacy. His prescription book was used for the registry and list of contributors, not only from Silay but also from the other pueblos of Negros.
The “hacendados” played the role of captains and the sugarcane workers were soldiers. Many revolutionaries marched in their “rayadillo” uniforms and buri hats. Throughout the morning of November 5, the revolutionaries gathered in a place where the Cinco de Noviembre marker is now located. According to Senator Locsin, 5,000 revolutionaries were mentioned in the “Acta de Rendicion” (Document of Surrender).
The garrison of the Spaniards under Lt. Maximiano Correa y Calero had 10 “cazadores” and 7 “guardia civil.” The Silaynons were armed with guns, arrows, bolos and, machetes. Both groups prepared for bobbers but there was no fighting. Don Juan Viaplana (a mestizo) advised Correa to negotiate with the revolutionaries who had the support of the people of the town.
The “talk” spared lives but in the Document of Surrender it was stated, “The Spaniards engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat with many dead revolutionaries.” A Spanish saying goes “an enemy who flees is a golden opportunity.” The Philippine flag embroidered by Olympia Severino, Eutrophia Yorac, and Perpetua Severino was proudly raised at Silay plaza.
The patriots continued their saga even after the surrender of the Spaniards. A joyous calla thump marked the celebration of the independence. The streets of Silay were muddy because there was rain in the afternoon. The orchestra of Vicente Gamboa Benedicto was at the end of the parade and happy Silaynons brought also the covers of their pots and tagged along with the band.
Timoteo Unson was ordered by Gen. Aniceto Lacson to bring the Silaynon troop to Matab-ang in Talaisay to help the Talisaynons who were fighting the Spaniards. The Spaniards were defeated in Matab-ang and the revolutionaries assaulted Bacolod with the combined forces of Gen. Aniceto Lacson and Gen. Juan Araneta.
The high-speed maneuvers caused the Spaniards in Bacolod to surrender on November 6, 1898 and that ended the 328 years of Spanish rule in Negros. The Silay-Talisay (north) troop showed a gut-wrenching sequence, while the Bago (south) group with their rifles and cannons (just props for the act) offered a provocatively open ending.
The November 5, 1898 revolution that made our sugarcane workers heroes in cameo roles could be a blend of chivalry and romantic idealism. Let us not forget the day.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it!” -- George Santayana