Pacete: Col. Papa Isio: Last revolutionary leader standing

MY GRANDFATHER, Jovito Pacete, the Silay-Saravia (now E.B. Magalona) guerilla hitman under the unit of Lt. Castillo once told me, “During a bloody fight, the true leader should always strive to survive because only he who lives can narrate the story in a manner that leads to his survival.”

Last November 5, the Negrosanons commemorated the 119th Cinco de Noviembre 1898 Revolution anniversary. Impressive programs to honor the Negros were held… especially in Silay, Talisay, Bago and Bacolod.

General Aniceto Lacson and the “Silay Think-Tank of Revolution” were given praises. Juan Araneta and his actors who participated in the rolled “amakan” cannon parade were remembered for entertaining and winning the revolution.

I just don’t know if the Negros hero, Papa Isio, was also remembered as the last revolutionary hero who was consistent in his fight against the Spaniards and the Americans.

Negrosanons who knew him simply called him Papa Isio. He could be Diosdado Magbuela, Dionesio Segobela, Dionesio Papa y Barlucia, or Dionisio Siguela Papa. In some signed documents recovered, the signature that appears is Dionesio Papa.

His place of origin could even be remote, just like the mystery in his name. He could be from Isabela, from Antique, from Payao, or from nowhere.

He was a farm laborer, a “vaquero” (herder of carabaos), tuba gatherer… who later became a “pope” of the “babaylans” and a charismatic leader who led the farmers to oppose the abusive “principalia” (the aristocrats of Negros), the hacenderos having no heart for their hacienda workers, and the Chinese who lived for profit only.

Papa Isio was a different breed of leader. Lacson, Araneta, and the Silay “poblacion hacenderos” were the “ilustrados” who led the Cinco de Noviembre revolution and established the Cantonal government who later on allowed themselves to become subjects of the United States for their economic interest… sugar production and trading.

Unlike the “ilustrados,” Papa Isio wanted the Spaniards and the Americans to leave the island, the farms should be given to the natives, and the people should have freedom to worship in a manner they want.

The superior Americans converted Negros Occidental into a civil province under the American colonial agreement. Papa Isio opposed the American rule and went back to the hills thus making his pack the only organized group in the province that resisted American rule. This gave opportunity to Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo to reach out to Papa Isio to ask for his cooperation to support Aguinaldo’s Philippine Republic against the Americans.

Under the Philippine Republic, Papa Isio had the rank of a colonel, the position of Superior Military Chief, and Politico-Military Governor of Negros. With that recognition, Papa Isio became the highest official of the Philippine Republic in Negros. He was the last Filipino leader standing against the Americans. Towards the end of 1901, only three anti-American leaders were left standing.

They were Col. Papa Isio (a babaylan) from the Visayas, Col. Simeon Ola, and Gen. Miguel Malvar (my idol) in Southern Luzon. Papa Isio as a leader had his commitment and dedication. He wanted his soldiers to survive hunger. They plundered (only) the Negros planters who were greedy and the “Insiks” who were making big profits by means of taking advantage of the ignorance of the farmers.

Some “ilustrados” belonging to the Araneta-Lacson groups connived with the Americans and painted Papa Isio through the elite writers as bandit. He continued his cause for the Philippine Republic as a “katipunero leader” now. He was tricked to surrender by offering him a prestigious position in the government (under the Americans) and a lifetime pension. He accepted the offer and surrendered on Aug. 6, 1907.

During his surrender, he was captured by the Americans and accused of banditry and other crimes against the existing laws. He was sentenced to die. He was sent to Bilibid prison but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment because it was reviewed by James Smith, American Governor General of the Philippines. He died at Bilibid prison in 1911.

The US Government considered him a common outlaw but he never took an oath of allegiance to the United States. He died as a true leader of Negros and that of the Republic of the Philippines. It is my wish that our officials will give him due recognition. He is a real “indio”, a bandit hero, a “babaylan”. He deserves a monument and a red letter day in the province in his honor. Can a board member legislate?
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