One of the most interesting buildings inside Camp Emilio Aguinaldo is the AFP Museum and Multi-Purpose Theater, which was built in 1995. And in 1999, the building was renamed as the Bulwagang Heneral Arturo T. Enrile (Gen. Arturo T. Enrile Hall), after the highly decorated former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Secretary of the Department of Transportation of the Philippines, Gen. Arturo Tiongson Enrile (1940-1998), who died exactly one year prior to the rechristening of the building. To commemorate this event, National Artist Napoleon Abueva was commission to create a bust of Gen. Enrile, which was unveiled during the re-dedication ceremonies.
Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.
Upon its opening, the multi-purpose theater was immediately in demand, with major national awarding ceremonies and beauty pageants filling up its yearly calendar. At the same time, the AFP Museum was still a modest collection of Philippine military memorabilia, ranging from the American colonial period (1898-1946) to the present times. After several renovations and addition of more artifacts, the AFP Museum reopened in 2012 with an impressive collection of artworks, dioramas, uniforms, documents, and memorabilia of noted military personnel over the years, as well as artifacts from various military campaigns.
Although one can say that the history of the Philippine military may be traced to the founding of the Guardian Civil in 1868, followed by the 1896 establishment of the Philippine revolutionary forces, of the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anakng Bayan (Katipunan for short), against the Spanish occupation of the Philippines (1565-1898), continued with the organization of the Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police, or PNP) and Bureau of Coast Guard and Transportation in 1901, and the enactment of the Philippine National Guard in 1917. However, the modern armed forces of the Philippines came to being with the 1935 National Defense Act, which saw the forming of the Philippine Army, the army’s Off-Shore Patrol, and the Philippine Military Aviation. In 1947, the Off-Shore Patrol was changed to the Philippine Naval Patrol, and renamed as the Philippine Navy 1951. Meanwhile, the Philippine Constabulary Air Corps (PCAC) transferred its command to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 1935 as the Philippine Military Aviation, later renamed as Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC) on the following year, and finally as the Philippine Air Force in 1947. All these development of the modern AFP are presented in the display of various military uniforms of the different AFP units, including rank insignia for enlisted personnel and patches of commissioned officers, and banners of the different military units. Many of the post-World War II patches were donated by the family of Major General Jose P. Magno Jr.
Another interesting collection in the AFP Museum are the many miniature-scaled dioramas of strategic military encounters of the AFP, starting with World War II. One such diorama features the 5-6th of April1945 operations of United States Army Forces in the Philippines – Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NL), Cadsu Ridge, Mt. Buccual, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur. On that day, the all-Filipino force under Col. Russell William Volckmann (1911-1982) took on the army of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita (1885-1946), and drove the Japanese off despite being bombarded with artillery fire. The victory at Cadsu Ridge was strategic to the later June the Battle of Bessang Pass, which allowed the USAFIP-NL to recapture northern Luzon from the Imperial Army of Japan.
There is also a life-size diorama of the April 9, 1942, Fall of Bataan, where American and Filipino soldiers of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) sit in defeat at the base of a damaged British Bren Gun Carrier APC (Armored Personnel Carrier). After intense fighting throughout Luzon Island since the 7th of January 1942, the remaining USAFFE units under Major General Edward Postell King Jr. (1884-1958) were pushed to the final stronghold in Mount Samat, in the Province of Bataan. After intense artillery shelling, Gen. King surrendered to Major General Kameichiro Nagano, which would lead to the infamous Bataan death March. In the diorama, “Remember Erlinda” is scribbled at the side of the APC, as this was one of the battle cries used by the Filipinos during the Japanese offensive. According to the story, a USAFFE patrol discovered a beautiful young woman raped and murdered by the Japanese soldiers, near the near Orion-Bagac Line in Bataan. Beside her was a handkerchief with the embroidered name “Erlinda.” The story of the atrocity spread among the soldiers, and it soon became the rallying cry of the Filipinos, despite the overwhelming odds that April 1942.
Aside from military battles, there are a few dioramas that portray the socio-civic activities of the AFP, such as participating in rural community activities, as a means to gain the people’s support in their anti-dissent campaigns. The Philippines has a long history of rebellions, starting with the many uprisings against the Spanish and American colonial governments. However, the longest armed struggled in the country is that of the Maoist Communist New People’s Army (NPA) against the Philippine government. The NPA traces its roots to the World War II guerrillas called the Hukbalahap, short for Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapón (National Army Against the Japanese). After the war, many of these freedom fighters were excluded from the national building and agrarian reform programs, and were immediately radicalized by Marxist ideologies. Led by Luis Taruc (1913-2005), the Huks took arms against the Philippine government, and allied itself with the Marxist Partido Komunistang Pilipinas (PKP, or Communist Party of the Philippines, est. 1930). In 1953, the Huk rebellion was resolved by then Secretary of the Department of National Defense, Ramón del Fierro Magsaysay (1907-1957); but in 1969 a new rebellion was staged with the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA. The CCP was established by José María Canlás Sison (born 1939) along with 10 others, while the NPA was organized by Kumander Dante (born Bernabé Buscayno, 1944).
While the NPA wages armed conflict throughout the country to overthrow the government, in the island of Mindanao the Moro (Islamic indigenous peoples) staged an armed secessionist movement, with the founding of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1972 by Nūrallaji Pinang Miswāri (born 1939), and its splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 1977 by Hashim Salamat (born 1942). In the diorama, it features the AFP helping in the rehabilitation of areas affected by the continuing war, at the same time training MNLF and MILF surrendees into the Philippine Army.
From the more than fifty years battling the Moro and Communist insurgents, including their many splinter groups, the AFP has amassed “souvenirs” of many battles past. Among these souvenirs are many traditional Moro swords, such as the Kris sword and the Gunong dagger; which harkens back to the Moro’s infamous “amok” that led to the invention of the Browning M1911 45 caliber pistol, to stop the charging Moro soldier. The Kris is also a prominent Moro symbol, such as in the MNLF flag which was captured during the 2013 September 8 -28 Zamboanga Siege, in which MNLF soldiers loyal to Nur Misuari attempted to enter Zamboanga City and hoist the Bangsamoro Republik at the city hall, and declare an independent state.
Another set of war souvenirs are flags the communist insurgents, which include the banners from the NPA, National Democratic Front (NDF, est. 1973), and the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF).
Aside from the notable military battles, there is a hall in the AFP Museum dedicated to the recipients of the AFP’s Medal of Valor, which is the highest honor given to any soldier who has exhibited a great act of bravery or self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty. Since its institutionalization in 1935, there are presently 41 Medal of Valor honorees, with 18 posthumously awarded. The first recipient is Major General Paulino Torres Santos (1890-1945) of the Philippine Constabulary, who was a lieutenant when he was recognized for his courage during the 1917 July 26th Battle of Bayang Cotta, in Lanao del Sur.
Included in the Medal of Valor exhibit are the personal artifacts of Major Gen Mariano N. Castañeda Sr. (1892-1970) who was the Chief of the Philippine Constabulary, when he he risked his own life to save President Manuel Acuña Roxas ( 1892-1948) from an assassination attempt in Manila’s Plaza Miranda, on the 10th of March, 1947.
Aside from the Medal of Valor, other AFP medals are also on display, such as the second highest medal, the Distinguished Conduct Star, which was established in 1939. The third highest meal is the Distinguished Service Star that was enacted in 1937. And the fourth highest is the Gold Cross, or the Medalla Estrella de Oro. Another medal on exhibit is the Philippine Legion of Honor (Legion de Honor Filipino, est. 1947), given to for civilians and military personnel who have contributed greatly to the military affairs of the Republic of the Philippines. Legion de Honor Filipino has six ranks of recognition: Chief Commander, Grand Commander, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer, and Legionnaire.
Another major exhibit in the AFP Museum is the Pres. Fidel V. Ramos Hall, which is dedicated to the military career of President Fidel Valdez Ramos (born 1928), from his time as a cadet at the United States Military Academy (USMA, or West Point), his tour as part of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) during the Korean War (1950-1953), his service in the Philippine Civil Action Group (PHILCAG) during the Vietnam War (1955-1975), his role as Chief of the Philippine Constabulary, his participation in the EDSA People Power Revolution, and finally as Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This exhibition also highlights Pres. Ramos distinguished military record, and its honor through the British Army’s Military Medal with Spearhead (May 23, 1952), the Distinguished Service Star (May 20, 1966), the First Bronze Anahaw Leaf of Distinguished Service Star (December 20, 1967), the Military Commendation Medal (May 31, 1968), the First Silver Anahaw Leaf of Distinguished Service Star (August 3, 1981), the Outstanding Achievement Medal (July 29, 1983), and the Distinguished Conduct Star (January 14, 1991). This exhibition is also a means of the AFP to give thanks to Pres. Ramos, who was instrumental in the revitalization of the AFP and the creation of the AFP Museum and Multi-Purpose Theater, and his is highlighted with a portrait of Pres. Ramos by Luisito Villanueva.
Luisito“Chito” Katindig Villanueva (born 1938) is a classicisist painter, known for his portraits of noted businessmen and government officials. Born in the coastal town of Navotas, Villanueva started his art career by drawing the seascapes and fish markets of his hometown, after World War II. Villanueva would later enroll at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) College of Architecture and Fine Arts, but had to drop out due to financial constraints. Leaving school, he continued to hone his skills and produce art, and even joined several art organizations, such as the Dimasalang Group of Romulo Galicano and Sining Tambobong of Angel Cacnio. Villanueva even opened a studio at the Grand Central Mall, in Caloocan, where he exhibited his works and gave art workshops to the next generation of artists in the towns of Navotas, Caloocan, Malabon, and Valenzuela. He is currently active in promoting the arts in his hometown, and is an active member of the Navotas Historical Commission. Villanueva career as a portrait artist has had him busy with many public art pieces, including the portraits of many city mayors throughout the country; and being in such demand, he was only able to conduct his first solo exhibition in 2008.
In 1999, the AFP Museum unveiled the Hall of the Chiefs of Staff, which featured portraits of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by Luisito Villanueva, and later continued by Samuel N. Abrera and Ed Esvasida in 2016. The portraits start with Gen. Artemio Garcia Ricarte (1866-1945) the first Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Gen.Antonio Luna de San Pedro y Novicio Ancheta (1866-1899); and ends with Gen. Hernando Delfin Carmelo Arreza Iriberri (born 1960). Hopefully this will be expanded by the inclusion of the other Chiefs of Staff since April 2016.
Beside the AFP Museum and Multi-Purpose Theater is the Kagitingan Park (Bravery or Heroism), which exhibits the decommissioned airplanes, helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers (APCs), jeeps, and artillery guns used by the APC. However, the Kagitingan Park cannot showcase all the military vehicles used by the AFP during the years, so within the AFP Museum are some military vehicles; there are also many scale models to present military transport no longer in service.
Aside from military vehicles, there are also many weapons on display that have been used by the members of AFP since World War II. Among these are bayonets and officer’s sabers; as well as decommissioned grenades, land mines, pistols, rifles, automatic and semi automatic guns, rocket launchers, artillery guns, anti-aircraft guns, and even flame throwers.
Looking through the AFP Museum, there are so many things to discover about our military history and the stories of the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line, to defend our freedom from internal and external threats for more than a century. Aside from the dioramas on display, there are many artworks that honor these heroes, and this will be the subject of the next article.