Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City: Philippine History in the Artworks of the AFP Museum, Camp Aguinaldo

01 Unknown Artists - Katipunan Revolution
Unknown Artists – Katipunan Revolution

In 1997, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted a painting competition among the different colleges in Metro Manila, to commemorate different battles in Philippine history. This competition was part of the events building up to the Philippine Centennial, in 1998. Most of the artworks depict key events of the Katipunan Revolution (1896-1898) against the Spanish occupation of the Philippines (1565-1898), and the Philippine-American War (1899-1902). The paintings submitted are currently part of the 2nd floor exhibition at the AFP Museum and Multi-Purpose Theater, in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo.

The Battle of Pinaglabanan

The Battle of Pinaglabanan, also called the Battle of San Juan del Monte, is considered the first real battle of the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish authorities. On August 23, 1896, Andrés de Castro Bonifacio (1863-1897) and the members of the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Katipunan for short) tore their cédulas personales (community tax certificates) and declaring independence from Spain, at the Pugad Lawin (Hawk’s Nest) district of now Quezon City. This was followed by the skirmish with the Guardia Civil at nearby Pasong Tamo, on August 29; which led to the Bonifacio and his aide, Emilio Jacinto (1875-1899), to lead an attack on the Spanish garrison, El Polvorin, in the town of Juan del Monte, on August 30. Even with the support of the troops of, Genaro de los Reyes and Vicente Leyba, Bonifacio’s poorly equipped soldiers were unable to defeat the better armed Spaniards, left 150 Katipuneros dead, and 200 captured.

The Battle of Imus

Following his successful August 31, 1896, campaign in the town of Kawit, in the province of Cavite, General Emilio Famy Aguinaldo (1869-1964), proceeded to the nearby town of Imus. With the aid of his cousin, Baldomero Baloy Aguinaldo (1869-1915), and Captain José Santarin Tagle (1855-1910), General Aguinaldo was able to take the town after the fierce battle that lasted from the 1st to the 3rd of September. During the fighting, Aguinaldo’s men were able to thwart a reinforcement division, from Manila; and during the battle of the Isabela II Bridge, the Spanish General Ernesto de Aguirre was killed. Aguinaldo took Aguirre’s Toledo made“Sable de Mando” (command sabre) as a spoil of war, and was to use it in the rest of his campaigns.

04 1st Mario Panis - Sept. 2, 1896, Revolt in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija
Mario Panis – Sept. 2, 1896, Revolt in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija

Revolt in San Isidro

On September 2 to 5, 1896, Cabiao town gobernadorcillo (mayor), Mariano Nuñez Llanera (1855-1942), and Gapan town gobernadorcillo, Pantaleón Rufino Valmonte (1856-1896), led 3,000 Katipuneros towards the town of San Isidro, provincial capital of Nueva Ecija. Killing Spanish commander, Joaquin Machorro, the Katipuneros held the town temporarily, until better armed Guardia Civil reinforcements from Manila pushed the revolutionaries to a retreat. With only 60 Katipuneros killed, the remaining troops continued their fighting with guerilla warfare.

The Nueva Cáceres Uprising

On September 18 1898, Guardia Civil corporals Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo led an uprising in the cuartel (jail) in the town of Nueva Cáceres (now Naga City), in the province of Ambos Camarines  (now Camarines Sur), Bicol. With the killing of the Spanish Civil Guard Captain Francisco Andreu, his family, and three more Spanish soldiers, Spanish colonial government in Camarines surrendered to the Katipuneros, to avoid further bloodshed.

The Battle of Binakayan

Now called the Battle of Binakayan-Dalahican, Spanish forces attempted an offensive against the Katipunan troops in the Binakayan district of the municipality of Cavite el Viejo (now Kawit), and the Dalahican and Dagatan districts of the municipality of Noveleta. General Aguinaldo successfully held the Binakayan encampment, protected by a trench system designed by General Edilberto Evangelista (1862-1897). Meanwhile in Dalahican, General Santiago Virata Álvarez (1872-1930) was also triumphant over the Spanish forces. During the November 9 to 11, 1896, battle, around 3,700 Katipunan soldiers were killed, while the Spanish led forces lost close to 9,000, including 9 officers.

07 Demetrio L. de la Cruz - Victory at Mount Puray
Demetrio L. de la Cruz – Victory at Mount Puray

The Battle of Mount Puray

Despite Aguinaldo’s earlier successes, the Spanish forces led by Major General José María Julián de Lachambre y Domínguez (1846-1903) launched the Cavite Offensive of 1897, to take the province back from the Katipunan. Starting with the doomed March 24 Battle of Perez Dasmariñas, Aguinaldo’s troops were continuing to lose to the Spanish forces, which put them on the run. Travelling through the province of Morong (now Rizal), Aguinaldo and his soldiers held a valiant last stand in Mount Puray, near the municipality of Montalban (now Rodriguez). General Licerio Imaya Gerónimo (1855-1924) successfully held the line for Aguinaldo, to escape towards Biak-na-Bato, in the municipality of San Miguel, Bulacan Province. General Gerónimo would also distinguish himself during the Philippine American War, during the Battle of San Mateo (a.k.a. The Battle of Payne), on December 19, 1899.

08 Ramon T. De La Cruz - Battle of Tanza del Norte, Pan-ay
Ramon T. De La Cruz – Battle of Tanza del Norte, Pan-ay

The Battle of Tanza del Norte

The Battle of Tanza del Norte was the uprising of the Capisnon people in the municipality of Capiz (now Roxas City), in the island of Panay. On April 15, 1898, General Juan Arce and General Esteban Dichosa Contreras (1864-1904) led the soldiers from the municipalities of Pan-ay (now Panay), Pontevedra, Panit-an (now Panitan) and Pilar on attack on the local Spanish garrison.  With 150 revolutionaries killed during the battle, the Katipuneros retreated. However, they continued engaging the Spanish forces with guerrilla warfare, leading to the victory in the June 7, 1898, Battle of Balisong (also known as the Battle of Kalupogan Hills).

09 Mark Angelo Argarin - The First Display of the Philippine Flag
Mark Angelo Argarin – The First Display of the Philippine Flag

The First Display of the Philippine Flag

The current Philippine national flag was first displayed by General Aguinaldo, on May 28, 1898; right after his victory in the Battle of Alapan, against the Spanish forces under Major General Leopoldo García Peña. Aguinaldo had conceive the design of the flag during his December 23, 1897 to May 19, 1898, exile to Hong Kong; and was later sewn by Marcela Mariño Agoncillo (1860-1946), with the aid of her daughter seven year old Lorenza (1890-1972) and Delfina Herbosa Natividad (1879-1900), a niece of the National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

10 F. Tanglao - Battle of Manila, 1899
F. Tanglao – Battle of Manila, 1899

The 1899 Battle of Manila

The 1899 Battle of Manila marks the start of the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), although hostilities were brewing before that. When General Aguinaldo was in exile in Hong Kong, he sought the aid of the American embassy there, for aid is obtaining weapons and transport back to the Philippines. By this time, the Spanish-American War (April to August 1898) was already being waged, and the Americans agreed Aguinaldo to support the defeat of the Spanish in the Philippines. However, the Americans double-crossed the Filipino forces, by closing up Manila to their control after defeating the Spanish Armada in Manila Bay, on May 1, 1898. Then they “purchased” the Philippines from Spain with $20 million, with the Treaty of Paris, of December 10, 1898. With victory snatched from the Katipunan revolutionaries, a great resentment was built for these new colonizers. This all came to an explosive encounter, when Private William W. Grayson (1876-1941), of the 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry Regiment, shot and killed two Filipino soldiers attempting to cross an American checkpoint, at the corner of Sociego and Silencio Streets, in Santa Mesa, Manila, on February 4, 1899. Almost immediately, fire fights erupted around the city, with Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. (1845-1912) leading the offense in the northern districts of La Loma, while Brigadier General Thomas McArthur Anderson (1836-1917) led his forces to the southern districts of Pasay. While the fighting continued, Gen. Aguinaldo sent a message to Major General Elwell Stephen Otis (1838-1909) to call an end to hostilities, which were rejected by Otis. By the end of February 5, 238 Katipuneros were killed and 306 were capture, while the remaining Filipino forces moved to different provinces to wage guerilla warfare against the Americans.

The Battle of Quingua

The April 23, 1899, Battle of Quingua was one of the major victories of the Philippine forces against the Americans. The Katipunan troops, led by General Gregorio Hilario del Pilar y Sempio (1875-1899) and Colonel Pablo Ocampo Tecson (1859-1933) first engaged the cavalry forces of Major James Franklin Bell (1856-1919), near the municipality of Quingua (now Plaridel), in the province of Bulacan. Bell’s men sustained heavy casualties, and required reinforcements from 1st Nebraskans under Colonel John Miller Stotsenburg (1858-1899), who was killed shortly. The Filipino militia only started to retreat when the artillery fire from General Irving Hale’s (1861-1930) 51st Iowa and Utah Battery pushed back the Katipuneros.

12 Unknown Artist - Gen Gregorio del Pilar at Tirad Pass
Unknown Artist – Gen Gregorio del Pilar at Tirad Pass

The Battle of Tirad Pass

The Battle of Tirad Pass was the heroic last stand of the young General Gregorio Hilario Sempio del Pilar (1875-1899), who held the off the 33rd Volunteer Infantry Regiment of Major Peyton Conway March (1864-1955), so that Gen. Aguinaldo and his troops may escape capture. On December 2, 1899, the American forces reached the municipality of Concepcion (now named Gregorio del Pilar), on Mount Tirad, Province of Ilocos Sur; and engaged the Filipino soldiers. At the end of the day, 50 Katipuneros lay dead, including Del Pilar.

13 Marvin C. Cordero - Ang Mamatay Dahil Sa Iyo
Marvin C. Cordero – Ang Mamatay Dahil Sa Iyo

There are several other paintings in the AFP Museum, whose titles and artists have been lost over the years. However, one painting “Ang Mamatay Dahil Sa Iyo” captures the essence of all the works created by the students for the competition. The phrase “Ang Mamatay Dahil Sa Iyo” is a shortened version of the last line of the Philippine National Anthem, Lupang Hinirang (Chosen Land), which is “Ang mamatay nang dahil sa ‘yo” or “To die for you.” The national anthem was composed as the Marcha Nacional Filipina by Julián Felipe (1861-1944), in 1899. The lyrics were originally written in Spanish, by José Palma y Velásquez (1876-1903), and its current Tagalog version was translated by Felipe Padilla de León (1912-1992), between 1958 and 1963. In the painting, several heroes and martyrs for Philippine independence are depicted: from the 1872 Gomburza Martyrs of Fr. Mariano Gómez de los Ángeles (1799-1872), Fr. José Apolonio Burgos y García (1837-1872), and Fr. Jacinto Zamora y del Rosario (1835-1872); to the propagandists Dr. José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (1861-1896), Graciano López Jaena (1856-1896), Mariano Ponce (1863-1918), and Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitán (1850-1896); and to the Katipunan revolutionaries of Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, Melchora Aquino de Ramos (1812-1919), and Emilio Aguinaldo. These images and the lyrics of the National Anthem are reminders to the viewer to instill the same patriotic fervor on our hearts.

1965 Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo

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