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Saturday, 02 June 2007 12:52

Excerpts from “Dynamics of the Philippine Revolution of 1898” by The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara  (San Francisco, USA; Copyright 1989)

The Philippine Independence of June 12, 1898, was the result of the "Revolution of 1896” first led by Andres Bonifacio and continued by Emilio Aguinaldo. While it ended 300 years of Spanish colonialism, it also paved the way for American imperialism. This is a brief note on the short-lived Philippine Republic.

            During its first phase (1896-1897), many Ilustrados (wealthy Filipinos) refused to join the Revolution. They feared bloodshed and doubted whether Filipinos could really defeat the Spaniards.

         At the second phase (1898-1900), they were more or less assured of victory and the reasons were obvious:
1. The United States Navy had just defeated the Spanish Armada and was watching over Manila Bay to cut any reinforcements.
2. The money given by Governor General Primo de Rivera during the “truce” was used by Aguinaldo to buy arms in Honking.
3. The Spanish arms, which Admiral Dewey captured from the Cavite arsenals, were turned over to Aguinaldo.


            Even before the Spaniards could formally surrender, Aguinaldo decided that it was time to establish a Filipino government. This was to show that Filipinos were already capable of self-government and could accomplish their nationalist aspirations. The nature of this emergency, forced Aguinaldo to form a dictatorial form of government and to issue a decree of independence on May 24, 1898.


            Less than a month later, on June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo officially proclaimed Philippine Independence before a huge crowd in Kawit, Cavite. The Philippine national flag, made by Marcela Agoncillo while in exile in Hong Kong was hoisted. The Philippine National March, composed by Julian Felipe was played. Ninety-eight persons—including an American officer who witnessed the proclamation—signed the Philippine Declaration of Independence.


            Immediately thereafter, on June 23, 1898, Aguinaldo made a transition from dictatorship to a “revolutionary government” and changed his title from Dictator to President. Two major objectives were: (1) to have the independent Philippines be recognized by all nations “including Spain;” and (2) to prepare the country for a Republican form of government.


            On September 15, 1898, the first Filipino Congress was convened in Malolos, Bulacan. On January 23, 1899, this Congress officially promulgated the “Philippine Republic.” It was a moment of great joy, the fulfillment of their confounded longing for independence, freedom and prosperity.


Editor’s Notes: The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara is the Director of Ethnic Congregational Development and National Missioner for Asiamerica Ministries of The Episcopal Church in New York City; he also serves as Supply Clergy for St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, in Seaford, (Long Island), New York and priest at Holy Child-St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Woodside (Queens), New York. 

            While all these were going on, however, there was a simultaneous negotiation between America’s Admiral Dewey and Spain’s Governor General Agustin over the “surrender” of Manila. Apparently, Spain would rather surrender to the United States than to the Filipinos revolutionaries. Unknown to Filipinos, the negotiation ended (with) the United States paying Spain the sum of $20-million in payment “for the improvements Spain did for the Philippine islands.” To seal the agreement, a treaty between AmericaSpain was signed in Paris in December 1898—without Filipino participation! and


         When Aguinaldo and the Katipuneros discovered that their beloved Filipinas “was sold like a sack of sweet potatoes,” they were outraged. A bloody “Filipino-American War” broke out on February 4, 1899, and lasted for two years. It ended in March 1901 with the capture of Aguinaldo by American forces. The whole charade ended with the Filipinos losing their hard-earned freedom from Spain and falling into the arms of their new colonizers, the Americans.


         Historian Teodoro Agoncillo suggested three motives of American neo-colonialism:
1. The economic interest of expanding American businesses in Asia.
2. The military interest of Philippine bases as their first line of defense in the event of war against any Asian country.
3. The religious interest of the Philippines as the base for American-Protestant missions.


         Except for the birth of the Philippine Independent Church in 1902, there was no other tangible result of the Philippine Revolution of 1896-1898. American imperialism and tutelage, which lasted for 50 years, wiped away all the revolutionary aspirations of the short-lived, Philippine Republic. The last years of American imperialism was marred by (the) Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippine archipelago. On July 4, 1946, following the defeat of the Japanese Imperial Forces, the United Sates granted full autonomy (independence) to the new Philippine Republic, which awkwardly grew under the shadow of North-American democracy. # # # 



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