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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Aguinaldo on Bonifacio in Cavite

Aguinaldo on Bonifacio in Cavite"Let us remember that in our blood run the greatness and valor of those who fought for our independence and the freedoms we now enjoy."

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This book makes public the manuscript in the handwriting of General and first President Emilio Aguinaldo narrating his experience and perspectives on the days of Supremo Andres Bonifacio in Cavite.

Thus, the book is a firsthand account of the events in Cavite from December 1897 when the Supremo arrived and until the last week of April in 1898 when the Supremo was arrested by Aguinaldo’s troops.

I extensively quoted the Foreword written by respected author and historian Dr. Rey Ileto, a known critic of Aguinaldo until recent years. Dr. Ileto mentioned how Aguinaldo was constantly in the forefront of the battles against the Spaniards. He explained some major differences between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo, especially as revolutionary leaders and strategists.

Last week’s piece ended with the death of Aguinaldo’s elder brother, Gen. Crispulo Aguinaldo, in the battlefields of Pasong Santol.

Ileto further said, “Crispulo Aguinaldo assumed the command of the frontlines as a replacement for his younger brother, Emilio, who had finally relented to appeals that he return to Tejeros to take up his office as elected president. (The election referred to is the Tejeros Convention where Gen. Aguinaldo was elected and won against the Supremo despite his being absent—ECA) If Crispulo hadn’t taken his place, Emilio would have been the one shot dead. And who was responsible for this? The Talang Buhay tells us that prior to the tragic debacle at Pasong Santol, Bonifacio and Ricarte had blocked Magdiwang contingents that were going to the aid of the Magdalo. The death of Crispulo Aguinaldo, and even that of Edilberto Evangelista before him, could have been avoided had Bonifacio not been so single-minded about refusing to send abuloy to the beleaguered Magdalo defenders” (underscoring mine).”

Dr. Ileto continued, “…My introductory comments are intended mainly to flag some key issues that might be missed, the most crucial being the wartime context of the political crisis. A preoccupation with political rivalry and social difference has overly focused our attention on the complicity of Aguinaldo in the deaths of Andres and Bonifacio. The Talang Buhay, however, forces us to examine events from the military angle in which Bonifacio becomes complicit in the deaths of Edilberto Evangelista and Crispulo Aguinaldo. This is not a question of good versus evil, but the grave consequences of the decisions that leaders make in the fog of war (underscoring mine).”

In his foreword, Dr. Ileto tells students of history to not forget the CONTEXT within which things happened during the revolution. Without understanding the context at that time, it becomes easy to judge our heroes based on our own biases.

Ileto’s parting words were, “Only by returning to first-hand sources…, can we begin to reassess a century’s worth of writings on Aguinaldo that have tended to picture him in a negative light. By no means does the Talang Buhay present us with a definitive account of the Aguinaldo-Bonifacio controversy. It is, after all, Aguinaldo’s rendering of events that he had lived through and, like any historical document, it has its biases and blind spots. But after reading through the Talang Buhay… none but the most close-minded or partisan reader will continue to accept unquestioningly the Manichean portrayal of the main protagonists in Heneral Luna.” Dr. Ileto is referring to the movie.

Transcribing Gen. Aguinaldo’s handwritten manuscript was a roller-coaster ride for me. It struck me that he was most of the time at the forefront of the fighting, but would readily admit to feeling scared each time he and his troops would face the enemy. It is honestly very hard to imagine the kind of life that our revolutionaries led.

Aguinaldo was always preoccupied with the revolution and focused on the struggle for independence. He never went to battle without first strategizing with his officers. He was able to inspire our revolutionaries especially when they were to face big contingents of better-armed and better-trained Spanish forces.

He was not a proud man as portrayed by many. Despite being rejected, he humbled himself several times to ask help from the Supremo in facing Spanish forces because he believed that the revolution would be stronger if the Magdiwang and Magdalo were united.

I became teary-eyed at the part when he and Gen. Crispulo Aguinaldo said their last goodbyes. The younger Aguinaldo at last agreed to go back to Tejeros to accept the presidency as decided by the Convention. Crispulo promised Emilio that the enemy would only win over his dead body, and this, sadly, happened.

Not a few of those who have read the book told me that it is an eye-opener. They said that their perspectives of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo changed and that they now have a better understanding of the important events that happened in Cavite when Supremo Bonifacio was there. Their desire to more seriously study our history is rekindled.

In the afterword of the book, Sen. Sonny Angara said, “Napakalaki ang magiging ambag ng talang ito para maunawaan nating mga Pilipino ang mga nangyari noong rebolusyon para sa ating kasarinlan… This publication is important for us Filipinos, as it gives insight into the challenges faced by one of Philippine history’s most consequential figures.”

As we celebrate History Month, let us remember that in our blood run the greatness and valor of those who fought for our independence and the freedoms we now enjoy. Remember and give respect to our heroes. We owe them big time.

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