Sunday, March 31, 2013

A part of my life: The PhilAm Life Theater

When I was a kid I used to pass by this wonderful building, wondering why it was so amazing. No joke. The U.N. Avenue was a common route to my old "office" where I used to sell chocolate lollipops every weekend at the National Federation for Women's Club building, a post-war era building that stood on what was once a pre-war site where heroines helped each other in helping a noble cause.

United Nations Avenue, then, was filled with small flags of the different countries of the world. And at the end of the road was the building of the PhilAm Life. I used to wonder what the inside of the structure was like, seeing schedules of shows outside and of different events being held in that auditorium until one day, due to the incidental play of our school, a re-presentation of "A Dreamer Named Joseph"

Honestly, I wasn't focusing on the play. I found myself staring at the ceiling of the auditorium and being mesmerized by the glass panels that they used for the lighting. And I would so often glance at the wooden sculptures at the sides, making out every detail in the darkness of the theater. Some months after that, I myself got the chance to perform on its hallowed halls.

The Philam Life Auditorium

And with that was the opportunity to relish the details of the hall.

The Pop Koro festival of 2012, of which I was a participant, was held in that auditorium. I actually was all smiles as I looked at the murals above the doors to the theater and the sculptures inside, during the five minute breaks and the free time when I explored the area (I was very pasaway, then as now, leaving the group just to discover everything about the venue.) 

And with the practices that we had, taping our feet on the wooden floor of the stage, we were told by our conductor and choirmaster, Patrick Frias, that the acoustics of the whole area was excellent... and he should know. He has been there before, with the Marian Choir of Cavite and his other choirs. To prove this, our choir performed with no microphones on stage.

The JGSS Children's Choir
Months passed after that last performance, my last performance on stage, when news of the theater facing demolition. It was devastating. The theater that I once loved, the last one where I performed on stage with my choir mates, to be destroyed. But, far from that, I wondered what will become of the things that captured my fascination before?

The facade of that building, the murals and the wooden relief sculptures... what would become of that? It was a horrific thought that something that has been part of my life, and probably the lives of many performers who have performed on its hallowed halls, would be destroyed to make way for something that is not remarkable and is unimpressive, just for the sake of profit.

What has become of our nation? Why is it able to sacrifice its beauty, heritage and culture for the sake of money?

And to think that this had such a glorious past! It was beautiful in every definition of the word.

I have always said that a nation that does not regard its past with importance can never move forward. Destroying structures like the PhilAm Life for the sake of financial gain is like destroying a library full of books on wisdom for the sake of putting up a store there, which is the case of many areas here in our country. And I lament that fact.

Why? Because these places are significant. We learn from them. And without them our country will be nothing more than a hollow shell of condominiums and malls, devoid of any art or a sense of importance of its past. And, let's face it, who would appreciate a mall or a condominium that looks exactly like any mall or condominium around the country? We can never cut off the past because that would be like snuffing out the flame of light that guides us through a dark road. 

This is my side of the argument: Do we want to be a country of malls and condominiums? A country without a history? A country devoid of art and culture? Think about it.

Save our heritage. Save the Philam Life Building.

Cuaresma: Papuri

Black Saturday

The Easter Vigil

It marks the beginning of the season of Easter and the closing of Lent. 

The Blessing of the Fire

Done on the outside the church doors, the fire symbolizes Jesus' as the guiding light, the only true light by which we are guided to the Father. 

The fire that was blessed is then used to light up the Paschal Candle after a long rite wherein the symbols of the candle are interpreted. The fire is then used to light the candles of the faithful after entering the dark church, devoid of any man-made light.

After several readings from the Bible showing God's saving grace, power and might the lights of the church is then turned on as the large violet cloth covering the main altar is then removed to show the image of the resurrected Christ.

Jesus is Alive. The gospel reading then shows how Mary of Magdala and her companions found the empty tomb. The mass is a celebration of God's power and saving grace, His triumph over sin and death and the ultimate salvation that He offers to all of humankind.

The Blessing of the Water

The priest then dips the paschal candle, the symbol of the resurrected Christ, into a jar of water which is then used for the baptism and the blessing of the people and the images. This is the rite of the blessing of the water wherein the water is then turned into Holy Water, a symbol of how God washes away all sin just as water washes away dirt.

People who want to enter the fold of Catholicism then are baptized with the same holy water as they are welcomed into the Catholic family.

The image of the risen Christ will be, later on, be used in the yearly dawn practice of the Salubong, the re-enactment of the meeting Jesus and His sorrowful mother. 

The banners of the church are changed from the mournful violet of lent to the joyful and glorious gold, yellow and green of Easter. 

Easter Sunday

The mixed scent of candles, incense and the morning dew wakes the people up - the Salubong has begun. Salubong is the pre-dawn practice of the procession of the risen Lord and His sorrowful mother and the re-enactment of their meeting. Male and females are separated from each other, with the men of the town going behind the image of Jesus and with the womenfolk accompanying the mourning Mary.

The procession ends with the images and the two groups coming face-to-face with each other and with the removal of the black veil of Mary to reveal the image of the new face of Mary: that of one that has seen the face of her risen son and a joy that marks her relief and rejoicing. The image, now called the Virgen de Alegria after the ceremony, is then showered with petals along with that of the image of the risen Christ. 

The floats then are turned off, the lights shut down as the dawn mass is said inside the church. And with that ends the lenten season.

A series of notes and pictures on the traditions and practices of the Filipino Roman Catholic during the Holy Week. No copyrights on all of the photos. Taken at the Imus Cathedral on the respective dates.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cuaresma: Maundy Thursday/Good Friday

Maundy Thursday 

The Chrism Mass
- Every Maundy Thursday, priests of each diocese convene and attend the chrism mass to renew their vows. The mass is usually celebrated by the bishop or archbishop of their respective ecclesiastical province in the see or main cathedral of the diocese. Celebrated on the morning of maundy Thursday so as to not conflict with the masses of the evening, it commemorates the last supper wherein the apostles were instituted and introduced into the sacrament of the holy eucharist.

The mass is so-called as such due to the fact that the chrism oil, which the priests use for various functions, are blessed on that day and are distributed to the priests of each parish. Generally, the priests are accompanied by the loyal parish-goers... carrying with them banners and streamers that can equal any fiesta of the country. In some places, they even rejoice at the end of the mass, walking and dancing to the beat of drums as they go back to their parish churches.

The chrism mass of the archdiocese, Luis Antonio Gokim Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Manila and Primate of the Philippines, was attended by a large crowd that filled not only the church, but also the adjoining covered court of the parochial school nearby.

Pabása ng Pasyón ("Reading of the Passion"), known simply as Pabása (literally "reading", but is specifically a "sponsored reading-and-chanting") is a Holy Week practice in the Philippines that involves chanting of the narrative of the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Readers are usually groups of individuals taking turns in chanting verses from the book known as the Pasyon (lit., "Passion"). The modern-day Pabasa may be chanted a capella or with the accompaniment of musical instruments such as the guitar or accordion, or by a rondalla ensemble.

There are two common styles of chanting, one of which is the alternate singing of two persons or two groups of people. The second method has each chanter or group of chanters taking turns in singing the stanzas. The Pabasa is normally performed in front of either a makeshift altar or a permanent one located at the neighbourhood chapel (visita), town plazas, churchyards, or at the home of the ritual's sponsor.

The practitioners of the verse chanting participate in the ritual to show their devotion to the Catholic faith during the Holy Week season. According to Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, the media director of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the pabasa is a form of religious meditation, expression and profession of faith, and communal activity.

Before evolving into the contemporary version of the reading and chanting ritual in the Philippines during the Lenten season, the early form of the pabasa was introduced to the various indigenous people of the Philippine islands by Spanish friars. The Spaniards brought Catholicism to the Philippines. Gradually, over the period of Spanish colonialism in the Philippines (1521–1898), the ancient Filipinos adapted the religious chanting introduced by the Spanish priests and incorporated it to their own custom of singing epics during native celebrations. The vocal singing style has in many ways, preserved the pre-Hispanic singing techniques of the main groups of the country, like the Tagalog, Ilocano and Visayan groups.

Visita Iglesia - The practice of going to seven to fourteen churches to commemorate and meditate on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Churches are usually filled by Thursday night and the day after as the faithful go through the various stations of the church. The number was associated to a lot of things that involved Christ, His passion and ministry and is rooted in a tradition of making pilgrimages similar to that of the pilgrims of Rome and Jerusalem and that of the route taken by the Via Crucis.

The practice of visiting seven churches is ultimately rooted in visiting the seven churches of Rome which was initiated by Pope Boniface VIII. There are no set of prayers given by the Church except to pray for the intentions of the Pope and recite the Our Father, Hail Mary and Gloria Patri. People have instead opted to pray the Stations of the Cross, the recitation of which is liturgically proper to Good Friday.

Some devout people carry a cross to and from different churches, while others consider the custom an opportunity for sightseeing. An offering is usually made at each church and to the poor as a form of almsgiving. To accommodate the faithful, many Catholic churches during Holy Week remain open until midnight. Similarly, Visita Iglesia Online by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is among several such sites that afford Overseas Filipinos and the infirm the chance to participate in the tradition as well as hear recordings of the Pasyón.

The Blessed Sacrament is usually exposed to the faithful in a vigil of prayer and meditation. The faithful usually take an hour or two to pray in front of the holy host, which is placed on an ornate altar of repose. Before, the tradition was to pray before the host in one church. Eventually, as tradition says, the number increased and multiplied into the seven churches of the Visita Iglesia with the growing number of churches and chapels in Intramuros, the former capital of the Philippines.

Good Friday

Self-flagellation is a practice frowned upon by the leaders of the catholic church and yet is one of the most practiced traditions in the country. In this picture a man whips his back, wounded by blades beforehand. A possible outcrop of the passionate flagellants of Spain and the Latin Americas, the extremely faithful carry crosses on their backs, have themselves flogged (in some cases they make other people whip them) with glass or metal whips, wear thorns upon their heads and have themselves crucified.

The practice is widely known to the public, even being reported and documented by world-renowned channels such as National Geographic. Some of them imitate the passion of Jesus to atone for their sins, other do it as a sign of thanksgiving to God. This practice, common in outlying provinces of Luzon, has moved in to the city lands of Manila.

TV stations in the country usually initiate a sign-off during the triad of the Holy Week, the climax of the celebrations, a tradition of past years when people cannot rejoice yet during these days and must be quiet. They either do this or show religious-themed films and shows. In most places people are still reprimanded if  they play loud music. And, in extreme cases, people are advised not to take baths after three o' clock in the afternoon of Good Friday, a belief spread by the Spanish conquistadores.

Children are not allowed to play, with a warning that they might get wounded and that their wounds will take a very long time to heal in the belief that Christ is dead. Some people believe also that traveling during these days to far places is a dangerous and risky thing, with the power of demonic creatures increasing during the days before Easter. In some provinces, fear of malicious creatures spreading harm during these days are widespread. 

In local media, films and shows revolve around horror stories regarding these themes.

Siete Palabras - The Seven last words of Jesus is recited, followed by a meditation, a prayer, a re-enactment of the passion, a play on its lesson or a testimony on the reality of Christ's words today. This is celebrated before the traditional "ninth hour" or the hour of Jesus' death.

The Siete Palabras or Seven Last Words are traditionally referred to Jesus’ words during his crucifixion collected from the four gospels of the bible. Three of His seven last words appear in the Gospel of Luke, another three from the Gospel of John and the rest appeared both in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.

Since the 16th Century, these words have been widely used during Good Friday. Traditionally in the Philippines, it starts at about 12 noon and precedes an annual procession.

The sanctification of the cross is the practice of letting the faithful kiss the cross of Jesus. This practice is usually attended by the whole parish, where long lines of them wait just for a chance to kiss the feet and hands of the image of Jesus Christ on the cross. 

This is usually done after a mass which focuses on the passion of Christ that has a similar play as that of the passion play used in the Palm Sunday mass. During this mass the Santo Entierro comes face-to-face with the Mater Dolorosa, a representation of the sorrowful meeting of mother and her dead son.

The image of Santo Entierro, or Christ being interred/buried, is the image of Jesus dead on a coffin. Followed by a long procession where the images of the saints, scenes from the life and passion of Jesus and that of the image of Mary in black, mourning the loss of her son. A marching band paying mourning songs even follow the trail that goes around the whole parish. 

Commemorating the burial of Jesus, the church acts as the burial site of Jesus. The faithful rush in as they follow the image in. In some areas, things are inserted in the images palms and feet to turn them into amulets which they later on try out on Black Saturday. 

Flowers on the image's floats are usually taken home to bring in luck, fortune or some other thing. The practice is a long-held one by people in most provinces. In other provinces in the Philippines, the image is interred in a nearby chapel and is accustomed the same rites as that of a person being buried. 

The dead Christ - to discourage a devotion to the dead image, the image is usually hidden for the rest of the year. The people flock in lines again to kiss the image. After which the people are asked to leave as the church closes its doors until the Easter Vigil and the lights are shut out. Thus begins the wait for Easter.

Mater Dolorosa, the image of Mary weeping the fate of her son, is clad in black to show her sorrow. Catholics are attached to this image due to the fact that it reminds them of their own sorrows and the crosses they carry each day. 

After a mournful wailing prayer, the image is brought back to the chapel in a Procession Silencio, a silent procession where the people walk barefoot to the chapel where the image of Mary must stay until the Easter vigil. As a part of tradition, the owner of the image gives out food and drinks to all who joined in the procession.

CUARESMA is a series of pictures and descriptions on the traditions and practices of the Filipino Roman Catholics during Holy Week. All the materials here do not have a copyright, feel free to use them in any way you want. Pictures taken in several locations:

Holy Thursday - March 28, 2013
Chrism Mass - San Fernando De Dilao Parish
Pabasa - Obesis St., Pandacan, Manila
Visita Iglesia - Holy Spirit Church, Mendiola, Manila

Good Friday - March 29, 2013
Self-flagellations - Penafrancia, Manila
The rest of the pictures were taken in Imus Cathedral, Imus City, Cavite

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cuaresma: Holy Wednesday

The Kawit Citizens carrying the image of the suffering Christ on their shoulders
To be truly a Christian one must follow Christ's example, even up to the cross

Barefoot and braving the harshness of the summer sun, the doors opened to the procession of a flock of people who willingly went on to proceed walking miles around their city to commemorate and reflect on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. In a tradition as ancient and old as the church of their parish, branching deep into its hispanic roots, they walked on the hot soil with their bare feet.

Lines of the faithful
In Kawit, Cavite... a long held tradition of making the Via Crucis, a walk that stops on different respective stations to meditate on the life of Jesus, after almost decades of it being done barefoot. The faithful carried the images of Jesus the Nazarene and the Sorrowful Mother, Mary, clad in black mourning clothes and affectionately called "Mater Dolorosa", the image of a woman who weeps for the fate of His son.

The Via Crucis, also known as Stations of the Cross, is a practice particularly known in the Catholic world. Commonly done during the season of Lent, the stations usually have artworks such as paintings and sculptures depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ. It is recognized in some Christian churches and was usually done inside the church or chapel.

Based on the pilgrimages to Jerusalem and a desire that it might be possible to be done locally in parishes around the world, 15th century Franciscans built small shrines that duplicate their counterparts in the Holy Land and in 1686 Pope Innocent XI granted the Franciscan Order the right to erect these outdoor shrines. 

In 1731, Pope Clement XII extended to all churches the right to have the stations, provided that a Franciscan father erected them, with the consent of the local bishop. At the same time the number was fixed at fourteen. In 1857, the bishops of England were allowed to erect the stations by themselves, without the intervention of a Franciscan priest, and in 1862 this right was extended to bishops throughout the church.


Different from the usual forms of the praying and meditation on the stations of the cross in most parts of the world, the Philippines has the stations still outside and scattered on their parish, where the faithful walk on a seeming procession. Kawit, however, has its Via Crucis done barefoot, in remembrance of the humility and compassion of our Lord.

Each station of the Cross is depicted by a marvelous painting set outside the church and is housed on different residences of both known and not-so-prominent citizens of the city. Spanning from a few meters to a several miles from the church and back, the participants have to endure mud and the hot asphalt as they go along, a form of sacrifice, as they say, and an expression of their deep Catholic faith.

CUARESMA is a series of lectures and posts discussing the traditions and superstitions surrounding the Filipino Holy Week. There are no copyrights on the materials used and/or the pictures, feel free to use them without the prior notice from the author provided that they will not be used for any merchandise. All pictures are taken at St. Mary Magdalene Parish, Kawit, Cavite on the 27th of March, 2013.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cuaresma: Holy Tuesday

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, gives a talk on the fundamentals of faith
"I believe in God."

The faithful flocked as a solemn air interlaced with the gentle laughter of a man so fondly called by many as "Bishop Chito", Cardinal Tagle went back to his home town for a lenten recollection Tuesday night to focus on the fundamentals of faith as professed in the Apostle's Creed. As the nation celebrates the lenten season, a mass confession was held outside the church, catering to the many who seek forgiveness and reconciliation in the Sacrament of Confession.

Smile: One of the definite qualities of the cardinal is his child-like smile
Traditionally, the Cardinal-Archbishop Tagle would lead the faithful yearly inside the Cathedral for a lenten recollection to discuss on the matters of the Catholic faith. Imus City, which was in chaos in the recent events in the nearby city hall, was discussed in most parts of the recollection... partially, with glancing remarks that did not sway from the theme of the night: The Apostles' Creed and the underlying message beneath it. 

Thousands attended the yearly recollection of the archbishop, laughing along with his incredible stories regarding his life experiences and his days as part of the cardinal-electors of the recent conclave that placed Pope Francis as the new head of the billions of the Catholic faithful. Interestingly, Tagle was one of the notable front-runners before the conclave was held.

He also told how he was elated to be one of the cardinal electors, saying that: 

"Of the millions of the catholic faithful I was chosen to be one of them. I was like a grain of sand picked out from a sandy shore of millions of the grains of the beach. And, who am I to be one of them? To be picked up and be one of the cardinal-electors?"
- Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle (Paraphrased and translated) 
Tagle: A cardinal for the people

CUARESMA is a series on Filipino Catholic traditions during holy week.
There are no copyrights to the material or the pictures used in this post, feel free to use them given that it is for non-profit reasons with the exception of this blog being mentioned and credited. 
All pictures taken by the blogger in Imus Cathedral, Imus City, Cavite, Philippines 
March 27, 2013 - Holy Tuesday

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cuaresma: Holy Monday

The Interior of Saint Mary Magdalene Parish Church in Kawit during Holy Week
Purple Cloths drape the interiors of church, covering every single image inside the church -- echoing the vestments of the priests during the lenten season, the mark of the catholic churches during this time of the year.

The Purple Cloths used to cover the various images of saints and that of the Lord and His Mother represent a sign of mourning of Christ's passion, though the color represents a call to repentance. In some areas of the country the color of the cloth used is Black, though the usage of the latter is not that much popularized, it clearly demonstrates a state of mourning and gloom over the death of Jesus.

The covering of the images is usually done after the Palm Sunday celebrations in anticipation of the faithful masses' commemoration of Christ's death during Friday. Robed in tradition, the covering of the images as a sign of mourning is deeply rooted in the heritage... the heirloom of the Spanish conquistadors to what they once saw as "heathens" that has now become one of the largest Christian population in the East.

One of the most notable thing about holy week are the passion plays that are acted out on different days in different parts of the Catholic world, one of which is the Philippines. In Bacoor City, south of Manila, they have been acting out a holy week play on Jesus' final hours that lead to His death.

"Roman Soldiers"
For Eleven years, this slowly blooming economic city has been making this passion play, with actors numbering up to hundred people all dressed in regalia and simple clothes that depict the clothes of the biblical figures in Jerusalem centuries ago. With armies of soldiers, a dozen of disciples and other followers all walking around the city as they act out the story of how Jesus saved humankind.

"Women of Jerusalem"
The play has gone a far way from it's humble beginnings, with the people now enjoying mobile speakers and live telecasts of the play, tradition now thrives and mingles with modernity and is thus preserved, given another year to be seen by the town's youth and, perhaps, to be continued by them ages after this year's passion play.


Bells rang out as the Priest and altar servers lead the crowds as the actors walk through parts of the parish. The youth, who either volunteered or were coerced to be part of the play, proudly walked the streets in robes, veils, drawn beards, weapons and helmets. It was a sight to be behold.

"The apostles"

The practice of acting out Christ's final days on Earth are actually common throughout the world, but the Philippines is known for people who crucify themselves just for a prayer that has been granted or something that is being asked for from God. Today, traditions like these either die away or generate a new and progressive version of what was.

Cuaresma is a series of notes on traditions of Filipinos during Holy Week

All pictures are taken in Archangel-Saint Michael Parish, Bacoor City on Holy Monday of 2013 except for the first photo which was taken at the Saint Mary Magdalene Parish in Kawit, Cavite of that same date. South Bike offers tours to these areas in different posts regarding the churches mentioned.

No copyrights. Feel free to use the information and pictures here as long as they are not used for commercial purposes.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cuaresma: Palm Sunday

Image of Jesus riding a donkey to the City of Jerusalem in the Cathedral of Imus
The bells toil as flocks of people clad in different colors wave palms -- a priest cloaked in red walked among them and with his giving of blessing the crowds and the choir sang the hymns of old latin, a somber echo of the Spanish colonial times when the Palm sunday mass, or any mass for that matter, is celebrated in Latin.

"Hosanna Filio David!" Sang the choirs and the crowds, rejoicing as the priest walked at their center and to the altar... blessing both the faithful and the leaves they proudly wave like banners. But then there was a change of tone, the smiling faces now shouted for death, punishment, jeers and insults. Shouting as a whole the words: "Crucify Him!"

No, this is not a play... this is actually the Palm Sunday celebration here in the Philippines, where the catholic faithful re-enact the story of how the Christ was joyfully welcomed into the city of Jerusalem as their king and the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Deep in symbology... the mass represents how the crowds, then as now, praise God first then condemn Him for His "failures" to them. 

In most provinces, like in Cavite, the priests re-enact the verses... with some even coming in on a donkey. There are areas in the Philippines wherein the priest rides a donkey around the town-parish and then enters the door of the church by first knocking at it with the end of the palms. The choir normally gives a dramatic tone to the mass, acting out parts in a mini version of a passion play. 

Supernatural Spirituality: More than leaves

One of the fascinating things that surround the Filipino piety is that it is peculiarly and yet interestingly mixed with beliefs that are considered by many as taboo to the faith. 

For instance, the palms that were blessed during the mass are, more often than not, displaced at doorways and windows to ward off demons and evil spirits and with some even feeding the leaves to cocks used in the famous sport of cockfighting so as to make them lucky, a practice condemned by the officials of the church in the local area. Practices like this, though, still persist despite the warnings.

Generating a market of their own, the palms are actually sold by street vendors at a cheap price, taking advantage of the large catholic demand for the leaves -- with some families buying three to six palms for their homes.

Palms, commonly known as "Palaspas" in the common language in this country, are actually representations of the welcoming of Christ by the faithful and the acceptance of the people of Jesus being their King. Just like banners, they are symbols of being part of the kingdom of Christ and of His unending mercy and unbounded love.

The mass, beyond the leaves, is a fascinating one -- a curious mix of the typical mass with the passion play and marks the beginning of the holy week, a time dedicated to the deeply embedded catholic faith in the nation which brings out the most fascinating and curious expressions of faith around the world.

Pabasa, the traditional singing of the whole life of Jesus (another version is the story of the Bible) is started to sung from this day onwards to Maundy Thursday.

Cuaresma is a series of notes on traditions of Filipinos during Holy Week
All pictures are taken in Imus Cathedral during the Palm Sunday Mass of 2013
No copyrights. Feel free to use them as long as they are not used for commercial purposes.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Emilio Aguinaldo

A digitally colorized picture of General Emilio Aguinaldo

Early Life and Education:

Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy was the seventh of eight children born to a wealthy mestizo family in Cavite on March 22, 1869. His father, Carlos Aguinaldo y Jamir, was the town mayor or gobernadorcillo of Old Cavite. Emilio's mother was Trinidad Famy y Valero.

The boy went to elementary school and attended secondary school at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, but had to drop out before earning his high school diploma when his father passed away in 1883. Emilio stayed home to assist his mother with the family agricultural holdings.

On January 1, 1895, Emilio Aguinaldo made his first foray into politics with an appointment as Cavite'scapitan municipal. Like fellow anti-colonial leaderAndres Bonifacio, he also joined the Masons.
Katipunan and the Philippine Revolution:

In 1894, Andres Bonifacio himself inducted Emilio Aguinaldo into the Katipunan, a secret anti-colonial organization. The Katipunan called for the ouster of Spain from the Philippines, by armed force if necessary. In 1896, after the Spanish executed the voice of Filipino independence, Jose Rizal, the Katipunan started their revolution. Meanwhile, Aguinaldo married his first wife - Hilaria del Rosario, who would tend to wounded soldiers through her Hijas de la Revolucion (Daughters of the Revolution) organization.

While many of the Katipunan rebel bands were ill-trained and had to retreat in the face of Spanish forces, Aguinaldo's troops were able to out-fight the colonial troops even in pitched battle. Aguinaldo's men drove the Spanish from Cavite. However, they came into conflict with Bonifacio, who had declared himself president of the Philippine Republic, and his supporters.

In March of 1897, the two Katipunan factions met in Tejeros for an election. The assembly elected Aguinaldo president in a possibly fraudulent poll, much to the irritation of Andres Bonifacio. He refused to recognize Aguinaldo's government; in response, Aguinaldo had him arrested two months later. Bonifacio and his younger brother were charged with sedition and treason, and were executed on May 10, 1897 on Aguinaldo's orders.

This internal dissent seems to have weakened the Cavite Katipunan movement. In June of 1897, Spanish troops defeated Aguinaldo's forces and retook Cavite. The rebel government regrouped in Biyak na Bato, a mountain town in Bulacan Province, central Luzon, to the northeast of Manila.

Aguinaldo and his rebels came under intense pressure from the Spanish, and had to negotiate a surrender later that same year. In mid-December, 1897, Aguinaldo and his government ministers agreed to dissolve the rebel government and go into exile in Hong Kong. In return, they received legal amnesty and an indemnity of 800,000 Mexican dollars (the standard currency of the Spanish Empire). An additional $900,000 would indemnify the revolutionaries who stayed in the Philippines; in return for surrendering their weapons, they were granted amnesty and the Spanish government promised reforms.

On December 23, Emilio Aguinaldo and other rebel officials arrived in British Hong Kong, where the first indemnity payment of $400,000 was waiting for them. Despite the amnesty agreement, the Spanish authorities began to arrest real or suspected Katipunan supporters in the Philippines, prompting a renewal of rebel activity.

The Spanish-American War:
In the spring of 1898, events half a world away overtook Aguinaldo and the Filipino rebels. The United States naval vessel USS Maine exploded and sank in Havana Harbor, Cuba in February. Public outrage at Spain's supposed role in the incident, fanned by sensationalist journalism, providing the US with a pretext to start the Spanish-American War on April 25, 1898.

Aguinaldo sailed back to Manila with the US Asian Squadron, which defeated the Spanish Pacific Squadron in the May 1 Battle of Manila Bay. By May 19, 1898, Aguinaldo was back on his home soil. On the 12th of June, 1898, the revolutionary leader declared the Philippines independent, with himself as the unelected President. He commanded Filipino troops in the battle against the Spanish. Meanwhile, close to 11,000 American troops cleared Manila and other Spanish bases of colonial troops and officers. On December 10, Spain surrendered its remaining colonial possessions (including the Philippines) to the US in the Treaty of Paris.

Aguinaldo as President:

Emilio Aguinaldo was officially inaugurated as the first president and dictator of the Philippine Republic in January of 1899. Prime Minister Apolinario Mabini headed the new cabinet. However, the United States did not recognize this new independent Filipino government. President William McKinley offered as one reason the specious American goal of "Christianizing" the (largely Roman Catholic) people of the Philippines.

Indeed, although Aguinaldo and other Filipino leaders were unaware of it initially, Spain had handed over direct control of the Philippines to the United States in return for $20 million, as agreed in the Treaty of Paris. Despite rumored promises of independence made by US military officers eager for Filipino help in the war, the Philippine Republic was not to be a free state. It had simply acquired a new colonial master.

To commemorate the United States's most substantial foray into the imperial game, in 1899 the British author Rudyard Kipling wrote "The White Man's Burden," a poem extolling American power over "Your new-caught, sullen peoples / Half-devil and half-child."
Resistance to American Occupation:

Obviously, Aguinaldo and the victorious Filipino revolutionaries did not see themselves as half-devil or half-child. Once they realized that they had been tricked and were indeed "new-caught," the people of the Philippines reacted with outrage far beyond the "sullen," as well. Aguinaldo responded to the American "Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation" as follows:

"My nation cannot remain indifferent in view of such violent and aggressive seizure of a portion of its territory by a nation which has arrogated to itself the title "Champion of Oppressed Nations." Thus it is that my government is disposed to open hostilities if the American troops attempt to take forcible possession.

I denounce these acts before the world in order that the conscience of mankind may pronounce its infallible verdict as to who are the oppressors of nations and the oppressors of mankind. Upon their heads be all the blood which may be shed!"

In February of 1899, the first Philippines Commission from the US arrived in Manila to find 15,000 American troops holding the city, facing off from trenches against 13,000 of Aguinaldo's men, who were arrayed all around Manila. By November, Aguinaldo was once again running for the mountains, his troops in disarray. However, the Filipinos fought on against this new imperial power, turning to guerrilla war when conventional fighting failed them.

For two years, Aguinaldo and a shrinking band of followers evaded concerted American efforts to locate and capture the rebel leadership. On March 23, 1901, however, American special forces disguised as prisoners of war infiltrated Aguinaldo's camp at Palanan, on the north-east coast of Luzon. Local scouts dressed in Philippine Army uniforms led General Frederick Funston and other Americans into Aguinaldo's headquarters, where they quickly overwhelmed the guards and seized the president.

April 1, 1901. Emilio Aguinaldo formally surrendered, swearing allegience to the United States of America. He then retired to his family farm in Cavite. His defeat marked the end of the First Philippine Republic, but not the end of the guerrilla resistance.
World War II and Collaboration:
Emilio Aguinaldo continued to be an outspoken advocate of independence for the Philippines. His organization, the Asociacion de los Veteranos de la Revolucion (Association of Revolutionary Veterans), worked to ensure that former rebel fighters had access to land and pensions.

Asociacion de los Veteranos de la Revolucion 1955
His first wife, Hilario, died in 1921. Aguinaldo married for a second time in 1930 at the age of 61. His new bride was the 49-year-old Maria Agoncillo, niece of a prominent diplomat.

In 1935, the Philippine Commonwealth held its first elections after decades of American rule. Then aged 66, Aguinaldo ran for president, but was soundly defeated by Manuel Quezon.

When Japan seized the Philippines during World War II, Aguinaldo cooperated with the occupation. He joined the Japanese-sponsored Council of State, and made speeches urging an end to Filipino and American opposition to the Japanese occupiers. After the US recaptured the Philippines in 1945, the septugenarian Emilio Aguinaldo was arrested and imprisoned as a collaborator. However, he was quickly pardoned and released, and his reputation was not too severely tarnished by this war-time indiscretion.
Post-World War II Era:

Aguinaldo was appointed to the Council of State again in 1950, this time by President Elpidio Quirino. He served one term before returning to his work on behalf of veterans.

In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal asserted pride in Philippine independence from the United States in a highly symbolic gesture; he moved the celebration of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12, the date of Aguinaldo's declaration of the First Philippine Republic. Aguinaldo himself joined in the festivities, although he was 92 years old and rather frail. The following year, before his final hospitalization, Aguinaldo donated his home to the government as a museum.

Emilio Aguinaldo's Death and Legacy:

On February 6, 1964, the 94-year-old first president of the Philippines passed away due to a coronary thrombosis. He left behind a complicated legacy. To his credit, Emilio Aguinaldo fought long and hard for independence for the Philippines, and worked tirelessly to secure veterans' rights. On the other hand, he ordered the execution of rivals including Andres Bonifacio, and collaborated with the brutal Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

Although today Aguinaldo is often heralded as a symbol of the democratic and independent spirit of the Philippines, he was a self-proclaimed dictator during his short period of rule. Other members of the Chinese/Tagalog elite, such as Ferdinand Marcos, later would wield that power more successfully.


Library of Congress. "Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy," The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War, accessed Dec. 10, 2011.

Ooi, Keat Gin, ed. Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Vol. 2, ABC-Clio, 2004.

Silbey, David. A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902, New York: MacMillan, 2008.