Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Aguinaldo's House, and Legacy (through my eyes!)

Emilio Aguinaldo is NOT my favorite player on the stage of Philippine history, in fact, just the opposite. But from 1896 through 1901, this diminutive fellow was gigantic in the struggle for Philippine independence; first in his semi-successful fight against the Spanish, and then, as he continued a losing fight against the Americans. I wanted to see and explore his large family home, not because I am fond of HIM, but because the place literally overflows with history and historical objects. After having been there, I can say now that I was NOT disappointed.

We were going to wait until day two to check out Aguinaldo’s home in Kawit, Cavite. However, after finding a resort in the hills overlooking Calamba, complete with “healthy” warm spring pool water, supposedly piped in from underground hot springs straight into the swimming pool, the resort manager told us check in time wasn’t until 6 p.m. I was astounded! Inconveniences like that irritate me all the time over here. My wife had already paid, so we now had to kill about 9 hours until we could relax for the evening. I asked her what time we had to check out next day and was told before 8 a.m. Struggling to control my ire, I gritted my teeth, and asked if any lodgers were yet in the resort and if not, then why couldn’t we check in while it was still daylight for crying out loud!

Ridiculous, irksome stuff like that assails you constantly when you live and travel here. I always ask WHY, but usually I can obtain no answer. The hired help have no clue as to the why of things, so it’s useless to ask them. What I HAVE ascertained is that because this place has no concept of customer service, most business policies are based on the convenience of the business itself. “The customer is always right” does NOT exist here; although I believe the tourist bureau is trying to instill it, but as yet with little success.

After leaving the Rizal Shrine, we spent 45 minutes at our driver’s aunt’s house in Calamba. They were very gracious, but I wasn’t willing to continue our intrusion. I told Amalia that we should go ahead and visit the Aguinaldo shrine, so off we went.

The drive from Calamba to Kawit does not look so far on the map, BUT…! Roads, streets and highways are not built quickly or extensive enough to keep up with the increasing numbers of vehicles using them, thus traffic is a KILLER no matter where you go. It’s why I have a driver. I let him deal with the local driving habits, which basically entails the following two attitudes, “Me FIRST!” and “I am MORE important than you, so I will go down the wrong side of the street to pass you, while YOU wait patiently in that long line of cars and trucks!” Of course, when selfish drivers do this it snarls traffic even more, but that’s how it works here, primarily because there are no traffic cops to interfere with their madness. Hey! All you spoiled, whining Americans—you will NEVER COMPLAIN about too many cops looking over your shoulder ever again, once you see what happens when there are NONE!

I thought about Emilio Aguinaldo’s legacy during the 2 and ½ hour ride to Kawit from Calamba. As we drove up the main drag through Cavite province toward his hometown, not far from Manila Bay, we passed through Imus, a city notable during the initial fight for the peninsula against the Spanish in 1896. It was here that the sword of the defeated Spaniard, General Aguirre, was captured. I realized we were driving through a part of the Philippines that is to this day fiercely loyal to Aguinaldo, even though he is the man ultimately responsible for killing the founder of the Philippine Revolution—Andres Bonifacio. In fact, if you go to any website originating in Cavite, history is written to the effect that Bonifacio was a treasonous criminal and deserved his ignominious end.

We reached the Aguinaldo mansion at 1 p.m., entering the gate of a huge parking lot incorporated into an unkempt garden and memorial complex. We parked the van under the shade of a large tree. It was decided that only my wife and I were going to see the large white Aguinaldo house, while the rest of the crew waited at the van. I don’t have any say in these decisions and it really didn’t matter to me, but I would have thought that some of them would be curious about it, since Aguinaldo is an important name in Filipino history. My own fascination with the things and places of historical significance always causes me to believe that everyone else should be just as enthralled. Yeah right!

We walked toward the mansion through the large deserted parking lot, and we began to doubt that the place was even open. Ours was the only vehicle in the massive lot. We made our way up walkways and through parking lot sections toward the house, which seemed way off in the distance. We stopped and checked out the statue of Emilio perched atop his horse and brandishing a sword. The larger than life statuary stands perhaps 10 feet tall atop a massive block pedestal, which is another 10 feet high and covered with black marble slabs. It needed a rinse, and one of the marble slabs along the bottom of the support block had fallen off, as if a scale had fallen off a fish.

Contiguous to the Aguinaldo statue is a monument devoted to the signing of the June 12, 1898 Independence declaration. All the signers’ signatures look about 10 times larger than original and are displayed exactly as they look on the document, which is kind of cool. Some of the reproduced autographs depicted on some kind of metal wall of—maybe bronze, are somewhat oxidized, though that’s understandable in a hot, humid place such as this… I suppose. Still… Altogether, it IS a very impressive tribute, except that it is needs maintenance and repair. Unfortunately, there seems little money available for that kind of thing. Maybe we were there on a bad day; I hope so. We continued past the statue toward the whimsical looking Aguinaldo house.

I looked back over my shoulder at the martial figure on his bronze horse and I grimaced a bit at the sight of him. My primary problem with Emilio Aguinaldo is that he made some poor decisions during the critical time he was in power. I point to two key events to make my point:

First, he allowed his fellow Caviteños to push for the death of the primary contender for power—Andres Bonifacio. After the “trial,” where Andres was falsely accused of treason, Aguinaldo correctly commuted the sentence from death to exile. But then Aguinaldo allowed his Caviteño advisers to convince him that Andres had to die, and Emilio caved! It was a horrible, unforgivable decision.

Second, during the running (losing) battles against the Americans, it seems to me that Aguinaldo may have decided to have his senior military leader, General Antonio Luna, set up and murdered by his company of Kawits. Check it out: In 1899, Aguinaldo sent a message to Luna for a meeting at a convent in the northern town of Cabanatuan. Luna showed up, and on his way into the building he dressed down one of the Caviteño guards for being a slacker. The story is he even slapped the man. Aguinaldo was NOT there (hmmmm!?), and so Luna loudly criticized Aguinaldo out of frustration. When Luna exited the convent, the men of the Kawit ambushed him. Luna’s last words as he brandished his pistol, firing it ineffectually into the air, were: “Assassins!” “Cowards!” He was shot and stabbed to a bloody mess.

Was Aguinaldo involved? Well, he never ordered an investigation, and no one was ever punished for the crime. (It seems that not much has changed since then, eh?) Aguinaldo apologists like to conjecture that Luna may have been plotting against Aguinaldo, a typical smear tactic seeking to turn the victim into the villain. The result is that whatever was left of the morale and willingness of the Philippine Army to fight on was snuffed out along with the life of General Luna, and there was no improvement whatsoever once Aguinaldo took over as senior commander. Any wonder then, that I question the leadership and judgment of Aguinaldo?

We strolled toward the front of the Aguinaldo house that once faced a street, no hint of which any longer exists. This long gone street was the major local thoroughfare called El Camino Real, or “The Royal Road” in English. In creating the Aguinaldo Shrine, the government has simply blocked off both sides of that street and created a permanent detour around the entire compound. It would have been terrific if they had maintained the look of the original street, because it was on this avenue that huge crowds of local Caviteños had gathered on June 12, 1898, when Aguinaldo declared national independence from the veranda of his home.
Amalia and I stood looking up at the window where independence was proclaimed more than a hundred years before. I tried to imagine what it might have been like back then, with hundreds of people crowded excitedly down below the house in the street, waiting to hear momentous words from their leader. That he was a fellow Caviteño must have made them immensely proud and energized. I could imagine him standing there in his military uniform, waving grandly at his adoring people before beginning to read loudly from his text.

There was no way to get into the compound of the house itself from the larger section containing the parking lot and Aguinaldo statue. A tall wrought iron fence separated it from us. We noticed an “entrance” sign pointing around the fence to the right, so we headed that way. We had to actually leave the parking complex completely and then reenter a whole different compound to get into the grounds of the house. A middle-aged Philippine Navy enlisted sailor wearing neat blue dungarees was on duty, and he met us as we entered the well-kept yards and grounds of the mansion. I greeted him, asking if we could tour the house. He nodded smiling and pointed toward the entrance.

I decided to look around the lush gardens and yard before going in. The outside of the home is beautifully maintained. Obviously, the house and its yard is where most of the upkeep money is spent. A fine-looking old 1930’s vintage car used by Emilio is on display in a protective glass enclosure, the only way to keep metal objects rust free over here. I glimpsed Aguinaldo’s enormous burial crypt located behind the house and I started to walk toward it. I was discouraged from continuing by the guard for some unknown reason, so we entered the home instead.

The mansion is so large and has so many interesting features, that I cannot do it justice by trying to describe all of it in detail. What I can say is, “Wow!” An older gentleman, Vera Valez, the house’s expert and guide, invited us to sign the guest book. I noticed that a dozen or more parties had visited earlier that day, some Americans, a couple Europeans, and the rest Filipinos from other provinces. They had all been there that morning. I was beginning to realize something after our fiasco earlier in the day at the Rizal Shrine: It’s best to visit Filipino tourist sites after lunch; hardly anyone else is out and about, so you’re likely to have the whole thing to yourself. That is exactly what happened to us at Aguinaldo’s. We were there for more than an hour with no one else getting in the way of our tour.

Vera gave us a delightful, private tour of the mansion. We started off on the ground floor, seeming more like a massive wide-open basement, originally used as a storage area of grain and farm supplies because of its cavernous, barn-like quality. Much of it is now filled with displays that tell the story of Aguinaldo along with the Philippine quest for independence—from the Caviteño and Aguinaldo perspectives of course. I tried to engage Mr. Valez about the Aguinaldo versus Bonifacio situation, but he simply ignored me, which is what folks do here when they wish to avoid an unpleasantness. I knew enough to drop it, something I wouldn’t have done just a few years ago. I’m learning.

Two oddball items of the house are the bowling alley in the basement and the swimming pool just outside and below the second floor master bedroom. They sound better than they are. The bowling alley is a single laner and looks chintzy, perhaps due to age. The pool is not much more than a long cement bathtub about eight feet wide and 20 feet long, if that. It wasn’t even outdoors; it was right along the edge of the house and roofed over as part of the house. Vera said Emilio used it more for therapy than for enjoyment. I’ll bet his grandkids had a grand time in it though.

It is said that the house was built in its initial form before the mid 19th century, perhaps 1845 or so, as a traditional Filipino style dwelling. Pictures exist of it at the turn of the 19th century; showing it with a high, extremely pitched roof covered with nipa thatch. The Aguinaldo’s were known as good businessmen before the revolution, and the money must have continued to roll in after he lost his fight against the Americans. I say that because from 1919 to 1925 he really went to town and renovated the house so that it was almost unrecognizable from its previous appearance. The window from where declaration was declared was turned into a veranda, but at least some semblance of the original still exists from 1898.

The outside look of the house is a combination of Spanish, Filipino and American architecture. To me, the tower and pitched gables make it look a little Bavarian—with just a twist of Disney Land! The inside of the place is awesome! It’s all hardwood—the floors, the walls, the ceilings, the furniture; all of it polished and nicely preserved. The National Historical Institute has done itself proud. I love all the memorabilia collected during Emilio’s almost 100 years of life. Scores of dignitaries, statesman, politicians, and stars of all kinds visited him over the decades, and there are photos of many of those visits.

Much of the incredible furniture throughout the mansion is antique, or expensively made gift pieces made by notable Philippine craftsmen and furniture companies. My favorite display item is the sword captured by Aguinaldo’s troops from the Spaniard Aguirre, when they defeated his army during the height of the Caviteño’s military successes in 1896 at Imus.

Vera took me all over the house and I could not get enough of it. The place is teeming with hiding places, secret rooms, escape tunnels, and hidden passages. Vera let me enter and explore every one. There is a huge ball room with a wonderful vaulted ceiling and Vera showed me how the ball room could be secretly bypassed through several secret passages so that the master could enter his bedroom unseen if he wanted.

The tower is THE most unique aspect of the mansion; you just don’t see any homes equipped with them in this country. Vera said that Emilio loved it, and spent much of his time up there. A very narrow stairway leads up to the tower bedroom and living area where at least one of the Aguinaldo boys chose to use as his bedroom. From this room we climbed some even steeper and narrower steps up to the main tower platform. Emilio loved hanging out here, where he enjoyed being able to see Manila Bay, and even the Manila skyline from high in his eagle’s perch. I have to admit that if I lived there, I would also spend most of MY time up there too. The breeze was great, and the panoramic 360-degree view would have made the difficult climb more than worth it, even after Emilio became old and weak—and he became VERY old. Finally, I climbed an ancient wooden ladder to the very hot and musty tip-top of the tower, and looked out at the world through its tiny glass panes. I wanted to be able to say I had made it up there, and I was!

The family bedrooms and bathrooms look almost exactly the way they did when Emilio and his family still trod those hardwood hallways. Amazingly, he lived to the age of 95, when he died of heart failure in 1964. Several times I could feel his presence signified by an eerie cold feeling in my back, and when the hair on my arms and the nape of my neck stood up. It was a deliciously uneasy feeling, and several times I said “hello” to him under my breath.

I never felt closer to him, however, than when I stood in his master bathroom where he had performed his daily “constitutionals” for decades. I pretended to turn the faucet that he had turned for some hot water; I lathered up with imaginary soap, and in a bit of a crouch, I looked into his mirror, cloudy with age, and pretended to shave. At that point, his presence became overwhelming. Smiling at my own milky reflection (and at his it seemed eerily), I acknowledged the old general’s ghost, “Hello General. I like your place. Rest easy sir. I’ll be gone soon.”

Looking out a window towards the rear of the grounds, I examined Emilio’s final resting place and wondered if he had ever looked out the same window at the spot he would someday rest for eternity. It seems fitting that he lies there in his huge over-sized crypt, completely alone, with no family to keep him company. To me, it says something about him that he chose to be laid to rest solo like this. I’ve been to the graves of great American presidents, and every one of them lies in the ground next to a beloved wife, and all have family nearby as well. What it says to me is that Aguinaldo, with all his ambition and ego, was unwilling to share his final glory with anyone else, even his family. It seems he loved himself above all others.


Ed said...

Thanks for the excellent history lesson. Maybe one of these days I can spend more than a couple weeks at a time in the Philippines and check out some of these sites... a few hours after opening of course.

Nick Ballesteros said...

Hello Phil. Lunch break's over but I couldn't resist the urge to finish reading your Mt. Mayon adventure. I enjoyed your post. It was like being there myself! Save for the phosphoric smells and the bloody toes of course.

You are quite right. Climb your mountains while you still can! I am a late bloomer when it comes to camping but I sure am enjoying it. Staying in Baguio where we walked most of the time has been a lot of help. Where my companions concentrate in getting through rock and water obstacles, I find that I am better able to navigate these and enjoy the scenery.

I have linked you up. Hope you don't mind. Will come back again to read more!

Girlie said...

I've never toured any of the historical sites in Manila or the whole of Luzon.

Except for visiting Luneta Park when I was practically a baby.

Reading your account, it's vivid and it brought me to the place.

I remember my US History Professor. She really likes Aguinaldo...and she was quite animated when she told of an accoutn when the Americans basically kidnapped Aguinaldo and family and brought them to the states.

I think he still has descendants here...from that kidnapping trip...but of course, it was called a clever political move by the Americans.

I like my professors telling of it. It's fun.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hi Shoshana. When I first started studying Aguinaldo my inclination was to be favorable to him, but the more I've read of him and as I put that information into a complete picture I began to develop some negativity toward him.

I wonder exactly what it was that your professor liked about him? Other than his early successes against the Spanish, which ended in defeat and his flight to Hong Kong after the Spanish regained the upperhand, he was an utter failure.

The only reason he was able to return to the Phils at all was because of the US invasion in '98. In hindsight, some point to an apparent American doublecross of Aguinaldo when he was left out after he had been promised a leadership role by a lowerlevel American official in Hong Kong. Many American educators, especially in our universities, have so much spite for their own country that they tend to side with personalities that resisted US intentions. Other than that, I really don't see Aguinaldo as a sympathetic figure at all, unless you have understandable parochial ties such as people from Cavite, his home province.

Nice hearing from you Shoshana...

Anonymous said...

you have a pretty good grasp of my country's history much better than the typical pinoys oblivious of their own history

first, antonio luna was murdered by troops with bad blood with him. He disarmed those troops for not following orders.

the balcony of his mansion wasn't there during the declaration of independence and so the depiction of that in the old P5 bill is incorrect.

btw, have you heard about a 3rd party account where it was reported that at the time when Aguinaldo's forces were at the point of taking Intramuros from the Spaniards holed up ebhind those walls, Aguinaldo let the Americans take the offensive.

The Spaniards fired a few shots then capitulated since they don't want to suffer ignominy of surrendering to the Filipinos

on aguinaldo, I, too, don't like him.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Everything I've read about the final siege of The Intramuros is that Aguinaldo didn't have much choice in how the final "battle" played out. You are right though, that the Spanish purposely wanted to avoid falling into the hands of their erstwhile colonists. They were afraid for their skins and well they should have been, considering how cruel they had treated their "Indios," as they called them. Unless he wanted to tangle with the American troops Aguinaldo had no say in the matter.

Anonymous said...

hello, you just hit the nail on the head! E. Aguinaldo in my opinion is very ambitious, careless, in short like what you wrote "...he loved himself above all others." our country COULD HAVE BEEN greater had EA chosen to really serve his country and set aside his political ambitions...

PhilippinesPhil said...

I just reread my post after writing almost two years ago. I'm thinking I should edit it a little. I must have been in a foul mood back then. Still, I stand by what I wrote about E.A. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

I went to Kawit, Cavite, in this morning for site inspection of high tide wall project. In this occasion, we visited the E.A.House.
Thanks for your documentation.
I was interested in Nunobiki-maru incident also.This house suffers high-tide/flood.


PhilippinesPhil said...

Kamoto, from what I remember, I can see why the house might be at risk for flood damage. Its right on the river.

I confess I've never heard of the N-M incident, but evidently a Japanese national was attempting to assist the revolution, or was it to assist the fight against the Americans? Sounds interesting regardless...

Anonymous said...

First of all, I would like to point out that I am not from Cavite in case you immediately assume I am biased and must be from that part of the country.

Saulo, a great historian, advocated that "colonial mentality is the biggest obstacle to an accurate and objective assessment of the merits of EA and the crucial role he played in Philippine history." It is unfortunate that this kind of mentality continues to this day even after the Americans pulled out in 1946. When the Americans colonised the Philippines they wanted to taint his reputation of Aguinaldo as he symbolised freedom and independence from conquerors. Imagine if you were the Americans at that time, why would you want a a revolutionary leader around who could possibly start another revolution against you? As a result, Americans wanted to mold and shape the thinking of Filipinos and labeled Aguinaldo as a murderer, coward etc. He is completely the opposite, he was just a humble man who just kept in silence. Regarding Bonifacio's execution? Bonifacio became jealous when Aguinaldo was voted President of the revolutionary government by the members as they believed he was more capable a leader (well he did win most of the major battles against Spain). WHo wouldn't be? Imagine you started Katipunan, you're called the "father of the revolution", and you don't become president? PLUS members of your own faction voted for the other guy (Katipunan was divided into two groups, Magdiwag faction and Magdalo of which Bonifacio and Aguinaldo were leaders respectively) ?! So when Aguinaldo requested help from Bonifacio for extra troops on one of his battle, Bonifacio gave him the deaf ear. He also plotted an interception and kidnapping of Aguinaldo that was later on leaked to one of Aguinaldo's men and thus prevented. Trust me, you won't read details like this in common history books simply because during the American occupation, as control of the Filipinos' minds was the first priority of the American colonizers. Because of this, a great majority of us Filipinos have lost our capacity to think for ourselves. Is it any wonder then that many of us show little interest for our own customs and traditions and for Filipino values? Filipinos who remember those times said that American teachers "corrected" students whenever they described Aguinaldo as a revolutionary leader, the American teachers said "No, he was a bandit". Tsk tsk

Aguinaldo was maligned, but he kept his silence in quiet dignity. And he knew, that even if he was dying, at least his cause triumphed.

Only true educated Filipinos would know about this. Because those who are really interested, delve into history books and documents.

No offense but I certainly would not rely on a foreigner to inform me the history of a country to which he was not born into, furthermore not even a Filipino himself. Similar to why would an American trust another foreigner to tell him about American history? Right?

PhilippinesPhil said...

That may be as you say, but I find it interesting and more than a little telling that so little attention is paid to the June 12 Independence Day. The president gives it so little shrift that she just changed the day to celebrate it out of convenience to a day contiguous to the weekend. And actually, I don't blame you for feeling resentment, for as you say, I am a foreigner, and no longer how long I live here I always will be. On the other hand, back home, some of our best historians come originally from outside the country.

I have to say that I'm a bit troubled. You say that I'm supposed to trust you and your other educated countrymen on "the details," and only educated Filipinos know the truth and all the hidden truths? Please excuse my skepticism. If it's the truth, then why not put it in the history books for all of us to examine? Let all of us partake of it. I spend a lot of time with ordinary locals, and because of my love of history, when I engage them on their own history it is very rare that I am not one the doing the explaining and recounting. Every so often however, I'll run into someone that teaches me a thing or two, and I LOVE it when it happens. Thing is, I've yet to meet one that had much praise, if any, for Emilio. I didn't just come up with my ambivalousness for him on my own; much of it comes from Filipinos.

Thanks for commenting. I always enjoy these kinds of tête à têtes.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Anonymous needs a more reading regarding Andres Bonifacio's fate in Cavite. Remember that Aguinaldo won battles because it is in Cavite. Manila and suburbs, Bonifacio's turf is well surrounded by Spanish Authorities. It is not that simple to overturn enemies. Yes, we are aware of what happened in the Tejeros Convention.. it is a clear power grabbing of the elite on the leadership of the revolution. In the end, Bonifacio found himself on the wrong side of the fence and have men of the greatest traitors, switching of sides, and election fraud. In fairness to Aguinaldo, he has paid his dues. Today, he is revered as a patriot, a politician but not a HERO like Andres Bonifacio. What if the election was held in Manila? or What if Bonifacio escaped from Limbon Cavite on the way to Morong? His end might not that unfortunate and Aguinaldo might not lived up to 95 years. (Anonymous2)

PhilippinesPhil said...

Yup! "What ifs" are interesting to think about aren't they? And "If only's" as well. I doubt if Andres even realized that he was on his way to his death as he was led away by his captors on his last day. Perhaps he thought they were merely being taken to a place of exile, which was a common thing to do back then. Aguinaldo's men were told to take him and the others to a certain spot in the mountains and only then read their final instructions, at which time Andres and crew were unceremoniously shot and dumped in shallow graves. It was what it was. It was and is a shame. Aguinaldo's complicity in Bonifacio's death was indeed forgiven but never forgotten, which is probably why he never had any luck in politics after that. To an outsider like myself it's all very intriguing stuff indeed!

Anonymous said...

Just read Alfred Saulo's book which is "The Truth about Emilio Aguinaldo and other heroes". And I just want to point out that Emilio Aguinaldo was not a murderer and not a coward. My professor gave me a topic to research if Aguinaldo is really a coward and recommended the book which is found in De La Salle Library in Taft.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I don't think he personally murdered anyone either, at least not with his own hands. Fact is though, he was in charge when his government had the Bonifacio's ignominiously put to death; he was also at the helm when his Kawit troops assasinated General Luna. Those events happened and are not disputable. My opinion is that he was a weak leader who allowed others to improperly influence his decisions (for instance he wanted Bonifacio exiled and yet allowed himself to be overruled to the eternal shame of this country). Evidently most Filipinos of the time after the beginning of the American period thought Aguinaldo was NOT "the man" either, as he tried several times later in life to get back into national political office but was always rejected at the polls. Fairly or not, they blamed him for the failures of the last revolution against Spain and blamed him also for losing the fight against the Americans. Many also believe that Aguinaldo was a bit too cozy with the enemy during the Japanese occupation. THE place to go though to read and hear about him in THE best light of course is to his home province of Cavite where he has ALWAYS been held in high regard and conversely, where the Bonifacio's are generally considered to have gotten exactly what they deserved. Ask ANY Caviteno and they'll tell you the man was the greatest leader hero since Washington. But, historians and academics from other provinces are usually ambivalent about the guy at best. History here is brilliant that way isn't it? If you are serious about studying the man, read EVERYTHING, not just the one book, and then make up your own mind. AFter all, parochialism (and wishful thinking) is alive and well among historian authors in this fair country. As for me, he is one of THE most fascinating of all the local historical figures I've encountered, precisely because of his perceived weaknesses. And as far as his big ol fancy house goes, it IS A MUST see!

manilamaria said...

Excellent discussion. I am helping my daughter with her history day project and she picked E A. For all the dubious events surrounding his leadership in the Philippine revolution, he was only 29 when he became the first Philippine president, an undergrad, and from the sound of it, not well-travelled. He did not have the wisdom of an older man like J. R., and I think this contributed to the flaws in his actions.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hi MM. Thanks for visiting and for your thoughtful comments. There is probably something to your observation that Aguinaldo's comparative youth and inexperience may have contributed to his decision making mistakes. THAT probably explains why he apparently allowed others to influence him to do the bad when he KNEW he SHOULD do otherwise. After all, it wasn't his idea to kill Bonifacio; in fact he ordered exile not death. (Then again, perhaps the order was a ruse by him to make the execution easier to accomplish). As far as why he had Luna killed, I just don't get that one. It would have been far better to simply relieve him of command, much as it would have better served his ends to simply exile Bonifacio. Aside from his inexperience I personally think that his heavy-handedness is directly a result of his exposure to the vagaries of cruel Spanish rule. In effect, Aguinaldo and his people became much like their Spanish enemies, which in part led to their undoing and ultimate failure against both the Spanish and the Americans too.

Maria, glad if any of my humble observations and ramblings was any help at all with your daughter's studies of The General.

manilamria said...

One of the post put it in perspective for me--EA is a patriot not hero in the caliber of JR and AB. The death of AB is pretty hard to overlook. Never liked him growing up as a kid learning Philippine history. Delving more into his character and motivation is only reinforcing it, I never even knew the circumstances behind Gen. A. Luna's death until now, but I'll give EA the benefit of the doubt. Taking into account Filipino psyche, machismo, and nepotism, it seemed revenge for the dishonor is the motivation and making it a personal vendatta with the help of few cronies. People will kill over cockfighting or election results. Witth these in mind, we decided to examine EA from the American and Filipino perspective, I was shocked to learn that the Americans thought of him as an insurgent. I always thought of him as the first Philippine president---perspective. So we came up with a title EA: Rebel or Patriot (note: not a hero).

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hi Manilamria. You ARE correct. We absolutely did consider Aguinaldo an insurgent. That happened when he refused to accept our "guidance" as new colonial masters which caused him to exercise his prerogative to resist. I don't blame him one bit for that. But his problem of course is that the Philippines was still fractured by the hundreds of years of Spanish rule and policy designed to keep Filipinos from having much if any loyalty to each other. And actually, it caused them to be deeply suspicious of each other. “Divide to KEEP em conquered” worked quite effectively. It allowed a relatively few Spaniards to control a HUGE country for a LONG time. I believe that fractiousness was THE primary reason we felt it necessary to stay on. Other European and Asian nations were already waiting on the sidelines to come in and split up the spoils and they told us as much. Where we went wrong is not giving potential leaders like Aguinaldo more say in the immediate aftermath of our arrival. We literally pushed Aguinaldo aside and he was not willing to do that. However, if Aguinaldo would have had his way he would have kicked the Americans out immediately and THAT would have spelled the end of this country as we know it. It’s likely that the archipelago would now be separated into at least 4 or 5 separate nations or even more likely it would have been annexed into others. He had no military to speak of and most of the inhabitants did not even speak each other’s language. Nope, as much as Philippine academia loves to disparage Americans for coming in here and forcefully taking over, doing so is the very reason there is still a Philippines today. Aguinaldo had it wrong. The longer I study it the more I’m convinced of that.