My Lolo Miguel, the hero

(Part 2)

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By DR. BERNARDO M. VIL­LE­GAS

COM­ING from neigh­bor­ing towns, the Mal­vars and the fam­ily of na­tional hero Jose Rizal had very close re­la­tion­ships. It was the bril­liant Doc­tor Jose Rizal who mended the hare­lip of my grand­mother. One of the sis­ters of Jose Rizal, Saturn­ina, lent my Lolo 1,000 (a sub­stan­tial amount dur­ing that time) as an ini­tial cap­i­tal to start a busi­ness. The hus­band of Saturn­ina, Manuel, was a rel­a­tive of the Mal­vars. One of the nieces of Jose Rizal, the daugh­ter of his sis­ter Soledad, mar­ried my un­cle Bern­abe, the eldest of the Mal­var sib­lings. Fi­nally, in his strug­gle against the Spa­niards and later against the Amer­i­cans, Lolo Miguel fought side by side with Pa­ciano, one of Jose’s sib­lings. Pa­ciano, who joined Mal­var in ob­ject­ing to the de­ci­sion of Emilio Aguinaldo and his group to sub­mit to the Spa­niards at Biak-na-Bato, was my Lolo’s close com­rade-in-arms. To­gether they com­manded the units that op­er­ated in Mak­il­ing, Pa­ciano on the La­guna slope and Mal­var on the Batan­gas side.

My Lolo was no ide­o­logue. He was a very prac­ti­cal en­tre­pre­neur en­gaged in high-value farm­ing to­gether with his fa­ther. As Abaya and Kar­ganilla wrote, he was deeply re­li­gious, regularly at­tend­ing Mass at the town church, pray­ing the An­gelus and other in­vo­ca­tions in Latin. He was rad­i­cal­ized by an un­for­tu­nate clash with the abu­sive and im­moral parish priest of Sto. To­mas. The Span­ish friar used dis­hon­est means to try to un­seat my great-grand­fa­ther Max­imo as gob­er­nadi­cillo (mayor) of Sto. To­mas, in fa­vor of another can­di­date whose daugh­ter was the paramour of the priest. His dis­il­lu­sion­ment with this man of the cloth steered my Lolo Miguel and the other anti-cler­i­cal ac­tivists in the town to­wards the cur­rents of Revo­lu­tion.

Quot­ing from the bi­og­ra­phy of Abaya and Kar­ganilla, it is highly prob­a­ble that the peo­ple’s upris­ing, high­lighted by the Cry of Pu­gad Lawin/Bal­intawak in the last week of Au­gust, 1896, made such an im­pact that it brought Mal­var’s dis­gust with the Span­ish colo­nial sys­tem out into the open. In any case, it is un­de­ni­able that Mal­var was a lead­ing of­fi­cer in the bat­tles for in­de­pen­dence from Spain from Au­gust, 1896, to De­cem­ber, 1897. His very first armed ac­tion was the im­mo­bi­liza­tion of his own town’s po­lice force. Then with his 70-man army, who were mostly rel­a­tives and friends, armed with mostly bo­los, a few re­volvers and shot­guns, Mal­var raided the Span­ish quar­ters at Tal­isay. From that mo­ment on, he aban­doned his home and his busi­ness, seek­ing sanc­tu­ary in the wilds of Mak­il­ing which he made his head­quar­ters as he fought a guer­rilla war­fare, first with the Spa­niards, then with the Amer­i­cans.

As mil­i­tary com­man­der of Batan­gas, he co­or­di­nated of­fen­sives with Gen­eral Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies in Cavite, and with his close friend Pa­ciano Rizal, leader of the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies in La­guna. Af­ter the Te­jeros Con­ven­tion, in which Aguinaldo came out as pres­i­dent, Mal­var de­cided to side with An­dres Boni­fa­cio, the supremo of the Katipunan. Un­for­tu­nately, in a strug­gle for power, the Aguinaldo camp suc­ceeded in elim­i­nat­ing Boni­fa­cio and his brother Pro­co­pio who were mur­dered on May 10, 1897, in the moun­tains of Maragon­don, specif­i­cally on Mount Bun­tis. With Aguinaldo in com­plete con­trol of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary forces against the Spa­niards, he ar­rived at a pact (called the pact of Biak-na-Bato) which sub­se­quently led to the ex­ile of Aguinaldo and his ilustrado co­horts to Hong Kong. In this stage of the strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence, Mal­var man­i­fested the virtue of in­tegrity by not fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of the other rebels who took the money paid by the Spa­niards for the up­keep of the ex­iles in Hong Kong and pock­eted the amount in­stead of turn­ing it to Aguinaldo. Only Mal­var went to Hong Kong with his wife and three sons and turned over his share of 8,000 to the rev­o­lu­tion­ary funds to buy arms. In fact, Mal­var was one of those ap­pointed by the Hong Kong junta to be in charge of se­cur­ing arms to be used if and when hos­til­i­ties against the Spa­niards would flare up once again.

Af­ter the Philip­pines and Cuba were sold to the Amer­i­cans by the Spa­niards, the revo­lu­tion for in­de­pen­dence en­tered a new stage. It was on Fe­bru­ary 4, 1899, that hos­til­i­ties be­gan be­tween Amer­i­cans and Filipinos. Three days later, Lolo Miguel was ap­pointed sec­ond-in-com­mand of Gen­eral Mar­i­ano Trias, who was the over­all com­man­der of the Filipinos forces in South­ern Luzon. He then joined forces with Gen­eral An­to­nio Luna to try to cap­ture Manila. Un­for­tu­nately, the Filipino of­fen­sive failed mainly be­cause of the in­sub­or­di­na­tion of the Kawit Bat­tal­ion. Af­ter Calamba fell into the hands of the Amer­i­cans, Mal­var un­suc­cess­fully be­sieged this town in La­guna from Au­gust to De­cem­ber, 1899. Gen­eral Aguinaldo was equally un­suc­cess­ful in his at­tempt to bring the bat­tle to Pan­gasi­nan and Is­abela, where he was cap­tured by the Amer­i­cans on March 21, 1901. Gen­eral Trias, the cho­sen suc­ces­sor of Aguinaldo had ac­tu­ally sur­ren­dered even ear­lier on March 15, 1901. This se­ries of events prompted a num­ber of his­to­ri­ans to spec­u­late that since my Lolo Miguel was des­ig­nated in Aguinaldo’s de­creed line of suc­ces­sion as the next to Trias, Mal­var be­came pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines with the cap­ture of Aguinaldo and the sur­ren­der of Trias.

Again, it may not mat­ter whether or not we shall ever re­solve the ques­tion of who was the sec­ond pres­i­dent of the Philip­pine Re­pub­lic af­ter Aguinaldo. On Septem­ber 18, 2007, Rodolfo Va­len­cia, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Ori­en­tal Min­doro, filed House Bill 2594 declar­ing Mal­var as the sec­ond Philip­pine pres­i­dent, al­leg­ing that Mal­var took over the rev­o­lu­tion­ary gov­ern­ment af­ter Gen­eral Emilio Aguinaldo, first pres­i­dent of the Re­pub­lic, was cap­tured and was ex­iled to Hong Kong by the Amer­i­can colo­nial gov­ern­ment. Four years af­ter, in Oc­to­ber, 2011, Vice Pres­i­dent Je­jo­mar Bi­nay sought the help of his­to­ri­ans in pro­claim­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary Gen­eral Miguel Mal­var as the right­ful sec­ond pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines. The is­sue may never be set­tled but the re­ally im­por­tant fact is that my Lolo ded­i­cated four years of his young life to heroic acts of valor in the bat­tle­field, jus­tice and com­pas­sion to­wards cap­tured en­e­mies, ad­mirable pru­dence in choos­ing sides in fa­vor of those who were re­ally fight­ing for the good of the coun­try, mod­er­a­tion in mak­ing use of the re­sources that were en­trusted to him by the rev­o­lu­tion­ary forces, un­fail­ing love for his fam­ily, and great op­ti­mism and cheer­ful­ness in fac­ing ad­ver­si­ties. Even his sur­ren­der to US Gen­eral Franklin Bell was the re­sult of the act of virtues of jus­tice and char­ity to­wards his re­main­ing sol­diers (a good num­ber of of­fi­cers de­serted him) and his fam­ily who no longer could bear the hunger and suf­fer­ings in the moun­tains of Mak­il­ing. It is on record that Gen­eral Bell ad­mired my Lolo as an “of­fi­cer and gen­tle­man,” of­fer­ing him high po­si­tions in the Amer­i­can colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tion, such as the gov­er­nor­ship of the im­por­tant province of Batan­gas. (To be con­tin­ued)

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