Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Am­beth R. Ocampo @In­q_Lifestyle

Con­tro­versy con­tin­ues to swirl over a tele­gram sold at auc­tion last week for P3.2 mil­lion. That may seem like a lot of money for a yel­lowed piece of pa­per with a miss­ing corner, but this is no or­di­nary tele­gram—it was her­alded as “The Ex­tremely His­tor­i­cally Im­por­tant Hen. Luna Tele­gram from Emilio Aguinaldo sum­mon­ing him to his death.”

Ev­ery­one who has seen the block­buster film “Hen­eral Luna” is cu­ri­ous to know the mas­ter­mind be­hind Luna’s as­sas­si­na­tion, and this tele­gram may very well be the smok­ing gun his­to­ri­ans have been look­ing for. Or is it? A noisy mi­nor­ity, in­clud­ing par­ti­sans of Emilio Aguinaldo, claim the tele­gram is fake, not know­ing that a clerk or tele­graph op­er­a­tor in Luna’s Dagu­pan of­fice copied and num­bered it in a log book.

The log is part of the mass of doc­u­ments known as the “Philip­pine In­sur­gent Records” now pre­served in The Na­tional Li­brary of the Philip­pines.

Not one, but three

Decades ago I went quickly through the log that cov­ers May 14 to June 24, 1899 and did not find any “deadly” tele­gram mes­sage in it.

His­to­rian Jim Richard­son re­cently checked the mi­cro­film copy, made from a mas­ter in the United States Li­brary of Congress that had the fore­sight to in­dex and pho­to­graph the en­tire ar­chive be­fore the orig­i­nal doc­u­ments were repa­tri­ated to Manila, like the Balangiga Bells, as a gift.

He found not one but three tele­grams ad­dressed to the Sec­re­tary of War, sent from the Pres­i­dent’s Head­quar­ters in Ca­banat­uan on June 4, 1899, the day be­fore Luna’s death.

These are num­bered 211, 218 and 224. All con­tain the same mes­sage as the “deadly” tele­gram sold at auc­tion last week:

“Fo­labo puonci­mane iun thi­un­do­ton­ade sin or­denar feg­mi­caen ciusi Esperando con­testa­cion a mi tele­grama an­te­rior en que le pe­dia piso in­cup­si­caen Su­plico ur­gen­cia.”

The mes­sage in Span­ish, with some words scram­bled in a sim­ple code, can be de­coded by switch­ing the vow­els and some con­so­nants into:

“Felipe Buen­camino aun de­tenido sin or­denar for­ma­cion causa. Esperando con­testa­cion a mi tele­grama an­te­rior en que le pe­dia base acusa­cion. Su­plico ur­gen­cia.”

No re­ply

De­coded words ren­dered in ital­ics above match An­to­nio Luna’s scrawl at the bot­tom of the mes­sage. Luna did not draft a

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