MORE QUESTIONS ON LUNA’S ‘DEADLY’ P3.2-M TELEGRAM
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.”
Decoded words rendered in italics above match Antonio Luna’s scrawl at the bottom of the message. Luna did not draft a