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Emilio Famy Aguinaldo (March 22, 1869—February 6, 1964) was a Filipino general, politician, and independence leader. He played an instrumental role in Philippine Revolution against Spain, as well as the Philippine-American War in opposition to American occupation.
In the Philippines, Aguinaldo is recognized as the country's first president, though his office is not recognized in all international circles.
Early life and career
The seventh of eight children of Carlos Aguinaldo and Trinidad Famy, he was born into a Chinese-mestizo family in Cavite El Viejo (now Kawit), Cavite province. His father was gobernadorcillo (town head), and as members of the Chinese-mestizo minority they enjoyed relative wealth and power.
As a young boy, Aguinaldo received basic education from his great-aunt and later attended the town's elementary school. In 1880, he took up his secondary course education at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, which he quit on his third year to return home instead to help his widowed mother manage their farm.
At the age of 17, Emilio was elected cabeza de barangay of Binakayan, the most progressive barrio of Cavite El Viejo. He held this position serving for his town-mates for eight years. He also engaged in inter-island shipping, travelling as far south as the Sulu Archipelago.
In 1893, the Maura Law was passed to reorganize town governments with the aim of making them more effective and autonomous, changing the designation of town head from gobernadorcillo to capitan municipal effective 1895. On January 1, 1895, Aguinaldo was elected town head, becoming the first person to hold the title of capitan municipal of Cavite El Viejo.
Fight for Philippine independence
The Philippine Revolution
In 1895, Aguinaldo joined the Katipunan brotherhood, a secret organization then led by Andrés Bonifacio dedicated to the expulsion of the Spanish and independence for the Philippines. He joined as a lieutenant under Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo and rose to the rank of general in a few months. With the Katipunan, he helped the Philippines erupt in revolt against the Spaniards in 1896. He won several victories in Cavite Province, temporarily driving the Spanish out of the area. When Bonifacio came out of hiding in March 1897 and tried to reassert his leadership of the Katipunan, Aguinaldo ordered his arrest. He eventually ordered Bonifacio's execution on May 10, 1897.
Spanish attacks intensified, eventually forcing the Katipunan forces to retreat to the mountains. On December 14, 1897, the Pact of Biak-na-Bato was concluded. Under the pact, indemnities were to be paid in the amount of 400,000 pesos, and Aguinaldo along with 34 other leaders of the rebellion were to go into voluntary exile in Hong Kong. Aguinaldo took the money offered, but instead of remaining in exile he used the money to buy more weapons for the Filipino revolutionists. He returned to the Philippines in May 1898.
Upon Aguinaldo's return, he immediately resumed revolutionary activities against the Spaniards, now receiving encouragement from the United States.
In 1898 the Spanish-American War started and Aguinaldo contacted American officials in hopes that they would aid in his struggle for independence. He initially received mixed signals, but fought in alliance with the Americans to oust the Spanish, including turning over 15,000 captured Spanish troops over to Admiral Dewey. However, relations with the Americans became increasingly strained when they showed no desire to recognize Philippine independence and sovereignty, and instead began occupying the country as the Spanish had. Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 . The Philippine Constitutional Convention elected him President on January 1, 1899.
The Philippine-American War
On the night of February 4, 1899, a Filipino was shot by an American sentry as he crossed the San Juan bridge. This incident is considered the beginning of the Philippine-American War, and open fighting soon broke out between American troops and pro-independence Filipinos. Superior American firepower drove Filipino troops away from the city, and the Malolos government had to transfer from one place to another.
Aguinaldo led resistance to the American occupation, then retreated to northern Luzon with the Americans on his trail. He was captured in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901 by US General Frederick Funston, who had gained access to Aguinaldo's camp by pretending to surrender to the Filipinos.
Taking him into custody, Funston noted his "dignified bearing," "excellent qualities," and "humane instincts." He accepted an offer that his life would be spared if he pledged allegiance to the United States. He pledged allegiance on April 1, 1901, effectively ending the First Republic and recognizing the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippines. Although a few others continued to resist, Aguinaldo's surrender virtually ended the Filipino-American War.
American colonial period
During the years of American rule, Aguinaldo continued to pursue his goal of a free and independent Philippines. He staunchly supported groups that advocated immediate independence, and helped veterans of the struggle. He organized the Asociacion de los Veteranos de la Revolucion (Association of Veterans of the Revolution), which secured pensions for its members and made arrangements for them to buy land on installment from the government.
When the American government finally allowed the Philippine flag to be displayed in 1919, Aguinaldo transformed his home in Kawit into a monument to the flag, the revolution and the declaration of Independence. His home still stands, and is known as the Aguinaldo Shrine.
Aguinaldo retired from public life for many years. In 1935 when the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established in preparation for Philippine independence, he ran for president but decisively lost the election to fiery Spanish mestizo Manuel L. Quezon.
Aguinaldo again retired to private life until the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War II. He was used by the Japanese as an anti-American tool, forced to make speeches, sign articles, and make infamous radio addresses in support of the Japanese — including a radio appeal to Gen. Douglas MacArthur on Corregidor to surrender in order to spare the innocence of the Filipino youth.
After the Americans retook the Philippines, Aguinaldo was arrested along with several others accused of collaboration with the Japanese. He was held in Bilibid prison for months until released by presidential amnesty. In his trial, it was determined that his broadcasts were made under great duress (the Japanese had threatened to murder his entire family), and his name was cleared.
Aguinaldo lived to see his lifelong goal of independence for his nation achieved on July 4, 1946, when the United States Government marked the full restoration and recognition of Philippine independence. During the independence parade at the Luneta, the 77-year old general carried the flag he raised in Kawit on June 12, 1898, the date he believed to be the true Independence Day.
In 1950, as a token vindication of his honor, President Elpidio Quirino appointed Aguinaldo as a member of the Council of State, where he served a full term. He returned to retirement soon after, dedicating his time and attention to veteran soldier’s interest and welfare, the promotion of nationalism and democracy in the Philippines and the development of the relationship between the Philippines and the United States.
In 1962, when the United States rejected Philippine claims for the destruction wrought by American forces in World War II, president Diosdado Macapagal changed the celebration of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12. Aguinaldo regarded this to be as the greatest victory of the Revolution of 1896. He rose from his sickbed to attend the celebration of independence 64 years after he declared it.
- History of the Philippines
- Philippine Revolution
- Spanish-American War
- Philippine-American War
- President of the Philippines
- Aguinaldo Shrine
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