122nd anniversary of the Battle of Imus

The City Government of Imus, Cavite Province, led by Mayor Emmanuel “Manny” Maliksi, commemorated this morning the 122nd anniversary of the Katipunan’s siege of Imus, more famously known as the Battle of Imus, that occurred from 1–3 September 1896. The said battle is considered as the first major encounter between the Katipunan rebels led by Emilio Aguinaldo and Imus’s very own José Tagle versus the Spanish colonial government helmed by then Governor General Ramón Blanco.

The austere event began at the Imus Cathedral (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar) where Mass was celebrated by none other than Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle (great grandson of José). A flag-raising ceremony followed afterwards at the nearby Imus Sports Complex attended by all employees, public servants, and peace-keeping officers of the city hall. The city’s top government leaders gave inspiring speeches. The most interesting was that of Mayor Manny’s as he became a historian of sorts that day. Click on the following photo below to watch his very interesting, trivia-laced speech.


After the speeches, we all proceeded to the 161-year-old Bridge of Isabel II (Puente de Isabel II), a heritage site. It is where the Battle of Imus had its climax. Historian Emmanuel Calairo, Director of the Cavite Studies Center, gave a brief speech about the significance of the site. Click on the photo below to watch his speech and the offering of flowers at the bridge to commemorate the fallen fighters, both Katipuneros and government troops.


I’ll be blogging more about this very soon. Stay tuned.

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Puente de Isabel II.


Another Emilio Aguinaldo speech in Spanish

In recent years, YouTube has become a wonderful site to search for vintage videos about our country’s storied past. There you will find hitherto rare documentaries about Manila’s still existing Hispanic character during the US colonization period, its heartbreaking destruction during World War II, and even presidential speeches in the Spanish language such as the one delivered by Elpidio Quirino sometime during the late 1940s. For this blogpost, we share a speech of yet another president, in fact our country’s first president: Emilio Aguinaldo. And it’s also delivered in Spanish.

Just a few years ago, a very early video of his was uploaded on YouTube and made the rounds of various local Facebook groups and pages which were advocating for the return of the Spanish language in Filipinas. In that rare 1931 footage (actually an excerpt from the documentary “Around the World in 80 Minutes with Douglas Fairbanks”), silent film star Douglas Fairbanks visited Aguinaldo in his home in Cavite el Viejo (now Kawit), Cavite and had the former president deliver a short message in Spanish. Although grainy with an almost inaudible audio, that video clip was shared many times not only on Facebook but on various social media, and was even featured in popular website FilipiKnow.


Screengrab of Emilio Aguinaldo delivering his taped speech from the balcony of his mansion.

Early last month, a YouTube user who goes by the name Lasotube uploaded another precious video of El Presidente who, at first viewing, appeared to be delivering a speech to an audience. It turns out that he was in fact recording his speech which topic seems to be about “moving figures” that “emits voices”. Aguinaldo was probably describing the television (TV). Without further ado, here’s the recording of that speech with an accompanying transcription below it…


Me pide usted dos palabras. Diré algunas ideas mías sobre los inventos.

El aparato que usted manipula es maravilloso porque reproduce la figura movible al mismo tiempo que emita el sonido de la voz. Cuando con el tiempo se perfeccione este invento, el mundo quedará sorprendido ante los cuadros vivientes y parlantes que ellos exhibirá sobre el tiempo.

La ciencia ha acrecentado del paso acelerado de los adelantos modernos. Por medio de la ciencia, conservamos la salud e inclusive devolvemos la juventud a los que la han perdido. La ciencia también ha impulsado los inventos que se dirigen a la destrucción del hombre por el hombre. Estas dos tendencias contrarias todavía nos dicen que la cantidad de la animalidad en nosotros es muy grande.

¿Cuándo podía la ciencia perfeccionar aparatos que reformen y regeneren a los hombres? ¿Cuándo podrá nuestra humanidad decir que va camino de perfección moral de la fraternidad de todos los hombres, de todos los pueblos, de todas las razas, y de todos los credos?

Cuando llegue ese día, habremos despejado las fronteras, destruido todos los aparatos bélicos, y sólo admiraremos un invento, un aparato, el más maravilloso, y el que haya traído paz y concordia entre todos los hombres del universo entero.

The invention that El Presidente was referring to in this taping could surely only be a television. Below is my free translation:

You ask me two words, but I will share some ideas of mine about inventions.

The equipment that you operate is wonderful because it reproduces moving figures at the same time that it emits voices. When this invention is perfected over time, the world will be taken aback by the moving and talking pictures which these equipments will exhibit.

Science has increased the accelerated pace of modern advances. Through science, we are able to conserve our health and could even retain youth to those who have aged. But science has also promoted inventions that are aimed at the destruction of man by fellowman. These two contrary tendencies still tell us that the amount of brutality within us is very great.

When could science perfect devices that can reform and improve men? When will our humanity be able to say that it is already on the path of moral perfection with regards the fraternity of all men, of all peoples, of all races, and of all creeds?

When that day arrives, we will have erased all borders, destroyed all warlike devices. And we will only admire an invention, an apparatus, the most wonderful, one that has brought peace and harmony among all men throughout the world.

TV technology was invented in 1927, or two years before Aguinaldo’s speech was recorded (according to Lasotube, it was on 11 February 1929, recorded much earlier than the 1931 Fairbanks documentary). However, it should be noted that TV was introduced to Filipinas only during the 1950s. Maybe Aguinaldo was referring to the very same apparatus which recorded this speech of his — the video recorder?

While the speech was very brief, it was recorded in two takes. And before the second take was about to begin, President Aguinaldo uttered his introduction in a rather halting but sure English, to the point of even sounding British!

There must have been other takes of this speech that are not yet uploaded. Lasotube didn’t divulge enough details of what exactly Aguinaldo’s speech was all about, or what the purpose was. Neither did he reveal where he got this precious footage. But the video is still made more interesting since one could grasp background details of the president’s surroundings: a few seconds into it, one could hear people whispering in Spanish (probably the crew who were to record the president’s speech), roosters could be heard crowing, and birds chirping all throughout the recording. This reveals how rustic Cavite el Viejo was during the late 1920s as compared to today. And towards the end of his speech, the mild tolling of the bells of nearby Santa María Magdalena Church could be heard interspersing with the president’s sonorous Spanish, punctuating the fact that his speech was about to end.

In this speech, the former president also waxed philosophic. As he extolled science for this new invention that he was marveling at, at the same time he expressed his reservation more because of man’s brutality. He also longed for the day when all warlike devices are finally destroyed. This, coming from a man who once rebelled against Spain!

This is just one of those videos proving that Emilio Aguinaldo was no stranger to the Spanish language, as how he is usually depicted in schools and textbooks. Yes, it was a speech that was read, but it doesn’t take rocket science to determine that he was comfortable in speaking it.

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222nd foundation day of Imus, Cavite

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Imus Cathedral, formally known as La Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Pilar (photo: Imus City Tourism).

Este pueblo, con la advocación de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, se erigió en curato, separándose de su matriz, Cavite el Viejo, en 3 de octubre de 1795. Por superior decreto, expedido en la misma fecha, se adjudicó su administración espiritual a los PP. Recoletos, a petición del común de principales y demás naturales del espresado pueblo, después de resuelto el expediente que al efecto se instruyó y siguió.
Su situación es en una llanura de regadío comprendido entre los 14° 26′ y los 14° 19′ de latitud occidental, a media legua de la playa. Se cosecha en este terreno mucho pálay, azúcar, y añil en poca cantidad. Abundan los árboles frutales, en especial los de mangas. Los naturales se dedican al cultivo de la tierra y a la cría del ganado vacuno y de cerda.
A las inmediaciones del pueblo corre un río, que aunque no muy caudaloso sino en tiempo de lluvias, es navegable hasta el pueblo por embarcaciones de poco porte.
Los colaterales son Cavite el Viejo y Bacoor, ambos a una legua de distancia.
Es su Cura párroco, con presentación del Sr. Vice-Patrono Real, el P. ex-Definidor Fr. Guillermo Royo de S. Juan Bautista, de 37 años de edad y 15 de administración.
Source: Fr. Juan Félix de la Encarnación, Estadística de la Provincia de S. Nicolás de Tolentino de PP. Agustinos Recoletos de Filipinas (Manila: Imprenta de los Amigos del País, 1851), 24-25.

U.S. invaders in camp at the left side of Imus Church, 1899 (photo: Arnaldo Dumindín).

This town, dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar, was erected as a parish on 3 October 1795 when it separated from its mother town, Cavite el Viejo1. By superior decree issued on the same date, the town was placed under the spiritual administration of the Recollect Fathers at the request of its main community and other natives, after the document had been resolved which was instructed and followed for this purpose.
Its location is on an irrigation plain between 14° 26 ‘and 14° 19’ western latitude, half a league2 from the beach3. Much rice and sugar are harvested from this land, with small quantities of indigo. Fruit trees, especially mangoes, abound. The natives are dedicated to the cultivation of the land and to the breeding of cattle and pigs.
Within the vicinity of the town runs a river4 which, although it doesn’t flow that much save during the rainy season, boats of small size can still navigate it all the way to town.
The neighboring towns are Cavite el Viejo and Bacoor, both a league away.

The parish priest, with presentation of the Vice-Patrono Real, is Ex-Definer Fr. Guillermo Royo de San Juan Bautista, 37 years of age and 15 years in office.

1 now known as Kawit, but more correctly spelled as Cáuit.
2 a league is 3.462 mi.
3 Manila Bay.
4 Imus River.

🎂Happy 222nd foundation day to the dynamic City of Imus, Cavite Province!😇

The Battle of Alapán

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Premiere of Alen de la Cruz’s “Bago Ang Kalayaan” at the Imus Sports Complex (photo: MAYOR Emmanuel MALIKSI Facebook page.)

The only thing that warmed up the air-conditioned stadium that windy evening of July 7 in Imus was the cordial smiles of its smartly dressed crowd. Frocked in Filipiniana attire, the guests were huddled to their seats by courteous ushers who themselves were dressed to the nines. Near the entrance, a four-piece orchestra filled the already festive air with classic Filipino favorites. Beside them were dioramas and artistic sketches of the Katipunan, the seditious group that ignited our country’s eventual breakup with Spain in 1898.

All corners of the stadium were covered with black drapes to keep the entire stadium as dark as possible. At the farthest end of the stadium, the focal point of the seated audience was a wide screen. The entire Imus Sports Complex was virtually converted into a gigantic movie theater as a culmination of the city’s week-long cityhood anniversary. They were all anticipating their local government’s “labor of love” — the premiere of a docudrama recounting Imus’s celebrated Battle of Alapán.

“Today, I just want to say that this project has been a long-awaited dream of yours truly,” City Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi beamed proudly during the brief press conference preceding the film showing. The young city magistrate has been planning for this for a long time. The fifth cityhood celebration of his beloved city was the perfect event to turn that dream into reality.

Before independence

Ask anyone where our flag was first unfurled and waved, and he will give you an immediate answer: in Kawit (Cauit), Cavite. That is the standard reply.

Unless the person you ask is an Imuseño.

To the natives of Imus, what is common knowledge to us is for them fable. Imus is not called the “Flag Capital of the Philippines” for nothing, for it was there where our national flag was first unfurled and waved. Mayor Manny’s film project sought to fight the fable. And to non-Imuseño visitors who attended the film showing, the press conference gave light as to why the city bears the flag capital tag. It was there, particularly in Barrio Alapán, where the flag was first waved, but as a war ensign.

Imus in revolutionary history was a foretelling of the climax that was the Declaration of Independence. The docudrama, titled “Bago ang Kalayaan: Imuseño sa Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas“, sought to retell the importance of Imus and its place in Filipino History. Produced by the City Government of Imus and Infinidad Entertainment, the docudrama, helmed by fledgling director Alen de la Cruz, paid tribute to the city’s local heroes (José Tagle, Licerio Topacio, Hipólito Saquilayan, etc.) who participated in the rebellion against Spain as well as to introduce the Battle of Alapán to a much wider audience.

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Image: City Government of Imus.

It is not widely known that, two weeks before Emilio Aguinaldo’s declaration of independence from Spain on 12 June 1898 in Cauit, the Filipino flag was first waved, in fact had its baptism of fire, in Imus. It was first used rather fortuitously in a grassy field just outside the población. This site was part of the sylvan barrio of Alapán. Historian Alfredo Saulo described Alapán as forested, but the name itself, an old Tagálog word which means a place where cows feed on grass, aptly describes how the barrio looked like at the time of the battle: it was then grazing grounds for cattle.

As the story goes, the flag, freshly arrived from Hong Kong, was in the hands of Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army when it clashed with Spanish troops stationed at Imus on 28 May 1898. The battle lasted from late morning to mid-afternoon. Armed only with bamboo cannons and Mauser rifles, the Filipino troops engaged the Spanish army in a close-range fight. The flag was used as a war ensign, thus earning its literal baptism of fire even before it was unfurled in Cauit. After an intense five-hour battle, close to 300 Spanish soldiers surrendered and were taken as prisoners of war to Cavite Nuevo (now Cavite City).

But is this claim accurate? Was the flag really unfurled or even used as a war ensign during the Battle of Alapán?

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The first Filipino flag is conserved by the Emilio Aguinaldo Foundation in Baguio, Benguet (photo: Philippine Daily Inquirer).

Wave of contention

No less than our country’s eminent historian, Ambeth Ocampo, acknowledges this as fact. “It was first used in the Battle of Alapán in May 1898,” wrote Ocampo about the flag in his Philippine Daily Inquirer column “Looking Back“. Even before that, former President Diosdado Macapagal in 1965 issued Proclamation No. 374 where it is stated that “our flag was first raised and received its baptism of fire and victory in the battle of Alapán, Imus, Cavite, on May 28, 1898”. That proclamation has since declared May 28 to be our country’s Flag Day.

In 2008, the city government of Imus celebrated its very first Wagayway Festival (Flag-Waving Festival) to commemorate the first time that the Filipino flag was unfurled during the Battle of Alapán.

The problem is that this was contested by Augusto V. de Viana, former chief history researcher at the National Historical Institute, now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. “One of the historical errors being perpetuated in history textbooks and commemorative rites is the place where the Philippine flag was first displayed,” wrote de Viana in an article for the Manila Times many years ago. “One signboard in Cavite claims that the national standard was first raised in Alapán, Imus, Cavite, on May 28, 1898.”

De Viana said that in Exhibit No. 71, Vol. 1 of the Philippine Insurgent Records, Aguinaldo himself revealed that the first unfurling and waving of the flag happened in Cavite Nuevo. Aguinaldo said that right after the battle, as the prisoners were being brought to Cavite Nuevo, they were met by an “immense multitude, with cheers of delirious joy and great hurrahs”. This prompted him to unfurl the flag for the first time, to reciprocate the euphoria of victory. He made no mention that he did the same during the Battle of Alapán. Even the old historical marker at the site of the battle is also clear on this — the flag was first unfurled in Cavite Nuevo:

However, in Saulo’s biography of the first president, he cited John R. M. Taylor’s The Philippine Insurrection against the United States (Pásay City: Eugenio López Foundation, 1971) as his source that indeed the flag was a major participant in the battle:

The flag that Aguinaldo personally brought home from Hong Kong lent color to the Battle of Alapán, a forested barrio of Kawit (sic), on May 28. It was unfurled to commemorate the victory of the Filipino forces over 270 officers and men of the Spanish Marine Corps in a five-hour firefight.

In writing the above, Saulo used Vol. 3, Exhibit 2 (pp. 7-8) of Taylor’s Philippine Insurrection as his source. But he failed to make it clear where exactly the flag was unfurled, even if just to fend off criticisms of vagueness. Further research is needed to compare the contents of Exhibit No. 71, Vol. 1 of the Philippine Insurgent Records against Vol. 3, Exhibit 2 of Taylor’s Philippine Insurrection.

Until then, this leaves us with which flag fable should be unfurled and fought, to be finally forgotten.

Culture complex

The belief that the Filipino flag was first raised in Imus has been enshrined in the hearts and minds of the Imuseño for years, so much that it has become an inseparable part of the local identity. The entire floor of the city plaza, for instance, is painted with a huge symbol of the waving flag which can be perceived perfectly from the air. At the exact site where the battle of Alapán had been waged stands a 90-foot pole where one of the largest Filipino flags is waving mightily against the rural breeze. Citywide festivities compel Imuseños to display flags in front of their homes.

So fervent is this Imuseño zeal towards the national emblem that, minutes before Bago Ang Kalayaan was to be shown, everybody immediately stood up when the national flag appeared on the screen. With their right hands upon their breasts, they patiently waited for the national anthem to blurt out from the speakers. About a minute later, everybody was chuckling back to their seats. It turned out that what was being shown at that moment was just a short video for the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

Pretending to be from Imus, I joked aloud to my wife: “This is how we Imuseños show our love and respect for the flag!” That the mere sight of it compels Imuseños to stand in salute.

Most, if not all, municipalities and cities in our country bear distinct nicknames that reflect their unique identities and histories. Usually, such nicknames are rooted on a particular place’s prominent environmental features (Puerto Princesa: The Eco-Tourism Capital of the Philippines), economic renown (Macati: The Financial Capital of the Philippines), cottage industry (San Pedro Tunasan: Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines), successful tourism branding (Bacolod: The City of Smiles), and so on and so forth. It appears that the  so-called search for national identity has permeated each and every unit of local government. Each city, every municipality, even barrios and sitios, wanted to showcase its own uniqueness, not for the sheer desire of becoming famous but simply to let the world know that it exists, that it has an exceptional story to tell, that it is not just another place that one passes by or mentions dispassionately. Because a dispassionate reception from outsiders makes its people all the more passionate —to the point of zealousness— to burst out from the flames of existence itself, that it is its own being, as if distinct from the very country that cradles it.

Is this zeal, borne out of that national identity crisis, a curse or a blessing to our local government units?

One man’s hero is another man’s villain

De la Cruz’s docudrama itself is reflective of that zeal. Imus, clamoring for its own identity, that it is as historic as Cauit and Manila and Malolos, showcases its local heroes who participated in and contributed to the flowering of the uprising against Spain. The Battle of Alapán is its climax; its denouement, that the raising of the flag in Cauit was all but anti-climactic. But even before all the action had unfolded in de la Cruz’s dramatic structure, the documentary’s exposition itself was “anti-expository” in the sense that it made a simplistic approach to what had caused the Katipunan revolt.

At the start of the story, we see actors portraying Spanish soldiers and Filipino peasants, the former physically mistreating the latter. This clearly sets the tone of the whole narrative: the waving (no pun intended) of the leyenda negra. To a non-historian viewer, this brings him back to classroom and textbook fodder that has proselytized the execrable black legend for decades. The expository didn’t expose anything new that would have raised the standard of quality historical documentaries. Although Bago Ang Kalayaan introduces something generally novel, that of the first unfurling of the flag, it would have been developed further had the story strayed away from emotional appeals and have instead given much justice to the Katipunan’s raison d’être: that its predecessors —from Luis Rodríguez Varela and his Hijos del País all the way to Marcelo del Pilar’s propaganda movement— have lost all hope on the reforms that they were trying to push. After all, the Katipunan, for all its faults and good intentions, was born out of a lingering disappointment on Spanish political policies over the islands. To show that a Spanish soldier beating up a Filipino peasant in a docudrama was too simplistic a cause for the Katipunan’s founding and is far from being political (not that such a thing ever happened, but if it ever did, it would had been isolated at best and would still not had been a major cause for revolt). While the polo y servicios and the bandala —both of which were not entirely malevolent— were mentioned, they were not enough to justify the dispiriting opening scenes of Bago Ang Kalayaan. Indeed, there is much to be unraveled about the Katipunan, how and why it came to be. But since de la Cruz is no historian, we only have her film’s scriptwriter to blame.

During the Spanish times, we have to consider the fact —and I am speaking from a legal standpoint— that the Katipunan, the wheel upon which Aguinaldo’s revolution against Spain (and later on, against Uncle Sam) rode on, was a criminal organization. It doesn’t matter if they are considered as heroes and patriots today, and whether or not their motives were noble. But if we are to deal with historical events, we have to keep our minds in tune to the semantics of the age in which those events had occurred, and not how present society would have received them. If we consider the Katipunan purely as heroes and the Spanish colonial government purely as villains, what keeps us from saying that the Islamic extremists in Mindanáo are not heroes? Aren’t they fighting for their Bangsamoro that we Christians “stole” from them?

Love of country should not stand on a pedestal of hatred built from a loathing of an oft-misunderstood past.