Tan Pedro and the day of decision – April 28, 1900
Jonathan R. Matias
3rd revision, October 15, 2017
Last Friday, June 12, 2015 President Benigno Aquino, Jr. unfurled the Philippine National Flag in Santa Barbara, Iloilo at a ceremony on the declaration of Philippine Independence. This has not happened outside Luzon since the first flag-raising occurred when Gen. Martin Delgado of the Ilonggo Army unfurled the same flag that Gen Aguinaldo sent in 1898. Much will be said about General Delgado, the more famous Ilonggo revolutionary, and so little about the others who also fought and died in the Visayas.
In celebrating June 12, perhaps it is also appropriate to make time for our local town heroes. Sad to say that most people know so little about that statue in Barangay Igtuba of Col. Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro, more popularly known as Tan Pedro. So few knew who he really was, what he accomplished to merit a statue and why he needed to be remembered. Ask some teenagers and even adults in Miag-ao and often you get a shrug of the shoulder or a mention of a war hero and nothing more. Perhaps, so little about Tan Pedro is known and teachers have no references to work with. I tried to find more information about Tan Pedro on many search engines, but found practically nothing of value, other than notations about him being a revolutionary hero of Miag-ao.
Tan Pedro is more known about his epic and controversial book called Maragtas about the coming of the ten Bornean datus to Panay. Even the word Maragtas did not have a local meaning; academics presumed it was a word made up by Tan Pedro. This part of his life came a few years after that momentous day in April 1900, long after the Revolutionary days. But, he must have had the idea about Maragtas even before the Revolution and started writing soon after peace in Miag-ao came to being. Before the novelist/writer Tan Pedro we know there was the Revolutionary War Tan Pedro, who saw action, along with many Miagaowanons, in battles against the Spanish Army in Santa Barbara and throughout the Philippine-American War that followed.
As in the fictionalized historical accounts of Salakayan in this blogsite, the story you are about to read is based on historical facts known to me at this point in time. Perhaps, more details will come out later as people take a more serious interest. The names, the timelines and the events are real. I used the original names of places, such as Plaza Alfonso XII (now known as Plaza Libertad) and Parian (now called Molo), instead of their modern replacements. Words, such as rayadillos (the uniform worn during the Revolution and Spanish-American war), composo, camisa chino, macheteros and cuadrilleros (policemen) are intended to bring the reader to what it was really like in 1900. Even references to American armaments of the period are used. I try to give references to most of these words at the bottom of this article for those who might have keen interest in knowing more.
It would not have been possible to write this without the monumental work of Elias N. Failagao whose 1979 book History of Miag-ao served as the primary reference point for dates and names of the historic characters you are about to read. Elias is one of the many unsung heroes of Miag-ao and hopefully his accomplishment will eventually be recognized.
What Tan Pedro was thinking on that historic afternoon on the 28th day of April, 1900 is a matter of conjecture. Although the dialogue is simply a figment of my imagination, I can only surmise that these were the kind of conversations that would have taken place.
His men, the Katipuneros of Miag-ao, were about to march down Mat-y Road (named later as La Paz Street in 1900 and then later renamed Quezon Street) to meet the American Army occupying Miag-ao.
Imagine what it could have been like for him on that day 115 years ago.
————————– the story begins ——————————
They call me Tan Pedro. This sounds friendlier than Col. Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro. Before the Revolution, people called me Don Pedro. I like Tan Pedro better. It makes me sound more learned.
In another hour the title of ‘Colonel’ will be nothing more than just a historical footnote of my life.
My men suggested that I and my officers should not walk, but ride horses. My white stallion was killed during the bombardment of Iloilo trenches by the American Navy. I have a ‘cuadra’ beside our home in poblacion, but I do not dare send men to take the horses from there, lest the American might think it is a provocation and start a mis-encounter. So, my men ‘borrowed’ a few of the white horses from the mountain folks of Dalije. These horses are what were left of the once impressive Spanish cavalry. We ‘liberated’ some of them and these horses are now ‘Filipinos.’
Behind me, standing five abreast, wearing their newly pressed rayadillos are the men of my command. The first platoon of about 30 men still carry on their shoulders the Mauser rifles captured from the Spanish Army. They looked menacing enough. But, the rest behind the rifled men are those with lances and bolos (the macheteros). Not much weaponry against the Gatling guns and high-caliber fast- loading rifled artillery of the mighty American Army.
One hundred meters ahead are the Americans, faces red from the sun, officers wearing brown khaki while the enlisted personnel wearing their blues. American infantry are lined up on each side of Mat-y Road, fifty soldiers on each side of the road. The belfries of Miag-ao Church are visible from where we stand. I can see enemy soldiers in the church belfry. I am sure a Gatling gun is pointed at us from one of the windows. The American ship USS Petrel must be anchored just beyond the horizon, ready to turn at a moment’s notice towards Miag-ao to send canon shells down into my town.
People are nervously watching from the half open windows of the houses along the sides of the street. My ancestral home is so near on the left side in the middle of the American line. I can feel my wife’s anxieties, perhaps trembling as the moments pass so slowly. Just in case today turns out differently as expected, I still have a reserve of men hidden in a few old houses, some with captured Krag rifles from the Americans. I am sure the American commander, Captain Barker, also have men in reserve for the just -in case-scenario all officers must face in war.
I am afraid that if this fails, it will be a one sided battle–another massacre of my men and the innocents in town. How can a handful of Mauser rifles, lances and bolos win against Gatling machine guns that spew 600 bullets each minute. Their naval guns can pulverize the town from a safe distance.
Capt. Barker and his junior officers are 1 km away at the end of Mat-y Road. I am sure he is anxious too, wondering how the next hour will turn out. His term for it? “An experiment for peace in our time.”
How could the fortunes of our glorious Revolution against Spain end up like this? Our Ilonggo Katipuneros were so successful in the field against the Spanish Army less than two years ago.
Three days ago, I had to make the most excruciating decision of my life. I hope history will be kind to me. I have made this decision for my beloved town and what’s left of the men in my command.
Just less than two years ago…I can remember all the details so clearly.
It was the end of the rainy season in 1898 when Spanish officials again began organizing the Ilonggo army called Soldados Voluntario to fight the Katipuneros in Luzon. I was among the many volunteers from Miag-ao that joined with the rank of captain. From then on people started calling me Tan Pedro instead of Don Pedro. This was not the first time. In 1896, I was with Martin Delgado and others of the Soldados Voluntario who fought for Spain against Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan.
For hundreds of years, the Spanish recruited the Ilonggos to fight the revolts in other islands. How many Ilonggos bled and died for the glory of Spain over the last 300 years? No one knows. But this time, we are not going to do this anymore. The Soldados joined General Martin Delgado’s Ejercito Libertador, the Ilonggo Liberation Army and turned our guns against the Spanish Army. Now we are fighting on our own accord, fighting for the hope of our own republic, for freedom.
I was there in Santa Barbara on October 28, 1898 when General Martin Delgado raised the Philippine flag given by General Emilio Aguinaldo. It was the first time the revolutionary flag was raised outside of Luzon. It was an uplifting, memorable experience. For the first time, I felt the weight of Spain’s heavy handed authority lifted. Then, pitched battles with the Spanish Army followed, with most of the Filipinos from the Guardia Civil transferring allegiance to the Revolutionary Government.
Returning to Miag-ao on November 2 and having been appointed colonel in the militia, Miag-ao joined the revolution. We drove the Spanish Army from southern Iloilo while Gen. Delgado’s, Col. Quentin Salas’ and Teresa Magbanua’s troops chased them all the way from the north and west back to Iloilo City.
The greatest moment of my life was on December 24, 1898. That day, riding my white horse to the left of General Delgado, I saw the Spanish Army under Gen. Rios haul down the Spanish flag that had been flying over Fort San Pedro for hundreds of years. It was almost unbelievable. All the officers, including me, were teary eyed watching that flag come down.
The following day, Christmas Day at 7:00 AM, the Ilonggo Army, all soldiers dressed in stunning white and blue stripped rayadillos, marched triumphantly to Plaza Alfonso XII. I can still hear the blare of the trumpets, our 72nd Regimental band playing Col. Posidio Delgado’s “Marcha Libertador, and the thunderous shouts of “Viva Filipina,” “Viva Independencia” and “Mabuhay si Gen. Delgado.” I can remember the smiling faces of my fellow Miagawanons who joined the Katipunan with me – Blas Monteclaro, Felipe Legaspi, Vicente Flores, Guillermo Morada, Serafin Monteclaro and Zacarias Paguntalan – all from Poblacion. There too was Pablo Panugadia from Barrio Igpajo.
But there is also the pang of regret for those who died for the Revolution. So many of them and for some reason I can’t remember their faces any more, except for young Tiburcio Liboon. I knew him well; only 23 and the son of my friends, Vicente and Dionisia. I could not keep him out of joining Katipunan. He was killed on the outskirts of Oton on a mission to buy arms for us. A mission I sent him personally. Now, I could not bear to face his parents.
The next day after 2,000 of us marched into Iloilo City, General Delgado ordered me to return to Miag-ao to coordinate the evacuation of Spanish friars, Spanish civilians and other foreign nationals who had congregated in Miag-ao Church from all over Iloilo and Antique provinces. I found them huddled together inside the Church, waiting for the ship that will evacuate them to Zamboanga to join Gen. Rios. I was on my white horse dressed in my Ilonggo Army officer’s uniform. I just watched from the outside entrance of the church into the throng of cowering Europeans. Among them was Miag-ao’s Friar, Fr. Sabas Fontecha, looking at me with mix of defiance and sadness.
For the first time in my life I felt superior to these foreigners. For the first time I stopped calling myself an ‘Indio.’
The Spanish transport ship Maria Cristina dropped anchor offshore and began loading passengers early in the morning of December 28, 1898. The mass evacuation took many hours with groups of 20 men and women being taken by a single launch back and forth the ship and the beach. The last of the evacuees was Fr. Fontecha, with big crates being hauled into the launch. I presume these were church relics, gold chalices and materials from the altar. How I wish I could have stopped them from taking these things, but the terms of surrender prohibited us from taking Spanish possessions.
Father Fontecha became our parish priest in 1896, at the beginning of the Katipunan revolt in Luzon. His sermons extolled love of Spain and the wrath of God if Miagawanons ever considered revolting against Spanish authority. Today, he stands alone on the beach. He took a last look at our Church and glanced at me still on my horse a mere 10 meters away. He bowed in my direction and then to the direction of the church high on the hilltop of Tacas. Then he boarded the launch and went away forever.
I felt a sigh of relief. No incident today. Peace and tranquility finally has come to Miag-ao.
That night, the Church and the convent were gutted by fire. There was not enough water to contain the blaze. By morning, all that was left were the impregnable walls and façade of the church, blackened but undamaged by fire. Did the Friar ordered the Church burned? I do not know. Maybe it was an accident? I don’t think so.
As I stood inside the church looking at the remnants of our once so beautiful altar, a hand came upon my shoulder. I turned around and saw a priest—a Filipino priest. He introduced himself, “I am Rev. Father Crispino Hinolan, your new parish priest. You are Col. Monteclaro, I presume.” I simply nodded, still feeling sad about the whole scene. I felt responsible. I should have posted guards around the church, but who would have thought that any Christian would burn a church. Father Hinolan said, “We are in the midst of dramatic changes. Sometimes losing the old, makes way for the new. We will rebuild. This time it will be with a Filipino priest and finally in due time it will be reborn as a true Filipino Church!”
The peace that I thought was forever was short-lived. It was just a matter of a few weeks.
War between the Filipinos and Americans broke out on February 4, 1899. By Feb 10th my men were assigned to a stretch of Iloilo city shoreline, sweating to make hastily made trenches on the expectation of the American landing. We were prepared for a pitched battle as the Americans land on the beaches. Instead, at 9:30 AM, a line of battleships came –the cruiser Baltimore, the gun boat Petrel and assorted ships and transports– one by one bombarding the entire stretch of beaches up and down Iloilo City. Fort San Pedro was pulverized to nothing. Its walls crumbled into the ocean, with men and guns along with it. Our flag torn to pieces.
My position, what was left of it, was pockmarked by high explosive shells, creating 2 meter wide holes on the ground, killing everyone within 10 meters of the explosion. Their Hotchkiss rapid-fire naval six-pounder guns were shelling our position with two dozen artillery shells per minute raining down on us. We were even lucky to send one artillery round a minute with our captured Spanish artillery. Even if we hit the American ships, our shell would barely make a dent on their armored plating. In no time, the American warships silenced our meager artillery battery of antiquated Spanish howitzers. The bombardment was followed by several Gatling guns on their ship’s decks raking our trenches with 600 bullets per minute. As soon as the American warships had passed, the survivors clambered out of the trenches, running in panic, totally demoralized. I had never seen such carnage in just a few minutes. Men torn to pieces, trees split in two, shrapnel of metal and pieces of trees impaling the men inside the trenches. I got all the wounded out as fast as possible. The Americans are turning around for a second bombardment.
I watched from the hill top as the American soldiers waded ashore. They looked like the Spanish, but taller, bigger and more confident. Spies told us that they belong to the 1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the 18th US Infantry. Canons of the 6th US Artillery are being brought to shore from the transport ships. And the dreaded Gatling machine guns too, any one of which could decimate all of Gen. Delgado’s troops in a frontal assault. They have many of those.
We can fight the American soldiers one on one. We can’t fight machines. We have none of our own. Everyone had an amulet, anting-anting they call it in Tagalog, to ward off evil spirits and bullets. I doubt they worked at all. Some Katipuneros died gallantly with a bullet hole through their anting-antings. We had to separate our troops into smaller units, fight inland beyond the range of the naval and coastal guns. And, fight in terrains too difficult for the Americans to bring their Gatling machine guns with them.
Weeks of hit and run warfare evolved with Teresa ‘Nay Isa’ Magbanua’s men and Gen. Delgado’s troops continuing the daily attacks and ambushes. We call her General Isa. Tougher than any man. Certainly tougher than me. As the fight in the jungle continued, the Americans began to show more savagery, more viciousness than the Spanish Army. Even the few Spanish soldiers that chose to fight alongside us were appalled at the American disregard for the lives of non-combatants. America is supposed to be a democratic nation that valued the’ rights of man.’ Yet, here I have yet to see those ideals displayed by them. Maybe the ‘rights of man’ apply only to white people.
General Delgado gave me permission to bring the few remaining men in my command back to Miag-ao and continue the fight in our own home ground where we are more familiar with the terrain. Arriving in Miag-ao on April 16th after a week of walking up and down the central mountains to avoid American patrols, I learned that the Americans are already there in Miag-ao, commanded by a Capt. Frank Cook and Lt. William Plummer. Their men are already quartered for some time in the homes of Tana Colasa, Capitan Simeon Firmeza and Gertrudes Donado.
Capt. Cook and his troops had already been engaged in pitched battles in Barrio Igcabugao in Igbaras where some Americans were killed and wounded. Many more civilians were killed by indiscriminate fire by the Americans; some accidental but many soldiers fire on civilians intentionally. Many townspeople in Igbaras and Miag-ao had been arrested for aiding the guerillas. Many were also ‘water cured.’ That is an odd name to call a way of torture by pouring water on the prisoner’s mouth, filling his stomach and then placing the knee on his abdomen if he does not answer the question. Nine out of ten men do not survive the ‘cure.’
We rested for a few days in the pottery village of Barrio Cagbang, with one of my men watching the river bank just in case the Americans forded the slow flowing river. I was looking at the hills, alone most of time, trying to weigh the damage we might do to the Americans and the retaliatory damage they can inflict back against civilians. And what damage can I possibly do with only six men and two Mauser rifles and 10 rounds of ammunition?
My look out yelled. A man is crossing the stream.
It was Nong Cardo bringing news from town. He said that Capt. Cook and his men were withdrawn from poblacion yesterday and replaced by a new company of American troops. The name of the new commander is Barker, a certain Capt. Barker; he did not know the first name. And that this Barker wanted a meeting with the respected elders of the town and specifically requested for your attendance. And, that Barker seemed much less arrogant and more ‘civilized’ than the previous commander.
How did this Barker know I am back in Miagao? Nong Cardo just slowly shook his head. I thought to myself, “They knew I have arrived and yet they did not attack.” I sent Nong Cardo back with instructions to the elders to set the meeting inside the church provided that no American soldiers are in sight within 300 meters of the church and that Barker may bring two of his officers as escorts but only with side arms.
The meeting was set for the evening of the 25th, having the advantage of the night for me and my men to sneak into town unnoticed. I made sure to be the last to enter the church, watching for any forward movement by Barker’s men. The elders of the town, Father Hinolan, Capt. Barker and his lieutenants were drinking native coffee from Oyungan Valley and exchanging pleasantries. I came inside dressed in simple camisa chino and said good evening to everyone. A young man came forward and introduced himself as Martin and said that he is here to interpret for Capt. Barker. He added that he could only speak in Tagalog. I nodded. “I can understand Tagalog,” I told him.
I asked “What happened to Cook and his men?” Barker replied that they had been relieved of command and sent back to Shanghai. I asked him why he wanted to speak with all of us. He said that he came with an offer from the his former brigade commander, Brigadier General Marcus Miller, who initially commanded the invasion of Panay, Howard Taft and a few US Congressmen who are opposed to this war. It is to be an experiment to make peace and wanted to see if this is possible, starting with Miag-ao. He went on to say that American troops would withdraw totally from Miagao. A person whom the town people may select will serve as temporary ‘mayor’ or town head until formal appointments or ‘democratic elections’ are held for the office. The mayor shall be responsible for peace and order, recruit cuadrilleros or policemen or constables to keep peace and order. The people can go about their daily lives—fishing, farming and trading –without fear of American troops. The market may re-open again.
“And what does the general want from us in return?” I asked.
He replied, “Surrender of all troops in and around Miagao.”
It is as I had expected, but I kept my anger from overcoming my demeanor. “Why do you think we would surrender to you? We did not surrender to Cook and his men.”
Barker talked to Martin for a while in their language that is so foreign and unintelligible to all of us, Barker making sure that Martin translated everything precisely. I can see from Martin’s facial expression that the news is very bad. Martin said,” My friends, Admiral Dewey intends to send two of the gunboats, Baltimore and Petrel, for a simultaneous general bombardment of Guimbal, Miag-ao, and San Joaquin as an object lesson and to demonstrate the might of the American military. All coastal towns are to be razed to the ground, all churches to be turned to dust. Nothing of these towns will exist, burned to the ground by naval gunfire. General Miller wishes to avoid this from happening, but only possible if he can get one town to surrender and be able to operate peacefully without the need of American soldiers who are badly needed for the campaigns in Luzon.”
Every single one of the town elders was speechless, but I know in their eyes that they could not grasp what a bombardment by the American Navy can possibly look like. They have never been in the trenches during the opening day of the war in Iloilo city.
Martin continued, “The American gunboat Petrel alone has four of the Hotchkiss 6-pounder rapid-fire cannons firing at the rate of 25 artillery shells per minute; every shell can reach points beyond Barrio Mat-y. In addition to that, it has two 3-pounder guns, one 1-pounder and two smaller 37-mm guns. Worse, it has 2 Gatling guns that together will send 1,200 bullets into Miag-ao every minute. This means all the coastal barrios will be obliterated in a matter of ten minutes. All of this from just a single American Navy warship. And, consider that Baltimore is a cruiser with much greater firepower than Petrel”.
The elders gasped and looked at me, as if transferring the obligation to respond on my shoulders, as if I would know what to do. I had to take a walk out of this place. The walls of the church seemed pressing against my body. The smell of burnt wood still permeates the air. I needed to take a walk, get some fresh air. I asked Martin to accompany me and Barker outside. For a few minutes, we did not talk at all, just looked up at the stars, amazed at how peaceful it seemed. Each one preoccupied with each other’s own thoughts.
Barker said, “Those are not clouds, Colonel. That is our Milky Way Galaxy composed of millions of stars. Man is so insignificant compared to the vastness of the universe. And humans are fighting over such insignificant patches in this miniscule planet of ours. This church is beautiful, perhaps as old as the United States of America as a republic. I do not wish it to be destroyed.”
To Barker I said, ‘Tell me why I should believe what you say.” He replied, “You have seen what happened in the trenches of Iloilo City. This fight will drag on for many years, but America will win eventually, not because we are righteous, but because we have the military power and the technology to win. More will simply die on both sides, but more on your side for sure. In the end no one really wins. It will just continue onwards with more blood spilled. No one gains.”
To Barker I asked another question, “Cook and his men were barbaric in their treatment of my people. What makes you different from them?”
He replied,” Cpt. Cook, like many other senior officers and enlisted men in the US Army who were sent here once fought the Indian Wars in my country. They were fighting natives of America who were there first and who were fighting, like you, to defend their territory. The Indians do not take prisoners, torture their captives and mutilate the dead. These soldiers fought the same way – no quarters given or taken. So, in this new war they treat Filipinos as if they were fighting American Indians. They made up a new name for Filipinos. They call you gugoos so that they can forget that you are human beings too. Easier to kill that way.
These are hardened men, seen their comrades killed and many developed a taste for the thrill of killing. They are here to retaliate for the wrong reasons against the wrong people.”
He continued after a pause and said, “I belong to the Christian sect called Society of Friends –referred by many in America as Quakers.” Both Martin and I were perplexed by the answer because we never heard of Quakers. “Quakers do not believe in hierarchical institutions like the Catholic Church, but believe in a direct personal relationship with God through the teachings of Jesus. And it is against our religion to participate in war.”
“But, I wanted to know about war, experience it. Only then I can say for my own sake that I have helped in some way to shorten it or save some lives. Death is part of war and it is happening all around the world. How can we object to war if none of us in the Society really know from firsthand experience? Against the wishes of my people, I am here as a soldier because I want to understand war and balance it with the compassion that my religion dictates. And I am lucky to be given this one chance to make that possible.”
I replied, “If I accept this proposal, my men and I will be branded as cowards, even worse, as traitors. General Fullon is still fighting in Antique province just south of here. In north Iloilo province, General Delgado still has an army full of fight and men dying for the cause.” “You are a mere captain; too low in the military hierarchy to speak for the American Army that might change their minds later and have us all hanged or shot after we surrender.”
“Everything is in your hands,” Barker said with finality.
I looked into his eyes and knew then that he spoke with a sincere heart. “Maybe I can trust this American, “I said quietly to myself. As we entered the church, Nong Tomasino said that the elders have discussed the American captain’s proposal and think that it is for the good of the town. And, if there is agreement tonight that I should accept the responsibility to become the town mayor in the meantime and keep the peace. They could not think of anyone else who is more able. I just reluctantly nodded.
I told Barker as I walked away that: (1) I need to speak with the other local commanders; (2) I need two full days to find them and convince them; (3) I need his troops to stay in the poblacion until this is decided, sort of an unofficial truce; (4) keep those gunboats away from the horizon; and lastly (5) the surrender has to be done in a way that gives honor to my men –both the living and the dead.
Of all the officers, my own cousin, Lt. Blas Monteclaro, was the hardest to convince. I had sent Serafin and Ciriaco to talk him into coming down from the mountains to no avail. I was told that Blas said that he did not believe the Americans to be sincere and did not trust them. This surrender agreement would not work unless Lt. Blas joins the surrender. I finally had to send our youngest brother, Jose, people know him by his nickname, Siantong, to make the final plea with a private message to Blas. I told Siantong to tell Blas that if he did not come down, “sublion ka iban asawa na.” That last appeal with that message worked!
So, now, I am here on the Mat-y Road three days later with more than two hundred Katipuneros comprising all the men (Well, mostly all, except those in reserve just in case) of the combined guerilla commands, all survivors of the battles of Iloilo City, Jaro and Parian. Next to me on horses are Capt. Manuel Solinap of Santa Barbara, Lt. Blas Monteclaro of Miagao, Lt. Honorio Solinap of Pototan and Pio Claveria of Parian.
I rode around the men as they solemnly walk the last half kilometer to the church. I shouted at them, “My comrades, hear me for the last time. We are surrendering not because we are beaten. We surrender not because we are afraid of their machines. We are surrendering because we love our town, our people, our church and for the chance of a lasting peace! Stand tall. Stand proud. We are no longer Indios. Show these Americans that we are soldiers. Show them we are men!”
Loud cheers from my men and then even louder cheers from the town folks now lining the streets.
The American soldiers are lined up on each side of the road, with their rifles in salute as my men reached their line. Just in time, Gavino Octaviano of Barrio Igbugo arrived with his band. As the “Marcha Libertador” filled the air, my men stiffened their faces, pride enveloping them. They marched ever more smartly with the rhythm of ‘Marcha.’ I just nodded to Gavino and he understood my appreciation that he made it here just in time.
I asked Capt. Barker that a triumphal arch be built as part of the deal. I saw it once in an old history book in my father’s library. Returning soldiers of the Roman Army pass through the Triumphal Arch in Rome and two thousand years later a similar arch through which Napoleon marched his army into Paris. Our ‘arch’ is made of bamboo, definitely not as impressive, but at least adorned with flowers.
The triumphal arch is reserved for armies that won. I suppose we all won here; we won peace. And do hope it would last.
There was a large platform built after the arch, decorated with flowers. On top are seated the most beautiful young women of Miag-ao. That’s Manong Tomasino’s idea to keep the soldiers on both sides motivated and thinking happy thoughts, their fingers away from the triggers of their rifles.
I shook hands with Capt. Barker and introduced the other officers. I whispered to Barker, “It doesn’t look like we will be shooting at each other today. How about you point that hidden machine gun in the church window in another direction and I will call the rest of my men in hiding to join the ranks.” He smiled, nodded and we both gave the signals. Then my officers surrendered their swords.
I ordered the men to stack the Mauser rifles in front of the American soldiers on the side of the road, the macheteros dropping their bolos beside the rifles. I can see American soldiers’ faces showing sighs of relief. The bolos are more dangerous weapons at close range than the Mauser rifles.
Barker then read the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. An American band started to play the US National Anthem. I nodded to Gavino. His boys started playing Hiligaynon folk songs called composo. The melody is soft, though the ballads tell of difficult love affairs and incidents. Composo played through the night until Gavino was out of breath.
My last term in accepting the surrender proposal – a fiesta. Americans and Filipinos to share food together to celebrate this peace accord within the grounds of the church. But the Americans had to pay the cost of the feast as the host, our people to cook the food. I don’t think we can eat American style food—yet. We don’t even know what they eat! I just hope they will like lechon, linabog na manok and kalderetang kanding. The boys prepared ‘adobong halo’ as appetizers while they drink tuba with the Americans. I made sure the boys don’t tell them that ‘halo’ means the big lizard in the jungle. I instructed to just tell the American boys if they ask that it is ‘wild chicken’ from the mountains.
Barker had most of his men stack their own rifles and ordered them to join the merry making. Martin was very busy translating for the American soldiers, mostly for the young men trying to strike a conversation with the young ladies. Soldiers are all alike, no matter what army. I had to get Lt. Blas Monteclaro to drag Martin away from the festivities so he could translate for me and Barker.
All three of us walked away from the boisterous fiesta. Barker offered me a Cuban cigar and I graciously accepted. It is much better than our own cigars.
“Colonel, now that you are the first mayor of Miag-ao, what would be your first official proclamation?” asks Barker.
‘Captain, my first act will be to change the name of this street, Mat-y Road, into La Paz Street. In your language it would mean Street of Peace in honor of this unusual day,” I said.
“Captain, tell me the truth. Did you really like our native coffee?” I asked with a smile. He said, “Actually, Colonel it tasted like hot mud with sugar on it. Just try to tell the townsfolks not to serve that to my men. It might start another war!”
“Did you like our adobong halo?” Barker said it was very tasty and the best among the dishes. I could not help but smile. I was just thinking that I should tell him about the big lizards maybe when it is time for him to leave Miag-ao.
“What will you do now? Without a war to fight life might be boring,” Barker commented.
I said, “Not for me. I have your Milky Way to look at night in the hot summer months. I have a hacienda to tend to during the day. And, I have to start writing my book.”
“What is the book about,” asked Barker.
“It is a long story. A story about how our forefathers found this island they called Aninipay. A story retold through the generations. I just want to make sure the next generation does not forget.”
“Have you got a title yet,” Barker asked again, seeming really interested.
In reply I said, “I have started with the title actually. It is to be called History of Panay from the first inhabitants and the Bornean immigrants, from which they descended, to the arrival of the Spaniards.”
“I think it is a very long title for a book. Don’t you have a shorter one?” Barker replied.
I thought for a few minutes and said, “Maragtas!”
“What does that mean?” asked Barker again.
“Actually Captain, I do not have the faintest idea. I just made up the short title just for you,” I said jokingly.
“And I also just realized Captain that you too will have no one to shoot at around here. And that life will be boring until they assign you someplace else. So, in the meantime, I will bore you to death by telling you about the stories of our people, our Ten Bornean Datus, the purchase of this island called Panay by the datus from the Aeta Chieftain Marikudo. It is going to be a very long story, my new American friend.”
“Well, I think we will both have all the time in the world until some idiot starts another war. So, Mr. Mayor, tell me the story,” says Barker.
We both laughed out loud while looking up at our Milky Way.
1. The surrender of Col. Monteclaro’s Katipuneros came earlier in the war than most other capitulations. That a show of force by naval bombardment to obliterate Miag-ao was not in the military record and simply imagined here. However, it is not likely for Tan Pedro to surrender a viable force of the combined guerillas without some prospect of a devastating threat. The Spanish used the concept of divide and conquer, using one ethnic group to quell uprisings by another ethnic group. The strategy worked effectively during the 300+years of Spanish rule. The same strategy would not have worked for Americans. The Philippines in 1900 was more unified by the concept of a free country, no matter what the ethnic origins might be, particularly with the success of the Katipunan against the Spanish Army. The concept of “carrot and stick” did work for the Americans—giving rewards or else the threat of total destruction. The carrot as ‘peace and preservation of the town” or the total destruction of Miag-ao as the “stick” would have worked as a strategy to force the capitulation. Perhaps some other form of threat would also have worked, but the naval bombardment is more terrifying than any other for all of the elders of the town. In Failagao’s book History of Miag-ao, he noted that Commander Barker (Failagao did not mention his first name) was more diplomatic than the previous commander. He would not likely use threats against the families of the elders and of the Katipuneros. So, I am speculating that a more devastating threat, like a bombardment that was beyond Barker’s control as a mere captain, would have been more plausible.
2. The surrender in Miag-ao in 1900 was followed by other similar types of capitulations a year later. Gen. Fullon surrendered on March 22, 1901 and ‘rewarded’ to become the governor of Antique Province on April 11 of the same year. General Martin Delgado surrendered much earlier on February 2, 1901 and he too was appointed governor of Iloilo province on April 11, 1901. Dozens more of the same type of ‘arrangement’ came about as each senior officer of the Katipunan gave up their arms all over the Philippines. A few holdouts, like Macario Sakay and Colonel Faustino Guillermo, were hanged. Others, Like Artemio Ricarte, were exiled or imprisoned.
3. History, I think, had been kind to Col. Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro for having the foresight to save his people from more harm against the overwhelming force of the American military. One can only imagine the number of dead on both sides had the fight continued in Miaga-ao for one more year. In that ‘experiment for peace’ I suppose Col. Monteclaro was indeed ahead of his time.
4. Martin, the interpreter who can only speak Tagalog, is likely a Macabebe Scout. His character is just another figment of my imagination. But, there had to be someone to interpret English to Col. Monteclaro. The Illustrados speak mostly Spanish; perhaps some do speak German or French, which are considered the language of the elite. English is not likely part of their repertoire of languages, except for Dr. Jose Rizal who spoke English fluently. The Macabebes are native to Pampanga and have a long history dating back even before the arrival of the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. During the Revolution, the Macabebes sided with Spain. Hundreds of captured Macabebe soldiers were massacred by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s troops in reprisal. The Macabebe sided with the Americans to become guides, translators and scouts. The Macabebes were instrumental in the capture of General Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela in 1901. The first men who joined the US Army in 1903 and later became the famed Philippines Scouts of World War II were the Macabebes.
5. Tan Pedro served with distinction as the interim mayor of Miag-ao and he kept the peace. On April 11, 1901, along with other Ilonggo generals (Fullon and Delgado), Tan Pedro was officially appointed as the first municipal mayor of Miag-ao when the US government instituted civil rule in Iloilo Province. His anxiety over the thought of being regarded as a traitor to the cause was unfounded. He was among the most highly regarded son of Miag-ao. He served as mayor for only one term, until 1903, and spent the next few years to concentrate on his writing. In 1907 he published Maragtas.
6. Facebook made it possible to connect with friends and friends of friends who have interest in this story. The second revision of this article included the comments from our FB contacts who are descendants of Tan Pedro. Sharing the stories handed down by oral tradition make this story even more colorful, fascinating and accurate. That Serafin Monteclaro was a cousin of Tan Pedro; that Tan Pedro had his own horse farm (cuadra); that Tan Pedro rode a white stallion next to Gen. Delgado during the surrender of the Spanish Army; that his own brother, Blas Monteclaro, was reluctant to surrender to the Americans and had to be persuaded by emissaries, including his youngest brother Jose Siantong who carried a private message from Tan Pedro as the last hope of persuasion. All these small details are not found anywhere except via oral stories shared by Rene Monteclaro, Ruby Eclar Monteclaro, Ralph Eclar Monteclaro and Leopoldo ‘Doods’ Moragas, Sr. I hope there will be another revision when I can add more details or revise the story a bit to more actually depict the memories and stories of that event. Many thanks to the Monteclaro clan for their kind support and appreciation of this article.
7. Chasing history is like a detective story. One has to change the story as new evidence is found. This 3rd revision owes its many thanks to friends in Cabatuan Historically Society (especially Bruno Fajardo and Scott Slaten) who shared information they found from American historical records of the Philippine American War in Miagao from official archives in the United States. Unfortunately, Filipino records are limited, lost or never written. We often relied heavily on the collective memories of the older folk. But these were from interviews put in writing long after the events. Memories fade and details are often lost in translation or simply from old age. Such is the case about the American company commander, Capt Vacker, as mentioned in the writings of Elias Failagao and biography of Tan Pedro by Lorna Monteclaro Garon. The name came from information from interview of elders. US records show that the Capt. Vacker did not exist. The true name is Captain Barker. The American unit was Company M of the 26th US Infantry that garrisoned Miagao during the time of Tan Pedro in April 1900.
Timeline of American Occupation
The American atrocities in Igbaras were likely committed by troops under Captain.MacDonald who was in command of the Southern Iloilo Sector of the American Army. Captain MacDonald was court-martialed for atrocities in Southern Iloilo. Corporal Richard O’Brien of company M, stationed in Miagao, was one of the star witnesses during the trial. O’Brien, upon discharge from the Army, became a very famous actor in silent films and later on in movies until the 1950’s under the stage name of Richard Garrick.
It is likely that Captain Barker relieved Captain McDonald. Captain Cook later took over command after the surrender of Tan Pedro.
Below are excerpts from US Archives that adds more detail in this detective story.
References and suggested reading: