A History of the Filipino Revolt (from the Tagalog perspective)

Tom Matic IV

Tom Matic IV
This is a not-so-brief history of what is known in Spain as the Filipino Revolt and in the Philippines as the 1896 Revolution. I have endeavored to summarize as much of the information as I can without sacrificing the breadth of the conflict. Much gratitude to the creators of this site for allowing me to share a brief, heroic, tragic narrative of our shared history with the hope that better appreciation and understanding can be shared between our two nations and peoples. My fervent hope is that I have honored those who lived and died in this tumultuous past.
The Philippines was a colony of the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years. Spain gave the natives – a mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and small indigenous tribes – a colonial government to rule by the sword and what was essentially a state religion, Spanish Catholicism, which ruled by the cross. The earliest conquistadores, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, Martin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo, carved out an island empire for Spain that subsequent warrior-administrators would expand and build upon. While the earliest landfall had been in the central island of Cebu, which Magellan had reached before his fatal encounter with the chieftain of Mactan, Legaspi chose the burgeoning native citadel of Maynila (supposedly named after the blossoming Nila – flowering mangrove – plants at the mouth of the great river Pasig) as the seat of Spanish power in the islands. Driving out the native chieftain Suleyman with the aid of native auxilliaries, Legaspi began to remake the Islamic Malay kingdoms into a Spanish Catholic colony. Meanwhile, Sulayman’s valiant attempt at reconquest ended in the marshes of nearby Bangkusay Channel.

Manila became the “faithful and ever loyal city”, the Asiatic jewel of Nueva Espanya whose Viceroyalty administered the Asian colony. A wooden palisade wall eventually gave way to massive stone walls with bastions and a fortress keep, La Fuerza de Santiago (today known as Fort Santiago) and the entire citadel was called ‘Intramuros’. Trade was primarily with China while the galleon trade with Acapulco was its primary and often singular annual contact with the ‘mother country’. Spain retained a monopoly on trade and fought several bitter wars with marauding Chinese pirates (as well as several bloody Chinese uprisings) as well as the persistent Dutch whose raiding and trading began with Oliver van Noort’s dramatic circumnavigation of the globe in 1600. While the Spanish chief-justice Don Antonio de Morga drove off van Noort in what can only be described as a tragicomedy of errors, the Dutch would continue to raid Manila throughout the 17th century leading to the founding of a naval-themed religious feast day, La Naval de Manila after two aging trade galleons drove back several Dutch raiders and ‘saved’ the colony.

Spain ruled the natives through a system of divide and rule. Native rulers, known as Principalia, were given key roles in local administration, becoming essentially glorified tax-collectors, while rivalries between native tribes were exploited to ensure that no one group of natives became powerful enough to launch a successful rebellion. Religion was an extremely potent force as well and Spanish clerics in the island soon became not only key figures but kingmakers in their own right – a feud in 1719 between churchmen under Archbishop of Manila Francisco de la Cuesta and the Governor General Fernando Bustamante escalated to the point where (allegedly) priests leading an angry mob stormed the governor general’s palace and murdered him and his son. A later Archbishop of Manila, Manuel Rojo, was in charge when the British Honorable East India Company, fresh from its conquest of India, set its greedy eyes on the Philippines.

City of Manila, oil painting of the inside of a chest, circa 1640-1650, Museo de Arte José Luis Bello, Puebla, México.
City of Manila, oil painting of the inside of a chest, circa 1640-1650, Museo de Arte José Luis Bello, Puebla, México.
In 1762, the British launched a massive invasion of Luzon, landing just south of the walled city and capturing several solid stone churches and taking the city under siege. Archbishop Rojo exhorted the people to resist with passionate religious fervor but soon discovered that religious fervor was no substitute for disciplined troops under decisive leadership. The most determined resistance was from Pampanga natives under a leader called Manalastas who assaulted the British siege lines with little more than machetes, bamboo spears and bows-and-arrows, and were paid rough tribute by the British general who praised their courage and described them as having “died like beasts, gnawing the bayonets”. The British stormed Manila and sacked it but were unable to expand their territory thanks to Spanish officers like Don Simon de Anda, the junior oidor of the Spanish colonial government, the Real Audiencia, who became the de facto leader of the Spanish colonial government following Archbishop Rojo’s surrender and capture, and loyal natives that contested every foot of ground taken by the British. In the end, the British abandoned their claims to the archipelago in 1763. Anda became the next governor general.

At the same time as the British invasion, three separate local uprisings were taking place, that of Francisco Dagohoy (whose brother had been refused a Christian burial and whose subsequent rebellion lasted more than a hundred years), a leader known colloquially as Palaris in north-central Luzon, and the husband and wife team of Diego and Gabriella Silang. This last named became one of the legendary uprisings against Spain and had, ironically, began as a locally raised militia under Diego for service against the British. Instead of being grateful, the local Spanish official threw Diego into jail for insurrection which led to Diego rising up against Spain instead. The Silangs were so successful that the British approached them with a view to arming and supporting them as local rulers (under British hegemony of course). Terrified of an Anglo-Silang alliance, the Spanish officials bribed Diego’s friend Vicos to murder Diego, which he did in due course. Gabriella Silang then took up the leadership of the rebellion but was unable to withstand renewed Spanish efforts against their insurrection and she and her leaders were eventually hanged.

Thus for 300 years, Spain was able to maintain its domination over the islands mainly through the loyalty and cooperation of the natives. But there were cracks in the image of Spanish invincibilty. The British conquest of Manila showed the natives that the Spaniards were not unbeatable. The opening of the Suez Canal meant there was greater cultural exchange between Europe and the archipelago.

As indicated above, the Spanish colonial government was only truly able to control and subjugate the natives thanks to the loyal support of the natives themselves (this was, by the way, the case for just about every colonial empire from the massive British Empire to the comparatively small German overseas empire). Spanish-led native troops were the backbone of the insular defense forces against foreign invaders, native insurrection and the ever present threat of Moro incursions.

The Spanish native infantry regiments were known as Regimentos Fijos or “Fixed Regiments” as they were regiments for use only in the Philippine colonies as well as the Carolinas. They were also called “Indigenas” and continued the numbering of regiments in Cuba which ended in the 67th. The 68th through 74th Regiments of Infantry as well as three tercios of paramilitary Guardia Civil (20th through 22nd) were the main garrison of the islands. While conscripted and prone to desertion, most were generally loyal even when the Rebellion broke out.

Native Regiments were:
68th (Legaspi) Infantry Regiment
– named after the conquistador who claimed the Philippines for Spain,
Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. Headquartered in Jolo but serving in the field
in Luzon and Mindanao with detachments in the Carolinas and Paragua Islands.
69th (Iberia) Infantry Regiment
– named after the Iberian homeland. Headquartered in Zamboanga and serving in Luzon.
70th (Magallanes) Infantry Regiment
– perhaps the most infamous native regiment it is remembered to this day as the unit
which provided the firing squad that executed Dr.Jose Rizal. Named after the
Spanish explorer that discovered the Philippines, Ferdinand de Magallanes.
The regiment was part of the capital’s permanent garrison and served mostly in Luzon.
71st (Mindanao) Infantry Regiment
– named after the large – and conflict-ridden – island of Mindanao. Headquartered at
Iligan, serving in the field in Luzon and Mindanao.
72nd (Visayas) Infantry Regiment
– named after the group of islands occupying the central Philippines known collectively
as the Visayas. Headquartered at Manila and serving in Mindanao.
73rd (Jolo) Infantry Regiment
– named after the largely Muslim southern islands, south of the larger island of
Mindanao, whose neutralization was considered a major Spanish victory.
Headquartered in Manila and serving in Luzon and Mindanao. This regiment
particularly distinguished itself during the quelling of the Manila uprising
in August 1896.
74th (Manila) Infantry Regiment
– named after the capital city, the “Faithful and Ever-Loyal City”. Headquartered in
Manila and serving in Luzon and Mindanao.

Spanish troops at Silang, Cavite province.
Spanish troops at Silang, Cavite province.
Spanish soldiers at Manila.
Spanish soldiers at Manila.
While the native infantry did most of the hard fighting in Mindanao and during the Tagalog Revolt, it was the three tercios of the paramilitary police force, the Guardia Civil, which gained legendary infamy thanks to their role as the ‘muscle’ or ‘enforcers’ of the local government officials and the friars but particularly because of their portrayal in this role in popular Revolutionary literature, Rizal’s Noli Mi Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

The three tercios of Guardia Civil paramilitary police (20th, 21st, 22nd) along withs one infantry battalion and a mounted troop of the elite Guardia Civil Veteranas, comprised the Guardia Civil establishment.

Other local defense troops included a few cavalry and the 6th Mountain Artillery along with the Artillery Regiment de la Plaza for permanent defense of the capital. There was also a disciplinary battalion for suspected rebels and mutineers and a regiment of Marine Infantry.

The Spanish government dispatched numerous Expeditionary Rifle Battalions, the dreaded Cazadores, as reinforcements between November 1896 and February 1897.

The continuing conflict in Spain between Liberal and Conservation as well as the opening of the Suez Canal meant new ideas were spreading to the Philippines like never before. A conflict between local ‘secular’ priests (those not belonging to any religious order) and those arrived from Spain which were part of an order coincided with a mutiny over pay at the Spanish arsenal of Cavite in 1872. The resulting “Cavite Mutiny” was quickly put down and the blame and responsibility shifted to three particularly outspoken and ‘troublesome priests’ – Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora. The three were made out to be the ringleaders of the mutiny and executed by garrotte. GOM-BUR-ZA as they became known inspired widespread indignation among the natives, particularly the native educated elite or ‘ilustrado’ class which launched the Propaganda Movement spearheaded by the polymath Doctor Jose Rizal and the publisher-propagandist Marcelo H. Del Pilar. M.H. del Pilar published the broadsheet La Solidaridad which spoke against Spanish colonial abuses and Rizal wrote and published two extremely incendiary novels which even today shape the Filipino consciousness – Noli Mi Tangere (Touch me Not, taken from the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane between Christ and Mary Magdalene), and El Filibusterismo (the Filibuster/Piratical Adventurer/ or its English title “the reign of greed”).

Things came to a head when a newly returned Rizal formed a gentleman’s social organization La Liga Filipina which counted among its membership a young zealous clerk who worked for a European firm and had a passion for learning and organizing, Andres Bonifacio. The Spanish almost immediately arrested Rizal and exiled him to Dapitan in the southern island of Mindanao. Bonifacio then rallied many of the La Liga Filipina members along with family and friends and with them formed The Highest, Most Honorable Society of the Children/Sons of the Nation (Kataastaasan, Kagalang-galangan, Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan). Adopting a semi-Masonic organization complete with triangular recruiting, code words, colored hoods and a ‘blood compact’ final initiation ritual (where you signed your membership papers with your own blood drawn from your arm), these young disaffected natives were soon spreading the gospel of nationalism across the main northern island of Luzon and into the central islands of the Visayas.

Katipunan affiliation ritual, signed with blood.
Katipunan affiliation ritual, signed with blood.
The Katipunan grew exponentially under Bonifacio but was unable to secure adequate modern firearms – in fact they had few guns at all! An early disagreement between Bonifacio and the recently recruited chief of the Magdalo Council from Cavite, a young farmer and scion of a well-to-do rural family named Emilio Aguinaldo, over the lack of weapons led Bonifacio to send emissaries to Rizal in Dapitan to ask the latter’s blessing, only to have their request rejected by Rizal as well. Rizal believed that the Filipinos were unready for self government and that they, in any case, did not have sufficient weapons and ammunition. Angry, Bonifacio was determined that they would rise up soon. But before he could set the date, the Katipunan was discovered by the Spaniards who began sending the paramilitary Guardia Civil to arrest people and throw them into jail at the start of August 1896.

Bonifacio, undeterred, gathered his followers and in a dramatic ‘Cortez-burning-his-ships’ moment, ripped up their government tax document or Cedula, signifying their rejection of Spanish colonial rule. As outbreaks of rebellion quickly flashed across the islands, Spanish Governor General Ramon Blanco y Erenas declared martial law and recalled his major forces from the endemic war against the Muslim “Moros” in Mindanao to defend the capital, Manila.


After several initial skirmishes, Bonifacio launched an ambitious – and sadly over-complicated – plan to take Manila. Several columns of Katipuneros would converge on Manila after accomplishing their initial tasks of cutting the electric power to Manila which would signal other rebel forces from the province immediately south, Cavite, as well as mutinous soldiers within the walled city itself, while the other column took the military stores from the Spanish ammunition depot (Polvorin) at San Juan del Monte. Most of the Katipuneros of Bonifacio’s command were armed with bolos (machetes) and bamboo spears with pistols and a rag-tag number of firearms among them. There is evidence that they were dressed in red pants and carrying bolos to disguise themselves as devotees of a particular saint whose feast day was celebrated at that time.

Unfortunately the lack of coordination between the groups and a lack of decisive action at the Polvorin itself (only 2 Spanish troops were killed) saw the rest of the garrison flee to a solid two story structure that housed the administration of the Manila water-works, called El Deposito. The consultative nature of Bonifacio’s leadership (based on the group meeting or pulong such as in social organizations) meant that the Katipuneros were unable to make any headway against the desperate garrison within El Deposito until a relief force under the Segundo Cabo (Second in command to the Governor-General), General Bernardo Echaluce y Jauregui comprising a mere 100 men of the 73rd “Jolo” Infantry Regiment arrived from Manila and drove them off. Pursuing them as they retreated to Santa Mesa and on the Pasig River by small boats (bancas), the Spanish troops inflicted more than 150 fatal casualties on the Katipuneros and 2-300 wounded and captured. Bonifacio’s reputation as a war leader also suffered gravely following this defeat.

Spanish soldiers defending a house at the outskirts of Manila.
Spanish soldiers defending a house at the outskirts of Manila.
Very shortly after the debacle at San Juan del Monte, however, the chief of the Magdalo Council, Emilio Aguinaldo overwhelmed the local garrison of Guardia Civil and armed friars in a hacienda in the town of Imus, Cavite. An expeditionary force under General Ernesto de Aguirre was sent to crush this rebellion and the young Aguinaldo hurried to meet the Spaniards near Zapote Bridge, the boundery between Cavite province and Manila province. They were ambushed by Aguirre’s troops on route and many of his men were killed. Aguinaldo was forced to hide among the bodies until the column moved on. Aguirre, instead of proceding further into Cavite, returned to Manila to secure a larger force. This allowed Aguinaldo to plan a strategy which would ensure that his poorly armed and untrained men fought a more advantageous defensive battle on ground of his own choosing.

Fortifying the river banks and breaking the stone bridge just beyond the sight of anyone approaching on the road from Manila, he set up a kill-zone at point-blank range with home-made guns, a small ‘lankata’ cannon, bows-and-arrows while he himself carried a Winchester repeater that he had ‘liberated’ from the friar hacienda. When Aguirre returned he found himself opposed by a desperate Katipunan army that was fortified on the opposite bank. Crossing the bridge, his troops found that they could not proceed across the broken section and as the column wavered in confusion, the Katipuneros unleashed volleys at a murderous close range.

Aguinaldo then set up the coup de grace, taking a picked team of men some distance down-stream and after forming a human chain of linked hands, the rest of the team crossed over and hit the wavering Spanish formation on the flank. This was too much for them and they broke ranks and routed, throwing away their arms as they fled through the muddied fields, while the Katipuneros cut them down with vengeful ruthlessness. The terrific slaughter terrified General Aguirre who fled the field, dropping his sable de mando (command sabre) as he retreated. Aguinaldo picked up the saber, a Toledo steel blade marked 1869 which was the year of Aguinaldo’s birth. “Lady Fortune has been on my side” he remarked.

As word of the victory at Imus spread like wildfire, more recruits arrived from other provinces fleeing the Juez de Cuchilo (Martial Law) imposed by the government, while others joined out of patriotic fervor including the brilliant young Engineering student, Edilberto Evangelista. Evangelista proved himself an extremely gifted fortifications engineer, building lines of trenches to protect major Cavite Katipunan strongholds.

The Governor General, Blanco, gathered his main forces including naval cruisers and marine infantry and launched them at the main strongholds of the Cavite Katipunan, the towns of Binakayan, Dalahican and Noveleta. For several days the might of the Spanish Colonial military stormed the Cavite trenches while the Filipinos would engage in desperate ‘agaw-armas’ raids – attacking the Spanish troops to attempt to wrest their weapons from them. A naval and artillery bombardment and repeated infantry assaults failed to break the Filipinos though Aguinaldo’s best friend, Candido Tirona, was killed during the fighting. In the end, the Spaniards retreated from the field with heavy casualties, leaving Cavite province entirely in Filipino hands. The peaceful interlude between the victorious battle of Binakayan-Dalahican at the beginning of November 1896 and the resumption of the Spanish offensive in February 1897 became known in Cavite as “Ang Panahón ng Tagalog” or The Time of the Tagalogs.

Unfortunately this is where things started to fall apart for the native revolutionaries. Already disappointed in his luke-warm response, Blanco was replaced by his new segundo cabo, the ruthless Camilo de Polavieja who initiated a reign of terror of arrests, torture and execution of rebels including the leaders captured at San Juan del Monte, wealthy Filipino patriots suspected of supporting the Revolution, and ultimately Dr.Jose Rizal, who was shot after a sham-trial on the field of Bagumbayan to the east of the walled city (also called Luneta) on December 30, 1896. Contrary to what seems to be understood outside the Philippines, Rizal’s execution did not cause the uprising but rather it was a result or CAUSED BY the uprising (which had been going on since August 1896).

Tagalog insurgents. The rebel at the right is armed with a Remington and a bolo machete.
Tagalog insurgents. The rebel at the right is armed with a Remington and a bolo machete.
Sandatahan armed with a crossbow, Luzón, 1898
Sandatahan armed with a crossbow, Luzón, 1898
Polavieja also had several thousand fresh troops, mostly crack riflemen of the Cazadores, which had been sent from Spain at the outbreak of the Rebellion in August-September. By contrast, the Katipunan had never (despite claims by modern Filipino nationalists even today) been a unified government but rather a confederacy of closely allied Councils (Sanggunian) which might have respected the wishes of the Manila Katipunan under the Supremo, Bonifacio, but were not, realistically, absolutely obligated to do so. As with the Spanish Guerrillas fighting Napoleon, there was no actual ‘head’ of the Rebellion but rather many local groups that needed to be dealt with and quelled in turn. Thus as you mentioned: “In 1896, some members of the Katipunan had founded the Republic of the Kakarong located in Caracóng of Sile, in the province of Bulacán, in the island of Luzón. There they built a real fortress surrounding this settlement and protected it with nearly 6,000 men. But, on January 1st, 1897, a column of 600 Spanish soldiers assaulted and occupied the fortress, and that was the end of the short-lived republic.”

Karakong de Sili was a splinter group of revolutionaries under Eusebio Roque, colloquially known as Maestro Sebio. It was able to survive while the main efforts of former Governor General Blanco focused on Cavite but the new Governor General (or more accurately, Capitan General in his military capacity) Polavieja made it a point to crush this citadel of rebellion with his fresh troops.

Meanwhile, the two Councils (Sanggunian) leading the successful Cavite Katipunan – the larger Magdiwang under the powerful Alvarez clan, and the more famous and combat-successful Magdalo under the Aguinaldo clan – were in the midst of a friendly but rapidly souring rivalry. Both agreed that a centralized, top-down command structure must replace the consultative assembly structure of the Katipunan and it became clear soon enough that the Katipunan itself was obsolete – there was no central leadership and direction for the revolution, Bonifacio had proven ineffective in wrangling the disparate regional councils to his will, and the Spanish were clearly gearing up for a far more intense and deadly second round. Furthermore there were many more recruits, Evangelista included, who simply were not Katipuneros, yet were revolutionaries. It was decided that they should elect a central government.

The Alvarez’s attempted to locate Bonifacio, who had gone into hiding in the hills and after much time and persistence found the Supremo and eventually convinced him to come to Cavite, ostensibly to unite the two ‘factions’ that were ‘feuding’ there. Bonifacio, having lost much of his reputation and capacity to command and having, in his own words, “failed to have captured a single town for assembly or defense” desperately needed to regain command of the shifting center of the Revolution. Meanwhile, the young Emilio Aguinaldo desperately wanted to avoid being put on the spot for nomination as president, preferring the highly educated Edilberto Evangelista or the more senior and experienced Licerio Topacio or his far more politically savvy cousin, Baldomero Aguinaldo, to himself. Young Aguinaldo was a high school drop-out, the younger son in the family and had something of an inferiority complex yet was dedicated to his duty and to his constituency (and later his soldiers, and finally to his nation) to a fault.

Polavieja opened the campaign with a massive two-pronged invasion leading an assault directly south by way of Zapote Bridge with half his force while the other half, grouped into a massive division under General Jose Lachambre, swung around the eastern flank through Laguna Province and moved against the Caviteno stronghold of Imus from the southeast. Rushing to defeat the Capitan General’s troops, Evangelista held the strategic Zapote Bridge and his troops killed one of the Spanish generals during the engagement but it was a pyrrhic victory as Evangelista himself was hit by a sniper and killed in February 1897. As both pincers closed in on the Caviteno defenders, the political arena was growing dirty with Bonifacio openly siding with the Magdiwang Council (who were his in-laws after all) and acting “like a despot” (algo despota) – there were rumors of him adopting kingly airs and seeking to establish himself as King of the Tagalogs. Both Magdiwang and Magdalo accused the other side of selling out to the Spaniards while Bonifacio’s sister was accused of being a priest’s whore and Bonifacio himself an agent provocateur of the friars.

Finally, at the Tejeros election, Bonifacio (who was made honorary president of the convention in deference to his title of Supremo) failed to win against Emilio Aguinaldo (who was not there – he was defending the Filipino battle line at Pasong Santol with his elder brother, General Crispulo Aguinaldo) and when Bonifacio eventually won the election of Director of Interior (which might actually have suited his organizational and charismatic leader gifts well) the younger brother of the dead hero Candido Tirona, Daniel, insultingly pointed out Bonifacio’s lack of qualification for the job and suggested that they get a Caviteno lawyer who was far better qualified for it. Bonifacio was understandably miffed – however, his reaction went beyond what was called for. Drawing his pistol, he attempted to shoot Daniel Tirona (who quickly made himself scarce) and would have had not General Artemio Ricarte, his loyalist and supporter who had been elected Capitan General of the Revolutionary Army, restrained his hands.

Dispute at Tejeros Election.
Dispute at Tejeros Election.
Bonifacio then declared the entire convention null and void – violating his own oath to respect the results of the elections, an oath that he as president of the convention had administered to everyone. He and the Magdiwang officers then wrote out the Acta de Tejeros, proclaiming loudly that cheating had occurred (and as Glen Anthony May points out, cheating was a congenital and endemic part of local government elections in the Spanish colonial period) and that the convention was void. Yet the Magdiwang had won big in the elections: 7 of 9 electoral seats went to Magdiwang officers. Only Emilio and Baldomero had won for the Magdalo (which leads one to question WHO EXACTLY had been cheating).

Aguinaldo had not been at the convention and when he heard news of his political victory, refused to leave his post. Meanwhile, Bonifacio was still stinging from his defeat and humiliation and he, according to Aguinaldo, conspired with newly elected Capitan General Ricarte to prevent Filipino reinforcements from reaching the battlefield of Pasong Santol. If this is true then Bonifacio might have been attempting to kill Emilio Aguinaldo with Spanish bullets when reinforcements and relief failed to arrive. Instead, big brother Crispulo vowed to hold the defenses till younger brother Emilio returned from Tanza to take his oath of office. “If they reach you,” Crispulo said grimly, “It will be over my dead body”.

Unfortunately, the Spanish overwhelmed the defenses at Pasong Santol and Crispulo Aguinaldo, wounded multiple times, was cut down by a Spanish rifleman. The elder Aguinaldo was mortally wounded and taken back to a Spanish field hospital where he expired. Hurrying back to the field, Emilio desperately searched the corpses at night looking for his brother while the Spanish troops wondered why the Filipinos were strangely silent and not taking pot-shots at them.

The breaching of Filipino defenses forced the heretofore successful Cavite Rebellion onto its backfoot. To compound the already deteriorating situation, Bonifacio attempted to co-opt to Magdalo generals, Mariano Noriel and Pio del Pilar, and form his own military government, the Naik Military Pact. This declared all revolutionary forces to be under Pio del Pilar’s command and that the revolutionary troops should be forcibly conscripted into the ‘true’ revolutionary army. Aguinaldo got word of it soon enough and the two generals were brought back into the fold loudly protesting their loyalty. Bonifacio then said that he would return to Manila/Morong Province but not before (allegedly) assaulting a Magdiwang town, Indang, which was swollen with starving refugees (the massive influx of refugees or ‘alsa balutan’ from other provinces and poor harvests thanks to the Revolution taking place during the rainy season was leading to near-famine in Cavite) and demanding that the town feed and provision him and his troops. When they refused, Bonifacio (allegedly) assaulted the town like a common bandit, sacking it for food and burning its church tower. As if this was not enough, a rumor spread that Bonifacio had stolen the revolutionary war chest (finances) and was going to exchange it for a pardon from General Lachambre. All these led to the order to arrest Bonifacio.

In a violent exchange between the Bonifacio brothers – the troops that Bonifacio had thought loyal fled, protesting that they would not fight their fellow Filipinos – and the arresting troops under Colonel Agapito ‘Yntong’ Bonzon, Colonel Jose Ignacio ‘Yntsik’ (Chinaman) Paua, and Colonel Tomas Mascardo, Bonifacio and one brother were injured and another brother was killed. Bonifacio was taken back for trial before a Consejo de Guerra instituted by the new revolutionary government. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Feeling that things had gone far enough, the newly elected president was in favor of commuting the sentence to exile. This was met with widespread opposition, particularly from the two generals which had shifted loyalties to Bonifacio at Naik, Mariano Noriel and Pio del Pilar. Threatening Aguinaldo that his life might be in danger if Bonifacio lived, they prevailed upon the reluctant Aguinaldo to sign the Supremo’s death warrant.

Bonifacio, erstwhile Supremo of the Katipunan who had taken Rizal’s dream of a revolution ignited as written in El Filibusterismo and turned it into a fire and blood reality, was taken by a troop of revolutionary soldiers under Major Lazaro Makapagal and executed by firing squad.

While this may have satiated the bloodthirsty need for vengeance on the part of the revolutionary leaders, virtually all of whom saw Bonifacio as the reason for their failing fortunes in Cavite, it did not change the downward spiral of the conflict. Aguinaldo was forced to flee Cavite, heading north past Manila to Bulakan province where he linked up with revolutionary generals fighting the Spaniards in Central Luzon. Meanwhile, Polavieja asked for and was granted relief – the fighting had worn him out. He was replaced by Capitan General Fernando Primo de Rivera, whose nephew Miguel accompanied him to the Philippines. Miguel would later become dictator of Spain before Franco.

Primo de Rivera found that the Filipinos still had plenty of fight left in them despite the loss of Cavite. Again, the confederacy structure of the rebellion helped prevent a collapse when a major portion of the uprising was defeated. The central Luzon generals united to defeat Primo de Rivera’s troops at Aliaga and Aguinaldo was found ensconced in the mountain fortress of Biak na Bato (Broken Stone). Adding to Primo de Rivera’s problems were a refusal by Spain to continue supporting the war in the Philippines. Spain was severely over-extended with two rebellions going on at opposite sides of the globe. Spain wanted the rebellion in the Philippines ended quickly.

Aguinaldo initially refused to negotiate but eventually was persuaded to meet with Primo de Rivera’s emissaries. They signed the Biak na Bato peace treaty where Spain would pay Aguinaldo and his chief leaders a hefty sum to go into exile, while other halves of the money were paid to the remaining rebel generals and promises of reform and restitution were made by Spain. Colonel Miguel Primo de Rivera was the Spanish government’s official “hostage” to ensure the terms were carried out.

While modern Filipinos see this as a betrayal and selling the revolution (as it was portrayed by Spain) many Filipinos in the contemporary period saw this as a great victory – for the first time a Filipino leader and government was treated with respect and negotiated with, almost like a legitimate state. Aguinaldo himself kept the money he received intact and saved them on time-deposit to ensure that they could accrue interest. He and his ‘Hong Kong Junta’ then lived on the meager interest from the sum. He would later negotiate with the American consul Rounseville Wildman and Chinese Revolutionary Sun Yat Sen,  to purchase Mauser rifles with which to restart the revolution.

Following the American victory at Manila Bay, Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines on an American warship. His return triggered a widespread uprising by the native rebels who leaped upon the weakend and unsupported Spanish garrisons across the archipelago and quickly overwhelmed them. Spanish forces in Cavite were defeated at the Battle of Alapan, where the newly designed Philippine flag was first unfurled. To the astonishment of Dewey and the Spanish administration, Aguinaldo was able to secure most of Luzon and the Visayas except for tiny hold-out garrisons at Baler, Zamboanga and of course the “faithful and ever loyal” city of Manila.

Under direct orders from Spain to not surrender the city to the rebels, the Governor General Fermin Jaudenes negotiated secretly with the American military commanders to fight a ‘mock battle’ which would save Spanish honor and then give the Americans the victory they wanted, provided the Filipinos were left out in the cold. The Americans agreed.

On August 13, 1898, blue-shirted lines of American infantrymen climbed out of their trenches and moved against the Spanish ‘defenders’. Sporadic fire and resulted in a few casualties but at the end of it all the scarlet and gold that had flown over Manila for three centuries was sadly lowered and replaced with the stars-and-stripes. The “three hundred years in a convent” had ended for the natives, replaced by “fifty years of Hollywood”.

American troops raise the flag at Fuerte de San Antonio de Abad, Malate (1899).
American troops raise the flag at Fuerte de San Antonio de Abad, Malate (1899).
The succeeding months saw a rapid deterioration of the relationship between the two erstwhile allies, Aguinaldo’s Filipinos and the American military. The Benevolent Assimilation proclamation made it clear that the Americans were there to stay and hopes that the American anti-war movement would be able to prevent the U.S.Congress from ratifying the Treaty of Paris, which sold the islands to America for $20-million, were dashed by the outbreak of hostilities between February 4 and 5, 1899. A bloody war of counterinsurgency began with the Filipinos – and a good number of Spaniards that had joined them (many willing and some quite unwilling and forced) found themselves facing an enemy that would make the Tagalog Revolt seem like a bar-room brawl. The Philippine-American War, America’s first true overseas war of attrition, had begun.
This is to differentiate it from the later, more highly organized Philippine Army of Liberation. The Katipunan troops were essentially a clan/tribal force centering around the local council and its officers. There were some officers that fulfilled a military role and others that were in an administrative occupation, yet still holding rank.

Bodyguard troops – these would be the family and close friends/servants of the leader and would have a higher level of toughness and more access to firearms, particularly as the revolution progressed.

Katipuneros – these would be the conscript troops armed with bamboo spears, bows & arrows and the ubiquitous machete. There might be a few pistols among them.

Sandatahanes – (literally Swordbearers)  these would be tough and fanatical bolo armed shock troops, effective at close quarters against the enemy. An upgrade from Katipuneros.

Kawal – (literally Soldiers) these would be conscript troops who had been issued captured enemy rifles. Not very effective except at fairly close range where even they cannot miss. An upgrade from Katipuneros.

Veteranas – (literally Veterans) these would be leader types who had deserted from the Spanish Colonial Army. These would have limited training capacity to improve Kawal class troops rifle skills.

Tiradores – (literally Sharpshooters) these would be Kawal troops that had been upgraded by training with Veteranas leadership. Fairly effective at close to middle range. An upgrade from Kawal.

Commandante – (Major) a mid-grade field officer capable of leading men into battle. Having been promoted up from Teniente, he would be fairly experienced.

Coronel – (Colonel) a high-grade field officer capable of leading men into battle. Some colonels gained rank through experience but most, like most of the self-proclaimed generals owed their rank to political connections and recruitment abilities. Randomly indifferent leadership.

The Filipinos had NO mounted troops, however the would have had superior ability to hide in the terrain and maneuver out of rifle range.

Filipinos were armed primarily with captured Remington Rolling-Block rifles captured from Spanish native troops. They were later able to secure the more potent Mauser rifles.

Daniel Tirona, of Tejeros Convention infamy, was in charge of a cartridge recovery program. Young children would scamper about the battlefield and recover spent cartridges which were then refilled with local (indifferent quality) black powder.

When Aguinaldo declared war on the Americans he integrated Katipunan forces, here wearing Spanish uniforms, into his army. In the right of the photo, a Filipino flag can be seen with its distinctive Sun, the emblem of which evolved from Katipunan flags.
When Aguinaldo declared war on the Americans he integrated Katipunan forces, here wearing Spanish uniforms, into his army. In the right of the photo, a Filipino flag can be seen with its distinctive Sun, the emblem of which evolved from Katipunan flags.
There was also an artillery casting foundery under the Chinese-Filipino general Jose Ignacio Paua which made small cannon called ‘lankata’.

There is some evidence (Sr.Santiago Alvarez’s memoirs – Alvarez was leader of the Magdiwang Council of Cavite and in-law to the Supremo Andres Bonfacio) that the Magdiwang troops were dressed in some sort of black uniform with red distinctives/rank badges, while the Magdalo troops copied the Spanish mil-raya / rayadillo uniform. The Tagalog Revolt era was very much a ‘Game of Thrones’ type affair of warlords with local councils being virtually autonomous of Bonifacio’s Manila Katipunan, though the Supremo was still afforded respect, and there was little to no true uniformity in the rebel forces. Katipuneros would have worn their own civilian clothes, possibly with rank and group distinctives or used captured Spanish guerera uniforms and Remington webbing to achieve a more martial look. Most photographs show the use of white or rayadillo four-pocket jackets with side-slits for pistol and sword in Spanish military style.

Filipino Heritage (ed.Alfredo Roces) particularly the following:
Vol 8 – Night of Heroes (1896-1900)
Vol 7 – The Awakening (late 19th Century)
Vol 6 – Roots of National Identity (18th/19th Centuries)
Vol 5 – Bajo las Campanas (17th/18th Centuries)
Filipinos at War – Carlos Quirino
A Question of Heroes – Nick Joaquin
The First Filipino – Leon Ma.Guerrero
Paghihimagsik Nang 1896-1897 – Isagani Medina
The Truth about Aguinaldo and other Heroes – Alfredo B. Saulo
The Katipunan and the Revolution: Memoirs of a General – Santiago Alvarez (memoirs)
The Memoirs of General Artemio Ricarte – Artemio Ricarte (memoirs)
The Tinio Brigade: Anti American Resistance in the Ilocos Provinces, 1899-1901 – Orlino Ochosa
Inventing a Hero: The Posthumous Recreation of Andres Bonifacio – Glen Anthony May
Great Filipino Battles – Monina Mercado

Little Brown Brother – Leon Wolff
Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines 1899-1903 – Stuart Creighton Miller
In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines – Stanley Karnow
Sitting in Darkness: Americans in the Philippines – David Haward Bain
The Philippine War 1899-1902 – Brian McAllister Linn
Inside the Spanish-American War: A History Based on First-Person Accounts – James McCaffrey
Uncle Sam’s Little Wars: The Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, and Boxer Rebellion, 1898-1902 (G.I. Series) – John Langellier
Spanish-American War (Brassey’s History of Uniforms) – Ron Field
The Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection – Alejandro de Quesada for Osprey Militaria
San Juan Hill 1898: America’s Emergence as a World Power – Angus Konstam for Osprey Militaria
Roosevelt’s Rough Riders – Alejandro de Quesada for Osprey Militaria
Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare – Daniel Marston, Carter Malkasian
Colorado Volunteer Infantry in the Philippine Wars – Geoffrey Hunt
Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars – Spencer C. Tucker (ed.)
Under the Red and Gold – Martin Cerezo
Empire By Default – Ivan Musicant
The War with Spain in 1898 – David Trask
The Savage Wars of Peace – Max Boot
The American Rifle – Alexander Rose
The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna – Vivencio Jose
As our might grows less: The Philippine-American War in Context – Jose Amiel Palma Angeles (thesis)
Warfare by Pulong – Glen Anthony May (article)
The Filipino Junta in Hong Kong, 1898-1903: History of a Revolutionary Organization – Ronald Bell (thesis)

The Philippine American War – Arnaldo Dumindin – http://philippineamericanwar.webs.com/
Spanish-American War Centennial Website – http://www.spanamwar.com/
Los Rayadillos: The Spanish Colonial Uniform Research Project – William K. Combs
The Kahimyang Book Archive: