By Tonette Orejas
ANGELES CITY, Pampanga -- Officials of a foundation organizing commemoration rites for the first and last anniversary of Independence Day here held by the short-lived first Philippine Republic said they were frustrated by the national government’s lack of recognition of the event.
Despite invitations, no representatives from the executive, legislative or judicial departments had graced the reenactment of the June 12, 1899 episode at the Pamintuan mansion here since its centennial, according to Jose Paras Jr., Kuliat Foundation Inc. vice president and museum curator.
Paras said the events had remained local occasions although the National Historical Institute (NHI) installed a marker at the mansion in 2004.
The NHI recognized the mansion as the general headquarters of Filipino revolutionary forces led by Gen. Antonio Luna and the seat of the First Republic and a presidential palace.
It was President Emilio Aguinaldo who led the celebration of the first anniversary of the declaration of independence in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898. Generals Gregorio del Pilar of Bulacan and Manuel Tinio of Nueva Ecija led the Army parade.
From one of the windows of the stately European-style Pamintuan residence, Aguinaldo was said to have waved the original flag sewn in Hong Kong and raised during the Kawit rites.
However, the event turned out to be the last celebration because the republic started to crumble, leading to the eventual capture of Aguinaldo by Americans in Isabela province on March 23, 1901.
Paras said Aguinaldo regarded the 1899 rites significant.
A copy of an English translation of his speech that day quoted Aguinaldo as describing the event as a commemoration of the “greatest event in our political evolution.”
“[It was] the date on which the [Filipino] people, thirsting for liberty, justice and the exercise of their proper rights, thronged to Cavite, to carry out this highly patriotic manifestation, the beginning of a new era of progress and well-being for our idolized country, to the cry of ‘The Philippines free and independent,’” said Aguinaldo.
“The Philippines is for the Filipinos,” he said.
Luna protected the seat of the republic by putting up a defense line in the towns of Sta. Rita, Porac, Magalang, Mabalacat and Angeles.
These areas were secured by 25,000 soldiers with about 10,000 riflemen protecting Angeles as American forces captured Malolos in Bulacan and advanced toward San Fernando, Pampanga, according to local historian Daniel Dizon, 76.
The mansion served as headquarters of Gen. Arthur MacArthur until after the Filipino-American war in 1901.
“We are frustrated. Our national officials have given no value to this event when there are so much proof about its historical importance and to think that President Macapagal-Arroyo hails from Pampanga. We don’t know their reasons for not coming. We hope it’s not [because of] indifference,” Paras told the Inquirer on Thursday.
“We’re still not losing hope that they would come. Their presence is a statement that the 1899 event is just as important in the struggle for freedom,” he said.
The mansion still stands intact because the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, through its former governor, Jaime Laya, rescued it from dilapidation as well as sale by the heirs.
In 1976, the BSP spent P25 million to buy the lot and restore the house, said Dizon.
The BSP uses the mansion as an office, lending it only to the foundation every June 12.