The Philippine Revolution

Proclamation of Philippine Independence
and the Birth of the Philippine Republic

With transportation provided by the Americans, Aguinaldo and his leaders returned to Cavite. They resumed their war offensive against Spain and reestablished the revolutionary government. Because of the exigencies of the time, Aguinaldo temporarily established a dictatorial government, but plans were afoot to proclaim the independence of the country especially since the Spaniards were reeling from defeat one battle after another.

From the balcony of his house in Kawit, Cavite, Aguinaldo declared on June 12, 1898 the independence of the Filipinos and the birth of the Philippine Republic. For the first time, the Philippine flag, sewn in Hongkong by the womenfolk of the revolutionaries, was unfurled. Two bands played Julian Felipe’s Marcha Nacional Filipina which became the Philippines’ national anthem. The declaration further emboldened the fighting Filipinos.

On June 18, 1898, Aguinaldo passed a decree calling for the reorganization of the provincial and municipal governments. In her article, Guerrero claims that following the liberation of Luzon from the hands of the Spaniards, elections were held in Cavite, Bataan, Batangas, and Pampanga in June and July; in Manila, Tayabas (now Quezon), Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur in August; in Abra, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Nueva Ecija in September; in Nueva Vizcaya and La Union in October; and in Isabela, Catanduanes, Albay, and Sorsogon in December. The elected provincial and town officials were mostly the same local officials during the Spanish period. This was because the requirements for voting and nomination to public office were restricted to those who were "citizens of 20 years of age or above who were ‘friendly’ to Philippine independence and were distinguished for their ‘high character, social position and honorable conduct, both in the center of the community and the suburb’."

These provisions automatically excluded the masses in the electoral process, and insured continued elite supremacy of local politics, even by those who were Spanish supporters and sympathizers during the early phase of the Revolution. Since the ilustrados had exclusive control of the electoral process, the provincial and municipal reorganization merely resulted in perpetuating elite dominance of society and government. Guerrero claims that records of the period reveal the composition of the municipal elite was unaltered and local offices simply rotated within their ranks.

But not all areas of Luzon came under the control of the ilustrados during the Revolution. In some towns, "uneducated" and "poor" masses were elected by an electorate who most probably did not meet the qualifications stipulated in Aguinaldo’s decree. Guerrero claims that the principalia or ilustrado local officials of Solano in Nueva Ecija and Urdaneta in Pangasinan complained over the election of the "uneducated and ignorant" who they argued were "totally incapable" of governing. But this was more of an aberration since the general picture was one of elite dominance and the alienation of the masses. Despite Aguinaldo’s order abolishing three hundred years of Spanish polo or forced labor, the local elite persisted in demanding personal services from the people, on top of the taxes levied against them. In some towns and provinces conditions were even worse as the elite wrangled among themselves, especially since Aguinaldo did not clearly delineate the responsibilities of the elected civilian and appointed military officials. This leads some historians to conclude that the masses in towns and countryside were the eventual victims of what transpired during the Revolution.

The American entry into the picture convinced the remaining fence-sitting ilustrados to support the Revolution. When rumors of an impending Spanish-American War were circulating in April 1898, several noted ilustrados led by Pedro Paterno offered their services to the Spanish governor-general. Yet when Aguinaldo returned from exile, several ilustrados serving in the Spanish militia, like Felipe Buencamino, abandoned the Spaniards and announced their "conversion" to the revolutionary cause. Indeed, the resumption of the revolution brought an electrifying response throughout the country. From Ilocos in the north down to Mindanao in the south, there was a simultaneous and collective struggle to oust the Spaniards.

Months later, when the Filipino-American War commenced, many ilustrados played the middle ground, i.e., on one hand, they sent words of support to Aguinaldo and, on the other, started contemplating on an autonomous status for the Philippines under the United States. An example was the Iloilo ilustrados who eventually sided with the Americans since their economic interests - sugar production and importation - dictated collaboration with the new colonizers. Indeed, in the parlance of contemporary Filipino political culture, the ilustrados were the classic "balimbing" or two-faced.

Despite the constant vacillation of the elite, Aguinaldo and his advisers tapped on their services in organizing the Philippine Republic. Aguinaldo was eager to prove that the Filipinos could govern themselves, and in the process it would legitimize the Philippine Republic. Moreover, since he and his advisers were ilustrados, Aguinaldo only trusted his own kind - the wealthy, educated, and politically experienced - in the matter of governance. Thus, he called on them to convene and create a Congress which would draft a constitution. He wanted a Philippine constitution to complete the required trimmings of a sovereign, nation-state - flag, army, government, and constitution. In his actions, Aguinaldo was advised by Apolinario Mabini who became known as the "Sublime Paralytic" because his spirit was not deterred by his physical handicap, and the "Brains of the Revolution" due to his intellectual acumen. On January 21, 1899, Aguinaldo proclaimed the Malolos Constitution which was drafted by the ilustrados of the Malolos Congress. Two days later, the Philippine Republic was inaugurated in Malolos, Bulacan, the new capital of the fledging government.

The Philippine Republic was, however, short-lived. From the start, Aguinaldo’s forces were fighting the Spaniards without military assistance from the Americans. Except for the Battle of Manila Bay, the United States was not a major force in the fighting. The American troops did not arrive in the country until late June, and they saw no military action until August. But events starting with the Spanish surrender of Manila on August 13, 1898, doomed the end of Philippine independence.

Although the Spanish troops had been routed in all fronts by the Filipinos, the continuing presence of the Americans was unsettling. Questions on actual American motives surfaced with the continuous arrival of American reinforcements. It did not take long for the Filipinos to realize the genuine intentions of the United States. The precarious and uneasy Philippine-American alliance collapsed on February 4, 1899, when the Philippine-American War broke out and threatened to annihilate the new found freedom of the Filipinos.