By DOM GALEON
A rare historical document has surfaced and will be put up for auction next week. The catalog of Leon Gallery’s Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2020 includes in its list a letter written by Emilio Aguinaldo to the Filipino people.
Considered as the Father of Philippine Independence, which was proclaimed on June 12, 1898 and formalized, so to speak, in Malolos on Jan. 21, 1899, Aguinaldo also had to deal with the duty of keeping that independence, a noble burden made heavier by the growing American interest in las islas Filipinas at that time.
Eventually, after a couple of years trying to preserve that newly won freedom from Spain, Aguinaldo was forced by circumstances to surrender it. He explained his decision in this letter to the Filipino people, dated April 19, 1901, which he wrote nearly a month after he was captured by US forces on March 23, 1899.
“To the Filipino people: I believe I am not in error in presuming the unhappy fate to which my adverse fortune has led me is not a surprise to those who have been familiar day by day with the progress of the war,” Aguinaldo wrote. “The lessons thus taught, the full meaning of which has but recently come to my knowledge, suggest to me with irresistible force that the complete termination of hostilities and a lasting peace are not only desirable but absolutely essential to the welfare of the Philippines.”
He was, of course, writing about the Filipino-American War, which claimed, as we now know from history, some 16,000 to 20,000 Filipino lives.
Aguinaldo explained in the letter the reasons he considered a peaceful resolution to the conflict, saying that it was not a matter of weakness on the part of Filipinos but rather that “their advance along this path [of resistance]” has been “impeded by an irresistible force—a force which, while it restrains them, yet enlightens the mind and opens another course by presenting to them the cause of peace,” he wrote.
“The country has declared unmistakably in favor of peace: so be it,” Aguinaldo continued.
“Enough of blood; enough of tears and desolation. This wish cannot be ignored by the men still in arms if they are animated by no other desire than to serve this noble people which has thus clearly manifested its will.”
The letter ends with a note that, in retrospect, might not have made Aguinaldo proud of his decision, which he nevertheless deemed necessary during that time. “By acknowledging and accepting the sovereignty of the United States throughout the entire Archipelago, as I now do, without any reservation whatsoever, I believe that I am serving thee, my beloved country,” he wrote. “May happiness be thine!”
It was not, however, until nearly a year later on July 2, 1902 that the Filipinos would cease fighting against the Americans.
This letter is included in lot no. 95 of the Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2020 of Leon Gallery, scheduled on June 20.
It comes with other important memorabilia related to Aguinaldo’s surrender and acceptance of US rule—a copy of the April 14, 1901 issue of Le Petit Journal Supplement Illustre magazine, which features on its cover an illustration of La Guerre aux Philippines: Capture d’Aguinaldo (The War in the Philippines: The Capture of Aguinaldo); a photograph in sepia of Aguinaldo and his guards with a certain Annie Mitchell, taken on the grounds of Malacañang Palace after his capture in 1901; a copy of an illustrated supplement of The Detroit Free Press newspaper, dated May 17, 1903, with a report of the capture of Gen. Vicente Lukban in Samar a year earlier in February 1902 and the surrender of Col. Claro Guevarra in April 1902; and—and this one is particularly interesting—a copy of a Commonwealth era Presidential election handbill, a propaganda piece that accuses Aguinaldo of reneging on his duties given to him by the Malolos Congress as the country’s leader when he surrendered to the Americans.
Aguinaldo ran for President and lost against Manuel L. Quezon in 1935.