By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy
Except for the cities of Talisay, Bago and Silay, the celebration of the Negros revolution of November 5-7, 1898 had hardly been heard of, if at all there were commemorations of this historic event. The day nevertheless is well known since November 5 is a public, non-working holiday. The provincial government paid tribute to its outstanding citizens, residing here and elsewhere to showcase the province’s effort to project what makes for modern-day heroism. This has become an annual event together with giving the centenarians their well-deserved P100,000 gift.
But that was for that day. The days following the revolution is practically unknown to the people of this island, particularly the western side. There is a reason for that. To my mind, there was an effort to hide the ugly aftermath of the revolution in the same way that other countries that have committed crimes against the people they subdued attempted to keep secret their misdeeds.
After the Spaniards surrendered, their officers and troops were restricted at the rear compound of the San Sebastian parish house, now the Bishop’s House. They were disarmed except the officers who were authorized to retain their sidearms to keep the civil guards on a leash. There is no record that they were incarcerated or mistreated.
The civil authorities were given freedom and allowed to leave the island with their families. Others, especially the hacendados, were permitted to stay. Some, of course, left for Manila and later home to Spain.
The revolutionary leaders, therefore, showed courtesy to a defeated enemy. It was the norm of a civilized society of the time. There was honor even in defeat.
The Negros leaders, however, acted differently with their compatriots. After the Spanish government collapsed, the Negros leaders simply sent a telegram to Emilio Aguinaldo with a greeting and the information that they had taken over the province. There was no indication that Negros would be part of the government of the Philippines under Aguinaldo. This was the same message to Iloilo although prior to the revolt Negros recognized the Estado Federal de Visayas. In fact, the directive to rise in a revolt that November came from the Iloilo revolutionary government which recognized Aguinaldo.
Aguinaldo was disturbed by the actuations of the Negros leaders that he sent an emissary to Negros encouraging them to be part of the Philippine government. To sweeten the offer, Aguinaldo offered Juan Araneta the rank of general in the Philippine Army, but while Araneta accepted the commission, he refused to obey Aguinaldo. This commission allowed Araneta to sport the rank, the only one among the Negros leaders to be given that honor. It is however discourteous of him, to say the least, to carry the rank without allegiance to the appointing authority.
The actuations of Negros clearly showed that they intend the island to be a separate republic and they did and eventually referred to their government as Republica de Negros. In some records use Republica Cantonal de Negros. In others, Gobierno Federal de Negros.
These names suggest the indecisiveness of the revolutionary leaders, but the idea appears that they wanted a government totally independent but a member of a larger group of free and separate but federated states.
We see this in the government that was established in Iloilo, the Estado Federal de Visayas of which Negros was a part. As already cited, the Negros revolt was coordinated with the Iloilo-based Federal State.
What changed the minds of the Negros leaders that they went ahead and established a separate state, independent even from that of the Philippines?
The probable reason is that while the Spanish government in Negros collapsed one day after the uprising, the revolutionaries in Iloilo were still fighting the Spanish government. We must recall that the date for the Negros revolt was timed with the attack of the Iloilo revolutionaries against the Spanish forces in Iloilo. The Spanish government had transferred there after the Americans captured in Manila in May 1898. The coordinated attack was to prevent the movement of Spanish forces to reinforce.
Negros leaders might just have thought they were better (the tikalon mentality) that they did not have to be under the Iloilo or the Cavite governments. At this stage of the Philippine revolution the rest of the provinces were still fighting.
We’ll deal with the more sinister reasons next week.