It was 1898. The Philippine Revolution was becoming the success its instigators might have hoped for probably only in their wildest dreams. The Americans had yet to reveal the darker purpose which took them across the expanse of the Pacific to these islands. Emilio Aguinaldo himself, in his memoirs1, wrote: “…triumph following triumph in quick succession, evidencing the power, resolution and ability of the inhabitants of the Philippines to rid themselves of any foreign yoke and exist as an independent State...”
With Spanish garrisons falling like the proverbial dominos in Luzon, Aguinaldo’s Central Revolutionary Government saw fit to send military expeditions from Luzon to hook up with Bicolano and Visayan rebels to liberate several towns from the yoke of Spanish colonial rule. The expeditions were led by one of Aguinaldo’s most trusted Generals, the Taal-born Ananias Diokno.
Little is known of Diokno’s childhood or early manhood other than that he was born on the 22nd of January 1860 in Taal to Angel Diokno and Andrea Noblejas. Both his parents came from the town’s more prominent families2.
In 1895, Diokno, along with Felipe Agoncillo, another prominent son of Taal, were being “prosecuted by civil and ecclesiastical authorities for obstruction of the functions of government3.” The latter was a personal friend of Aguinaldo and was active in the underground movement that was brewing to put an end to Spanish rule in the Philippines4.
In August of 1896, Diokno along with many others deemed active by the Spanish colonial government in the underground movement were arrested and charged with treason and sedition. They were then brought to Cavite upon the orders of the province’s military governor Don Fernando Parga y Torriero and brought to trial.
Presumably, this was just a move to harass those suspected of involvement in underground movements and that the trial came to nothing. In fact, when the regional government of Batangas was organized that same year by prominent Batangueño families who had fled to Cavite to avoid Spanish military campaigns in their home province, Diokno was named Secretary of War.
This same government named Miguel Malvar of Santo Tomas as Commanding General; while Eleuterio Marasigan or “Heneral Terio5” of Calaca was named Brigadier General.
By 1898, with the Spanish navy destroyed at Manila Bay by the fleet of Admiral George Dewey, the military lull allowed Diokno to organize, with the likes of Doña Gliceria Marella Villavicencio of Taal and Marasigan6 the “Batallon Malaya7.” This military group consisted of “125 men each and a battery of two cannons.” Diokno was its Commanding General.
By this time, the Philippine revolutionary government had something of a small navy. Aguinaldo described this as “some eight Spanish steam launches (which had been captured) and five vessels of greater dimensions, namely the Taaleño, Balayan, Taal, Buluçan (Bulusan) and Purisima Concepcion.”
In September of 1898, with orders to attack Spanish forces in the south, Diokno and his group boarded the Taal, Purisima Concepcion and the Buluçan for Mindoro. From there, they sailed on to Marinduque and then Camarines Sur to link up with other rebels and revolutionary governments in the area. Diokno set up military governments in Bohol and San Pascual in the Burias Islands.
By November of this same year, upon the urgent request of the revolutionary government in Panay for reinforcement, Diokno again sailed from Batangas with an armed force to render assistance. They successfully seized the Spanish garrisons in Navaz, Capiz, thereby putting an end to Spanish rule in the area.
By coming to the assistance of General Martin Delgado of the revolutionary government in Panay, Diokno became the only Tagalog during the Philippine Revolution to lead a military expedition in the Visayas with the aim of engaging Spanish colonial forces. The expedition is also claimed by the Philippine Navy as one of the service’s earliest military exploits8.
Diokno was subsequently appointed “politico-military governor” of Capiz by the Central Revolutionary government, but this was not well received by the Visayan rebels who felt that the governor should have been appointed from among themselves and that the orders should have come from President Roque Lopez of the then-Republic of the Visayas.
By 1899, it had become clear that the Americans were in the country also with colonial ambitions of their own. American forces attacked Iloilo and Diokno and his men fought alongside the Visayan forces in Iloilo and Santa Barbara. When the Visayan forces were subdued by the Americans, Diokno and his men went into guerrilla fighting until captured in 1901. Diokno, who was wounded in the ambush that led to his capture, returned to Luzon a military hero.
During the American colonial era, he would be offered a position in the Bureau of Agriculture but refused, preferring, instead, to spend retirement at his farm in Arayat in Pampanga. He died on the 2nd of November 1922.
Note and references:1 “True Version of the Philippine Revolution,” by Don Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, President of the Philippine Republic, published September 1899.
2 Along with many details of this article, from the document “Ananias N. Diokno,” published by the then-National Historical Institute, online at Web Archive.
3 “Ananias Diokno,” Wikipedia.
4 “Felipe Agoncillo,” Wikipedia.
5 “Eleuterio G. Marasigan,” WikiPilipinas.
6 “Ananias Diokno,” online at Taal.PH.
7 Many Internet sources say “Batallon Maluya,” but I have gone with the document from the National Historical Institute which said “Malaya.”8 “Philippine Navy,” online at the DLSU ROTC subsection.