[In this article: Santo Tomas, Batangas, Philippine-American War, General Miguel Malvar, General J. Franklin Bell, Emilio Aguinaldo, Pact of Biak-na-Bao, Philippine Revolution]A lot has already been written about General Miguel Malvar, the last Filipino General to surrender to the Americans during the Philippine-American War. His surrender in April of 1902 effectively ended Filipino resistance and, therefore, the war itself.
A 1922 publication entiled “Mga Dakilaḡ Pilipino o aḡ Kaibigan ng Nagaaral1” includes a short biography on this great Batangueño general from the town of Santo Tomas. The work is translated below for the benefit of researchers or even casual readers who wish to know more about Malvar.
The work was written in archaic Tagalog so the reader is advised that the translation in many instances is not direct but, instead, taken from the context of the wordings. Although the document was probably used as a reference for students, the writing was not of the highest quality and readers/researchers may wish to turn to the Internet for clarity on phrases or sentences that may be ambiguous.
A son of the historic province of Batangas, Malvar was born during an era when cruelty reigned and reason had been cast away, so much so that his mind was molded to despise the policies of the tyrants; and the emotions that ran deep inside him found purpose in the first cries of freedom at Balintawak by Andres Bonifacio, in August of the year 1896, a movement that he immediately threw his full support behind.
Malvar showed his support and immediately distinguished himself in battle, leading an armed group of select Batangueños in attacking the headquarters of the Spaniards in Tanawan, and there he announced his disagreement with the colonial regime by way of an armed struggle, which started at exactly 9 at night and last until 6 the next morning, during which time the Spaniards defending the station were wiped out; and because of the courage that he displayed, it was deemed that he should be made leader of all who fought with him.
Image taken at the Museo ni Heneral Malvar in Santo Tomas, Batangas.
After the Pact of Biak-na-Bato was signed in December of the year 1897, from Bulakan Malvar returned to his home province to observe if the stipulations of the agreement were being implemented.
Malvar did not travel with the revolutionary circle that sailed to Hong Kong; although later he would go there with relatives to help the efforts of his countrymen to further the interests of the motherland. After a year of living in Hong Kong, on 15 June 1898, Malvar returned to the Philippine Islands, and it was then that he was made a General of the revolutionary forces in Tayabas and Laguna, and during the time of his leadership, he was blessed with good fortune and was able to take as prisoners may Spanish soldiers. He was a General who was always under the care of the Good Star.
On the 4th of February 1899, the friendship between the troops of the Philippines and America was ruined, and General Malvar was given the task of leading Philippine troops in Manila and Laguna. Pagsanhan and Sta. Cruz in Laguna were jointly defended by the troops of Ricarte, Malvar and Agueda Kahabagan, the last a woman who showed courage that won the admiration of those who fought with her. The aforementioned towns were frequently attacked by the Americans who were often frustrated.
General Malvar toiled night and day to gather and train men and boost their morale so that the defense of the nation’s independence and existence would be successful.
Regrettably, on 23 March 1901, President Aguinaldo fell into the hands of the enemy in Palanan, Isabela; nevertheless, General Malvar continued the struggle in the lands under his control and released this proclamation: “We do not use our arms to destroy the soldiers of America, because they too have mothers, wives, siblings and children who would mourn their deaths.
“Instead, we use our arms to defend our right to nationhood, the right to have our own government, freedom and independence.”
From this pronouncement could be discerned Malvar’s personality, his love for the Motherland and his being just as a soldier.
In recognition of Malvar’s great effort and service, the revolutionary circle, in April of the year 1901, elevated him to the position of Chief of the revolutionary army of the Philippines, but from his pronouncements he made it clear that it was not only the efforts of soldiers and their blind obedience that concerned him, but also the help of the citizens of the land which he felt was more vital to the cause that the army was fighting for.
While Malvar bravely continued on with the armed the struggle, a peace panel was at the same time preparing a means by which the war could be concluded by way of an agreement acceptable to both parties, and on April of the year 1901, the peace panel the panel tried to confer with Malvar about this but was unsuccessful.
General Cailles2, seeing as he did the difficulty facing the Filipino forces in the face of the enemy’s superior force, with a bleeding heart begged Malvar to surrender; Malvar respected his friend’s request, but continued nonetheless with the armed struggle in the belief that this was the only way to prove the nation’s desire for independence.
In his hideout in Bawang (Bauan), he was attacked several times by American forces, but each time he defended with utmost bravery and heroism to frustrate the enemy.
Hunger, however, was a terrifying adversary, and because of the pleas by many of his friends to give up the fight and also because his army was in dire want (of provisions), he agreed to meet with General Bell3, but only after making the following pronouncement:
“I am on my way to pay General Bell a visit, and whatever the results of our discussion, all I ask of my countrymen is that you do not forget me. We are all brothers. Even if they take me to the United States or whatever part of the world, I will never forget my most dearly beloved Homeland.
“I will sheathe my weapons because the relatives and friends who joined me in the cause are falling sick due to the hunger that they have had to suffer. My seven children and beloved wife have always been with me and they have had to suffer as well.”
On the 16th of April in the year 1902, his discussions (with General Bell) ended, and Malvar was not sent outside of the Philippines. He went back to live in Santo Tomas, Batangan, and devoted himself to being a farmer in the belief that this was the way to meet the current needs of the ruined nation.
He lived peacefully until he was forced to go to Manila because of a severe liver ailment, and on the 13th of October 1911, his sufferings came to an end as he entered eternal life where heroes live forever.
His remains were brought back to Santo Tomas where he was laid to rest, having lived a life of courage and greatness in service of his Homeland.
May his soul rest in peace.
Notes and references:
1 “Mḡa Dakilaḡ Pilipino: o aḡ Kaibigan nḡ mḡa Nagaaral,” edited by Jose M. Sevilla and Tolentino, published in Manila in 1922.
2 Read more about General Cailles in this article: “General Juan Cailles, the Nasugbu-born Soldier of the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War.”
3 General Bell was “J. Franklin Bell.” (Wikipedia). Read more about Bell’s concentration camp policy in Batangas: “The Concentration Camp Policy that the US Army Used to Force the Surrender of Gen. Miguel Malvar.”