“Truly, it is unfair and unjust that our national heroes, according to history books, seem to be concentrated around the provinces around Metro Manila and in Luzon”
To commemorate National Heroes day last month, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed House Bill No. 1461 seeking to declare as national heroes those who led the revolution against Spanish and American colonizers in Mindanao, calling it “The Mindanao Heroes Act”.
The bill immediately got support from the House of Representatives to honor unsung heroes from Mindanao who led the revolution in the fight for freedom and independence.
The following are the heroes from Mindanao, as listed by Rodriguez.
From Cagayan de oro City and Misamis Oriental are Nicolas Capistrano, Apolinar Velez, Vicente Roa and Apolinario Pabayo.
From Misamis Occidental are Rufino Deloso, Simeon Ledesma and Capitan Daligdig.
From Surigao are Simeon Gonzales, Wenceslao Gonzales and Daniel Toribio Sison. From Cotabato are Datu Uto and Datu Ali. From Marawi, Amai Pakpak. And from Zamboanga, Vicente Alvarez.
According to Rodriguez, citing the heroism of the Moros, said, “ While they may not have participated in the actual combat during the revolution, their unwavering resistance to Spanish domination was enough contribution to the cause of freedom, and their resistance and offensive operations undermined the Spanish plan to subjugate the entire archipelago.”
In his House Bill 1461, Rodriguez called on the National Historical Commission to comprehensively research on the lives of the Mindanao heroes as well as erect monuments and historical markers in their honor.
Rodriguez added that “by recognizing the heroic struggle of the people of Mindanao against colonial rule and by declaring them as national heroes, the Mindanaoans who all fought that this nation might be free and independent can achieve a truthful and truly national celebration of the Philippine centennial and unity of the entire country.”
Rodriguez lamented that in our books about national heroes and their struggle against colonial rule, especially from Mindanao and the Visayas these thus far nameless heroes were not recorded because historians were mostly from Manila and Luzon.
Truly, it is unfair and unjust that our national heroes, according to history books, seem to be concentrated around the provinces around Metro Manila and in Luzon.
I am certain that there were many heroes from the Visayas and Mindanao that deserve recognition.
My wife and I are particularly interested in the case of General Nicolas Capistrano, the grandfather of my wife.
Cagayan de Oro , in recognition of his heroism, had named one of the principal streets after him, “ General Nicolas Capistrano St.”. He is the father of my late father-in-law, Dr. Vicente C. Capistrano Sr.
My wife’s grandfather, Nicolas, married a beautiful half-Spanish beauty from Quiapo, who was the then reigning “La Estrella del Quiapo” (The Star of Quiapo) Cecilia Castaneda, whose family lived in Evangelista St. in Quiapo.
He was a lawyer and became actively involved in the local movement for independence.
Since his revolutionary activities placed him in danger, he took his young bride to Cagayan de Misamis with the hope of starting a new life.
He was a lawyer, then later on became a Senator of Misamis , then after that a judge in Samar.
My wife cannot forget that before World War II, when she was about eight or nine years old, her father used to let her and her brothers spend their summers at the hacienda of their grandfather Nicolas Capistrano in Gusa, Cagayan de Oro, in a mansion by the sea.
And she cannot forget that when it was time for lunch she could see tenants coming down from the hills where they worked and saw a giant “kawa” of food waiting for them.
The hacienda of my wife’s grandfather harvested copra and exported them.
Nothing much has been written about Cagayan de Oro City, except a three-inch book written by a Jesuit, Fr. Francisco R. Demetrio, all about Northern Mindanao and the origin of the cities and their historical significance.
It is for this reason why there is a need, as Rep. Rodriguez said in his bill recognizing the heroes of Mindanao, for the NHC to research more about the heroes from the Visayas and Mindanao to place everything in their proper perspective.
As narrated by the Jesuit priest, one decisive battle was the Battle of Cagayan.
“The US forces under the command of Gen. Bates, Col. Godwin of Company 40, US Volunteers and Major Jas. F. Case, commander of the companies stationed in Cagayan, took possession of Cagayan on March 30, 1900.
“On the same day, Atty. Nicolas Capistrano assumed command not only of the revolutionary forces, but also became Chief Executive of the province. He proceeded immediately to Gango, a sitio on the plateau about 9 km. from Cagayan and reorganized the revolutionary forces.”
Gen. Capistrano reorganized the revolutionary forces under a new plan: Gen. Nicolas Capistrano – Commander in chief; Major Justo Gaerlan – Assistant Commander in chief; Major Apolinar Velez – Battalion Commander; Major Pacana – Chief Quartermaster;
Major Pablo Mercado – Hand Weapon Company Commander and Mr. Santiago del Castillo as the Secretary to Gen. Capistrano.
The following remained in town but rendered help to the revolutionists in money and service : Hon. Manuel Corrales, Tirso Neri, Cipriano Vamenta, Hon. Pio Roa y Alcala, Ramon Chaves and Hilario Maandar whose lives were in danger every hour.
The Battle of Cagayan, under the command of Gen. Capistrano began at 4:00 AM Palm Sunday of April 7, 1900 and lasted till 6:00 AM of the same morning.
Ninety patriots fell in the Battle of Cagayan. Apolinar Pabayo showed exceptional bravery in the battle and the only one who died in the barracks of the American soldiers.
He died in the house now occupied by the Montalbans, corner Burgos – Filipinas Streets and, as a token of gratitude, a street was named after him, the Pabayo Street.
When Gen. Capistranio saw that his forces were losing, he ordered a retreat to avoid the slaughter of more men.
When the Americans saw the Filipinos retreating, they pursued them up to the edge of the town.
In the streets of Cagayan lay the dead, the heroes who sacrificed their lives for the sake of their country’s freedom. The street, “Heroes of Cagayan,” was named in their honor.
There were many encounters between the Americans and the revolutionaries led by Gen. Capistrano until the surrender of Emilio Aguinaldo in 1901.
Another historical account recorded that “After almost a year of fighting the Americans, Capistrano and his men went up to the mountains of Bukidnon.
Most of the American soldiers who were after him were veterans of the native Indian wars in the United States and were persistently chasing him with their superior weaponry.
Sensing that the war would go on for a long time because it was strongly supported by the people, American officers approached Manuel Corrales and other officials to request for a round of peace talks with Gen. Capistrano.
The officials exercised wisdom and prudence by agreeing to the request after they saw the futility of prolonging the war.
The first meeting was a failure. But after Capistrano heard that Aguinaldo was captured in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901, Capistrano requested the Americans for terms of peace….The leaders knew when to lead and when it was time to surrender.
On April 7, 1901, exactly a year after the battle of Cagayan de Misamis, Gen. Capistrano and his men surrendered
Part of the farewell address of the general to his men was this: “We fought through the war together for the defense of our Fatherland. As your chosen leader, I have done the best I could for you.
“God grant that hereafter our people will enjoy greater freedom as a result of the war. You are now ready to return to your loved ones and to live in peace and work for the interest of your country.”