Antonio Luna

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Antonio Luna was a Filipino pharmacist, chemist, and Filipino-American War general.


Antonio Luna was born in Urbiztondo Street, Binondo, Manila on October 29, 1866 to Don Joaquin Luna and Doña Laureana Novicio, a prominent and rich couple from Ilocos Norte. His older brother was Juan Luna, the famous painter.


He was enrolled in the Ateneo de Manila University where he took up literature and chemistry. He graduated with highest honors, obtaining his bachelor of arts from Ateneo in 1881. He then enrolled in the University of Santo Tomas where his paper entitled "Dos cuerpos fundamentales de quimica" was awarded first place. At the invitation of his brother, he went to Spain where he studied pharmacy in Barcelona and medicine in Madrid. He obtained his Licentiate in Pharmacy at the University of Barcelona and Licentiate in Pharmacy at the Central University of Madrid.

In Madrid, he started writing in La Solidaridad, the organ of the Propaganda Movement in Spain seeking reforms to alleviate conditions in the Philippines. One particular article he wrote for La Solidaridad, entitled "Impresiones," ridiculed the Spaniards in the Philippines. Writing under the pen name Taga-ilog he also contributed articles and technical papers to European scientific journals and magazines. He wrote the famous article entitled "El hematozoario paludismo" which was acclaimed by the European scientific community.

Antonio Luna was well-traveled: he toured Europe, meeting prominent bacteriologists, chemists, and pharmacists. Aside from these interests, Antonio Luna was also a master fencer, skilled sharpshooter, avid musician, and a military strategist.

In Madrid, the Filipino community there knew that Antonio Luna had a fiery temper and was prone to react violently. When a newspaper editor named Mir Deas uttered insults against Luna, Luna renamed the editor Mier Das (Spanish foul language), challenged him to a duel and on being rejected, spat in his face. Whenever there was a quarrel that involved the Luna brothers, Rizal would dismiss them as "cosas de los Lunas."

The Philippine Revolution

In May 1894, through a commission by the Spanish government, Antonio Luna returned to the Philippines to study native contagious diseases. He was also appointed as a chemist in Manila, besting notable Filipinos such as Leon Ma. Guerrero and Antonio Casanovas. As the municipal chemist, Luna was instrumental in the analysis of the Sibul mineral waters. In 1898, he became the municipal laboratory director.

Rizal asked Luna to join the Katipunan to serve as liason between the masses and the rich; but Luna refused, stating that a revolution was premature. When the Katipunan was finally discovered by the Spanish authorities, Luna was imprisoned and tortured. The Spanish authorities made false claims that his friends had implicated him in the Katipunan revolution as one of its prominent members. Weakened by mental and physical torture, Luna decided to reveal all that he knew about the Katipunan. He denounced the Katipunan and revealed the names of his friends who were members of the secret society. In return for his cooperation, he was exiled to Spain in 1897 and was locked up in Madrid Prison. He was later released through the assistance of a government official.

While the revolution raged in the Philippines, Antonio Luna was in Madrid and different parts of Europe. While traveling Europe, he studied military tactics, strategy, field fortifications, and artillery. He studied military tactics under Belgian general Gerard Leman.

The Filipino-American War

With the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War, Luna returned to the country to give his aid in the establishment of the Filipino republic headed by Emilio Aguinaldo. With a recommendation issued by Felipe Agoncillo, Antonio Luna presented himself in Cavite during the last week of July 1898. Luna rose through the ranks and became brigadier-general and director of war by September. By November, Aguinaldo promoted him to full general.

Luna recognized that a war between the American forces and Filipino troops would begin and began pressuring both Aguinaldo and Mabini to attack the American troops while they were still waiting for additional reinforcement from the United States. Due to his background in military tactics and fortifications, he urged the building of a systematic network of trenches, bunkers, and artillery positions from Caloocan to Novaliches. He argued that the main line of attack for the Americans would be to capture the Manila-Dagupan Railway then quickly drive to the north, capturing major towns and cities, crippling the Philippine Republic. In creating a defensive line from Novaliches to Caloocan, the Filipino troops would stop or delay the American advance while inflicting heavy casualties in both manpower and supplies. Luna together with his friend, Gen. Jose Alejandrino, forwarded their reports to Aguinaldo and general headquarters but their plans were not implemented. Luna was also instrumental in bringing to the Filipino cause important Spanish mestizo officers who were willing to fight the Americans. These officers not only increased the total number of troops in Luna's command but also shared their battlefield experience that they had gained in their military service with Spain. Some of these officers who distinguished themselves in the field were Manuel Sityar, Jose Torres Bugallon, Ramon Soriano, Col. Queri, and Rosendo Simon de Pajarillo.

With the outbreak of the Filipino-American War, the sudden advance of the American forces on Filipino troops positions, and the fall of Caloocan to American hands, Luna, as Director of War formulated a counterattack that would capture Manila from the Americans. Luna first directed Generals Llanera, Garcia, and Hizon to attack Caloocan as a diversion for American forces while the main Filipino force consisting of Luna, Generals Licerio Geronimo, Pio del Pilar, and Miguel Malvar from the north, east, west, and south respectively would assault Manila. As an added reenforcement, he asked Malolos to send the Tinio Brigade, an experienced and well-organized army commanded by Manuel Tinio but his request was overruled.

The attack was going well until Luna relieved the exhausted Pampango soldiers who were attacking La Loma. He ordered the Kawit Companies headed by Captain Janolino to replace the exhausted Pampango soldiers but the companies headed by Janolino refused and said that they would only take orders from Aguinaldo himself. With the refusal of the Kawit Companies to replace their troops, La Loma was not captured and the attack on Manila collapsed. Angry with the officers' refusal to obey a direct order, Luna ordered the Kawit Companies to be sent to the rear, disarmed and tried by a military court. But when this order was received by Aguinaldo, he reinstated and rearmed the mutinous Kawit Companies.

Luna's hot temper alienated him from people close to Aguinaldo. Individuals began logging complaints against the general. They reported abuses such as his execution of a Chinese without trial, his issuance of an order threatening a firing squad for those who disobeyed his orders, and his command that Caloocan be burned. They also circulated among the military officers and government officials of the Aguinaldo Cabinet the rumor that he was a paid Spanish spy. Along with this were rumors like his seizing of a whip to drive out women and children from a train that was supposed to be used as a military transport and his disarming of a company of presidential guards that showed insubordination, which were perceived by others as too violent and destructive to the Filipino cause. His position that no American peace proposals should be entertained put him at odds with Pedro Paterno, Felipe Buencamino, and other autonomists. While traveling to meet an American peace commission, the general slapped Buencamino and called him a traitor and arrested Paterno.

Since Luna prescribed the same punishment -- death -- for all offenses, he was called General Article One. In the Battle of Bagbag, Luna's hot temper was vented against General Tomas Mascardo. When the Americans attacked Bagbag, Luna asked Mascardo for additional reinforcement. Mascardo not only ignored the orders but instead attended the town fiesta of Arayat. Luna, in a fit of rage, left the battlefront to confront the mutinous general. In his absence, Bagbag fell into American hands.

With the fall of Bagbag and other neighboring towns, Central and Northern Luzon were open for the Americans to occupy. Luna directed his subordinates to turn Mountain Province into a guerrilla fortress against the Americans. He believed that although the Americans could never be defeated in a setpiece battle, guerrilla warfare could be effective against them. Luna argued that because of American deaths and military expenditures, the American public would be forced to stop their government from continuing the war. To achieve this aim, prisoners were told to plant camote and other food crops in Mountain Province, church bells were requisitioned, melted and used as bullets, rice harvests were commandeered in several Pangasinan towns, and officers surveyed the areas around Mountain Province.

Individuals angry with Luna perceived these preparations as a plan to seize the government from Aguinaldo. Suspicions were also aroused when men close to Aguinaldo saw Luna's tight hold on the army that he personally commanded. They were also afraid of Luna's insistence on the establishment of a dictatorial government composed of his chosen men. Because of this temper and stubbornness, certain individuals conspired to eliminate the general.


After the fall of Bagbag and Central Luzon to American hands, Luna transferred his staff to Pangasinan and established the Department of War in the town of Bayambang. On 4 June 1899, Luna received a telegram from Aguinaldo directing him to proceed to Cabanatuan to confer with the Aguinaldo government. With the receipt of the telegram, Luna, his aides and 25 cavalry soldiers departed for Cabanatuan. Upon reaching a destroyed bridge near the town proper of Cabanatuan on 5 June 1899, Luna entered the town accompanied by Col. Francisco Roman and Capt. Eduardo Rusca, leaving behind them their escort.

When he entered the church convent and saw a soldier outside whom he had degraded for cowardice in Angeles, Luna shouted at him and demanded to know who reinstated him. The soldier replied that the men upstairs had restored him to his previous position. The volatile Luna, his fist clenched, then hit a soldier that did not salute him. Upon entering the room of the convent house, he met Felipe Buencamino and started to argue with him when a rifle shot was heard outside. He was confronted by Captain Janolino of the Kawit Companies and was then hacked in the head, shot, and stabbed by the Kawit Companies members. Bleeding from his wounds, General Luna rapidly managed to draw his revolver and fire several shots at his attackers while shouting "Cowards! Traitors! Assassins!"

When Roman and Rusca saw their general being attacked, they immediately ran to aid him. Roman ran across the street but was gunned down while Rusca, shot in the leg, was saved when he hid in the church.

Buencamino emerged, emptied Luna's pockets and took the telegram that Luna received. Luna was then buried in the clothes that he had on when he died.

After the death of Antonio Luna, his staff and sympathizers were eliminated. Officers who served under Luna were arrested, removed from the army or assassinated. Maj. Manuel Bernal was arrested, tortured, and killed while his brother Capt. Jose Bernal was arrested, released, then assassinated in the battlefield. No trial or punishment was carried out against the assassins and plotters in the murder of General Antonio Luna.


  • Diaz, Anacleto. Antonio Luna: Dakilang Heneral. Manila: Liwayway Pub., 1957.
  • Joaquin, Nick. A Question of Heroes. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing House, 2005.
  • Jose, Vivencio R. The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna. Manila: Trademark Pub. Corp., 1999.
  • Santos, Jose. Si Apolinario Mabini Laban kay Heneral Antonio Luna. Manila: Imprenta de Fajardo, 1928.
  • Villamor, Juan. General D. Antonio Luna y Novicio. Manila: Tipografia "Dia Filipino", 1932.

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