Emilio Aguinaldo

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Emilio Aguinaldo

Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (March 22 1869 – February 6, 1964) was a military leader and politician who is popularly considered to be the first president of the Philippines.  He was one of the major figures in the history of the Philippines' fight for independence from Spanish colonization, and also played a part in the Philippine-American War. Although its legitimacy had not been recognized by the rest of the world during its existence, Aguinaldo's government is presently held to be the first republic in Southeast Asia.

Early Life and Career

Emilio Aguinaldo was born on 22 March 1869 in Cavite Viejo (present-day Kawit), Cavite, to Carlos Aguinaldo and Trinidad Famy, a Chinese mestizo couple who had eight children, the seventh of whom was Emilio.  The Aguinaldo family was quite well-to-do, as Carlos Aguinaldo was the community's appointed gobernadorcillo (municipal governor). Their being Chinese-mestizo also meant that the family had the means to live a relatively comfortable lifestyle.

Aguinaldo was called  ”Miniong” as a child. He was taught his letters by his great-aunt, and later went to the local elementary school. He attended high school at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran but had to stop in his third year because of his father's death. He then took up the responsibility of helping his mother run their farm.

Emilio became the cabeza de barangay of Binakayan, a chief barrio of Cavite del Viejo, when he was only 17 years old. He also spent his young years traveling the ship routes that linked one island of the archipelago to another, and was able to reach the far south islands of Sulu.

In 1895, a law that called for the reorganization of local governments was enacted. Subsequently, this changed the title of the town head from gobernadorcillo to capitan municipal. At the age of 26, Aguinaldo became Cavite Viejo's first capitan municipal.

Emilio Aguinaldo married Hilaria Del Rosario in 1896. Their children were Miguel, Carmen, Emilio Jr., Maria, and Cristina. After his wife's death in 1930, Aguinaldo married Maria Agoncillo.

Philippine Revolution

In 1895, Aguinaldo joined Andres Bonifacio's underground Katipunan movement. A few months after he had enlisted as a lieutenant, he was promoted to general.

In his time as a Katipunero, Aguinaldo led successful campaigns in Cavite. Because the Spanish military came back in stronger forces, the Katipunan could no longer continue to operate underground. They needed to gather their scattered forces as one cohesive unit and openly wage war on the Spanish military. The different groups of Katipuneros also had to unite under one leadership.

During the Tejeros Convention, held in Tejeros, Cavite, Andres Bonifacio agreed to have the Katipunan movement succeeded by a new revolutionary government. Because he was in his own territory, Aguinaldo won leadership over Bonifacio, who became the government's secretary of the interior instead.

Bonifacio was angered by a comment from one of Aguinaldo's supporters, Daniel Tirona, who allegedly said that Bonifacio was not even qualified to serve as the government's secretary because he lacked formal education. At this Bonifacio moved that the election be voided, and pushed for another election to take place in his own province, Rizal.

For this outburst, Bonifacio was charged with treason by a military panel and given the death sentence. He was then executed on 10 May 1897 in Maragondon, Cavite. During this time, Aguinaldo was in retreat from the Spanish forces.

President of the First Republic of the Philippines

Aguinaldo appointed two prime ministers, Apolinario Mabini and Pedro Paterno. He also had two cabinets in 1899. However, he saw that he needed to rule by decree because of the intensifying situation of the war.

The following are the officers who served in Aguinaldo's republic:

Officers from 21 January – 7 May 1899

  • Emilio Aguinaldo, president
  • Apolinario Mabini, prime minister
  • Apolinario Mabini, minister of foreign affairs

Officers from 7 May – 13 November 1899

  • Emilio Aguinaldo, president
  • Pedro Paterno, prime minister

The American Period

By establishing the Asociación de los Veteranos de la Revolución (Association of Veterans of the Revolution), Aguinaldo managed to help those who served the revolutionary movement. Members of the association were entitled to receive pensions and buy land on installment from the government.

In 1919, Aguinaldo turned his home in Kawit into a shrine of the revolution, the country's newly won independence, and the national flag.

Afterwards, Aguinaldo became politically inactive. It was only in 1935, when the Philippine Commonwealth was founded, that he entered the political scene again to run for president, but Manuel L. Quezon won instead. In 1941,  Quezon declared Flag Day to be on the same date as the day Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence (June 12).

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, Aguinaldo cooperated with the Japanese government and took part in the Japanese war propaganda, even entreating Gen. Douglas MacArthur in a radio broadcast to surrender to the Japanese.

When the Americans liberated the Philippines from the Japanese, Aguinaldo was arrested for consorting with the enemy, and spent months in Bilibid prison until he was pardoned by the president.

Aguinaldo took part in the Independence Day parade of 1946, the year when the Americans turned over the Philippines to self-government.

The New Republic

Aguinaldo served as a member of the Council of State during President Elpidio Quirino's administration. Afterwards, he retired from the political arena and concerned himself with the needs and concerns of veteran soldiers.

The date for celebrating Philippine Independence was changed in 1962 from July 4 to June 12. Diosdado Macapagal had the new date made official after the US refused to answer for the damage done by their military forces during the liberation. As Aguinaldo, then already 93 years old, held fast to the belief that June 12 was the true date of Philippine Independence, he went to attend the celebration.

After suffering a coronary thrombosis, Aguinaldo was brought to the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Quezon City, where he died on February 6, 1964 at the age of 95. He was buried at his home in Kawit, Cavite.




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