Emilio Aguinaldo

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Emilio Aguinaldo

To read this article in Filipino, see Emilio Aguinaldo.

Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (22 March 1869 – 6 February 1964) was a military leader and politician who is 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 the legitimacy of his government—and consequently his presidency—was not officially recognized by the rest of the world during its existence, it 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, a secret organization dedicated to the expulsion of the Spanish and the independence of the Philippines through armed force. The local chapter of Katipunan in the province was established and named Sangguniang Magdalo (derived from Mary Magdalene), and Aguinaldo's cousin Baldomero Aguinaldo was appointed leader.

In his time as a Katipunero, Aguinaldo became a general and led successful campaigns in Cavite, winning major victories that temporarily drove the Spanish forces out of their area. Some of the important battles he engaged in included the Battle of Imus, the Battle of Binakayan-Dalahican, the Battle of Zapote Bridge, and the Battle of Perez Dasmariñas. The Spanish military, however, would come back in stronger forces. The Katipunan leadership saw the need 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.

Tejeros Convention

During the Tejeros Convention, held in Tejeros, Cavite, Andres Bonifacio agreed to have the Katipunan movement succeeded by a new revolutionary government. Despite not physically present at the convention, Aguinaldo won leadership over Bonifacio, who became the government's secretary of the interior instead. However, one of Aguinaldo's supporters, Daniel Tirona, allegedly said that Bonifacio was not qualified to serve as the government's secretary because the latter lacked formal education. Felt insulted, Bonifacio moved that the election be voided, and pushed for another election to take place in his own province, Rizal.

From Aguinaldo's point of view, Bonifacio was a threat who can sow discord among the revolutionaries. He ordered his men to arrest Bonifacio, who was charged with treason by a military panel and given the death sentence. The "Supremo" was 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, stating that the day "marked our people’s declaration and exercise of their right to self-determination, liberty and independence.”[1] 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 6 February 1964 at the age of 95. He was buried at his home in Kawit, Cavite.




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  1. Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines. https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/featured/republic-day/about/ Accessed on 12 August 2021