Gregorio del Pilar

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Gregorio del Pilar (November 14, 1875— December 2, 1899) was the youngest general and one of the most skillful field commanders in the Philippine Revolutionary Forces during the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War.

Early life

Del Pilar was born on 14 November 1875 to Fernando H. del Pilar and Felipa Sempio, a known middle class couple in San Jose, Bulacan. He was the nephew of the great propagandist Marcelo H. del Pilar and Toribio del Pilar, who was exiled to Guam for his involvement in the 1872 Cavite Mutiny.

Del Pilar studied at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila where he finished his Bachelor’s degree in 1896 at the age of 20. When the revolution broke out in August under the leadership of Andres Bonifacio, "Goyong," as he was fondly called, decided to become a soldier of the revolution. He rose to ranks through fighting the Spanish forces to become a commander. Under his command, Filipinos successfully mounted daring attacks on Spanish camps and garrisons in Bulacan, getting the attention of General Emilio Aguinaldo.

The "Boy General"

Although some field commanders like Del Pilar achieved victories in the field, others had opposite results. The overall situation of the war was still in favor of the Spanish forces. This forced Aguinaldo to retreat to the mountains. After signing the pact at Biak-na-Bato where members of the Revolutionary government would go into exile in Hong Kong, Aguinaldo asked Del Pilar to accompany him. He helped Aguinaldo in its war strategy against the Spain. Upon resuming control of the Philippine revolution, Gen. Aguinaldo appointed him to lead the revolutionary forces in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. On June 1, Del Pilar and his troops landed in Bulacan with rifles purchased in Hong Kong, quickly mobilizing and laying siege on the Spanish forces in the province.

After successfully defeating the Spanish forces in the province, Del Pilar marched to Caloocan and Manila with his troops to support the other forces battling the Spaniards. With the help of the American forces, the cornered Spanish army surrendered.

However, it was not long before the Philippine-American War broke-out. Upon orders from Aguinaldo, Del Pilar quickly mobilized his men, leading them to a short victory over Major Franklin Bell in the Battle of Quingua on April 23, 1899, in which his forces repelled a cavalry charge, and killed the highly decorated Colonel John M. Stotsenburg (Clark Air Base was originally named Fort Stotsenburg).

Battle of Tirad Pass

When the Americans advancement to the north was quicker than Aguinaldo expected, the general retreated through the mountainous terrain of Tirad Pass. He ordered Del Pilar, who was familiar with the terrain, to stay and defend it while Aguinaldo and his remaining men to escape. The hand-picked force of Filipinos, numbering to 60, constructed several sets of trenches and stone barricades, all of which dominated the narrow trail that zig-zagged up towards the pass. When the Americans advanced up the trail in the morning, the Filipinos continuously fired at them, leading to several U.S. casualties. They continued to hold their ground by utilizing steady volley of fire for five hours until the Americans, through the help of a local villager, managed to get into the flank and rear of the Filipinos where they fired at will, killing or wounding some 52 of the 60 Filipinos. Among the dead was General del Pilar, shot through the neck at the height or end of the struggle

The Americans lost 30 dead and 9 wounded, most of which resulted from the repelled frontal assault. Despite nearly total annihilation, however, the Filipinos held off the Americans long enough for Aguinaldo to escape. Moments after his death, Del Pilar's body was looted of his possessions by US forces. His pistol, sword, diary and personal papers, boots and silver spurs, shoulder straps, coat and pants, a lady's handkerchief with the name "Dolores Jose", diamond rings, gold watch, and a gold locket containing a woman's hair were all taken.

Del Pilars body rested exposed for days without a burial. While re-tracking the trail, an American officer, Lt. Dennis P. Quinlan, ordered his men to give honor to the fallen but valorous foe. General del Pilar was finally given a traditional U.S. military burial. Upon his tombstone, Lt. Quinlan inscribed, "an Officer and a Gentleman".




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