Macario Sakay

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Macario Sacay y de León (or Macario Sakay) was a Filipino general in the Philippine-American War who continued the resistance against American rule in his country.

A member of the Katipunan movement of Andres Bonifacio, he founded a Tagalog Republic in opposition to the colonial rule of the United States. He was the leader of "Republika Tagalog".

On 14 July 1906, after receiving a letter from the American governor-general promising amnesty for himself and his men in exchange for surrender, Sakay, who was one of the last remaining Filipino generals, finally surrendered.

Convicted as a "tulisan" or bandit, Sakay was executed on 13 September 1907.


Born in 1870 in Tondo, Macario Sakay had a working-class background. He started out as an apprentice in a calesa manufacturing shop. He was also a tailor, a barber, and an actor in comedias and moro-moros. His participation in Tagalog dramas exposed him to the world of love, courage, and discipline.

The Movement

Sakay joined the Dapitan, Manila branch of the Katipunan in 1894. Due to his exemplary work, he became head of the branch. Prior to this he served as an adjutant to Emilio Jacinto. His nightly activities as an actor in comedias camouflaged his involvement with the Katipunan. Sakay assisted in the operation of the Katipunan press. During the early days of the Katipunan, Sakay worked with Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto. He fought side by side with Bonifacio in the hills of Morong (now Rizal) Province.

During the Katipunan movement, he continually fought for Philippine independence from Spain until he was captured. When the war ended in 1902 he was granted freedom and was released.

Republika ng Katagalugan

Released in 1902 as the result of an amnesty, Sakay established with a group of other Katipuneros the Republika ng Katagalugan (The Tagalog Republic) in the mountains of Southern Luzon.

Sakay held the presidency and was called "Generalisimo." Francisco Carreon was the vice-president and handled Sakay's correspondence. Julian Montalan was the overall supervisor for military operations. Cornelio Felizardo took charge of the northern part of Cavite (Pasay-Bacoor) while Lucio de Vega controlled the rest of the province. Aniceto Oruga operated in the lake towns of Batangas. Leon Villafuerte headed Bulacan while Benito Natividad patrolled Tanauan, Batangas.

In April 1904, Sakay issued a manifesto stating that the Filipinos had a fundamental right to fight for Philippine independence. The American occupiers had already made support for independence, even through words, a crime. Sakay also declared that they were true revolutionaries and had their own constitution and an established government. They also had a flag. There were several other revolutionary manifestos written by the Tagalog Republic that would tend to disprove the U.S. government's claim that they were bandits.

The Tagalog Republic's constitution was largely based on the early Katipunan creed of Bonifacio. For Sakay, the new Katipunan was simply a continuation of Bonifacio's revolutionary struggle for independence.

Guerilla tactics

In late 1904, Sakay and his men took military offensive against the enemy. They were successful in seizing ammunition and firearms in their raids in Cavite and Batangas. Disguised in Philippine Constabulary uniforms, they captured the U.S. military garrison in Parañaque and ran away with a large amount of revolvers, carbines, and ammunition. Sakay's men often employed these uniforms to confuse the enemy.

Using guerrilla warfare, Sakay would look for a chance to use a large number of his men against a small band of the enemy. They usually attacked at night when most of the enemy was looking for relaxation. Sakay severely punished and often liquidated suspected collaborators.

The Tagalog Republic enjoyed the support of the Filipino masses in the areas of Morong, Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite. Lower class people and those living in barrios contributed food, money, and other supplies to the movement. The people also helped Sakay's men evade military checkpoints. They collected information on the whereabouts of the American troops and passed them on. Muchachos working for the Americans stole ammunition and guns for the use of Sakay's men.

Unable to suppress the growth of the Tagalog Republic, the Philippine Constabulary and the U.S. Army started to employ "hamletting" or re-concentration in areas where Sakay received strong assistance. The towns of Taal, Tanauan, Santo Tomas, and Nasugbu in the province of Batangas were re-concentrated. This cruel but effective counter-insurgency technique proved disastrous for the Filipino masses. The forced movement and re-concentration of a large number of people caused the outbreak of diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Food was scarce in the camps, resulting in numerous deaths.

Meanwhile, search and destroy missions operated relentlessly in an attempt to suppress Sakay's forces. Muslims from Jolo were brought in to fight the guerrillas. Bloodhounds from California were imported to pursue them. The writ of habeas corpus was suspended in Cavite and Batangas to strengthen counter-insurgency efforts. With support cut off, the continuous American military offensive caused the Tagalog Republic to weaken.

Fall of Sakay

While all of these were going on, the American leader of the Philippine Constabulary, Col. Harry H. Bandholtz, conceived a plan to deceive Sakay and his men. He would later be quoted as saying that the technique involved "playing upon the emotional and sentimental part of the Filipino character." In 1905, the American government presented Sakay with a letter promising that if he surrendered he and his men would not be punished for their seditious acts.

On July 1906 they were invited to attend a dance where they were later captured, arrested and tried as “bandits.”

On 13 September 1907 Sakay was hanged. Before his death he stated, "Death comes to all of us sooner or later, so I will face the Lord Almighty calmly. But I want to tell you that we were not bandits and robbers, as the Americans have accused us, but members of the revolutionary force that defended our mother country, Filipinas! Farewell! Long live the republic and may our independence be born in the future! Farewell! Long live Filipinas!"

In popular culture

  • Sakay is the subject of the biographical film entitled Sakay directed by Raymond Red, in which he is portrayed by actor Julio Diaz.
  • A life-size statue of Sakay was unveiled at Plaza Morga in Tondo, Manila, by the Manila Historical Heritage Commission, on September 13, 2008. Also in September 2008, the Philippine Senate adopted two separate resolutions expressing the sense of the Senate to honor the life of Macario Sakay and his fellow freedom fighters for their contribution to fight for Philippine Independence.

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