General Vicente Rilles Lukban (February 11, 1860 - November 16, 1916) was a Philippine general during the Philippine-American War.
He was born in Labo, Camarines Norte on Feb. 11, 1860. His parents were Don Agustin Lukban (Abogado de los Pobres of Ambos, Camarines) and Dona Andrea Rilles. He finished his early education in Escuela Pia, continued studying in Ateneo Municipal de Manila (now Ateneo de Manila University), and took up LL.B. (regular bachelor degree in law) in University of Santo Tomas and Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
He returned to Labo after resigning from his job at the Manila Court of First Instance. He married Sofia Dizon Barba and the union produced four children: Cecilia, Felix, Agustin, and Vicente. His first wife Sofia died after their last child was born. He left his children in the care of his brothers and sisters so that he could devote his time to the cause of the revolution.
Philippine Colonial Revolution
Thereafter, he accepted the post of Justice of the Peace. In 1884, Lukban was inducted into Free Masonry, Luz de Oriente (Light of the Orient), which attracted many intellectuals and middle-class Filipinos. In 1886, he stopped working in the judicial office and and busied himself with agriculture and commerce in Bicol. He formed La Cooperativa Popular aimed at promoting cooperative business activities of small and medium scale producers for them to increase their income from the lands by selling their products without passing through middlemen. Part of the profits of the cooperatives were secretly remitted to the revolutionary movement of Andres Bonifacio. The cooperative also served as an effective covert means of spreading the ideals of the revolution. Their members could move around freely without arousing the suspicion of the Spanish Authorities.
In 1896, he centralized the funds of the cooperatives in the coffers of the revolution. He periodically remitted money to the evolving revolutionary movement. At the same time, he acted as an emissary of the Katipunan unit in Bicol to gather information about the Spanish movements in Manila and to determine how such movements affected Bicol provinces. On one of his trips to Manila, he was arrested by the guardia civiles and charged with conspiring to overthrow the government. He was imprisoned in Bilibid prison and tortured at Fort Santiago.
While still in prison on August 26, 1896, the Philippine Revolution started, led by the Cry of Balintawak. On August 18, 1897 he was released from jail together with Juan Luna and immediately thereafter, joined the revolutionary government’s armed forces.
In the army, he was commissioned to serve as one of Emilio Aguinaldo's officers. He was among the few who assisted Aguinaldo in planning war strategies and activities. When the Pact of Biak-na-Bato was signed, he was asked by Aguinaldo to be one of the members of his party to go into exile in Hong Kong.
He used his time in Hong Kong studying military science under the Lord Commander Joseph Churchase of the British Naval command. This enabled him to master the arts of soldiery-fencing, shooting, gunpowder and ammunitions preparations, and the planning and execution of war strategies and tactics
Shortly after proclaiming Philippine Independence in 1898, Lukban was sent to the Bicol region to direct military operations against the Spaniards. His successes in Bicol ushered him into a new and challenging assignment: as Leyte and Samar's politico-military chief. While in Samar, Lukban married his second wife Paciencia Gonzales. This union produced eight children: Victoria, Juan, Maria, Fidel, Rosita, Ramon, Jose and Lourdes.
On December 31, 1899, 100 Filipino riflemen under Gen. Lukban were gathered and there he proclaimed himself the new governor of Samar under the Philippine Republic, meeting little resistance. When the U.S. 1st Infantry Regiment landed on Samar’s shores in January 1901, they were met by charges of suicidal bolomen under Lukban’s command. Nevertheless, Lukban was soon forced to retreat inward, leaving behind an organized resistance network. Samarenos caught cooperating with the Americans were executed swiftly and dramatically. When U.S. General Arthur MacArthur offered Lukban amnesty in exchange for his surrender, he turned it down and swore to fight to the end.
Although bearing command responsibility for the Balangiga Massacre, he only learned about it a week later, on October 6, 1901. Other than a letter to town mayors encouraging them to follow the Balangiga example on the same date, there are no published records of his reaction to the news or later comment from him.
After Baldomero Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901, Samar, under Lukban's leadership, remained one of the few areas of Filipino Army resistance. However, American troops found few enemies to attack and found themselves constantly harassed by Lukban's guerillas, until two prisoners revealed the location of Lukban’s secret headquarters along the Caducan river. The prisoners warned that the fort was impregnable, but Major Littleton Waller sent scouts to investigate. On Feb. 27, 1902, Waller attacked with an amphibious assault team up the river, as Captains Bearss and Porter attacked by land with forces from Basey and Balangiga. The water assault was foiled by a Filipino trap, and Porter attacked alone. The Filipino soldiers fled machine gun fire, leaving scaling ladders behind for the Americans. The retreating Filipinos were gunned down from behind as the American flag was raised above the garrison. It was a clear victory for the United States, with 30 Filipinos dead and the capture of Lukban and his lieutenants. However, the war on Samar would not truly be over until the rugged interior was conquered.
The public career of Gen. Vicente Lukban did not end with his captivity. He was elected governor of Tayabas (Quezon now) in 1912 and re-elected in 1916. He died at his Manila residence on November 16, 1916.
1. Dr. Reynaldo Imperial, LEYTE, 1898-1902, The Philippine-American War, 2;40
2. Dr. Reynaldo Imperial, SAMAR, 1898-1902, The Revolutionary Career of Gen. Vicente R. Lukban
3. Who's Who in Philippine History, National Historical Institute
5. Jose Calleja Reyes, BICOL MAHARLIKA, 21;281
6. Philippine Insurgents Records (PIR), microfilm section, National Library