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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

entry arrow1:06 PM | Negros Oriental at the Outbreak of the Revolution and Why Fiesta is a Strategy

The Presidential Museum and Library has a good read on the unfurling of the Philippine Revolution in the Visayas, just in time for the 117th anniversary of Philippine Independence Day. (Let's just not settle on the controversial nature of this date for now...) But I find the article's mention of what exactly was happening in Negros Oriental a little too scarce, so here's an excerpt from "Negros Oriental in the Context of the Philippine Revolution" by Earl Jude Cleope, current Dean of the College of Education here at Silliman University to provide better details...

The banner used by southern Negros revolutionaries in their three-day uprising against the Spanish authorities, which resulted in the establishment of the Cantonal Government of Negros (with the red field up to show solidarity with the other revolutionaries). Image courtesy of Malacanang website.

It must be established that when the Revolution against Spain began in August 1896, Negros Oriental, by then a relatively new province (established 1 January 1890), did not immediately feel the impact of the revolution. The same situation had been observed in other areas of the Visayas and Mindanao which, like this province, did not play a very significant economic or political role in the Spanish government. This situation seems to suggest that the revolution against the Spaniards, notably in its early stage, was late, if not absent, in many parts of the country.

It is possible to speculate a number of reasons why the participation of the province in the revolution came rather late. First, the peculiar geographic condition of the country separated the province from the national capital. Physical distance and the poor state of transportation and communication facilities which connected the disparate islands of the archipelago at that time combined to isolate the province from the events unfolding in other parts of the country.

Second, the leadership profile of the province at that time was composed mostly, if not all, by political leaders who were generally mestizo—a mix breed of Filipino and Spanish or Filipino-Spanish and Chinese. The elite, as they have been called, had vested interests that somehow influenced their actions. As T. Valentino Sitoy contends “…the rest of the Negros elites (sic) were disinterested, if not in fact, hostile to the revolution.”

Third, the inhabitants were widely perceived to be peace-loving people who preferred to stay out of trouble. The common expression “walay tay labot” has been pointed out as the verbal manifestation of such behavior. This view is supported by the comments Negros Oriental Governor Ferrer included in a letter to the Governor General in which he described the inhabitants of this province as “... peaceful in character, that no association whether authorized or secret existed, and that no person who because of their (sic) past conduct deserved to be watched.”

Fourth, there was no revolutionary army in the province. The absence of this army in Negros Oriental is supported by the fact that Pantaleon Villegas, popularly known as “Leon Kilat,” led the revolutionary forces in Cebu, although he himself was a native of Bacong (Sitoy 1990:12). Nevertheless, Caridad Rodriguez in her book Negros Oriental and the Philippine Revolution pointed out that about this time Pedro Baguio of Guihulngan and Diego de la Viña of Vallehermoso were already organizing some revolutionary activities. However, considering the distance of these two towns from Dumaguete and other towns, their activities were indeed an exception.


It is interesting to note that when Manila fell to the Americans in that “infamous” mock battle of Manila on 13 August 1898 the province was peaceful and remained quite even two months after this event took place. It is apparent at this time that both the leaders of this province and the people were closely watching the developments in the national front and carefully calculating their next moves.

Surprisingly, when the revolutionary leaders of this province did decide to join the revolution, they took the cue from Negros Occidental. After the liberation of Bacolod by the forces of General Juan Araneta on the first week of November 1898, Don Diego de la Viña immediately dispatched his son, Jose, to see the General “for instructions on what actions to take in Negros Oriental.” As a result, Diego de la Viña’s was commissioned as General de Brigada, Commandante del Ejercito Filipino, Provincia de Negros Oriental by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who instructed him to “immediately rid Negros Oriental of Spanish forces garrisoned in said province, and hereafter, to organize a Provisional Revolutionary Government.” (Rodriguez1989: 84)

The March for Liberation

A close examination of the events surrounding the march for the liberation of the province could shed light on the fundamental question whether driving the Spaniards away was indeed the core of the revolutionary events in the province. As recorded by historians, the march for the liberation of the province started on 17 November 1898 after Gen. Diego de la Viña informed all the capitanes municipales in the towns of the strategy to converge all forces from the northern and southern towns and join forces to attack the capital town Dumaguete. Contrary to expectations, however, the march to Dumaguete turned out to be no more than a parade. Although imbued with the spirit to fight and the will to defend the province, the revolutionary forces which began their march from Vallehermoso in the north and from Siaton in the south found no opportunities for fighting on the way. As reported by Fr. Juan Lorenzo of Hiligaon and Fr. Lorenzo Cordon of Siaton “there was no fighting nor any losses of lives and property. Neither were there any outages nor retributions.” This is in reference to the southern towns liberated by forces headed by Major Felipe Tayko.

Apparently, at the time of the scheduled march, most of the Spanish civil guards, friars, and officials had already left the towns earlier for fear of their lives. With the declaration of independence by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on 12 June 1898, the Spaniards also saw their situation worsening. When the American reinforcements arrived after the defeat of the Spanish fleet by Commodore George Dewey’s fleet on 1 May 1898, Spanish authorities realized that the Americans were now in control. On 23 November 1898, most of the Spaniards in the province left for Cebu. Gen. Diego de la Viña entered Dumaguete on 24 November 1898, the day after the departure of the Spaniards. As a result, the revolutionary forces entered the capital without the slightest resistance. November 24 was the bisperas of the town fiesta and many people from the neighboring towns and places were in the capital to celebrate the feast of the patron saint of Dumaguete. Indeed the fiesta celebration on 25 November 1898 was a very joyous occasion since, except for a few like Fray Pedro Bengoa who decided to join the rebels and who officiated the mass of the liberated Dumaguete, the Spaniards were no longer around.

As far as the timing for the siege of Dumaguete was concerned, the choice of the date, 24 November 1898 (Rodrigues 1989:93), to enter the capital remains historically controversial. On the one hand, the deliberate avoidance of a military confrontation by the revolutionary forces pointed to a lack of guts or might and tended to becloud the revolutionary spirit. On the other hand, the manipulation was considered a brilliant idea for it averted the needless loss of lives and property. Moreover, from the perspective of Foucault’s concept of negotiations for power, this deliberate avoidance of conflict assured the leaders of the revolution a certain number of advantages, foremost of which was keeping intact the structures of power over which they had vested interests. From the events that took place then, it would be difficult to insist that driving the Spaniards away was the core of the revolutionary events in the province.

The Liberation

After the liberation of the province, the officials were faced with the task of organizing the local government, the most urgent of which was deciding the kind and form of government to establish. This was a tall order for a young province still trying to put its acts together. On the one hand, while Negros Oriental leaders still considered themselves under the Malolos government of President Emilio Aguinaldo, the leaders of the neighboring province of Negros Occidental, who all belonged to the “landed aristocracy” (Rodriguez 1989: 107) created on 27 November 1898 a Cantonal government for the entire island of Negros similar with that of Switzerland. Among others, this system proposed the independence of Negros from the rest of the islands (Rodriguez 1989: 107). As well, this proposal was aimed at winning the support of the United States in the event of a Spanish invasion. Interestingly, although Negros Oriental leaders were not represented when then system was introduced, they followed orders from their counterparts in the Occidental. As Prof. Rodriguez puts it, “there was no question about the loyalty of the Negros Oriental leaders to President Aguinaldo’s government, but at the same time they found themselves following directives from Negros Occidental” (Rodriguez 1989: 107). From the outset, it was readily apparent that some conflicts of interest were bound to arise. This apprehension became a reality when the United States and Spain finally agreed to sign the Treaty of Paris on 10 December 1898 in which the Philippines, without the knowledge of the Filipinos, was ceded to the U.S. in the amount of $20,000,000.

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