Sunday, October 2, 2016

Cagayan de Oro during the Philippine-American War (Part 1- The Battle of Cagayan de Misamis)

A painting of the battle from the City Archives Museum
Spain’s harsh dealing with the Cuban insurgents and the United States’ interference in the Cuban revolution and its pressure on Spain to grant Independence to Cuba caused bitter friction between the two powers. This was exacerbated when an American naval ship USS Maine was destroyed by an explosion in a port in Havana, Cuba where many American sailors were killed. The US blamed Spain for the incident but the latter denied the accusation. Their contrasting interests and disputes over the situation in Cuba ended with their mutual declaration of war in April 1898. 
   
The event had far-reaching repercussions at the global stage considering that those involved were world powers at the time. The Philippines being a colony of Spain would certainly be greatly affected. Even before the war declaration, Filipino revolutionaries, the Katipunan, under Emilio Aguinaldo waged an armed rebellion against Spain. Philippine Spanish Governor General Fernando Primo de Rivera successfully persuaded Aguinaldo and his forces to lay down their arms on a promise of 800,000 Mexican Pesos to be paid in three equal installments and for Aguinaldo to be exiled in Hong-Kong.  
                                                                 
The outbreak of Spanish-American War however would in a way nullify what Primo de Rivera and Aguinaldo had agreed upon. In Hong-Kong, Aguinaldo was approached by US consul E. Spencer Pratt convincing him to continue his armed struggle in the Philippines. He also promised him of American support in the revolution and in the Filipinos’ desire for independence.  
                      
American Asiatic Squadron under Admiral George Dewey entered Manila Bay on May 1, 1898 and defeated the Spanish naval fleet under Admiral Patricio Montojo. Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines in June 1898 and soon thereafter his revolutionary forces joined the battle against the Spaniards. The Filipinos were able to defeat their enemy in many of the battles that resulted to the surrender of large number of Spanish soldiers. On August 13, 1898, US infantry troops arrived in Manila and captured the city.

Embattled Spain which confronted not only the might of US armed forces but also the armed rebellions from its remaining overseas territories sued for peace, and a treaty was signed between it and the United States in Paris on December 10, 1898 to end the war. In the Treaty of Paris Spain agreed for an American administration of Cuba and the cession of Guam and Puerto Rico. The Philippines was ceded to the United States with an amount of $20,000,000 as compensation.

With the Treaty of Paris further armed confrontations between the American and Spanish forces ended. And Spanish soldiers, civil servants and residents were ordered to converge in Manila for their eventual repatriation to Spain. The treaty also gave the Spaniards the opportunity to save face by avoiding defeat and surrender to the Filipinos, and as a matter of course they surrendered to the Americans rather than to the Filipinos.                                                                                                                                                              
 In the wake of US victory against Spain and the impending clean up of remaining opposition forces, President William McKinley on December 21, 1898 proclaimed of Benevolent Assimilation in which he declared the annexation of the Philippines with all possible dispatch.

 When Aguinaldo’s forces tried to enter Manila to proclaim victory, the Americans blocked them, and warned them of a shot out if they insisted. The shooting by an American sentry of an Aguinaldo soldier on February 4, 1899 resulted to a full blown armed conflict. Feeling betrayed by the Americans, Aguinaldo waged another armed struggle against his erstwhile ally. Despite the state of war, he proclaimed victory and independence, and on January 1, 1899 in Malolos, Bulacan he made himself president of the First Philippine Republic. Aguinaldo declared war against the US on June 2, 1899.                                                                                                                                                                  
In Cagayan de Misamis (the original name of Cagayan de Oro which included the present day Opol and El Salvador), the Kagay-anons during rebellion against Spain remained loyal to the Spanish authorities. They even sent personnel to Luzon to help the Spaniards quell the rebellion. However, the cession of the Philippines to the United States and the departure of the Spanish authorities made them give their full support and allegiance to the First Philippine Republic of President Emilio Aguinaldo.

Lieutenant Colonel Cristobal de Aguilar, the last Spanish military governor of Misamis Province and Cagayan de Misamis organized an interim five-man committee composed of prominent citizens that would govern those places to fill the void of leadership when the Spanish officials were gone.  During the advent of the First Philippine Republic, town and provincial officials were elected in 1898 under the auspices of that government. Some of the officials that were elected were Pedro Roa y Casas as provincial president and Toribio Chavez as municipal president. The Philippine flag was flown on January 10, 1899 at the Casa Real, the former admin building and residence of the Spanish military governor of the province which is now the site of the present day city hall.

Torn between the issues of American occupation of the Philippines and their allegiance to the First Philippine Republic under Aguinaldo, civil officials and prominent citizens of Cagayan de Misamis met on January 1, 1900 in Club Popular, the present day location of Saint Augustine Maternity and General Hospital, to take a common stand on the matter. In that meeting they agreed to sign the Pact of Resistance to American colonial rule.

General Nicolas Capistrano and his wife
American forces with warships arrived in Cagayan de Misamis on March 30, 1900. They established their headquarters with four barracks in what is now the site of the present day Gaston Park. The presence of the American soldiers undermined the authorities of Kagay-anon officials who based their legitimacy to Aguinaldo’s First Philippine Republic. Kagay-anons’ aspirations were essentially incompatible with the Americans’ desire to annex the Philippines. Watching in the sidelines were the armed components of Aguinaldo’s government which was called the “Liber Army “or the Liberation Army headed by General Nicolas Capistrano. An armed confrontation between the Liber troops and the US forces was very imminent.

On the dawn of April 3, 1900, bells of Saint Augustine Cathedral pealed for the first mass. At the vicinity of the church in the seemingly serene morning lurked the Filipino forces under the leadership of General Nicolas Capistrano who were preparing to attack the American position in an area by the church. The American soldiers were in the existing buildings which they converted into barracks. Capistrano’s forces were composed of the macheteros (bolo-armed warriors), infantry and cavalry.

For lack of sufficient number of rifles and other modern weapons, the Filipinos had still to use bladed weapons to compensate for their lack of armaments. The macheteros who were armed with bolos were the first to attack the American positions. They had to bring with them ladders to scale the buildings where the Americans slept. An element of surprise was a key for their success; otherwise, without it they would be mowed down right in their tracks by the better armed enemies.                                                                                                
Leading elements of macheteros were able to sneak near the buildings and neutralize some of the American sentries and penetrate the buildings occupied by the Americans. However, a warrior from Bukidnon made a loud battle cry when he killed an American soldier. The sound awakened other American soldiers who then quickly got up to repulse the attackers. They engaged the macheteros in a close hand to hand combat. The local warriors’ bolos pitted against the bayonets of American soldiers. Prominent macheteros who died in the encounter were the commander, Captain Apolinario Pabayo, Clemente Chacon and Casiano Neri who died of multiple bayonet wounds.  
                                                                                                          
A few seconds after the macheteros’ assault, there was a firefight between the Filipino infantry and cavalry on the ground and the American soldiers who were well positioned in the windows of the buildings, church bell tower and other places. Capistrano directed the attack through couriers and hand signal at the place that is now the old water tank that is turned into a city museum. The well equipped Americans had the better of the battle. General Capistrano, sensing that a continued fighting would be untenable, ordered a retreat of his troops. They escaped to the edge of the town with the Americans chasing them. 

The Americans were able to beat back General Capistrano’s forces in their first encounter in Cagayan de Misamis. The hour long battle resulted to 52 killed, 9 wounded and 10 captured Filipinos. On the American side there were 4 killed and 9 wounded.

On that day the streets of Cagayan de Misamis and the ground which is now Gaston Park were filled with the dead bodies and blood of the dead Kagay-anon warriors. Most of them were young and at the prime of their lives. These brave men gave the ultimate sacrifice of their life for the freedom of their countrymen and the independence of their country.

Links:
Cagayan de Oro during the Philippine-American War (Part 2- The Battle of Agusan Hill)
Cagayan de Oro during the Philippine-American War (Part 3- The Battle of Macahambus Hill)
Cagayan de Oro during the Philippine-American War (Part 4- American Victory)