Thursday, October 6, 2016

Cagayan de Oro during the Philippine-American War (Part 2- The Battle of Agusan Hill)

The Cry of Freedom Monument
The presence of US troops in Cagayan de Misamis caused animosity to the local residents. A battle had already occurred on April 7, 1900, between the Americans and the guerilla forces under General Nicolas Capistrano right at the heart of the town. Despite their loss, the local warriors were determined to fight on. Captain Vicente Roa Y Racines, commanding Officer First Company, Mindanao Battalion, with other officers met in the house of Juan Bautista. In the meeting they agreed to send a courier to dare the American for an open battle in Agusan, a village about 16 kilometers east of Cagayan de Misamis.   
Captain Walter B. Elliott, the Commanding Officer of “I” Company, 40th Infantry Regiment of US Army Volunteers readily answered the challenge. Bracing for a fight, Captain Vicente Roa got ready with his troops of about 500 consisting of infantry, cavalry and macheteros who were armed with bolos. Captain Roa had 200 rifles and some shotguns for his infantry and cavalry. His initial plan was for the infantry and the cavalry to occupy two hills overlooking a main road to set up an ambush. When the enemies would be pinned down, the macheteros who were hidden in the houses would then rush out to finish them off from behind with their bolos. A contact with the enemies would be signaled with a bugle sound and three gunshots. Pitted against Captain Roa’s guerillas was Captain Elliott’s company of about 80 men. Their smaller number was compensated with their superior weapons and the warship at Macajalar Bay that would give support to the company in the battle.

Captain Vicente Roa y Racines
 On May 14, 1900, while the company of Captain Elliott was approaching to its objective, General Nicolas Capistrano gave last minutes order to Sergeant Uldarico Akut’s cavalry to move farther away from the main force to guard a road leading to Maitum where Capistrano was based. As a result of it, the frontlines of Roa’s troops were significantly affected.    
When leading elements of the enemies were sighted by the Filipino guerillas, a bugler then sounded the call; Captain Roa then fired three shots to alert his men that the battle had begun. Firefight then ensued. With Roa’s troops outgunned by the Americans, the macheteros’ could not carry out their task of hitting the enemies who were aggressively fighting and dictating the tempo of the battle. Disheartened, some of them did not join the fight while others fled from the scene. 

A painting of the Battle of Agusan Hill in the City Archives Museum
Undaunted by the enemies’ superior strength, Captain Roa and his troops who were overmatched were determined to fight till death. When the enemies were about to overpower them, Captain Roa’s rifle ran out of ammunition. He then fought with his revolver, and when that ran out of ammunition too he drew his sword to continue fighting until he was killed. The Filipinos in the hills were eventually overwhelmed by the Americans. Captain Roa was beheaded and his medals in the breast of his uniform were taken off by an American soldier.

In this battle, the American soldiers soundly defeated the Filipino warriors. There were 38 guerillas including Roa who were killed. In addition, the Americans captured 35 rifles from the Filipinos. On the side of the Americans, there were only 2 dead and 3 wounded soldiers.

In 1931, to immortalize the memory of the brave Kagay-anon warriors who died in the Battle of Agusan Hill, the municipal government of Cagayan de Misamis under Mayor Don Apolinar Velez exhumed the bones of the warriors that were buried in the hills of Agusan. They were transferred and interred in a common grave in Plaza Divisoria and over it was built the “Cry of Freedom Monument” with Andres Bonifacio holding a bolo with his right hand and a flag with his left hand. On the base of the Bonifacio figure are engraved words that read: “El Pueblo a sus heroes”or “from the town to its heroes”.

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