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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Patriot and the Elite

An interesting exchange of letters between Benito Legarda, former cabinet member of President Aguinaldo, in whose honor one of the streets near Malacanang is named after, and Aguinaldo himself, which clearly differentiates the thinking of an elite and a patriot.

(Photo source: University of Michigan Digital Library)

Legarda wanted the Filipinos to give up the fight and submit to American rule, while Aguinaldo defiantly stood for continuation of the struggle.

In his reply to Legarda, Aguinaldo expressed his frustrations, which, apparently was directed towards the elite of Philippine society, when he said:
“What is life to us if we are to be the slaves of the foreigner? It is a pity that all the enlightened Filipinos do not employ their knowledge and experience in the defense of their country.”
The Legarda and Aguinaldo letters presented below were lifted verbatim from pages 26-30 of the pamphlet "The Luzon Campaign", Vol. 1, No. 7, published by the Philippine Information Society, Boston, 1901, Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Library 2005 (PIS-V1N07).

Here is the letter from Legarda:

“Manila, July 7, I899.


“Mr. Olimpio Guamson has delivered your message to me, asking for my frank and honest opinion concerning our present political situation, and the probable future which awaits us. I shall give it with pleasure, not only because it is my duty as a Filipino, but because of the sincere friendship which binds me to you. I will refrain from making a critical judgment of all your actions prior to the 4th of February, the date of the Outbreak of Hostilities, taking them simply as data upon which to base my deductions, and will presuppose in all of them good faith from the point of view of the patriotic motives which impelled you to perform them.

“We have commenced hostilities; we have had our wish, for remember perfectly well that war was the desire of the majority in Malolos, the military element, however, being prominent in this majority, and raising its voice upon the subject, dragging after it the rest of the people. And what has been gained? Nothing but ruin, death, and desolation.

“We have not been able to prevent the Americans from going anywhere they pleased, and it has been plainly evident that the valor upon which we depended was not enough, but to conquer it is necessary to have many things which the Americans possess in abundance, and which we lack.

“As time goes on our chances for victory grow less, and the further the American troops advance so much worse is our condition for asking concessions for our unhappy country.

“Up to the present time the American troops, in my opinion, have had no other object in view than to show their bravery, a quality which had unjustly and erroneously been denied them both privately and in the public press. So far, either on that account or for other reasons, America has not sent here an army capable of a military occupation of all our territory, nor has a formal campaign been commenced; that America can do so we are unable to doubt, and that it will be done if we persist in our present attitude we may feel certain. And what will then remain to us?

“What could we ask for?

“We are in error, and yet we persist in that error, impelled by those who dream of a triumph of a party which is to-day in a minority in the United States, without perceiving that this party is also American, and that they are not going to give us our independence out of hand as a matter of sentiment at the expense of the honor of America and in spite of the grave responsibility, both international and domestic, contracted under the Treaty of Paris. Others dream that because part of the press of Europe copies from American anti-imperialist papers the criticisms of that party against the Government of President McKinley a European intervention in our favor is to take place, without reflecting that the Treaty of Paris was made before all the civilized world and with its assent.

“The war so far has only laid bare our insufficiency and our shortcomings.

“In my judgment, giving these conditions, the time has arrived for your policy to change in a radical manner, unless you wish to see forever annihilated the hope that our people may some day take its place in the concert of the civilized world, unless you wish to see the complete ruin of our race and of all our country, and unless you are willing to accept the grave responsibilities which will fall upon you. To-day then I address you as a friend and as a Filipino and say "Peace is an imperative necessity.

"Nothing can prevent the triumph of America.. Do not struggle against the inevitable.

“Peace must come some time, and the man who restores peace to the Philippines will win the admiration of the world, and the gratitude of his country. Be that man. Since 1896 you have been the soul of the people, and have merited their blessings for your wonderful and providential wisdom. Be now the peace-maker that your glory may be perpetuated. As you are the man who, when brought here by the Americans, roused the people as one to the work of our emancipation from Spain, be now the one to say 'Enough of conflict.'

“We have seen that our ideals cannot be realized by this means; let us make peace, and let us work and learn. For by working and learning with a free people, such as the Americans, we shall cast from us the vices of our old masters, and will some day win the independence we so much desire.

“This is what I believe you are called upon to do, and I think that you will never repent it. There is no other remedy - no other path open. Do not forget that many Filipinos are losing their lives every day in the defense of the impossible: that every day the ruin of property sacrificed in vain is greater, and that, if finally there is no help other than to submit to American sovereignty, it is not just to sacrifice more lives and property, whereby you will contract before God and man responsibilities of such proportions that they alarm me.

“Stop while you may, and believe me that now is the appointed time: a little later the policy of the American Government will change completely the sentiment of that free and noble people, which loves its own liberty as much as it desires that of other nations, and then a race war will come which will end in our extermination.

“I believe that with what I have said I have performed my duty and complied with your wishes. I must, however, state that I have done so freely, without suggestions or coercions of any kind, and also that I have made no special political studies, nor have I had preparation for speaking upon matters of this nature. The only merit of this opinion is that it is the manifestation of the intimate conviction of a citizen who is inspired by the best of good faith and the desire of his people.

“I am, as ever, your affectionate friend and obedient servant,

And here is Aguinaldo's reply:

“Tarlac, September 14, 1899.



“Your two kind letters have reached my hands and I have informed myself of all you say in them. Many thanks for the information you give me. I beg that you will pardon me for my delay in making reply, but I must tell you that sometime elapsed before they reached me.

“I believe what you tell me as to the re-enforcements of the enemy which will not be long in arriving. Not only do I believe this, but I am convinced of this fact, and even before the outbreak of hostilities was sure that with their wealth and their innumerable and powerful elements of war, they could, whenever they so desired, send as many as they need.

“In reply to this I must tell you that it is impossible for me to turn back from the enterprise which I have undertaken -that of defending our country, and especially as I have sworn that as long as life lasts I shall labor until I gain the acknowledgment of the independence of the Philippines. Do not attribute this declaration to my vanity, but to my desire to fulfill a former promise. This, aside from the fact that the struggle for the independence of our country is just and based upon our perfect rights.

“We are not alarmed by the numerous arms nor the valor of our enemy. What is life to us if we are to be the slaves of the foreigner? It is a pity that all the enlightened Filipinos do not employ their knowledge and experience in the defense of their country. I repeat, we will not give up the struggle until we gain our longed-for independence: death is of but little moment to us if we are but able to ensure the happiness of the people and of future generations.

“We must no longer allow ourselves to be fascinated by the flattering promises of the enemy. You know that they first solemnly assured me that they would acknowledge our independence. Nevertheless, the attempt is now being made to force autonomy on us by superior strength. They have been using explosive bullets since the 9th of August last, and have bombarded defenseless forts, contrary to the precepts of international law. But it matters not that they use these elements of destructive warfare. Resistance and firmness of our resolution will be sufficient to wear them out. If this is not enough to induce our enemies to desist from their endeavor, we will go, if necessary, into the mountains, but never will we accept a treaty of peace dishonorable to the Philippine arms and disastrous to the future of the country, such as that which they seek to impose.

“For this reason I advise all those who do not feel themselves strong enough to accept this sacrifice, and whose services are not indispensable to our Government, to return to Manila and the towns occupied by the enemy, reserving themselves to strengthen the organization of our Government when our independence is gained, replacing those who, wearied by the struggle, are in need of rest.

“I am not displeased that some Filipinos have consented to hold office under the Americans; on the contrary, I rejoice that they have done so, for thus they will be enabled to form a true estimate of the character of the Americans. I also rejoice that our enemies having had recourse to the Filipinos for the discharge of the duties of high positions in the public service in its various branches, have shown that they recognize the capacity of our people for self-government.

“Before closing I take the liberty of addressing you the following question: To what is due that policy of attraction employed by our enemy if not to the resistance of our army?

“One should never repent of a just determination.

“Kind regards to your family, and to Messrs. Arellano, Pardo, Torres, and other friends.

“Command at will your most affectionate friend,


1 comment:

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