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Coming from neighboring towns, the Malvars and the family of national hero Jose Rizal had very close relationships. It was the brilliant Doctor Jose Rizal who mended the harelip of my grandmother. One of the sisters of Jose Rizal, Saturnina, lent my Lolo 1,000 pesos (a substantial amount during that time) as an initial capital to start a business. The husband of Saturnina, Manuel, was a relative of the Malvar’s. One of the nieces of Jose Rizal, the daughter of his sister Soledad, married my uncle Bernabe, the eldest of the Malvar siblings. Finally, in his struggle against the Spaniards and later against the Americans, Lolo Miguel fought side by side with Paciano, one of Jose’s siblings. Paciano, who joined Malvar in objecting to the decision of Emilio Aguinaldo and his group to submit to the Spaniards at Biak-na-Bato, was my Lolo’s close comrade-in-arms. Together they commanded the units that operated in Makiling, Paciano on the Laguna slope and Malvar on the Batangas side.
My Lolo was no ideologue. He was a very practical entrepreneur engaged in high value farming together with his father. As Abaya and Karganilla wrote, he was deeply religious, regularly attending Mass at the town church, praying the Angelus and other invocations in Latin. He was radicalized by an unfortunate clash with the abusive and immoral parish priest of Sto.Tomas. The Spanish friar used dishonest means to try to unseat my great grandfather, Maximo, as Gobernadicillo (Mayor) of Sto. Tomas, in favor of another candidate whose daughter was the paramour of the priest. His disillusionment with this man of the cloth steered my Lolo Miguel and the other anti-clerical activists in the town towards the currents of Revolution.
Quoting from the biography of Abaya and Karganilla, it is highly probably that the people’s uprising, highlighted by the Cry of Pugad Lawin/Balintawak in the last week of August 1896 made such an impact that it could have brought Malvar’s disgust with the Spanish colonial system out into the open. In any case, it is undeniable that Malvar was a leading officer in the battles for independence from Spain from August 1896 to December 1897. His very first armed action was the immobilization of his own town’s police force. Then with his 70-man army, who were mostly relatives and friends, armed with mostly bolos, a few revolvers and shotguns, Malvar raided the Spanish quarters at Talisay. From that moment on, he abandoned his home and his business, seeking sanctuary in the wilds of Makiling which he made his headquarters as he fought a guerrilla warfare, first with the Spaniards, then with the Americans.
As military commander of Batangas, he coordinated offensives with General Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the revolutionaries in Cavite and his close friend Paciano Rizal, leader of the revolutionaries in Laguna. After the Tejeros Convention, in which Aguinaldo came out as President, Malvar decided to side with Andres Bonifacio, the Supremo of the Katipunan. Unfortunately, in a struggle for power, the Aguinaldo camp succeeded in eliminating Bonifacio and his brother Procopio who were murdered on May 10, 1897 in the mountains of Maragondon, specifically in Mount Buntis. With Aguinaldo in complete control of the revolutionary forces against the Spaniards, he arrived at a pact (called the pact of Biak-na-Bato) which subsequently led to the exile of Aguinaldo and his ilustrado cohorts to Hong Kong. In this stage of the struggle for independence, Malvar manifested the virtue of integrity by not following the example of the other rebels who took the money paid by the Spaniards for the upkeep of the exiles in Hong Kong and pocketed the amount instead of turning it to Aguinaldo. Only Malvar went to Hong Kong with his wife and three sons and turned over his share of P8,000 to the revolutionary funds to buy arms. In fact, Malvar was one of those appointed by the Hong Kong junta to be in charge of securing arms to be used if and when hostilities against the Spaniards would flare up once again.
After the Philippines and Cuba were sold to the Americans by the Spaniards, the revolution for independence entered a new stage. It was on February 4, 1899 when hostilities began between Americans and Filipinos. Three days later, Lolo Miguel was appointed second-in-command of General Mariano Trias, who was the overall commander of the Filipinos forces in southern Luzon. He then joined forces with General Antonio Luna to try to capture Manila. Unfortunately, the Filipino offensive failed mainly because of the insubordination of the Kawit Battalion. After Calamba fell into the hands of the Americans, Malvar unsuccessfully besieged this town in Laguna from August to December 1899. General Aguinaldo was equally unsuccessful in his attempt to bring the battle to Pangasinan and Isabela, where he was captured by the Americans on March 21, 1901. General Trias, the chosen successor of Aguinaldo had actually surrendered even earlier on March 15, 1901. This series of events prompted a number of historians to speculate that since my Lolo Miguel was designated in Aguinaldo’s decreed line of succession as the next to Trias, Malvar became President of the Philippines with the capture of Aguinaldo and the surrender of Trias.
Again, it may not matter whether or not we shall ever resolve the question of who was the Second President of the Philippine Republic after Aguinaldo. On September 18, 2007, Rodolfo Valencia, Representative of Oriental Mindoro filed House Bill 2594 declaring Malvar as the second Philippine President alleging that Malvar took over the revolutionary government after General Emilio Aguinaldo, first President of the Republic, was captured and was exiled to Hong Kong by the American colonial government. Four years after, in October 2011, Vice President Jejomar Binay sought the help of historians in proclaiming revolutionary General Miguel Malvar as the rightful second President of the Philippines. The issue may never be settled but the really important fact is that my Lolo dedicated four years of his young life to heroic acts of valor in the battle field, justice and compassion towards captured enemies, admirable prudence in choosing sides in favor of those who were really fighting for the good of the country, moderation in making use of the resources that were entrusted to him by the revolutionary forces, unfailing love for his family and great optimism and cheerfulness in facing adversities. Even his surrender to US General Franklin Bell was the result of the act of virtues of justice and charity towards his remaining soldiers (a good number of officers deserted him) and his family who no longer could bear the hunger and sufferings in the mountains of Makiling. It is on record that General Bell admired my Lolo as an “officer and gentleman,” offering him high positions in the American colonial Administration, such as the governorship of the important province of Batangas. (To be continued)