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Intrigues and History

Maligayang araw ng Kalayaan sa sambayanang Pilipino! Sa ating paggunita ng ika-isandaan at dalawamput isang taon ng ating kasarinlan, tandaan natin na ang kalayaan ay dapat inaaruga at ipinaglalaban sa bawat araw, ng bawat isa sa atin.




History is never static. The things we read in our history textbooks are not cast in stone. Discoveries of new documents and artifacts as well as re-readings of existing texts provide us with fresh perspectives on understanding our history. They help us clarify the history and its meaning in our lives today.


A recent example is the telegram sent by President Emilio Aguinaldo to General Antonio Luna in 1899 asking him to go to Cabanatuan for a meeting. That telegram, discovered from the family hoard of Luna’s son, was auctioned in December last year and fetched a cool P3.7 million. But its worth is inestimable in terms of shedding new light on a controversial part of Philippine history.


Coincidentally, last week was the anniversary of the death of General Antonio Luna. One hundred twenty years ago, the brave, patriotic, and, by all accounts, temperamental hero walked to his gruesome death.


Thanks largely to the popular movie Heneral Luna, the death of this Filipino martyr has become one of the most mysterious and intriguing aspects of Philippine history. I enjoyed watching the film, which Netflix has recently added to its collection. The power of the film lay in its ability to present otherwise cold historical events into an exciting story not just of our country but of the people who fought for its dignity and independence. This is a better way of teaching history to our children.


Luna, like many of his contemporaries, dedicated his life to the liberation of the country. In Spain, he joined the Propaganda Movement and fought for equality between Filipinos and Spaniards. It was no surprise that when he returned to the Philippines, he was apprehended and deported back to Spain. Upon his release, he studied military tactics and strategy under General Gerard Mathieu Leman in Belgium.


During the Philippine revolution, he assumed the post of Chief of War Operations and given the rank of brigadier general by President Aguinaldo. He would later be appointed commanding general of the Philippine Army.


Heneral Luna was famous for his temper and acerbic tongue. He once disarmed and arrested an entire battalion for refusing to follow his orders. He had his disagreements with Aguinaldo on the tactics of fighting the Spanish forces. He also violently opposed the plan of Aguinaldo and Felipe Buencamino to forge a deal with the Americans. Like Mabini, he wanted to fight for independence. This was the background of the famous scene in the movie where Luna, during a Cabinet meeting, confronted them for the compromises they were crafting.


He strikes me as a man who is clear about his duty to his country and will do anything in his power to achieve his goals. His strong personality was both a strength and a weakness. Most of us probably have this esteemed image of our heroes. At times, we put them on a pedestal forgetting that they are, like all of us, humans. They have their strengths and faults. They are not superheroes. They are ordinary human beings who responded bravely to extraordinary circumstances.


Luna met his death when he arrived in Cabanatuan on June 5, 1899, after receiving that telegram from Aguinaldo asking to see him. His temper was on full display after he saw some of the Kawit troops he had arrested before and his nemesis, Buencamino. Accounts say that Luna was brutally stabbed and shot by these soldiers. Some historians were of the opinion that the telegram clarified a lot of the mysteries surrounding the assassination of Luna.


There are many intriguing and controversial aspects of our past that should continue to fascinate us. The people and events that formed what we are today are not cold, dead facts. They are part of our living history.