AN IBANAG SOLDIER IN THE VISAYAN REVOLUTIONARY FORCES
By: Quennie Ann J. Palafox
Mateo Noriel Luga is probably one of the most unsung revolutionaries the Philippines ever had. His parentage and other information about him remain mysterious, but his legacy is more essential for the Filipinos to know. The Cebuanos look up to him because he fought for Cebu during the turbulent early years of American encroachment even though he was not a Cebuano but a native of Tumauini, Isabela province.
Mateo Luga was an experienced soldier having gained his skills in combat when he fought against the Spanish forces in Malinta, Antipolo, Montalban, San Pedro de Makati, Paliparan, Munting Lupa, Kalookan in the early years of revolution after joining the Katipunan in 1896.
Between the summer of 1898 and mid-1899, the armed insurrection against Spain in Cebu was at its peak. A revolutionary government was established by the rebels in Cebu after Spanish Governor Adolfo Montero abandoned the province of Cebu and sought refuge in Zamboanga. Peace prevailed over the island but it was cut short with the unexpected arrival of the American occupation forces in Cebu. Fighting between the Americans and the Cebuanos broke out in 1899 when the latter refused to recognize the Americans as new rulers. In the midst of these armed hostilities, Gen. Aguinaldo commissioned Mateo Luga to be the personal adviser of the Katipunan in Cebu in April 1899.
He proceeded to Cebu together with his bodyguards aboard a ship. When he arrived in Cebu he was suspected as a spy and brought before General Climaco who ordered his released when he was recognized as the person sent by Gen. Aguinaldo to Cebu. When the revolutionary government divided into three operational sectors, the central zone was placed under Gen. Luga who was the only non-Visayan leader during that time. The Ibanag general engaged his American foes in guerilla warfare, launching raids, assaults, and ambushes ambushes between 1899 and 1901. His toughest battle with the Americans was at Sudlon which lasted for nine days in January 1900. The revolutionary forces knowledge of the terrain gave them an advantage over the Americans which ended in a victory on the part of the Filipinos.
Mateo Luga was endowed with superior fighting qualities that his forces almost captured Gen. Henry Lawton. The Americans considered him a dangerous opponent; they even put his wife and children in jail in order to pressure Gen. Luga to surrender, but Luga proved himself a cunning warrior when he managed to rescue his family.
He fought in the battles at San Nicolas, Bulusan, Guadalupe, Mabolo and Talamban. Luga was a valiant fighter, which made him earn the respect of the Americans. More contingents arrived for the Americans, which boosted the morale of the soldiers to defeat the Filipino insurgents. Some Filipino leaders decided to cease the fight with the Americans because of the mounting pressure, among of them was General Maxilom who succumbed to the Americans on October 27, 1901. When Luga learned of the capture of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, he and his troops laid down their arms on the same day to Capt. Frank McIntyre of the 19th U.S Infantry. He joined the American-organized Philippine Constabulary to restore peace and order throughout the island. He was commissioned as inspector and rose to the rank of captain later on. His mission was to chase after bandits; he went all to the way to Samar and Leyte to protect the provinces from the Pulahanes especially the province of Cebu.
His opposition to the provision of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act which he considered biased in favor of the Americans led him to resign from the Constabulary in 1914. He found immediate employment at the Philippine Refining Company, an American firm, and later transferred to Public Lands Commission. He retired in Sagay, Negros Occidental with his wife, Ruperta, and their children, Maria, Jose, Pilar and twins Emilio and Antonio. General Mateo Noriel Luga died of cancer in Manila in 1935.
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