On 4 February 2021, the Filipino nation will commemorate the anniversary of the 122nd anniversary of the First Shot of the Philippine-American War. This marked a destructive and deadly conflict in which the Filipinos gallantly defended their recently won independence from occupation by the United States.
Origins of discord
After launching a revolution in August 1896, many Filipinos were able to liberate towns and establish both local and national governments. By June 1898, a revolutionary government had proclaimed Philippine independence from Spain and by September, an assembly composed of representatives from throughout the country had begun drafting a Constitution.
However, rather than lose the Philippines to what it viewed as a local insurgency, Spain opted to turn over their colony to the United States. In August, after a mock battle, Spain turned over Intramuros to the Americans. By December, it signed a treaty with the United States formalizing their transfer of control — while ignoring a delegation from the Philippines led by Felipe Agoncillo, who promptly protested the treaty.
The Treaty of Paris of 10 December 1898 showed plainly the true interests of the United States. It had initially assisted Emilio Aguinaldo in order to weaken Spanish grip over the Philippines. However, tensions had risen after the Americans forbade the Filipino revolutionary forces from entering Intramuros after the mock battle on 13 August 1898.
However, hostilities began only on 4 February 1899 when Private William Grayson shot at Corporal Anastacio Felix and his Filipino comrades after telling them to “Halt!” from their positions at Blockhouse 7 in the corner of Silencio and Sociego Streets, Sampaloc, Manila. The Americans proclaimed the end of what they called an insurgency on 4 July 1902. However, hostilities continued until the surrenders of Miguel Malvar and Simeon Ola on 16 April 1902 and 25 September 1903, and even beyond that with the uprising led by Macario Sakay which ended only in 1907, and resistance by Moros in Mindanao until around 1913.
Nonetheless, the War galvanized Filipinos’ desire for independence. Their efforts culminated in the recognition by the United States of Philippine independence on 4 July 1946.
Remembering Filipinos’ sacrifices
To remember the bravery of Filipinos who fought during the Philippine-American War, Republic Act No. 11304 was approved on 17 April 2019, which recognizes the 4th of February as “Philippine-American War Memorial Day.” It is designated as a special working holiday throughout the country.
Aside from organizing the annual commemorative rites in Sampaloc, the NHCP also promotes the memory of the Philippine-American War through its museums, primarily in the Museo ni Apolinario Mabini in Tanauan, Batangas which has galleries discussing the War as it happened in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.