by: Ma. Cielito G. Reyno

      Six years had passed since the declaration of Philippine independence at Kawit, and two years since its declarer, the First Philippine Republic President, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, had been hunted down and captured by the soldiers of the new colonizer and successor to Spain– the United States. Despite the loss of Aguinaldo, other Filipinos continued the struggle – whether or not they had known about June 12, 1898, and the spirit of one nation and one people.  Throughout the country other Filipinos continued to fight for the true essence of June 12, ’98— freedom.  In the battle of Taraka in the lake Lanao area- as elsewhere where the fight was being waged at all cost- the struggle took on a more defining aspect.

        In 1902 the U. S. military was set to start its encirclement of the Lake Lanao area.  Then Captain John J. Pershing, future military governor of the Moro Province, held a conference with Maranao datus, including the datus of the Lake Lanao region, in a place near Marawi, to explain the proclamation of General Adna R. Chaffee dated Malabang, 13 April 1902 announcing Spain’s ceding of the Philippine Archipelago, including Mindanao and Sulu, to the United States.  On the surface, the datus acquiesced to the conditions of the proclamation.  As events turned out, the datus were only biding their time.  This intransigent stance prompted the launching of American military operations in that part of Lanao. 

      Clashes began to take place in Gadungan and Pualas in May 1902, and on the 3rd of the month, the first big battle occurred at Bayang.  The Muslims were led by the Sultan of Bayang who commanded a strong kuta or fort.  The American force led by Colonel Frank D. Baldwin, numbering almost 500 soldiers armed with four mountain-guns, outnumbered and out-armed the Maranaos.  The battle ended with the Americans penetrating and taking the fort, and the Maranaos losing around 350 warriors including the Sultan of Bayan and the Sultan of Pandapatan.  With the taking of Bayang, the Americans established Camp Vicars, from which they launched expeditions against the south and east lake datus.  The latter struck back at the Americans through ambuscades, raids and seizing of telegraph lines.  This induced the Americans to launch major expeditions in September 1902 against Sultan Uali of Gauan and Butig, and against the Maranaos at Maciu, September 29 to around October 3 that same year.  As in Bayang, the Maranaos at Butig, Gauan, and Maciu lost, probably causing the area’s almost one-year hiatus from warring. 

        After the last battles, the Muslims of Bacolod, Calahui (Calawi) and Taraka remained to be pacified.  This was realized initially with the American assault of the Moro fort at Bacolod, acknowledged strongest camp of the Maranaos, on 8 April 1903.  The battle’s end saw the taking of the fort and the killing of more than 100 Maranaos including at least seven principal Maranao datus.  The next day, the assault on the fort of Calawi began, launching some 20 hours’ bombardment of the kotas, and forcing the Muslims there to surrender. 

      But one village remained defiant—Taraka.  It was led by Datu Ampuanagaos (or Ampuanagus)- and his name befitted him for it meant “power”. Taraka was fortified by numerous cottas (50, according to one historian). 

      On May 6, 1903, the Americans bombarded Taraka with artillery fire, allowing ground troops to breach and take many of the forts.  Around 200 Maranaos were killed, and some 60 of their small weapons, and 36 cannons, captured.  The Americans lost only two men.  Surviving the attack, Datu Ampuanagus and 28 of his surviving men, including six datus and two panditas, surrendered—but only tactically.  Ampuanagaos and his men either escaped or were released, for they later carried out guerilla strikes against the Americans, from around 1906 to 1916, living a fugitive’s life until his death – said to be from “old age”.