by Peter Jaynul Villanueva Uckung

Other historians relate facts to inform us of facts. You relate them to incite in our hearts an intense hatred of lying, ignorance, hypocrisy, superstition, tyranny; and the anger remains even after the memory of the facts has disappeared.”
Diderot, praising Voltaire

      The brief air of freedom that the Declaration of Independence brought about on June 12, 1898 to the Philippines was censured by the American government with Emilio Aguinaldo’s oath of allegiance to the government of the United States on April 1, 1901. This became the starting date for considering unyielding Filipino fighters as bandits.

     The war for freedom did not end with the oath of allegiance to the American government by the Philippine president. The revolutionary momentum could not be stopped by mere signatures of captured prominent persons, or by the Treaty of Paris, wherein Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for twenty million dollars. The United States actually suffered more casualties after Aguinaldo’s surrender, which was ironic, because the Americans were banking on his capture for Filipino resistance to end.

       The winds of war have planted the seeds of revolutionary ideals all over the country, and the prime mover of revolutionary zeal was the idea that total freedom through armed confrontation could be achieved after all. It was countered by the Americans with total war and ruination.

       The list is long of heroes and heroism; of battles and brutalities; of soldiers and victims.  The conflict after the American declaration of benevolent assimilation was deadlier, fiercer, and more violent than any theater of war that the American soldier went into.

       Macario Sakay continued fighting the Americans in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. Vicente Lukban still commanded the most feared bolo men in Samar. In Bicol, Simeon Ola still waited in ambush deep in the jungles.

       In Mindanao, despite the Bates Treaty, signed by the Sulu Sultan and the Americans, resistance in Sulu flourished like a frenzied festival of death. And Muslim warriors did die, almost always to the last man. Panglima Hassan led his men in fighting the Americans, defying the Sultan’s command of desistance. Then, there was Jikiri- the swiftest and most ferocious waterborne warrior that ever prowled the waters of Sulu. In Lanao there was Ampuanagus. In Cotabato there were Datu Ali and Datu Alamada.

       Famous battles there were a-plenty. The Balangiga encounter and the Pulajanes reddened the memory of the American soldiers with blood. And so did Bud Dajo and Bud Baksak in Jolo; Taraca and Bayang in Lanao. The ravages of the war for freedom were testaments to the determination of the Filipinos to attain it.

        American arms decidedly defeated the Filipinos, and an era of relative peace was maintained.

        Freedom is not only based on the sovereignty of the government, it is ultimately based on the quality of existence of the people being governed.

       Aware of this, and all-fired up by the memory of the revolution, well-meaning men launched protests after protests on issues ranging from unfair labor practice to economic dependency to the U.S.; agrarian unrest to government corruption and ineptitude. The problem of tenancy was questioned, criticized and acted upon by the government, forced into action by a united and very angry union of farmers. There were instances of armed uprisings. Tayug of Pangasinan was one (1931), led by Pedro Colosa who organized a Katipunan-like group.

       With militant uprising condemned by the Americans, collective protests by workers became paramount. Dominador Gomez, Isabelo de los Reyes and Lope K. Santos became synonymous with the birth of labor unions in the Philippines.

      And then came the Sakdalistas; founded by Benigno Ramos. It was the bitterest opponent of the colonial establishment in all its dehumanizing aspects. It was militarily put down when its bolo-wielding members launched an armed uprising on May 2, 1935.

       With severe military censure, many protesters, peasants and idealistic men went underground. There were those who fought the military head on. Some, like Teodoro Asedillo and Nicolas Encallado were recognized by their supporters as some kind of Robin Hood. When Asedillo was killed in Laguna in 1935, his bullet-riddled body was displayed from town to town as some sort of warning.

      Wary of the grim ending of the Sakdalista revolt but still angry, and still well meaning, some supported social justice in the Philippines on their own terms, like Pedro Abad Santos, who founded his Socialist party. His ambivalence to legal procedures in attaining social justice endeared him to the most common of men.

       Freedom is more popularly equated to the sovereignty of a nation. But as history shows, especially our history, freedom is essentially about social justice, economic equality and cultural progress.

       And today we are still fighting for freedom; freedom from fear of human rights abuse; fear of hunger, fear of environmental degradation; fear of pandemic diseases, fear of economic chaos, fear of corrupt government officials, etc.

        The fight for freedom goes on.