by Peter Jaynul V. Uckung

     Miguel Malvar is a symbol of war – war against the Spaniards and war against the Americans. Though he opted to surrender to the Americans on April 16, 1902, he is remembered by history as one of the fightingest Filipino generals during the resistance against American invasion.

     Remembering Miguel Malvar beckons us to recount one of the most forgotten and misunderstood eras in Philippine history – the Filipino-American War. Perhaps, because the American colonizers had the chance to induce a national amnesia on this event through massive re-education, by reformatting the curriculum in school, designing it to make the war as benevolent as possible, the Filipino fighters as misdirected heroes or bandits, and American occupation of the Philippines as necessary prerequisite for the Filipinos to be civilized.

        In remembering Miguel Malvar, we also must remember the war that stole our independence. Because that was what Malvar stood for, in defence of our independence.

       When President Emilio Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans on March 23, 1901, Malvar become the new commander-in-chief of the Filipino forces. He kept on fighting despite Aguinaldo’s oath of allegiance to the U.S., Aguinaldo’s capitulation meant nothing to most of the Filipinos in the field.

       This the American recognized and to overcome the tenacity of Filipino resistance, they launched one of the cruelest military campaigns ever to be effected in the opening years of the 20th century.

       The Philippine constabulary was formed by the U.S. on July 18, 1901. It was created to use native force against native resistance, Filipinos against Filipinos, oftentimes brother against brother. Former comrades found themselves on opposite sides with the same urge to kill and destroy any and all opponents. Civilians were often the victims as both sides questioned their loyalties.

      The echoes of ferocious battles between Filipino resistance fighter and American- trained Filipino constabularies are muted by time and vague descriptions in history text books, which were often clothed in euphemisms.

       Tortures, too, were practiced to pry information from suspected supporters of the resistance. Massacres of civilians, be they women, children, or old people were not uncommon. These occurences were blotted out in history books as the American government restructured our educational system. Worse were the justifications of the war waged by the Americans on the Filipinos. Historical apologists and those who hugely benefited from the American occupation began to spread the word that the Filipinos deserved the war of aggression, like it was for the good of the country.

       Then there were the American action against whole villages which supported the resistance. They called it “reconcentration”. People were kept within a militarized zone to keep them from aiding  Filipino fighters. Disease and starvation, dislocation and death for many Filipinos were the result of this American containment policy. Again, there was neither strong protest from history text book, nor marker to remind us of the inhumanity of the re-concentration policy.     

        The Americans also passed laws to discourage the people to pursue their struggle for independence in whatever form of advocacy.  This included the Sedition Law which was passed on November 4, 1901 imposing death penalty, long prison term or sky high fine for those who would dare write, speak or fight for independence. Even works of art with hints of independence advocacy were suspect. Authors were routinely charged with sedition and most were imprisoned. On November 12, 1902 the Brigandage Act was passed, legally labelling those Filipinos still fighting for freedom as bandits and robbers. History text books still consider most of them as such.

       Today, most Filipino historians decry the injustices perpetuated by the Americans to Filipinos during the Filipino-American war. Like a shining pearl revealed by the ebb tide of history, the centenary of Miguel Malvar’s death should give us a wealth of information on the war that eclipsed the first Philippine republic.

       And most importantly, we should consider the lessons of war and apply it to the present reality, not only in our country but the world now in the chaos of war.

       Torture, reconcentration of population, using brothers to kill brothers, the creation of constricting laws against terrorism. These are again being employed in the Middle East and Africa.

     It is our historic duty to hate those who aggressively pursue war as a matter of imperialistic policy and condemn those who support it. We historically know so well the  evils that they bring. That is what remembering Malvar is all about.