by: Quennie Ann Palafox

      He was given a bad-boy image because of his conspicuous long hair and his being the leader of a group of long-haired rugged men labeled as bandits or ladrones by the American colonizers; he established the Tagalog Republic in the mountain in Rizal Province, he is Macario Leon-Sakay. Sakay was a calm young man who wore long hair, with dark brown complexion, 5 feet 3 inches tall, of moderate build, with keen, perceiving eyes. No one knows where he sprang from because information about his parentage remains vague up to the present. No account of his childhood and education background is on hand for all.  His life is not well-documented as compared to other heroes like Rizal and Bonifacio.  Most of all, Sakay is said to be the most controversial Philippine and most slandered patriot because of the false accusations pressed against him by the Americans and Filipino pro-Americans.

        Famous men who wore long hair include Isaac Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Einstein, Moses, Hippocrates, Santa Claus, and a large number of saints in the Catholic Church. The ancient Greeks had several heroes which wore their hair long, including Zeus, Achilles, Hector, and Poseidon. Both Greek and Trojan soldiers are said to have worn their hair long in battle. Such warriors considered it a sign of aristocracy and are said to have combed it openly in order to show off. Around the seventeenth century, Chinese men adopted a longer hairstyle called a queue, which was basically a long braid down the back American Indian men wore long hair before the arrival western influences on their culture. The 1950s introduced the Beatles, who started a widespread long hair fad which lasted into the 60s. Beat poets during this decade also wore longer hairstyles. In the 1960s long hair, especially on men, was worn as a political or countercultural symbol or protest. Roughly, long hair has many meanings as it crosses the boundary of one culture to another. Perhaps one might wonder why Macario Sakay wore his hair long when men it was not a customary or deemed fashionable for Filipino men belonging either in elite or Indio class during the Spanish times to wear as such as wearing a long hair was expected among the women. An account narrated by one of the general of Macario Sakay will clarify all the curiosities we have in mind. Here how the story goes:

       It was a fine day. All soldiers and officers were preoccupied not mindful of the surprise attack headed to their way. The sounds of gun fires greatly alarmed the soldiers of Sakay and all hurriedly ran to hide for safety. When they reached their hideouts and knowing what to do, they retaliated and there was exchange of gun fires. The soldiers successfully retreated and this incident left a lesson among the soldiers. Thereafter, Sakay and his officers and men refused to have their hairs cut. Another reason they took into consideration for doing so was to give the people an idea about the length of the years they stayed in the mountains in their struggle for freedom using their hairs as a clear illustration. To make sure that all soldiers grow their hairs, Sakay, Carreon and Montalan have had their long hair. Thus, men wearing long hair became a fad among Sakay’s soldiers.

      Despite his patriotic ideals and his commitment to emancipate the country from foreign tutelage, Sakay, Carreon, Villafuerte and company were branded the ‘bad guys” during the American occupation of the Philippines, their guerilla activities were considered ‘banditry’, and their revolutionary government in the mountains the ‘organized band’ of long-haired outlaws and fanatics. Was Sakay really a bandit? This question poses controversies and remains problematic among historians who attempt to give justice to the hero branded as ‘bandit’ and ‘criminals’ by the Americans. Adding to this malady is the lack of supporting documents on Sakay.

        During the administration of Governor-General Luke E. Wright, the Commission passed a law known as LEY DE BANDOLERISMO to give a chance or force all the rebels and bandits to surrender immediately. Sakay strongly opposed this law, and those whom he found to be spying for the American military government were given corporal punishment. Hence, the spies who were caught by the rebels were given speedy trial. Without the knowledge of Sakay, some gangs of tulisanes who engaged in banditry and other criminal acts against fellow countrymen joined the rebels for self-protection when they were pursued by the government forces.

General Macario Sakay and his men, notwithstanding the accusations of banditry by the government, were revere greatly by the people. Hero’s welcome was accorded to them upon their arrival in Manila from their mountain hideouts to surrender to the American authorities. Pleased to set a glimpse on Sakay and his men, hundreds of people followed them wherever they went in Manila. There was an air of joviality with people shouting:

“Mabuhay si Sakay. .. Mabuhay ang mga bayani”
(Long Live sakay…….Long live the heroes”

       Gregorio de Jesus, second wife of Andres Bonifacio and vice president of the women’s chapter of the Katipunan, in her memoirs conveyed her veneration for Sakay and wrote: “He was a real patriot and his memory deserves to be perpetuated among his countrymen”. According to Gen. Pio del Pilar in a letter to Mr. Jose P. Santos, dated January 23, 1930, “Macario Sakay in his best knowledge was a true patriot who spread the seeds of the Katipunan to win the independence of the Philippines.  He was one of those who went from town to town, winning the people over to the cause of the Katipunan, and thus, kept alive the spirit of resistance to the enemies”.  He added, “Sakay may be called a tulisan or bandit by the Americans. That was the reason they executed him. But before God, Country, and Truth, he was a true son of the Country whom his fellow countrymen must revere for all the times”. This statement was supported by Gen. Artemio Ricarte in his letter sent to Mr. Jose P. Santos. He said, “Sakay and de Vega were hanged because of the LEY DE BANDOLERISMO in order that these patriots who refused to surrender might be persecuted as outlaws.

        In my humble opinion, these Robin Hoods with no virtuous, as the Americans perceived Sakay and his soldiers, were nationalist Filipinos who continuously fought for Philippine independence to the Americans. The Americans executed Sakay but the Filipinos will never forget him as symbol of nationalism.