1st President of the Philippines
President of the 1st Republic
January 23, 1899 – April 1, 1901
|Vice President(s)||Mariano Trias|
|Succeeded by||Manuel L. Quezon (position abolished 1901-1935)|
|Born||March 22, 1869
Cavite El Viejo (Kawit), Cavite
|Died||February 6, 1964
Quezon City, Metro Manila
|Spouse||(1) Hilaria del Rosario-died
(2) Maria Agoncillo
Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (March 22, 1869 – February 6, 1964) was a Filipino general, politician, and independence leader. He played an instrumental role in the Philippine Revolution against Spain, as well as the Philippine-American War in opposition to American occupation.
In the Philippines, Aguinaldo is treated as the country's first and the youngest Philippine President, though his government failed to obtain any foreign recognition.
The seventh of eight children of Carlos Aguinaldo and Trinidad Famy, he was born into a Chinese-mestizo family on March 22, 1869 in Cavite El Viejo (now Kawit), Cavite province. His father was gobernadorcillo (town head), and, as members of the Chinese-mestizo minority, they enjoyed relative wealth and power.
As a young boy, Aguinaldo received basic education from his great-aunt and later attended the town's elementary school. In 1880, he took up his secondary course education at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, which he quit on his third year to return home instead to help his widowed mother manage their farm.
At the age of 17, Emilio was elected cabeza de barangay of Binakayan, the most progressive barrio of Cavite El Viejo. He held this position serving for his town-mates for eight years. He also engaged in inter-island shipping, travelling as far south as the Sulu Archipelago.
In 1893, the Maura Law was passed to reorganize town governments with the aim of making them more effective and autonomous, changing the designation of town head from gobernadorcillo to capitan municipal effective 1895. On January 1, 1895, Aguinaldo was elected town head, becoming the first person to hold the title of capitan municipal of Cavite El Viejo.
His first marriage was in 1896 with Hilaria Del Rosario (1877-1921), and they had five children (Miguel, Carmen, Emilio Jr., Maria and Cristina). His second wife was Maria Agoncillo.
In 1895, Aguinaldo joined the Katipunan brotherhood, a secret organization then led by Andrés Bonifacio dedicated to the expulsion of the Spanish and independence for the Philippines. He joined as a lieutenant under Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo and rose to the rank of general in a few months. With the Katipunan, he helped the Philippines erupt in revolt against the Spaniards in 1896. He won major victories in Cavite Province, temporarily driving the Spanish out of the area. However, renewed Spanish military pressure compelled the rebels to restructure their forces in a more cohesive manner. The insulated fragmentation that had aided the Katipunan's secrecy had outlived its usefulness. In open war, unified leadership was required.
Bonifacio presided over a Convention in Tejeros (deep in Aguinaldo territory) to elect an independent Filipino government. Away from his power base, Bonifacio expectedly lost the leadership to Aguinaldo, and was elected instead to the office of Secretary of the Interior. Even this was questioned by an Aguinaldo supporter, claiming Bonifacio had not the necessary schooling for the job. Insulted, Bonifacio declared the Convention null and void, and sought to return to his power base in Rizal. Bonifacio was charged, tried and found guilty of treason (in absentia) by a Cavite military tribunal. Bonifacio was sentenced to death. He and his party were intercepted by Aguinaldo's men, with violence that left Bonifacio mortally wounded. Aguinaldo confirmed the death sentence, and the dying Bonifacio was hauled to the mountains of Maragondon in Cavite, and executed on May 10, 1897, even as Aguinaldo and his forces were retreating in the face of Spanish assault.
Spanish pressure intensified, eventually forcing Aguinaldo's forces to retreat to the mountains. On December 14, 1897, the Pact of Biak-na-Bato was concluded. Under the pact, Aguinaldo agreed to end hostilities and to exile himself and the revolutionary leadership, in exchange for amnesty and cash 'indemnities' in the amount of 800,000 pesos. Aguinaldo took the money offered and, along with 34 other leaders of the rebellion, exiled himself in Hong Kong. The following were the officers of the Supreme Council that oversaw the pact. Emilio Aguinaldo was President and Mariano Trias, the Vice President. Other officials included Antonio Montenegro for Foreign Affairs, Isabelo Artacho for the Interior, Baldomero Aguinaldo for the Treasury, and Emiliano Riego de Dios for War.
However, thousands of other Katipuneros continued to fight the Revolution against Spain for a sovereign nation. Unlike Aguinaldo who came from a priveldged background, the bulk of these fighters were peasants and workers who were not willing to settle for 'indemnities.'
In early 1898, war broke out between Spain and the United States. Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines in May 1898. He immediately resumed revolutionary activities against the Spaniards, now receiving verbal encouragement from emissaries of the United States.
In 1898, the Spanish-American War started and Aguinaldo contacted American officials in hopes that they would aid in his struggle for independence. He initially received mixed signals, but fought in alliance with the Americans to oust the Spanish, including turning over 15,000 captured Spanish troops over to Admiral Dewey. However, relations with the Americans became increasingly strained when they showed no desire to recognize Philippine independence and sovereignty, and instead began occupying the country as the Spanish had. Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 . The Philippine Constitutional Convention elected him President on January 1, 1899, leading to his inauguration on January 23.
On the night of February 4, 1899, a Filipino was shot by an American sentry as he crossed the San Juan bridge. This incident is considered the beginning of the Philippine-American War, and open fighting soon broke out between American troops and pro-independence Filipinos. Superior American firepower drove Filipino troops away from the city, and the Malolos government had to move from one place to another.
Aguinaldo led resistance to the American occupation, then retreated to northern Luzon with the Americans on his trail. On June 2, 1899, a telegram from Aguinaldo was received by Gen. Antonio Luna, an arrogant but brilliant general and looming rival in the military hierarchy, ordering him to proceed to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija for a meeting at the Cabanatuan Church Convent. However, treachery was afoot, as Aguinaldo felt the need to rid himself of this new threat to power. Three days later (June 5), when Luna arrived, he learned Aguinaldo was not at the appointed place. As Gen. Luna was about to depart, he was shot, then stabbed to death by Aguinaldo's men. Luna was later buried in the churchyard, and Aguinaldo made no attempt to punish or even discipline Luna's murderers.
Less than two years later, after the famous Battle of Tirad Pass and the death of his last most trusted general Gregorio del Pilar, Aguinaldo was captured in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901 by US General Frederick Funston, with the help of Macabebe trackers [who saw Aguinaldo as a bigger problem than the Americans]. The American task force gained access to Aguinaldo's camp by pretending to be captured prisoners.
Funston later noted Aguinaldo's "dignified bearing", "excellent qualities," and "humane instincts." Of course, Funston was writing this after Aguinaldo had volunteered to swear fealty to the United States, if only his life was spared. Aguinaldo pledged allegiance to America on April 1, 1901, formally ending the First Republic and recognizing the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippines. Nevertheless, many others (like Miguel Malvar and Macario Sakay) continued to resist the American occupation.
Aguinaldo appointed two premiers in his tenure. These were Apolinario Mabini and Pedro Paterno.
President Aguinaldo had two cabinets in the year 1899. Thereafter, the war situation resulted in his ruling by decree.
During the United States occupation, Aguinaldo organized the Asociación de los Veteranos de la Revolución (Association of Veterans of the Revolution), which worked to secure pensions for its members and made arrangements for them to buy land on installment from the government.
When the American government finally allowed the Philippine flag to be displayed in 1919, Aguinaldo transformed his home in Kawit into a monument to the flag, the revolution and the declaration of Independence. His home still stands, and is known as the Aguinaldo Shrine.
Aguinaldo retired from public life for many years. In 1935, when the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established in preparation for Philippine independence, he ran for president but lost by a landslide to fiery Spanish mestizo Manuel L. Quezon. The two men formally reconciled in 1941, when President Quezon moved Flag Day to June 12, to commemorate the proclamation of Philippine independence.
Aguinaldo again retired to private life, until the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War II. He cooperated with the Japanese, making speeches, issuing articles and infamous radio addresses in support of the Japanese — including a radio appeal to Gen. Douglas MacArthur on Corregidor to surrender in order to spare the innocence of the Filipino youth.
After the Americans retook the Philippines, Aguinaldo was arrested along with several others accused of collaboration with the Japanese. He was held in Bilibid prison for months until released by presidential amnesty. In his trial, it was eventually deemed that his collaboration with the Japanese was probably made under great duress, and he was released.
Aguinaldo lived to see independence granted to the Philippines July 4, 1946, when the United States Government marked the full restoration and recognition of Philippine sovereignty. During the independence parade at the Luneta, the 77-year old general carried the flag he raised in Kawit on June 12, 1898, the date he believed to be the true Independence Day.
In 1950, President Elpidio Quirino appointed Aguinaldo as a member of the Council of State, where he served a full term. He returned to retirement soon after, dedicating his time and attention to veteran soldiers' interests and welfare.
In 1962, when the United States rejected Philippine claims for the destruction wrought by American forces in World War II, president Diosdado Macapagal changed the celebration of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12. Aguinaldo rose from his sickbed to attend the celebration of independence 64 years after he declared it.
Aguinaldo died on February 6, 1964 of coronary thrombosis at the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Quezon City. He was 94 years old. His remains are buried at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite. When he died, he was the last surviving non-royal head of state to have served in the 19th century.