The excesses of the Spanish colonial regime, compounded with the abuses of the guardia civiles (civil guards), had exacerbated further the miserable lives of the inhabitants of Ilaya (now Capiz)1, located at the northeastern portion of Panay island, Philippines. As the majority of the population of the province- referring only in the Ilaya section – relied its material sustenance on agriculture, the implementation of Maura Law)2 deepened social discontentment as the said royal decree had allowed wealthy and opportunists landholders maliciously acquired more lands at the expense of the poor faming families. There is an account known to local historians that showed the capacity of the Capisnons to react violently against any forms of colonial abuses. In the earlier period of the 17th century, a group of native residents of Capiz town (now Roxas City) took up arms, seized an African-Spanish officer, named Duran, threatened to kill him and set fire his house because the angry people could no longer tolerate his abusive ways. Duran was described as extremely cruel officer because he imposed severe punishments to native residents who violated colonial laws such as rendering of the 15-day labor without pay in any government construction projects, prolonged physical beatings, and payment of tribute.)3
But abuses committed by colonial authorities remained and its elimination was remote. During the latter part of the 19th century, the towns of Pan-ay, Pilar, Panit-an, Sigma and Tapaz already witnessed organized assaults against Spanish authorities launched by small groups of agraviados (disgruntled men). Sporadic revolts from the ranks of the ordinary people due to Spanish excesses were common not only in the province of Capiz but also in Luzon and Mindanao provinces. The 1896 Uprising led by Andres Bonifacio which began in Pugadlawin, Caloocan was a logical outcome of these numerous revolts in various parts of the country. These local revolts, whose orientation was generally reformist in character birthed an armed revolution aimed at liberating the whole archipelago from Spanish colonial rule. Thus, the spirit of 1896 reached Ilaya and ignited an organized uprising led by three great local leaders; Macario Lukso4 from Tapaz, General Juan Arce from Sigma, and General Esteban D. Contreras of the town of Pontevedra.
Sowing the seed of Uprising
Macario Lukso, or Papa Macario as his followers addressed him, may be considered as the pioneer of the Katipunan movement (or Kataastasan, Kagalanggalangan na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) in Capiz(Ilaya). Before the Aklanon Candido Iban and Francisco del Castillo from Cebu founded the Katipunan chapter in Aklan valley in 1896, a Capisnon, known as Macario Lukso, had already started recruiting members for the local Katipuan in Jamindan in late December 1896.5 Lukso was a native of Tapaz, but he was not seen in his hometown for years because he spent a longer period in Luzon, probably in Manila. Upon his return to Jamindan from Luzon, he introduced the revolutionary ideals of the Katipunan to his townmates. Aside from being called by the people in Jamindan as Papa Macario, the said revolutionary leader was also known to his adherents as “alapaap”(sky). Based on the account, he was “Alapaap” because he was “always up in the sky” everytime he discussed the liberation of the Philippines from Spain.6 The agraviados in Jamindan were already oriented with the ideals of the Bonifacio-led Katipunan before the revolutionary movement established by both Arce and Contreras had spread in various towns of the Ilaya section.
Class Background of the Leadership of the Movement
It is not fully known if Macario Lukso (Lusco?) or “Alapaap” was either a landed resident of Capiz or he belonged to an educated well-to-do family. Did he come from a peasant family? Aside from being a Katipunero, he was described as simply a secretive, reclusive person who preferred to live alone in a “payag”7, one could assume that he was an ordinary and less-privileged person, a ‘masa’.
The class background of most of the local leaders of the revolutionary movement in Capiz (Ilaya) may be considered as middle class and lower middle class as they belonged to land-owning families, and usually engaged in entrepreneurial endeavors. Ronald Amigo, in his undergraduate thesis in History submitted in 1992, provided us interesting facts regarding the economic status of the leaders of the local revolutionary movement. This information helps us understand fully the nature of the leadership of the movement.
General Esteban Contreras – leader of revolutionary movement in the towns of Pontevedra and Panay – was a landowning farmer, owned thousands of cattles, and was into fishing.8 Colonel Pascual Barza9 (Barsa?) was described as a rich farmer who owned farm lands and vast tracks of nipa plantation, and was also a fishpond proprietor.
Captain Alejandro Balgos, like General Contreras, was assumed as highly-educated person because he spoke Spanish quite fluently. He was a businessman, owner of sugar plantation and a muscovado mill. He owned vast tracts of land in Agbanban, Panay.10 Other local leaders of the Revolution, who were property-owners were the following: Aurello Matillano from Pilar, Santiago Bellosillo, Ramon Contreras, Nicomedes Bernales, Santiago Blanco, Agripino Albaladejo and Alejandro Amistoso. The abovementioned, except Matillano who was a wealthy landowner and farmer, were small landowners who primarily depended their livelihoods on fishing and farming.11 Due to lack of reliable sources, the economic status of General Juan Arce is difficult to determine. But his successes as organizer and leader of the Katipunan chapter in Pilar, Sigma, Ivisan and Dumalag, not to mention his excellent military aptitude, suggested that this man commanded great respect from the people. It was common during the revolutionary period(1896-1898) that anywhere in the country, the people had given their support and cooperated with leaders who did not belong to their class. The masses easily accepted the middle class as their sentiments and the collective aspirations of the Filipinos, both rich and poor, educated and ignorant. This was quite evident in the class character of the founding leaders of the Katipunan. Andres Bonifacio – who had a lower middle class background – was a salesman, a messenger for Fleming and Co., and warehouse man of another company. Deodato Arellano, who was elected as first president of the Katipunan, served as an assistant clerk in the artillery corps. Other founding leaders of the Katipunan who belonged to the lower middle class was Teodoro Plata who worked as clerk of court in Mindanao, Ladislao Diwa and Valentin Diaz were employed as Court clerk in separate places.12
It is not, therefore, surprising that the Katipunan counterparts outside Luzon, like in Capiz, was also founded and led by individuals whose class interests were different from the less-privileged and property-less segment of the colonial society. However, although the Katipunan and the revolutionary movement in Capiz, specifically the Ilaya section, may be described as middle class-led organizations vastly supported by the masses, these social classes united themselves to achieve a sole objective, i.e., liberate the nation from the centuries-old Spanish despotism.
Before the execution of nineteen(19) martyrs of Kalibo by the Spanish forces headed by Colonel Ricardo Monet on March 23, 1897, a clandestine movement of strongly-built farmers and fishermen was already formed in the town of Pontevedra, Capiz(Ilaya). A landowner, General Esteban D. Contreras was responsible of the formation of the revolutionary movement in the said town.13 General Contreras also put up a separate armed group in Pilar, a neighboring coastal town of Pontevedra.
General Contreras was born on May 12, 1864 in Capiz town (now Roxas City). He was the only son of Simeon Contreras and Carmen Dichosa. He was adopted by a spinster aunt, Lucia Contreras, when his father passed away and the subsequent marriage of his mother. Through the guidance of Lucia, he was raised properly and obtained a good tertiary education.14 He was not linked with the Bonifacio-led Katipunan. While the armed encounters between the revolutionary forces and Spanish troops became more heightened in Luzon areas in 1897, Contreras began the organizing process and applied creative approach to gather his men without attracting the attention of the authorities. He held dancing party in his residence(Barrio Malag-it) while he and his men clandestinely discussed revolutionary matters amidst festivity.15 The secret meeting was well-planned that even Contreras’ family and guests had never realized that an uprising was being hatched in the house of the host of the dancing party. He was elected as the Commanding General of the Revolutionary forces. His trusted men were the following; Major Santiago Bellosillo, Major Pascual Barza, Captain Ramon Contreras, Captain Alejandro Balgos, Captain Nicomedes Bernales, and Lt. Santiago Blanco. Other local leaders were Alejandro Amistoso who was elected as the Chief Procurement Officer, and Agripino Albaladejo assumed the position of Chief of Staff.
Juan Arce was a native of Sigma, Capiz. Aside from Macario Lukso, he was the only Capisnon who was a member of Katipunan in Manila. After he joined the movement, he left for Capiz and immediately introduced the revolutionary principles of the Katipunan, and mobilized the people whom he organized for the impending campaign for national liberation. Arce concentrated his efforts in organizing the agraviados (disgruntled men) from the towns of Ivisan to Pilar. The day after the Capisnons learned the death of General del Castillo in Aklan in the hands of the Spanish troops, Captain Juan Arce gathered around 150 local revolutionaries in Barrio Monteflor, Pilar where they deliberated the implications of the death of the Aklanon General on the local revolutionary activities.16
Major Battles in Capiz (Ilaya), 1897-1898
The Capiz revolutionary movement engaged the beleaguered Spanish troops in three important armed confrontations within the period of 1897 and 1898. these battles showed the determination and resolve of the Capisnon fighters (hangaway) to end the centuries-old colonial despotism and secure national independence. These bloody encounters that caused the loss of many lives from both warring camps took place in Tapaz, Barrio Tanza in Pan-ay, and at Calupugan Hill beside the Balisong River of Pilar.
The ‘Battle of Tapaz’ that occurred on February 27, 1897 was initiated by revolutionary forces led by Macario Lukso or Papa Macario, a pulahan17 leader whom the people believed as gifted with a “pangalap” or supernatural powers. About forty(40) pulahanes armed with bolo, spears and a few mauser rifles attacked the enemy garrison near the municipal building in Tapaz at 5:30 in the morning which caught the Spanish troops by surprise. The pulahanes retreated to the mountain of Madia-as – a few of them were wounded – after realizing that they were at the disadvantage due to the superior firepower of the colonial troops. The belief of the people that Lukso was a living god had further strengthened when he claimed that he was hit by several bullets but these did not cause fatal wounds neither it resulted to his death.18 Most probably, Papa Macario deliberately impressed on his adherents about his invincibility because he wanted to raise their morale and courage before they face the well-equipped enemies.
Consolidation of Forces in Pan-ay
Revolutionary troops from the municipalities of Pan-ay, Pontevedra, Panit-an, Pilar established a strategic alliance with groups from Sigma, Dao and Mambusao. This consolidation of forces was initiated by Captain Juan Arce, who was also responsible of putting up camps in the areas of Sigma, Pilar, Dumalag, Tapaz, and Aklan.19 Capt. Arce gathered in Mambusao the various local revolutionary leaders to map out a tactical plan against the Spanish forces accompanied by Saturnino Javillo, Arce met the following leaders: Don Ramon Hontiveros from Sigma, Capitan Municipal Don Tmas Javillo from Dao, Capitan Leon Bauson from Panit-an, Eugenio Diestro of Cuartero, Mariano Flejoles of Dumalag, and Capt. Manuel Firmalino with his son, Ezequiel, who assigned some men to guard the road from Kapis(now Roxas City) and also from the town of Dumarao.20 The revolutionaries from the coastal and interior towns of Capiz also got the full collaboration of the forces led by Macario Lukso (or Lusco?) from Tapaz and Jamindan.
This strategic military mobilization had resulted to an armed confrontation in Tanza del Norte, Pan-ay on April 15, 1898 in which the number of revolutionaries, based on the report of the Spanish authorities, had reached to 15,000. Thus, this massive mobilization of men attracted the attention of the enemy spies – namely Antero Bediones and a parish priest from Dumarao – and immediately informed the local colonial administration about the said secret activity. The spies, whom the revolutionaries accused as traitors, were slain by Capt. Arce in the wooded area somewhere in southern Capiz.21 Due to the information supplied by the traitors, the colonial troops had immediately launched an offensive or counter-attack that prompted the rebel forces to cover in the rice paddies as they attempted to repel the enemy attack. This incident had just commenced is described by local historians as the “Battle of Tanza del Norte”, and considered as a major encounter in Capiz as part of the 1896 national uprising against Spain. This resulted to the death of 150 Capisnon freedom-fighters and 35 casualties from the side of the enemy.22 The Spanish counter-attack had obviously reduced the level of readiness and determination of the Capisnon forces to fight on that day, April 15(1898).23 After six(6) hours of heavy gunfight, the freedom-fighters tactically moved out from the battlefield through the town of Loctugan (now part of Roxas City). The Pilareños led by Arce to Barrio Monteflor, Pilar while General esteban Contreras led his group and other revolutionaries to Pontevedra for regrouping, and evaluated the outcome of the armed encounter.24
The setback inflicted on the revolutionary movement had not, however, broken the will of the freedom-fighters. In fact, few days after the battle, leaders like Arce(whose rank was raised from Captain to Brigade General after the Battle of Tanza del Norte), Rafael Maraingan, Gen. Esteban Contreras, and Colonel Pascual Barza gathered again, discussed the results of the battle, and finally, came up with a collective decision to establish a new camp at Calupugan Hill where the Balisong River flows at the foothill.25 Calupugan Hill is part of the town of Pilar.
Battle of Balisong: Last Battle of General
The lessons learned from the ‘Battle of Tanza del Norte, Pan-ay improved the knowledge of the revolutionary leaders on the science of warfare. After the major battle occurred in Tanza del Norte, Arce brought the Pilareño forces to the Capulugan Hill in preparation for the next armed hostility. This time the next face-off shifted to Pilar. This reorganization of forces in Calupugan Hill was led by Arce in collaboration with General Contreras and Colonel Pascual Barza. In Calupugan Hill, the revolutionaries dug trenches, built nipa huts, collected big rocks and logs as part of their weapons, and fortified the area with three cannons.26 Around 10:00 in the morning on June 7, 189827 Capiz Gov. Juan Herrera mobilized around 400 to 500 Spanish forces at the public plaza of Pilar town after learning the presence of the revolutionaries in Calupugan Hill. In the afternoon, the Spanish troops commenced the attack as they clambered up the hill, and the Capisnons fiercely responded with a volley of shots, fired their cannons, and rolled down logs and huge rocks towards the direction of the encroaching enemies.28 The ‘Battle of Balisong’ was a victory for the Arce-led revolutionary groups. Only two men were slain in the side of he freedom-fighters; one of them was their valiant leader, General Juan Arce who was hit fatally by a stray-bullet during the heavy-fighting.29 The colonial troops were inflicted with seventy(70) casualties.
Before Arce lost his breath, he ordered one of his men, named Dalmacio, for a gradual retreat of the troops. Shortly, after Arce fell and died, Dalmacio took off his uniforms and other personal items that could lead to the leader’s identity, and immediately declared to his companions to leave the hill. The Spanish forces reached the area and found a corpse without recognizing it was Arce’s.30
On the other hand, the enigmatic Pulahan leader, Macario Lukso, was slain in San Nicolas, Tapaz sometime in 1898 by a certain Tente Boni whom the latter was known as a supporter of the Spanish rule.31 Lukso’s demise had caused the weakening of the Pulahan group in Capiz although its remnants were able to unleash its resistance to American occupation in the province before it finally reached its dissolution.
Aside from the historic battles in Tanza del Norte, Pan-ay and Calupugan Hill in Pilar, other skirmishes took place in Dumalag, Panit-an, Sigma, Mambusao, and Tapaz from 1897-1898. These battles obviously weakened the position of the colonial administration and its armed troops in Capiz(Ilaya section). Emboldened, probably, by the results of their miliary activities, the revolutionaries from Ilaya proceeded to Aklan valley and augmented the Aklanon forces who became more determined to pursue their revolutionary campaign against the colonial administration.
Consequently, in December 1898, the province of Capiz(Ilaya section & Aklan valley), under the leadership of the local revolutionary movement, became part of the Federal Council of the Visayas which the latter was under the control of the Malolos Republic as a central government. Roque Lopez and Vicente Franco were appointed as President and Vice President, respectively, of the Federal Council of the Visayas. The designated councilor of the old province was Venancio Concepcion.
The principles of the separatist movement, the Katipunan, were already introduced by Macario Lukso somewhere in Tapaz and Jamindan in 1896. This was also the year when Visayan Katipunan leaders, Candido Iban and Francisco del Castillo, arrived in Aklan to organize the Movement as instructed by Andres Bonifacio following the break out of the revolution in August.
Another Capisnon who formed the Katipunan in the towns of Pilar and Pan-ay was Capt. Juan Arce. He began his organizing efforts in 1897 after the death of Francisco del Castillo and the massacre of nineteen(19) martyrs in Kalibo, Aklan. Also, the equally famous General Esteban Contreras secretly formed a revolutionary movement in Pontevedra despite that he was not linked to the Katipunan. Thus, through the efforts of Lukso, Arce and Contreras, a revolutionary movement in Capiz(Ilaya) grew, and this was followed by series of military campaigns against Spanish authorities. The local revolutionary movement engaged the colonial troops in many parts of Capiz like in Panay, Pilar, Pontevedra, Panit-an, Dumalag, Sigma, Mambusao, and Tapaz from 1897 to 1898.
The important battles between the Capisnon freedom-fighters and Spanish troops broke out in Tanza del Norte in Pan-ay, Calupugan Hill in Pilar, and Tapaz where a Spanish garrison was raided by the fierce Pulahan group. The capacity of the revolutionary movement to pursue military campaigns had, finally, diminished the strength and will of the Spanish forces to fight in 1898. The liberation of Capiz from centuries-old colonial regime was punctuated when it formally recognized the establishment of the Aguinaldo-led Malolos Republic.
1 During the colonial period, the province of Capiz was composed of Aklan valley and Ilaya. Ilaya was referred to the present province of Capiz. In 1956, Aklan was seperatd from Capiz by virtue of the Republic Act 1414.
2 The Maura Law was also known as the Royal Decree of Feb. 13, 1894. This law gave landowners to secure legal title to their lands within a year. Untitled lands were forfeited. Many landholders especially from the provinces, who did not have knowledge about the law, lost their land. They found that their untitled lands were included in the legal titles of big and wealthy landowners. See Renato COnstantino, “The Philippines: A Past revisited, vol. 1. (Manila, 1975) 129.
3 Regalado Felix, and Quintin B. Franco. History of Panay(CPU, 1973), 123-124.
4 In Prof. Vic VIllan’s paper, “Heneral Juan Arce’, published in ADHIKA journal dated November 2000, he spelled the last name of Macario as Lusco instead of Lukso.
5 Clavel, Leothiny. “Philippine Revolution in Capiz.” Dilliman Review 43: 3-4 (University of the Philippines, 1995): 27-28.
6 Clavel, 1995.
7 Small nipa hut
8 Amigo, Ronald A. The Capiz Revolutionary Movement: The Contreras-Led Uprising. (an undergraduate thesis Presented to the Division of social Science, College of Arts & Sciences, UPV, June 1992) p. 59.
9 Amigo, 59.
10 Amigo, 59.
11 Amigo, 60.
12 Constantino, Renato. The Philippine: A Past Revisited, volume I. (Quezon City: Constantino, 1975): 165.
13 Bolante, Jose B. Comprehensive History of Capiz in Search of Identity(Roxas City: Buklod ng mga Kabataang Kawani, n.d.): 48-49.
14 Amigo, 44.
15 Bolante, 44.
16 Clavel, 29
17 The Pulahanes was a group of armed men who wore red uniforms or tied a red handkerchief around their neck. The Pulahan group also fiercely resisted American occupation particularly in the Visayas during the Fil-Am War.
18 Clavel, 1995.
19 Vicente Villan, “HENERAL JUAN ARCE: Dakilang Hangaway ng KKK at Himagsikan sa Capiz.” Balitang Adhika ,Tomo II, Bilang 2 (Nobyembre 2000): 3.
20 Villan, 2000.
21 Villan, 4.
22 Villan, 5.
23 Prof. Vicente Villan insisted that the ‘Battle in Tanza del Norte’ in Panay happened on April 15, 1898 instead of May 3-4, 1897. Prof. Leothiny Clavel maintains that the said famous battle occurred on May. 4, 1897.
24 Clavel, 30.
25 Villan, 5-6.
26 CLavel, 30.
27 Prof. Vicente Villan claims that the ‘Battle of Balisong’ occurred on June 14, 1898. see his paper on “Heneral Juan Arce: Dakilang Hangawal ng KKK at Himagsikan sa Capiz” published in Balitang ADHIKA, November 2000.
28 Villan, 6. see also Clavel, 1995.
29 Clavel, 31. see also Villan, 2000.
30 Clavel, 1995.
31 CLavel, 36.
Amigo, Ronald A. The Capiz Revolutionary Movement: The
Contreras-Led uprising(an undergraduate thesis, Division
of Social Science College of Arts & Sciences, UP-Visayas,
Bolante, Jose B. Comprehensive History of Panay: In Search
of Identity. (Roxas City: Buklod ng mga Kabataang Kawani,
Clavel, Leothiny. “The Philippine Revolution in Capiz,”
Dilliman Review 43: 3-4 (University of the Philippines,
Constantino, Renato. The Philippines: A Past Revisited,
vol. I (Quezon City: Constantino, 1975).
Regalado, Felix, and Quintin B. Franco. History of Panay.
(Central Philippine University: 1973).
Villan, Vicente. “Heneral Juan Arce: Dakilang Hangaway ng
KKK at Himagsikan sa Capiz,” Balitang ADHIKA, Tomo II,
Blg. 2. (Nobyembre 2000): 3-6.