FFE Magazine

Emilio Aguinaldo

Image from the Presidential Museum & Library

1st President of the Philippines

Term of Office: June 12, 1898 – April 1, 1901

Vice President: None

Birth: March 22, 1869

Place: Kawit, Cavite

Death: February 6, 1964

Spouse: Hilaria del Rosario (died 1921);Maria Agoncillo (died 1963)

Children: Carmen Aguinaldo Melencio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Jr., Maria Aguinaldo Poblete, Cristina Aguinaldo, Suntay Miguel Aguinaldo

Filipino leader who fought first against Spain and later against the United States for the Independence of the Philippines.

Born of Chinese and Filipino parentage, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, whom providence had placed as the supreme leader of his people at the critical period in their history. He was born in Kawit, Cavite, on March 22, 1869. He was the seventh among eight children of the spouses Carlos Aguinaldo and Trinidad Famy.

He took up his secondary course at the Letran de Manila where he finished only three years of high school. His favorite subject was geography. He did not finish the secondary course education.

At the age of 17, Emilio was elected as cabeza de barangay of Binakayan, the most progressive barrio of Kawit, Cavite. He served for his town-mates for eight years. He also engaged in inter-island shipping, travelling as far as Visayas and even Jolo, Philippines. On January 1, 1895, he was elected capitan municipal of Kawit the first to bear that title in accordance with the Mauro Law. At that time a capitan municipal received no salary except 3% of taxes he could collect. In August 1896 he was the local leader of the Katipunan, a revolutionary society that fought bitterly and successfully against Spanish. In December 1897 he signed an agreement called the Pact of Biac-na-Bato with the Spanish governor-general. He agreed to leave the Philippines and to remain permanently in exile on condition of a substantial financial award from Spain coupled with the promise of liberal reforms. While in Hong Kong and Singapore he made arrangement with representative of the American consulates and of Commodore George Dewey to return to the Philippines to assist the United States in the war against Spain.

Aguinaldo return to the Philippines on May 19, 1898 and announced renewal of the struggle with Spain. Upon the advice of Apolinario Mabini to Aguinaldo he should change the form of dictatorship to president of revolutionary government. The Filipinos, who declared their independence of Spain on June 12, 1898, proclaimed a provisional republic, of which Aguinaldo was to became president, and in September a revolutionary assembly met and ratified Filipino independence. However, the Philippines along with Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded by Spain to the United States by the Treaty of Paris, December 10, 1898.

Relation between the Americans and the Filipinos were unfriendly and grew steadily worse. On January 23, 1899, the Malolos constitution by virtue of which the Philippines was a republic and which he had been approved by the assembly and by Aguinaldo was proclaimed. Aguinaldo, who had been president of the provisional government, was elected president.

Aguinaldo formally established the first Philippine republic. He also designated diplomats who were assigned in the major world capitals to seek recognition of Philippine independence.

In 1935 when the commonwealth government of the Philippines was established in preparation for independence, Aguinaldo ran for president but was decisively beaten. He returned to private life until the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1941. The Japanese used Aguinaldo as an anti-American tool. They caused him to make speeches, to sign articles, and to address a radio appeal to General Douglas McArthur on Corregidor to surrender in order to spare the flower of Filipino youth.

When the Americans returned, Aguinaldo was arrested and together with the others accused of collaboration with the Japanese was held for several months in Bilibid Prison until released by presidential amnesty. As a token vindication of his honor, he was appointed by president Elpidio Quirino as a member of the Council of State in 1950. In the latter years of his life, he devoted his major attention to veterans affairs, the promotion of nationalism and democracy in the Philippines, and the improvement of relation between the Philippines and the United States.

Aguinaldo resumed his life of retirement. In June 12, 1963, on the occasion of the celebration of Philippine independence, Aguinaldo veiled his historic mansion in Kawit, together with all the relics contained therein, to the Philippine government.

On February 6, 1964, he died at the age of 95 years old.

(By Charles Keng / The Presidents, Republic of the Philippines by Rheno A. Velasco. 1996)


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