The ‘Forgotten People’ in Philippine History

By , on June 11, 2014

National Heroes Monument, Manila City Hall Park/ Photo by Obra19/ CC BY-SA 3.0
National Heroes Monument, Manila City Hall Park/ Photo by Obra19/ CC BY-SA 3.0

Since time immemorial, we Filipinos are being taught in many of our history classes about our national heroes. We see photos of them on posters on the walls of our classrooms and their statues in our school grounds. Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Melchora Aquino, and Gabriela Silang are the names that come up right away when asked who our greatest heroes are. But behind the colorful, illustrious stories told about each of our national heroes were the unsung heroes, also called as the “forgotten people,” who also became part of the Philippines’ fight for freedom during colonial times. Without their contributions, whether big or small, we would not be enjoying the same freedom we enjoy today.

There is a long list of lesser-recognized Filipino heroes and here are just a few of them:

Domingo Abella

Abella was one of the “13 martyrs of Bicol” executed in Bagumbayan. He was a surveyor who became interested in joining the Katipunan. After he had become an official member of the movement, he went to Mount Isarog in Camarines Sur and recruited the Negritos in the province. The Spaniards discovered about his activities, which led to his and his father’s arrest. They were jailed in Fort Santiago, where they were tortured and insulted by the Spaniards. He and his father were sentenced to death after being tried on allegations that he received a consignment of arms from Florencio Lerma, another Katipunero, to massacre the Spaniards. The sentence was carried on January 4, 1897. Abella together with his father and the other martyrs of Bicol was executed by firing squad.

Espiridiona Bonifacio

Espiridiona is the youngest sibling of the Father of Philippine Revolution, Andres Bonifacio. She had served the Katipunan even after the death of her husband, Teodoro Plata, one of the co-founders of the movement. At a designated spot, she would wait for the rebels who would hand her the guns stolen or collected from attacks on the Spaniards. After gathering the weapons, she would hide them all under her big “saya” (skirt) and would bring them to their base. Espiridiona was killed along with his brothers Ciriaco and Procopio by Emilio Aguinaldo’s forces when Andres was arrested.

Jose Torres Bugallon

Jose T. Bugallon entered the seminary at age 16, but left after realizing that becoming a soldier was what he wanted. He took up the military service exam, passed it, and was granted a scholarship to study military organization and warfare at the Academia Militar in Toledo, Spain. Upon his return to the Philippines, he was commissioned into the Spanish Army and became an official. After the Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898, he obtained clearance papers. When the Americans came, he joined General Antonio Luna’s staff as aide-de-camp. His knowledge in military organization became valuable in reorganizing the Filipino army and instilling discipline in them. A day after the Philippine-American war officially began, on February 5, 1899, Bugallon led the Battle of La Loma. He was shot in the leg during the battle, which caused his death.

Agueda Kahabagan

She was the only woman general in the Philippine revolution and was known as “Henerala Agueda.” She fought in the field of battle and even helped Gen. Miguel Malvar during an attack on Spanish garrisons in San Pablo, Laguna. She was often seen dressed in white during battles, armed with a rifle in one hand and a dagger in the other. After surviving the battles against the Spaniards, she also joined the fight against the American Forces. Reportedly, she was appointed as General on January 4, 1899.

Agueda Esteban

The other Agueda in the account of Philippine revolution was the wife of a Katipunero known as “Tungkod.” She was responsible for receiving materials to be used to make gunpowder and bullets from Katipuneros and delivering them from Manila to Cavite. She would travel far and hike through the mountains to ensure the safe delivery of the materials. During the American invasion, she served as the messenger between her husband and Gen. Artemio Ricarte and delivered papers on war. Her husband was then caught and exiled to Guam, where he died. She married Gen. Ricarte in 1911 and resided in Japan with him and their family for almost two decades.

Do you know of other unsung heroes? Let us also remember them as we celebrate our 116th Independence Day.