By” bandoleros” I mean Generals Macariio Leon Sakay, Lt. Col. Lucio de Vega Lt. Gen Francisco Carreon, Major General Leon Villafuerte, Major Benito Natividad and Lt. Col. Julio Montalan whose singular group picture was taken in 1906, shortly after they were lured to surrender but ignominiously betrayed by the American and Filipino negotiators. .
Certainly, there were many other patriots who were unjustly branded bandoleros and insurrectos but we know even less about them than those young men in that photograph, all in their twenties, dashing in rayadillos, with well-groomed long hair. To the Americans, Macario Leon Sakay was the most politically dangerous because he had formed a juridical entity, the republic, in the inaccessible mountains of Rizal, which aimed to continue the First Republic , dismembered by the capture of Pres. in 1901. Gen. Sakay ‘s final objective was independence from USA colonial rule.
The invasion of the Philippines at the turn of the was a hot electoral issue in the USA as it did not turn out to be a “splendid little war” like the invasion of Cuba and Puerto Rico, but an embarrassing “dirty little war” that was taking much too heavy a toll on American lives. Astutely, presidential candidate William McKinley professed his benevolent intentions and said God himself told him to “civilize, educate and Christianize” the . In American media, our iconic representation was a naked black savage baby with a boar’s teeth necklace, cuddled by a loving Uncle Sam. No mention at all that Filipinos had already established the first republic in Asia.
Believe it or not, Filipino resistance was described as fierce by correspondents then . The Americans were inconvenienced, to say the least, with the establishment of the First Republic in Malolos shortly .after Spain surrendered to them at the mock battle of Manila on 13 August 1898 and while they waited for reinforcements, this fledgling Republic held sway over twenty five provinces with Pres. Aguinaldo corresponding with the sultanates of Jolo and Sulu. The Filipinos began to establish schools including a military academy and had the audacity to send an ambassador to the Paris to prevent the sale of the Philippines to the USA. .
Macario Leon Sakay and his group were among those who believed it was their sacred duty to the nation to continue resisting the USA and re-establish the Filipino republic. As the scandalous invasion infuriated the anti-imperialists in the USA, the Anti Sedition law and Brigandage Act were passed in 1901 by the Philippine Commission to officially put an end to the war.. , Filipinos who continued to resist American supremacy for whatever reason would be called insurrectos, bandoleros, tulisanes and ladrones subject to arrest and death by hanging, and forever maligned in Philippine history books as common criminals. .
The rescue of my “bandoleros” began as late as the 1930’s when former revolutionary leaders, like Artenio Ricarte, published their memoirs in local newspapers and magazines. In the 1940’s , nationalists like often alluded to the” bandoleros” whose “… names are not now held in grateful rememberance…” . and by 1956, Antonio K. Abad , member of the Philippine Historical Society, published his book with a somewhat cautious title: : GEN. MACARIO L. SAKAY, WAS HE A BANDIT OR A PATRIOT ?
In their lifetimes, historians, and also came to the rescue. More recently, in 1995, Orlino A. Ochosa published BANDOLEROS, OUTLAWED GUERRILLAS OF THE , 1903, 1907.. Ever controversial, Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim has commissioned a statue of Gen. Macario Leon Sakay to be unveiled on 13 September, the first monument ever to Tondo’s heroic “bandolero”.