October 19, 2013 12:32 AM
By: Modesto Sa-onoy
IN 18 days Negros will once again commemorate the uprising of November 5, 1898. While the rebellion or revolution, whichever you wish to call it, has been written about repeatedly to the point that some are tempted to add drama and color into the event (though they never happened), many do not know the immediate cause of this revolution.
There are many post-revolution reasons for the uprising but the revolt could also have been averted but for the high-handed treatment of the leading families of this province.
Militant groups know this very well – attempts to silence by force create a greater reason for protests.
The first indications of rebellion in Negros were the movements of the babaylanes under the leadership of Papa Isio. He started as early as 1894 but he was regarded by the Spaniards and the Negros hacenderos and ilustrados as a charlatan, a pseudo-religious leader who mastered the art of raising the expectations of the down-trodden masses. The native wealthy class considered him a threat although Papa Isio never attacked any native Filipinos hacienda.
He did collect money from the Chinese and the Spanish mestizos but from the Filipino hacenderos, he only asked for food and arms. He never did commit any killing. The Americans acknowledged during his trial that he was guilty only of the crime of rebellion.
But he is a story in itself. The point in bringing him into the picture is that the wealthy Filipinos sided with the Spaniards against Papa Isio who was demanding for independence and deportation of all foreigners. He called for freedom of worship and distribution of land which caused fear among the hacenderos and the priests.
There was no demand at this stage among the Filipinos in Negros for independence from Spain, only political reforms along the line of Jose Rizal and his compatriots.
Even as Andres Bonifacio was already striking at the Spanish forces in Luzon, the Negros hacenderos were still not convinced of full independence. They still looked up at Mother Spain.
In September of 1896, the newspaper in Iloilo (El Porvenir de Bisayas) reported the tranquility in both east and west coasts of Negros and that there were “no plans to alter it.”
Occidental Negros hacenderos were reaping abundantly the fruits of their labors. Sugar was giving them wealth beyond their expectations and the haciendas were expanding as fast as immigrant labor could be had. Even workers from China were brought in together with imported iron implements from as far as Canada and England.
But there were suspicions that the Katipuneros from Luzon were recruiting in Negros and they smuggled guns, Murata rifles from Japan were being landed in docks where sugar was loaded for the lorchas offshore. The docks were in Ilog, Suay and Bago.
In mid-October 1896 a suspected courier was arrested. He was carrying an alleged letter from Manila addressed to several people in Negros. He implicated several people, in several towns in the south, including Bacolod.
The Spanish authorities immediately launched a manhunt and among those arrested was a Tagalog Jose Ner. Later events showed that Ner was indeed an emissary of revolutionary groups in Luzon with the mission of getting Negros to join the revolution.
A few days later and until the end of October the Spanish authorities went on an arresting spree both of Tagalogs and Negrosanons who were pinpointed by an employee of Singer Company of Iloilo. He claimed he delivered to them letters and subversive materials.
Among the twenty citizens arrested were prominent personalities: Juan Araneta of Bago, Sabina Higgins of Pulupandan, Miguel Araullo, Carlos Gemora of Ilog, Francisco Abelarde of Cadiz, and Ventura Magalona of Saravia.
They were presented to Judge Julian Inchausti in Bacolod and he ordered them to jail. Meantime, he waited for emissaries to make “arrangements” for their release.
Gemora was asked to give P15,000 but on appeal of his family, Inchausti reduced the amount to P8,000. Magalona paid P3,000, Araullo gave P500 which was accepted but after the money was turned over, he was still retained. The judge settled for one or two thousand for liberty of the other prisoners. Those who could not pay were kept incarcerated.
More arrests would follow for the succeeding months but mostly the Tagalogs who were suspected of being rebels.
The arrests in October of 1897 became the rallying point and the immediate cause for the formation of revolutionary cells in Negros. It would erupt in an armed revolt and later the mass arrest and incarceration of Spanish priests that Juan Araneta suspected provided names of rebels to the authorities.
His suspicion was unfounded.