Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Aguinaldo's military tactics

Aguinaldo's military tactics

Updated 10:06pm (Mla time) Jan 18, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A13 of the January 19, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE NATIONAL Library, under Director Prudenciana Cruz, has taken the bold step of establishing e-libraries that will make dissemination of information faster.

I don't quite know how it works, but I guess we are coming closer to the time when I can get on the Internet and browse a book in the Library of Congress in Washington. For starters, we should at least be able to access materials in our own National Library in Manila. All this talk of e-libraries is very exciting, but for a dinosaur like myself, who enjoys physical contact with books, there is no substitute to going to a library and manually checking out a book.

While I have the 55-volume "Blair and Robertson" on CD with a search engine, there is no substitute to holding the individual volumes, flipping its pages, gazing at the old typography, and inhaling the familiar dust that unfortunately triggers an allergic reaction. There is no substitute to library research in the mass of documents covering the Philippine Revolution against Spain and the Filipino-American War, now known as the "Philippine Revolutionary Records" or "PRR." These were returned to the Philippines by the US National Archives almost five decades ago after everything was copied on microfilm. At the time, it was still known as the "P.I.R." or "Philippine Insurgent Records," but since 1998, the US Library of Congress revised history and our struggle, which was once belittled as a "mere insurrection," is now acknowledged, at least in the Library of Congress Classification, as the "Philippine-American War."

A small part of this material was put together at the turn of the 20th century by Capt. J.R.M. Taylor and has since been published in five volumes, with much of the documents translated into English from the original Spanish, Tagalog and other languages. These papers were once filed in brown folders marked "S.D." (for "Selected Documents") and should be available in the National Library for reference when needed.

One of the documents that I hope to read in the original Tagalog one day are instructions to the Sandatahan in Manila, which are said to be in a manuscript completely in Emilio Aguinaldo's handwriting and dated Jan. 9, 1899. There are 12 articles instructing Filipinos on non-conventional warfare, a how-to-attack-the-enemy guide, which is obsolete in our time but, as a historical document, provides a glimpse into Aguinaldo's military tactics. Article 3, for example, is the Pinoy version of the Trojan Horse:

"The chief of those who are to attack the barracks should first send in four men with a good present for the American commander. Immediately thereafter, four others will follow who will make a pretense of looking for the same officer for some reason, and a larger number should be concealed in hidden places and houses in order to aid the other groups at the first signal. This should be done wherever it is possible."

Article 4 states that surprise, decision and courage should complement the force used in the attack. "One or two should go in advance to kill the sentinel by employing some artifice such as dressing like a woman, so that the sentinel may not be able to fire his rifle, thus enabling our Sandatahan to attack other soldiers." Presumably, knives are used in the early part of the attack so that the rest of the barracks are not alerted by unnecessary or ill-timed gunfire.

Article 5 is quite frightening: "At the moment of the attack, the Sandatahan should not attempt to secure rifles from the dead of the enemy, but shall pursue them slashing right and left with bolos, until the Americans surrender and after there remains no enemy who can injure them, they may take the rifles in one hand and the ammunition in the other."

Fighting in the vicinity outside the enemy barracks is also covered by the instructions in Article 6:

"The chiefs shall see that on top of the houses along the streets where the American troops will pass there are placed four to six men who shall be supplied with stones, timbers, red-hot iron, heavy furniture and any other hard and heavy objects which may be thrown on the passing American troops. Great care must be taken not to throw [broken] glass in the streets for the reason that the greater part of our soldiers are barefooted.

"In these houses on each side of the street there will be placed, if possible, groups of soldiers, awaiting the moment of confusion in the enemy's ranks, caused by the throwing of the above-mentioned objects, who will cover a retreat or follow up a rout of the enemy's column, as the case may be. So it is necessary, in order to attain success, that the owners of the houses should prepare and carry out all that has been herein stated."

Women and children are also enjoined to hurl heavy objects from the rooftops at the enemy, or as Article 9 states, to use "boiling water, tallow, molasses and other liquids which shall be thrown on the Americans as they pass in front of the houses by means of hand-pumps, syringes or bamboo tubes."

If you imagine smoke and gunfire during the struggle for independence, think again. How about a torrent of boiling water or aparadors coming down from Filipino homes. Now that is real war and not as easy as outlined in our textbooks.


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