Miguel – from the Blog of a Filipino Historian

Original Post by Kristoffer Pasion

Miguel Malvar (1865-1911), was one of the less popular Filipino heroes who lived in the early years of the 20th century. It was at the end of the Philippine-American War, as Emilio Aguinaldo was captured and imprisoned in Malacanang Palace in 1901 (wait, you call that a prison?), that he sent out an order calling every Filipino revolutionary to lay down their arms and surrender to the Americans. The rewards were tempting: full amnesty and a good quiet life in exchange for surrender. As many gave up and joined the Americans, there was one Filipino who kept fighting on and refused to give in. His name was Miguel Malvar.

He assumed control of the Philippine Army who had low morale due to the series of defeats they had suffered. Add to that the lack of resources since the American soldiers, led by James Franklin Bell, destroyed all possible source of food, water, and shelter. Finally in 1902, thinking what’s best for his men, Malvar surrendered, without condition, to the amazement of the Americans (The news even made it to the Washington Post). The Americans kept their word and he was pardoned. He lived a simple life thereafter. He was offered the position of governor of his home province, Batangas, but he politely declined. He died due to liver complications.

As for surrendering to the U.S., was he a lesser hero because he ‘gave up’? His surrender had cast a shadow over his heroismr, and even Mabini’s. While some are quick to judge, Mabini wrote the reason of surrender clearly. I would picture Mabini in tears while writing this:

“We fought in the conviction that our dignity and sense of duty required the sacrifice of defending our freedoms as long as we could, since without them social equality between the dominant class and the native population would be impossible in practice and perfect justice among us could not be achieved. Yet we knew it would not be too long before our scant resources were exhausted, and our defeat inevitable. The struggle thus became unjustified and indefensible from the moment the vast majority of the population chose submission to the conqueror, and many of the revolutionists themselves joined his ranks, since, unable to enjoy their natural freedoms–being prevented from doing so by the American forces–and lacking means to remove this obstacle, they deemed it prudent to yield and put their hopes on the promises made in the name of the people of the United States.”

–Apolinario Mabini, The Philippine Revolution

Perhaps, we can call Malvar a hero because he pushed the possibility of independence through guerrilla warfare to its greatest extent until he found the futility of fighting the general will of the people. And it clearly showed the Americans that we mean business when we say la independencia.