Captain Jose Joven of the army of the Republic, and Aguinaldo’s English interpreter noted on April 30, 1901:
“in truth he (Aguinaldo) recognized the gifts of the deceased General, but he preferred to kill him because he says there was no other remedy in view of the civil war which the said General was preparing.”
It really annoys me when some people could be so unfair because of political agendas. Last March 22 was Don Emilio Aguinaldo day, but after having read about the tragic death of Gen. Antonio Luna and the connection therein of the former, it is now questionable to consider Aguinaldo’s part in the Philippine history. Well, he had his part, though; dreary and ghastly I should say. Gen. Antonio Luna was the real hero. His occasional and uncanny display of bad temper may had always been his weakness of character, but he remained the icon of bravery, of a selfless patriot and revolutionary democrat at a time when the Revolution has no known limits. He was indeed a figure who could had made a change if only given the chance to, but defeated by a merciless conspiracy leaving that part of the Philippine history still, nothing but a dismal.
Antonio Luna – more than just a fierytempered man
It has been mentioned that it is distinctive among the Luna clan the characteristic “brutal temper” and the “lack of pakikisama”. Moreover, if he had only learned how to control the aforementioned qualities, he may had been a stronger and a better man. There were moments that he was able to contain the extreme of his emotions, there were just some incidents of unbelievable twist of circumstances and lack of fair judgments that sometimes drives him out of the nutshell. In cases such this he was given the nicknames of “Cafre” or “General Article One”.
As I read his biography, I can’t help but feel pretty much amazed and surprised to have learned that the general and hero of the revolution is more than just a mere general after all. He possessed a variety of talents, quite impressive I would say. Though he may not seem as great as Rizal at that time, his achievements were exemplary. He graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Ateneo at the age of 15, and at 19 studied pharmacy at the University of Santo Tomas but finished it in Barcelona, Spain. He got his Doctor of Medicine at Central University of Madrid before he later on studied in France and Belgium. He was also a good guitarist, having known of the Lunas as inclined to arts and music. Aside from the knowledge of Spanish and Tagalog, he was also studying English at that time. He was also an exceptional writer, writing in La Solidaridad under the pen name of “Taga-Ilog” and managing the paper, La Independencia as well. He was the editor of La Independencia of which the first issue was released on September 3, 1898. General Antonio Luna was also a chemist in the Municipal Laboratory of Manila. He won an award for a scientific paper on malaria and had training on pasteurization of water and carabao milk from Pasteur Institute in Paris. It had been stated that if Antonio Luna didn’t join the revolution and continued his practice in chemistry, he could have saved Apolinario Mabini from dying of cholera after drinking an infected “gatas damulag” or carabao’s milk. Of which by the way is the real cause of Mabini’s death and not by affliction of some sort of paralysis as we know today. Filipinos at that time had by no means any knowledge of pasteurization, or even boiling water before drinking it.
He was deported to Spain with his brother Juan (the painter) and was imprisoned in Carcel Modelo de Madrid in 1897, and then he pursued to study military tactics after his release. He became a master mason in Spain and was among those who revived the Lodge Solidaridad 53. He also worked in the Propaganda Movement along with contemporaries such as Rizal, del Pilar, Lopez Jaena and Mariano Ponce. And while he’s in Ghent, Belgium, he was under the tutorship of General Leman, the hero of Belgium, improving his knowledge of guerilla warfare. Of which he later on proposed under the government of Aguinaldo to be used against the enemies.
The mystery behind the moustache
I don’t know why Ambeth Ocampo is making such fuzz on Antonio Luna’s moustache. You could fairly see this on his articles. Well, maybe there really is something extraordinary about Luna’s moustache, is there? Except for the exquisite curl of the hairs over his upper lip, which he also shares with his brother Juan Luna, it is indeed quite peculiar to find someone who conveys such “elegance” in such a period in history when everything is almost in despair. Or it may have as well served as his form of distinction all these years. Jose Rizal has the characteristic one-sided hairdo, Andres Bonifacio with the kamisatsino (well, it may have been his only choice for clothes to wear considering his status quo), and Apolinario Mabini on his hammock (he’s a paralytic that’s why). I remember how I always chuckle mischievously asking some people I know with, “do you know who Antonio Luna is?” and they would give out either of two replies. First was with, “oh, the painter?” and I’ll just correct them saying he’s not the one but it’s his brother who paints. The second with, “hmm, Antonio Luna…the guy with the moustache?” and followed by a demonstration of their hands, fingers arching over their lip to describe, indeed, Antonio Luna’s curly moustache. As much as Ambeth Ocampo’s curiosity on how Luna was able to keep his moustache that way so as my inquisitive mind can’t help but wonder what there really is in his unique moustache. Or is there really something to make fuzz about? I have yet to find out.
A revolutionary democrat – exactly what our country needs
What separates Antonio Luna from the others is – his single obsession for independence and liberty from any invaders, Americans per se. This had been his sole “mission” all along. For what more could an Antonio Luna aspire? He came from a mestizo family of Badoc, Ilocos Norte though he was a Manileño by heart, having been born on October 29, 1868 in Binondo, Manila. He was the youngest of the seven children of Joaquin Luna de San Pedro and Laurena Novicio.
“Some” have been questioning Antonio Luna’s being a hero. They say, he hadn’t done anything quite remarkable except that he had been affiliated with Rizal. As a matter of fact, he was the one Rizal had chosen to mediate between the rich and educated class and the masses. Rizal wanted Luna to join the Katipunan but Luna refused perceiving as what Rizal had first thought of as a revolution would be untimely at the moment. However, this had been the major error he had committed. If he didn’t denounce the Katipunan, its members wouldn’t disagree on him. If he had not squealed, some members of the Katipunan and Rizal even wouldn’t have been killed. On the other hand, his comrade Alejandrino explained that:
“…with the physical and moral tortures he suffered during his imprisonment and on the assurance given him by the Spaniards that he had been squealed on by his friends, who had denounced him as an accomplice in the rebellion, his violent character had made his lose better judgment. And having fallen for the scheme woven by the Spaniards, he had declared that those who denounced him were, more guilty than he.”
The irony of revolution…a strong voice unheard
What so devastating with reading historical documents is that, you see both sides of the story (that is, if the sources are unbiased). Devastating in a way that, you get to picture out the exact scene in your mind, realize what went wrong and just sigh in disappointment uttering a bunch of “if only”. Sometimes it really gets in the nerves that you just can’t help but get frustrated even how our history had been soaked up with a number of “interventions”. You get to recognize the “tricks” and misinformation fed in opposing parties and you’ll find out that it was nobody’s fault that both sides clashed into war against each other instead of dealing with the real enemies of the state. But then only realizing that “gone is gone”. Oh, how much of our historical past have been concealing still behind the closets of our heritage waiting to be revived and be known.
If Aguinaldo’s side didn’t listen to these “sugar-coating” and propaganda tactics of the Americans, and if they only chose to understand more of the side of Luna, we could had long won the war against the Americans without resulting to so much casualties with the ingenious abilities of the latter. The problem is that, there had been so many conspiracies brought about by individual thirst for power. Nobody fully believed in the capabilities of Antonio Luna. Or they could have known and feared his potentials. It was the lack of trust and the cultivation of individual self-interests at that time that proved even more detrimental.
Another thing is that, everyone favored the revolution, but not the science of revolution Luna had been trying to impose. To them, it’s just like, “tara! Sugurin ang kalaban!” they never realized that to really win a battle, they should be well armed and prepared. This what had been the philosophy of Luna that nobody ever paid real attention to. As seen in the following selection, when Luna proposed to Aguinaldo a plan in preparation for the outbreak of war:
“But Luna and Alejandro were not heeded; no trenches were built; the Americans fired, the Republic was caught by surprise. Then Luna was hastily made chief of operations and set to building those trenches of his. But it was too late, too late even to improvise. Caloocan fell in a week.”
Alejandrino also said:
“If instead of 40 or 50 of such volunteers there had been 2, 000 or 3,000, as Luna wanted, the course of events would have changed.”
If he hadn’t been constantly and intentionally being ignored by the Kawit clan in their preservation of their so-called “cavitism” that they tend not to recognize any rule or order other than that of Aguinaldo, the Philippines could had long attained its independence.
On Luna’s Death
I must note Nick Joaquin’s account on Antonio Luna’s death on June 5, 1899 in Cabanatuan was rather “touchy” as he left with so many questions that even I ended up asking them myself. Was Aguinaldo really to blame of Luna’s death or was he just a victim of the circumstances as well?
I felt sorry for Antonio Luna for they had all been unfair to him. If I had been in his place, I would have been ill tempered, bitter and indifferent too – being unheard and deprived of authority. What could prove more heartbreaking than the lack of support and trust from the people who say is fighting for just the same cause? Sometimes, I just want to get mad at Aguinaldo for all these – for losing such a great man. But no one really knows in accurate account what really took place so many decades ago. The conspiracy against Luna was harsh that it seemed as if, in his assassination at Cabanatuan, he died without even knowing it. If he wanted to overthrow Aguinaldo from his position through a coup de etat, he could have just simply taken up arms against Aguinaldo instead of resigning and later on sending him a telegram of a proposal of a new Republic. And if since the start he was aware about this unscrupulous plan Aguinaldo is planning against him, he could have avoided being killed if he just hadn’t appeared in Cabanatuan where the president summoned him. But he wasn’t distrustful nor suspicious that he even left his accompaniment outside the premises leaving him unarmed and vulnerable as he entered Aguinaldo’s camp.
“I touched reality and in touching it, I felt the same pain produced by a cancerous wound on the finger.” – Antonio Luna
I guess what Antonio Luna is trying to say on this is that, it would have been more acceptable if it was the enemies’ bullets that shot and killed him but no, it was rather the hands of his very own fellow Filipinos who inflicted him with 40 wounds. It would even be more worth it if he died of fighting for the country but no, he was a victim of those green-eyed monsters lurking behind the masks of “defenders of the country”.
Antonio Luna was one of the great men of history. The Filipinos could have benefited from his potentials if everyone at that time had been altruistic enough to mind the real freedom of the Philippines instead of leaning behind the murky walls of the cruel invaders for their own welfare.
I would have to agree with Vivencio Jose in declaring Antonio Luna as “an enduring hero who lives from one generation to another, one of the truly great leaders of the Filipino people.”
We need an Antonio Luna today. A different Antonio Luna, maybe. Not someone who would not be listened to but, someone with the same act of bravery. Someone who’s intelligent enough to recognize the true horrors of what is going on in our present state of government and as well as the society, and do something about it.
Alba, R. (1994). Talambuhay ng mga Bayani at mga Dakilang Pilipino. Caloocan City : Mizrack
Ocampo, A. (1990). Looking Back. Pasig: Anvil Publishing Inc.
Ocampo, A. (1990). Luna’s Moustache. Pasig: Anvil Publishing Inc.
Joaquin, N. (1977). A Question of Heroes: Essays in Criticism on Ten Key Figures of Philippine
History. Makati: Ayala Museum, Filipinas Foundation.
Jose, V. (1972). The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna. UP Diliman: Philippine Social Sciences and
“Antonio Luna,” (2006). Retrieved on March 18,
2006 at http://www.mb.com.ph/issues/2004/06/05/OPED2004060511128.
“Famous Filipino Masons,” (2006). Retrieved on March 18, 2006 at
“General Antonio Luna,” (2006). Retrieved on March 18, 2006 at