Friday, October 28, 2011

Silay, Cinco de Noviembre and the Republic of Negros

There have been many stories written about the Negros Revolution of 1898 now popularly known as El Cinco de Noviembre. This was the day that informally ended Spanish control of the Island. It is commonly known that from November 3 to November 6, 1898, the revolutionaries led by Aniceto Lacson in the north and Juan Araneta in the south rose in revolt against the Spanish authorities headed by politico-military governor Colonel Isidro de Castro. The planning began in Silay when a committee headed by Lacson which included Nicolás Gólez, Leandro Locsin and Melecio Severino assembled and decided to begin the revolt on November 5. They then advised Juan Araneta of their decision. Cinco de Noviembre played a significant role in the history of Silay. On that day at about 2:00 in the afternoon, Silaynons gathered in the street corner now known as Cinco de Noviembre Street and from there they proceeded to the Spanish garrison near the Catholic Church. It was a bloodless revolution. At first the Spanish civil guards refused to surrender. They were entrenched inside the municipal building, but surrendered without a fight when they realized that the townspeople were determined to burn the building to the ground should there be resistance. The Silay parish priest, Eulogio Saez, a businessman named Juan Viaplana, and José Ledesma persuaded the Spanish forces to lay down their arms, but in order to save face, the lieutenant had it appear in the official records that the capitulation was the result of a bloody battle with "dead and wounded littered all over the field of battle".

A Little Known Fact

What is not commonly known however is the fact that Negros was once a republic albeit short-lived. What is the story behind the República Cantonal de Negros, established on November 27, 1898?

The history of the struggle against foreign domination in Panay and Negros showed that, after being victorious against the Spaniards, two Ilonggo groups across the Guimaras Strait manifested opposing reactions to the coming of the Americans. Whereas those in Panay resisted with utmost determination against the new invaders, the elite of Negros decided to organize the cantonal goverrnment of Negros, declaring it as a protectorate of the United States and recognized American sovereignty. It must be recalled that the Ilonggo revolutionaries in Panay under Gen. Martin Delgado who desperately resisted the Americans as early as December 1898, had always looked down on the pacifist and apathetic attitude of the Negros leaders. To understand why, one must see who the leaders of the Negros Republic were. Most were landed hacenderos with two clear motives: one was the search for a market for sugar. Another was the search for a reliable security cover. Annexation to the U.S. would facilitate the entry of sugar into the American market. The Americans were also in the best position to provide security for the Philippines, compared to either the Spaniards or the Filipino revolutionaries. It was also recognized that a war with the US would be devastating economically. Not only would the sugar fields be destroyed, the American market would also be lost. The choice then became clear. The Republic of Negros surrendered to the Americans, without any resistance, thereby saving the island from a devastating war.

However, there were revolutionaries who kept up the fight. When General Araneta and General Lacson deserted the cause "without the expressed consent of the people" and agreed for accommodation with the Americans, the Negros revolucionarios enthusiastically put themselves at the command of General Delgado. This breakaway group (majority of whom were from Silay) who earlier participated in putting to an end Spanish sovereignty in Negros formed a new outfit, a regiment of sharp-shooters and machete wielders and took to the field. According to Francisco Varona (Negros-It's History and People, 1938), among the prominent leaders of this revolutionary group were Colonels Vicente Gamboa Benedicto, Juan Ledesma Hiponia, Buenaventura Ayalin Lopez, Remigio Montilla, and Ramon Valencia; Majors Marciano Lopez Ayalin, Anacleto Santillan, Gil Severino, and Miguel Severino; Captains Romualdo Gestoso, Fausto Javelona, Antonio Valeria and Segundo Yorac; and Lieutenants Porfirio Lopez Ayalin, Ramon Gamboa, Maximino Lopez, Arsenio Rafael, Benito Sanchez, Felix Severino, Tomas Severino, and Felix Yorac. With the presence of the revolutionary group in Negros, the Iloilo command under General Roque Lopez sent a contingent of officers and picked soldiers to reinforce Negros. The Iloilo expedition was led by Col. Luis Ginete, accompanied by Captains Elias Magbanua, Fausto Jalandoni and Lieutenant Legaspi. From their stronghold in Gintabuan, a mountain peak of difficult access in one of the mountain ranges of the municipality of Saravia, the revolutionaries waged a guerilla warfare against the Americans for several months. It was not until the Americans organized the Filipino scouts that a company of these led by Capt. Nicolas Bariles, together with some American officers, captured Gintabuan, resulting to the death of many Filipinos, including the young Captain Magbanua.

Retrieved from
The República Cantonal de Negros came under U.S. protection on April 30, 1899. On July 22, 1899, it was renamed the Republic of Negros, but on April 30, 1901, this was dissolved by the United States.

Cinco De Noviembre was declared by President Corazon Aquino as a special non-working holiday in the province through Republic Act No. 6709 signed on February 10, 1989.

Silay Marker

Silay City Cinco de Noviembre Commemoration
Schedule of activities

A bit of family trivia:

Buenaventura Ayalin Lopez was my great grandfather :) He was the son of Don Eustaquio Lopez, half brother of Gen. Roque Lopez and nephew of the national hero, Graciano Lopez y Jaena.

Henry F. Funtecha, Ph.D, (2008) The Opposition to the Americans and the Canton Republic of Negros Retrieved from The News Today

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Silay History Trivia: Graciano Lopez Jaena And His Cousin, Eustaquio

Graciano Lopez Jaena is a national hero. He is also the first cousin of Eustaquio H. Lopez who settled in Silay around the mid 1800's.  Eustaquio is from Jaro, Iloilo. His parents are Fermin Hilaria Lopez and Fernanda Hechanova. Eustaquio is the eldest among a brood of 11 other brothers and sisters. La Solidaridad editor and reformist Graciano Lopez y Jaena is the son of Placido Hilaria Lopez, brother of Fermin.

Graciano Lopez y Jaena
The family of Eustaquio Lopez with his last wife, Ana Ayalin
Silay's oral history says that Eustaquio was one of the richest men in Silay during his time with at least 18 haciendas to his name, which included Hda. Dalinson in Kabankalan Norte. In fact according to those living there, you can find remnants of the winding stairs of his house somewhere in the hacienda. Not many people today know that Barangay Estaquio Lopez in Silay City was originally called Kabankalan Norte. During the Spanish colonial rule, Kabankalan Norte was a separate town from Silay. It had its own local government and parish. The successful Cinco de Noviembre revolution that triggered the end of colonial rule in the island of Negros was almost foiled in this town. A woman told the parish priest of Kabankalan Norte, Fr. Tomas Cornago of the impending revolt. He then inquired of his friend, Doroteo Quillama, cabeza of the barrio, seeking to verify the report. The cabeza claimed no knowledge of the revolt, when in fact he was very much involved in the planning.  After the revolution, Kabankalan Norte was already popularly known as E. Lopez probably because almost 99% of the landholdings in the area belonged to Don Eustaquio. On April 2, 1902, provincial governor Leandro Locsin decreed the annexation of E. Lopez to the nearby progressive town of Silay.  E. Lopez ceased to be a town and became a barrio of Silay.  Today, it is officialy known as Barangay E. Lopez.

So what about our national hero? Graciano went to live in Negros to escape the fury of the Spanish authorities in Iloilo after he wrote Fray Botod. It was never officially published, but a copy was widely circulated in the region to the ire of the friars, fortunately for Lopez they could never prove that he wrote it.  However because he was openly defiant against authorities and fought for justice, he got threats to his life. He decided to leave Iloilo and stayed with relatives in Silay and Saravia. With the help of his cousin Estaquio, Graciano Lopez fled to Barcelona Spain after staying in Silay for two years. While in Spain it was said that Eustaquio sent him regular financial support.  Eventually, Graciano feared that his relatives in Negros will be persecuted so, he added 'Jaena' to his surname to separate himself from the them and thereby sparing his family from suspicion. His family through his uncle in Saravia in gratitude for his help, gave Eustaquio a wooden Santo Niño which has since become a family heirloom and has been passed on to my family in 1981. What is ironic is that we only confirmed this as fact more than a hundred years later, when we were able to connect with Graciano Lopez Jaena's descendants - those of his brothers' families.  You see, Eustaquio Lopez is my great-great grandfather. When I was growing up, the story about the Santo Niño ranged from the improbable to the plausible. According to a grand aunt, the Santo Niño was hand carried by Lopez Jaena from Spain which to my young mind was impossible since this was not a small statue. And besides, my grand aunts were never were able to establish our family relationship to the hero. Graciano Lopez y Jaena never married.  He died in Spain, sick with TB and destitute.  But he had lots of nephews and nieces who now live right here in Negros Occidental. It was during an accidental meeting in 1994 with Mr. Rolly Espina, a prominent Ilonggo newsman, that I finally learned the true relationship between Graciano Lopez and my grandfather Eustaquio. He invited me to join them in the planning of a Lopez y Jaena Reunion.  After meeting with long lost relatives during the first Lopez reunion, I was able to get a more believable story about how our family got our Santo Niño.

Graciano and Eustaquio were close first fact Graciano came to Silay twice, the first time he stayed for 2 years before deciding to move to Spain, and the second time was when together with other nationalists, he came back to the country, but after being sent word that there was a pending arrest order from the Spanish authorities in Manila, he decided to go to Silay instead before escaping to Hongkong.

It's a pity that this part of Graciano Lopez Jaena's history has never been properly documented.

* The now defunct AIDSISA Sugar Central is located in Barangay E. Lopez.

Reference: The History of Brgy. E. Lopez
                Lopez Descendants of Silay

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Families Of The "Paris of Negros"

I love genealogy and for the past few years, I have been dabbling in it, trying to make my family tree.  My attempt is amateurish and relies more on data gathered from relatives rather than actual authentication from church or government archives.  Maybe when I have the time and resources, I could get into it more seriously.  My cousin to the nth degree, Ramon Conlu Severino is someone who has decided to make it his life's work.  He published in 2009, the first edition of the Ledesma Genealogy Book and it continues to be a work in progress as more and more descendants are interested in knowing their ancestral history. I learned from Ramon's research (source: Francisco Varona "Negros--Its History And People") that most of the families of Old Silay came from Jaro and Molo, the 2 most important towns then in the Province of Iloilo.  Among the first were Simeon Ledesma and Juan Hidalgo who arrived in Silay in 1860 and established haciendas at Bagacay.  Aside from the Ledesmas, there were the De La Ramas, Jalandonis, Hilados, Severinos, Jaymes, Locsins and in the later years other families followed like the Lopezes, Gamboas, Jisons, Hofileñas.  Each of these families who came to Silay carried their own revered genealogical tree and brought with them the culture of Molo and Jaro in terms of fiestas, balls, food, music and literature. It is no wonder therefore that this very social lifestyle earned for Silay the monicker "Paris of Negros". Intermarriages, was common among these families. It was not surprising to see a Ledesma marry another Ledesma for example, or a union to happen between cousins, of course not to an incestuous degree (although there were uncles to niece and vice versa but these were not common). I think the reason for this besides the obvious one (keeping money within the family) is the fact that taking into consideration the dynamics of society at that time, most families move only within their social class and their sons and daughters mingled only among themselves so that there was little chance to meet, much less know other people outside their circle. So who do they marry but someone in their own social class and most probably a relative either up or down the line. Also according to Ramon, the Jaro natives, the Jareños (Ledesma, Lopez, Gamboa, Golez, Jalandoni, Javellana, Javelona, Jayme, Severino, Hilado, Benedicto, Hechanova, Hofileña, Jereza, Montinola) marry their fellow Jareños while the Molo natives, the Moleños (Locsin, Lacson, Araneta, de la Rama, Yulo, Yusay, Unson, Consing, Maravilla, Montelibano, Regalado, Conlu, Tionko, Tinsay) marry their fellow Moleños. There is only a small percentage wherein a Jaro native marry a Molo native. When they migrated to Silay, a "merger" of families happened.  This is probably how my great-grandmother who was a Locsin-Araneta from Molo happened to marry my great-grandfather, a Del Rosario-Ledesma from Jaro.  Most if not all of the heritage and ancestral houses of the city are still owned by these families but many are no longer occupied by them. A lot of their descendants except for those of us who stayed, either opted to build houses in Bacolod or Metro Manila.  Recently however, I have noticed that a few are returning to live in Silay either to take care of the family farm, retire or just to lead a more laid back lifestyle.

By the mid-80's, the rise of the middle class as well as the many OFW's and Expats married to Filipinas have also brought about new families to Silay society.  People from other places in the country have also settled in Silay, perhaps attracted by the old world feel, country-like living (but with urban amenities) that is forever lost in big cities like Manila and Cebu. Silay demographics is surely changing, but the old families of Silay and their ancestral houses will forever be part of its past and the present glory.