Below find one of the best-written papers I got last semester.
The Batangas Revolt: Whose Revolutionary Feat?
by Ma. Teresa Salao Casas
The disparity between the elite and the masses has always been like the unquenchable flames of a raging fire; it simply burns more intense with time. Such conflict has left flickering flames in our country’s history, reflecting a timeless struggle between the haves and have-nots. Historical accounts would reveal that such a social rivalry is not limited to a fight for equality or freedom from prejudice, but extends to a competition in revolutionary history.
In Batangas, for instance, questions have been raised as to who wielded the mighty balisong in battle against the colonizers. Were the masses truly responsible for the revolution? Or was there another formidable force in Batangas that held its own might in the face of the Spaniards?
Renowned historians prefer the former. For many years, the concept of a mass-based revolution has appealed to many. People prefer the idea of a nation formed by the sweat and blood of the common people. The elite were presented as enemies who belittled the strength of the common people; they were portrayed as a mighty aggressor from whom the latter must gain freedom. Upper-class society was also depicted as traitors to their fellow citizens because of their condescending notion that the masses were incapable of a nationalistic movement and that only the educated could initiate reform for the country, thus explaining why they collaborated with the Americans (Agoncillo “Katipunan”).
Since historians lean towards the plight of the masses, Philippine history tags the Revolution against Spain as a “revolt of the masses” (Agoncillo “Revolt” 1) (Ileto 3-10). People have the common belief that impoverished provincials primarily led the Philippine Revolution. Historical texts claim that the Revolution was led by the uprising of lower-class society and that succeeding revolts were also powered by the masses.
Since the common man usually received the brunt of Spanish abuse particularly that of the friars, such a perception of the Revolution is understandable and much more convenient to believe. In Lian and Nasugbu of Batangas, peasants held uprisings against the friars who usurped their land and exacted taxes for occupying such land. The peasants refused to pay the amount demanded by the friars and attacked and plundered the houses of the Jesuit fathers in 1745 (Agoncillo “Revolt” 3). According to Dr. Jaime B. Veneracion, the 1745 Tagalog revolts that included that of Batangas were the most widespread revolts in the country. Such discontent was caused by the conversion of land from pastures to plantations where forced labor was thrust on the masses (Veneracion 103-105).
Teodoro Agoncillo, one of the advocates of the revolt of the masses idea, further states that the poor initiated the Revolution and constructed the idea of forming a sovereign nation, whereas the elite merely sought reform in the Propaganda movement. The masses were heavily taxed, had little livelihood opportunities, and were the objects of ridicule among friars. Because of this, they were ripe for the Revolution that was the goal of the secret Katipunan society. The elite joined the masses in the Revolution only when the former realized that the latter was succeeding in the battle against Spanish oppression where the former had not. Though their published writings awakened a patriotic fervor in many of the Filipinos, the ilustrados or the intellectual elite were unable to obtain the reform they sought (“Katipunan”).
In addition to this, it is normal to assume that the Revolutionary force in Batangas consisted mainly of lower class individuals, since the province’s elite made up only 4,500 to 6,000 individuals, or about one to two percent of the population. This is a considerably small number in relation to the hundreds of thousands of Batangueños who joined the battle. Even Glenn May acknowledges that there were only a few rich Batangueños in the province (19).
However, even if the elite were small in number, their participation in the Revolution was not minimal. Even Agoncillo admits that the wealthy engaged in the Revolution to become the “top bureaucrats of the revolutionary government and later of the Republic (“Katipunan”).
Another argument noteworthy to consider is the question regarding the reasons lower-class society participated in the Revolution. Widely accepted historical texts cite the masses as key actors in the Revolution because according to Reynaldo Ileto, they were aware that they were fighting for a “change in the nature of society” (Ileto according to May 51). They rebelled against foreign power and wished for freedom. However, he later expresses doubt over the masses’ perception of independence, and asks whether the peasants merely “blindly and irrationally reacted to oppressive conditions” (Ileto 5). May likewise indicates that the reason for the masses’ participation in the Revolutionary forces is highly questionable, and he claims that they took part in battles only because obligation to their wealthy patrons compelled them to do so (May 52). May uses Gen. Miguel Malvar of Batangas as an example and cites how his 75 men in the army were convinced to fight in the victorious reclaiming of Sto. Tomas and Lipa, and also Talisay, Batangas. May insinuates that it would have been impossible to form an army so quickly if Malvar had no tenants or retainers whom he could have mobilized immediately (May 50-52) (Ilustre 11).
Disagreement among historians regarding the greater prominence of either the elite or the masses connotes that, behind the belief of a mass-based struggle may lie a truth unrecognized by many. Disparity of conclusions on something as truthful as history must mean that something is amiss. Perhaps, in our country’s history, certain historical facts have remained cloaked by many years of scholarly denial.
THE CASE OF THE ELITE
Recent historical accounts, for instance, argue that the Revolution was not a revolt of the masses, but was a rebellion led by the affluent and influential as evidenced by the Revolution as it happened in Batangas. The Batangueño political and economic elite were the prime movers of the province’s Revolution; they were leaders in the army; they provided food, sustenance and “general support to the resistance forces” (May xii). To illustrate this, Teodoro Kalaw writes in his memoirs how the wealthy helped during the siege of the convent to which the Spaniards had withdrawn in 1897. The rich contributed their cattle, rice, and horses for the Filipino officials and forces at the time. The mansions of the wealthy were also used as bases in attacks of the Spanish garrison. One of those allocated for the occupation of Filipino forces was that of Señor Manuel Luz, who had one of the best stone structures in the town. (14-15).
Most of the educated individuals who were significant icons in the province’s political history belonged to rich and prominent families. Among those who obtained degrees in the University of Sto. Tomas were Lipeños Jose Luz, Sixto Roxas, Cipriano Calao, and Gregorio Catigbac, as well as Vicente Olmos and Pablo Borbon from Batangas City. A few other Batangueños like Galicano Apacible from Balayan, Gregorio Aguilera Solis, Lauro Dimayuga, and Baldomero Roxas from Lipa even went to Spain to pursue their studies. Once exposed to liberal ideas in Spain, some of these Batangueño elite like Solis and Dimayuga became propagandists (May 28-29).
Leaders of the Batangas Revolution also belonged to upper-class society. Among the most notable was Gen. Miguel Malvar who came from a political family in Sto. Tomas. Others were Arcadio Laurel who belonged to the Laurel clan of Talisay, Pedro Ruffy who was a one-time gobernadorcillo of Nasugbu, Santiago Rillo de Leon who was a gobernadorcillo of Tuy, and Ananias Diocno of the Diocnos in Taal (May 50).
One interesting point to consider is how the economic prosperity of Batangas affected the Revolution. Natives of the province believe that Batangas was one of the financial backers of the battles against the colonizers.
In relation to this, it is important to note that the province of Batangas was agriculturally and financially prosperous during the Spanish occupation. In fact, even before the Spanish arrived, Batangas was already economically wealthy. Taal, in particular, was a natural port to the outside world and to the lakeshore communities, thus making it the province’s center of commerce. It was the richest town in Batangas “until traders transferred businesses to Lipa and Tanauan because of the growing inland trade” (Yson 54).
In subsequent years, however, Lipa played a much more important role in the prosperity of the land of the barakong Batangueño. On the average, a doctor from Lipa would make more than P70,000 in fees alone. Calle Real, Lipa’s main road filled with many business establishments, was the town’s commercial center; it was, in fact, likened to present-day Manila (Kalaw 1). During the 1880s, Lipa had an annual income of P 4,000, 000 from the coffee industry alone. According to the Lipeño scientist Dr. Manuel Roxas, for about six months in 1886-1888, Lipa was the sole world supplier of coffee beans. This was because coffee plantations around the world were infected by a virus that killed virtually all the coffee plants globally (Katigbak “When Coffee Bloomed in Lipa”).
Money was flowing quickly and quite effortlessly into Lipa because of the coffee industry. Many businesses set up branches in Lipa to take advantage of the wealth the industry brought. People were so rich at the time that women would wear diamond buckles on their satin shoes and clothes with gold and silver accessories (Katigbak “Few There Were” 7, 85-86). Most women’s apparel was imported from France, Spain, and other European countries. Even the poor were not exempt from such ostentation. According to Retana, there was a poor woman in Lipa who wore diamonds worth six to eight thousand pesos during feast days (Katigbak “When Coffee Bloomed in Lipa”).
Now, how could have all this wealth aided the Revolution?
Fr. Tom Villafranca, one of Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales’ researchers of Batangas history, says that it could have been possible for the wealthy to contribute to the Katipunan in the province, but no existing written accounts could prove this (Villafranca). Kalaw notes in his memoirs, however, that during the strained years of the Revolution, the Lipa aristocrats were “in constant fear because several persons actually involved in the Katipunan, and many others under suspicion, were known to be their friends” (Aide-de-Camp 11). Even Agoncillo mentions that Andres Bonifacio sent his trusted men to wealthy individuals in order to persuade them to help the cause of the Katipunan, or join their society (“Katipunan”). Agoncillo did not mention, however, whether these wealthy individuals included those of Batangas.
Traditional sources claim, though, that the Katipunan was a purely mass-based society and that no elite or intellectual from Lipa joined it. Juanito Marquez, in particular, cites a few prominent lower-class individuals who were among the first members of the Katipunan in Lipa (Marquez 31) (Agoncillo 1). If Retana’s previous recount is to be believed, then even the poor were capable of contributing to the Katipunan whether in terms of manpower or financial aid. May nevertheless contends that the identified members of the Katipunan were not solely from the lower class; in fact, a few of the members Marquez cited were among the political elite if not notable families of the province. Prominent among those mentioned were Major Gregorio Leviste and Lieutenant Felix Leviste of the landed Leviste clan; these men were said to hold key positions in the Katipunan (Marquez 32) (Battle 39).
Glenn May even goes as far as to question the existence of the Katipunan lower-class society in Batangas; he claims that it cannot be proven that the Katipunan reached the province, but later concedes that neither can it be proven that it had not (Battle 39).
Such discrepancies in well-founded historical records and studies are enough to doubt the legitimacy of the belief of a solely mass-based Revolution. Upper-class society created an imprint in revolutionary history that was far from inconsequential and far from merely financial. Because the elite were educated and thus well equipped with liberal thoughts, they had powerful connections and means to manipulate the particulars of the battles for freedom. It was because of such education that the elite “were convinced of their capacity to rule, and were more likely to resist alien overlordship than the uneducated downtrodden masses” (May 30). Upper-class society knew that with the Spaniards out of political and economic power, the wealthy and educated would take the latter’s place in the country’s seat of power. It was for political, financial, and influential gain that the wealthy gambled their lives as well as their money, land, and possessions. Where the elite are believed by some to be the moving power behind the Batangas struggle, it is speculated that the masses were merely used as cannon fodder.
Nevertheless, from all these, the question of the nature of the Revolution remains undecided. Who really wielded the balisong to fend off foreign cruelty?
BALANCE OF REALITY
Evidence favors an elite-led Revolution; tradition holds firm to a revolt of the masses. But perhaps beneath the muddled facts and natives’ hearsay regarding the Revolution in Batangas, one thing has remained clear: the Batangueño role that marked the reclaiming of the province and the freedom of our country was not monopolized by a single force. Though scrutiny of historical truths and openness to what these reveal would confirm that the elite were the leading force behind the Revolution, Batangas could not have been regained were it not for the masses’ participation, however arguable the reasons for this. Likewise, the masses could not have reclaimed Batangas were it not for powerful leaders, most of whom were from the elite. The Batangueños of different social strata, but of similar patriotic spirit, together raised the balisong to severe the suffocating ties binding them to blind acquiescence to Spanish rule. The Revolution need not be the revolt of the masses nor of the elite alone; the Revolution was a Revolution because the elite and the masses played their respective roles in order to jointly yet differently put an end to Spanish oppression.
While the elite may have the canon, without the fodder, it will be a useless piece of equipment. Reductively, as the bow is to the arrow, so is the elite unto the masses; useless each without the other.
This is the balance of the reality of the Batangas Revolution.
Agoncillo, Teodoro A. “Katipunan: Army in the Shadows.” Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation. Ed. Alfredo Roces. Philippines: Lahing Pilipino Publishing Inc., 1978.
------------------------- The Revolt of the Masses. Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 1956.
[This book was responsible for the belief of a “revolt of the masses” and is one of the paper’s major sources for the foundations of such a belief.]
Ileto, Reynaldo C. Pasyon and Revolution: Popular Movements in the Philippines 1890-1910. Quezon Ciy: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1979.
Ilustre, Aurea G. Maikling Kasaysayan ng Lungsod at Probinsiya ng Batangas. Quezon City: Vibal Publishing Inc.,1991.
Kalaw,Teodoro M. Aide-de-Camp to Freedom. Trans. Maria Kalaw Katigbak. Manila: Teodoro M. Kalaw Society, Inc., 1965.
Katigbak, Maria Kalaw. Few there were (like my father). Manila: Teodoro
M. Kalaw Society Inc., 1974.
--------------------- “When Coffee Bloomed in Lipa.” Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation. Ed. Alfredo Roces. Philippines: Lahing Pilipino Publishing Inc., 1978.
Marquez, Juanito. “Lipa and the Philippine Revolution, 1896-1899.” MA Thesis. Ateneo de Manila University, 1969.
May, Glenn A. Battle for Batangas: a Philippine Province at War. Quezon City: New Day Publishers with permission from Yale University, 1993.
Veneracion, Jaime B. Agos ng Dugong Kayumanggi. Quezon City: Abiva Publishing House, Inc., 2000.
Villafranca, Fr. Bartolome. Personal Interview. Aug 2004.
Yson, Danny. The Birth, Growth and Demise of Kumintang: A Great Tagalog Nation in the 13th Century. Dannyson and Associates, 1997.