A Glimpse of the Nov. 5, 1898 Negrense Revolution vs. Spain

What were the events leading to November 5, 1898?

When the widespread Katipunan-led uprising started in August 1896 in Luzon, the Spanish authorities became alarmed and took steps to control the situation. They became alert to signs of unrest by soliciting information or reports, watching public meetings, conducting investigations or check-ups of suspicious events. The Spanish concern was well-founded for by mid-August 1898, actual preparations for uprising were organized and preparations were moving fast in different areas, despite the seemingly peaceful situation.

CINCO DE NOVIEMBRE IN BAGO CITY. Bago Mayor Nicolas M. Yulo and Vice Mayor Ramon D. Torres giving honors and spearheading the floral offerings to the statue of General Juan Y. Araneta, Hero of the Negros Revolution, as part of yesterday's comme-moration of the Negros Day or 119th Cinco de Noviembre in the historical city yesterday.* (Jun de los Reyes / NDB photos)

An event equally disturbing to the Spanish authorities was the arrival in Manila of the American naval forces under Adm. George Dewey on. August 4, 1898. The Spanish officials tried but failed to mollify the local leaders but nothing came of this. By this time also, the forces of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Luzon had established cooperative links with the revolutionary groups in various provinces.

PARADE OF CANNONS, with matching sounds of explosions, courtesy of different barangays of Bago City, in yesterday's celebration of the 119th Cinco De Noviembre or Negros Day.*(Jun de los Reyes / NDB photo)

On November 3, 1898, the leader of the rebel forces in Panay, Roque Lopez, sent a message to Negrense leader, Aniceto Lacson, urging him to start the uprising in Negros. On the same day, Lacson rode his horse from Talisay to Silay where his meeting with the other leaders agreed to start the rebellion on November 5. Messages through all possible means: carts, horses, even runners, were quickly sent throughout Negros to mobilize support for the scheduled uprising. Though the revolution was not fully synchronized, there was a pattern of action by the local leaders.

By the first few days of November, the leaders who were generally the capitanes municipalis put on their uniforms and gathered their men in their respective areas. In Bago, south Negros leader, Juan Araneta, hoisted the flag to signal the uprising. In Cadiz, the forces of Francisco Abelarde overcame the Spanish soldiers after brief fighting. In Sagay, Gil Lopez and the Katalbas brothers forced the surrender of the civil guards. Further north, Tomas Belmonte’s forces disarmed the Spanish troops in San Carlos, Calatrava, and Escalante. In Manapla, Custodio Duyungan’s forces took over without bloodshed. In Silay, the Spanish detachment surrendered after brief fighting and negotiations with soldiers led by Nicolas Golez and Vicente Gamboa Benedicto.

In Bacolod, the first overt sign of the uprising was the cutting off of Bacolod’s telegraph lines to Silay at about 2 p.m. of November 4. At about 8 a.m. of November 5, a firefight ensued near Matab-ang, in Talisay, between a contingent of Spanish troops and the advance group of rebel soldiers. Shortly after, the Spanish Governor, Gen. Isidro de Castro, tried to contact the Negrense forces led by Aniceto Lacson, with several thousand men. About two kilometers south of Bacolod, the Bago forces of Juan Araneta, with about 2,000 men, were poised to enter the capital. Gen. de Castro also sent his emissary, Jose Luzuriaga, to negotiate with Araneta who replied that he and his forces did not come all the way from Bago just to hold a conference. Meanwhile, from atop the San Sebastian Cathedral, the Spanish officials with a telescope saw large formations of soldiers heavily-armed with rifles and cannons. These turned out to be ‘paltiks’ or nipa stalks with shiny knives and the cannons were rolled sawali mats painted black.

Sensing that his hope for reinforcements from Iloilo Spanish forces were not coming, Gen. de Castro eventually signed the surrender agreement with Negrense top leaders, Aniceto Lacson and Juan Araneta at the house of Eusebio Luzuriaga (near the present City Hall) at 5 p,m. of November 6. It was already dusk when the Negrense forces marched to martial music into Bacolod. They gathered at the Provincial House (site of present City Hall) where they heard the short victory speech of Juan Araneta followed by the raising of the Philippine flag. After this, the Negrense troops were allowed to disperse and joined the spontaneous celebrations in several nearby areas. By this time, all towns north and south had been taken except Himamaylan where the Spanish detachment held out but finally surrendered on November 8. On the days following November 6, the rebel leaders convened in Bacolod the First Provincial Assembly which organized the historic, if short-lived, independent Republic of Negros. This is another interesting notable event which bears retelling on another occasion.

What were the causes of this uprising in Negros against the Spanish rule? By the 1890s, the sense of oppression and injustice against the Spanish colonial system had grown morewidespread. This was reinforced by the increased attitude of identity of the Negrenses, many of whom studied in Manila or abroad and the entry of foreign ideas through wider educational and economic opportunities. These included, among others, Jaime Araneta, Juan Araneta, Zoilo Diaz, Emilio Gaston, Carlos Infante, Antonio Jayme, Aniceto Lacson, Roman Lacson, Leandro Locsin, Vicente Locsin, Dionisio Mapa, Agustin Montilla, Jr., Rafael Ramos, Melecio Severino, Mariano Yulo and EstanislaoYusay. These were among the notable Negrense leaders who guided the Province during those historic years. If, as the sages tell us, history offers important lessons for mankind, there are some learnings for Negrenses today on this historic period. It is essential therefore, to consider these valuable lessons for, to paraphrase the historian George Santayana, a people who forget or ignore the lessons of history could repeat the errors of the past.*(Roque P. Hofileña, Jr. / Negros Occidental Historical Council, Inc.)