No, it’s not Gregorio del Pilar. He was 22 years old when he got his commission in June (or July) of 1898. In fact, he was still a lieutenant-colonel when the 20 year old Manuel Tinio of Nueva Ecija was promoted to the rank of a General de Brigada in 20 November 1897 by Mi Presidente Emilio Aguinaldo.
Gen. Manuel Tinio after which the town of Papaya was renamed was born on 17 June 1877 in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija to one of the province’s landed and richest families. But unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not have higher education because when the revolt against colonial Spain broke out in 1896, he dropped out of segunda ensenanza at the San Juan de Letran to join the Katipunan at the tender age of 18. His first battles were in his province and nearby Bulacan where he distinguished himself and was commissioned to captain by Mariano Llanera --- Gapan’s capitan-municipal and the Katipunan’s recognized supremo in Central Luzon. That was how he earned his feathers and got noticed by Mi Presidente who soon promoted him to colonel in June 1897, then to brigadier general 5 months later in Biyak-na-Bato.
The general was a protégé of Mi Presidente whom he joined in exile in Hongkong in the conclusion of the Pact of Biyak-na-Bato. He followed Mi Presidente back to the Philippines on May 1898 during the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, was immediately tasked with liberating the Ilocos region from Spanish colonial rule and was placed in command of the ragtag Ilocos Expeditionary Forces. As his Brigada Tinio marched through Ilocos, he linked with pockets of Ilocano revolutionaries and encountered stiff Spanish resistance until the town of Tagudin. From then on, it was a walk in the park as the “natives” in the Spanish colonial army deserted en masse to the side of the Katipunan. By September 1898, Apo Heneral Tinio has accomplished his mission.
However, his next battles in the Filipino-American War were not as glamorous and victorious. His Brigada Tinio was called to the frontline on September 1899 seven months after the war started in Sta. Mesa, Manila. They plunged to action 2 months later in San Jacinto, Pangasinan as the rearguard of Mi Presidente where they fiercely engaged the Americans troops that landed in San Fabian. From then on, it was guerilla warfare for the Brigada Tinio after the regular revolutionary army was disbanded by Mi Presidente before continuing his retreat to the Cordilleras. But aside from waging war, Apo Heneral Tinio also has to contend with the resentful Ilocanos and a deadly rivalry with Batac’s Padre Gregorio Aglipay as an offshoot of the Ilocano Gen. Antonio Luna’s treacherous assassination in Cabanatuan.
Despite the odds, it took the Americans 7,000 troops, 1 and a ½ years, and 2 generals to subdue the Brigada Tinio which has been said as the last remaining army of the Malolos Republic. On March 1901, Mi Presidente was treacherously captured in Palanan, Isabela and a month later issued a general proclamation of surrender. On 01 May 1901, the Brigada Tinio formally surrendered to the Americans. Thus ended what according to Gen. Arthur McArthur is the “most troublesome and perplexing military problem in all Luzon”.
After his military stint, Apo Heneral Tinio returned to Nueva Ecija and became a rich hacendero. He was rivaled in terms of landholdings by his brother Col. Casimiro “Kapitan Berong” Tinio (who served with him in the Brigada Tinio) who owned “the largest singularly-titled hacienda estate any Filipino has ever owned”. Apo Heneral Tino was Nueva Ecija governor from 1907 until his resignation in 1909. He died at the age of 47 in 1924 of cirrhosis of the liver. His grandson said he is fond of Tres Cepas brandy of which he consumed a bottle after every meal.
It is interesting to note that almost throughout his Ilocos campaign during the Filipino-American War, Apo Heneral Tinio was with another boy general from Nueva Ecija --- Benito Natividad, twice wounded in action and erstwhile aide to General Luna, who was promoted to General de Brigada at the age of 24. Nueva Ecija should be proud to having contributed the youngest and the third youngest generals in the modern history of the Philippine armed forces.
NOTE: Almost all the information and the Tinio photos in this article is from Orlino Ochosa’s celebrated “The Tinio Brigade” book which I recommend for reading to every Filipino (especially Novo Ecijanos) so they can better understand their past. I also have the chance of a short conversation with Martin Tinio Jr. --- a grandson of the Apo Heneral --- who confirmed the “youngest general” tag and shared surprising anecdotes that are not yet published. Any errors are mine alone.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) Manuel Tinio as the boy general of Ilocos; (2) the main altar of the modern church of Aliaga where Manuel Tinio was born 130 years ago; (3) Manuel Tinio as Nueva Ecija governor.