Thursday, September 13, 2007


Gen. Antonio Luna was directing the establishment of a guerilla base in the Mt. Province from his headquarters in Bayambang, Pangasinan when he received a telegram summoning him to a conference with Mi Presidente in Cabanatuan. He immediately left for Nueva Ecija accompanied by his aides Col. Francisco “Paco” Roman, Maj. Simeon Villa, the brothers Maj. Manuel Bernal and Capt. Jose Bernal, and a bodyguard of 25 cavalrymen.

At the outskirts of Cabanatuan, the impatient General Luna left his escort at the broken bridge and proceeded to his summons with only Colonel Roman and Captain Eduardo Rusca. After all, it’s only a conference and they are in friendly territory. They arrived at the casa parroquial in Cabanatuan where the Malolos Republic was holding office at that time at 3 pm of 5 June 1899. Unknown to the general, Mi Presidente’s elite Kawit Companies were already deployed and instructed with a mission.

The first man the general met was an officer he had disarmed in Angeles for cowardice. His famous temper provoked, General Luna slapped a sentry who failed to salute him and, upon being informed that Mi Presidente went to San Isidro, let it out on Felipe Buencamino (whom he earlier accused of being an autonomista and slapped right in front of Mi Presidente). There was a rifle shot and when the general went down to investigate, he met Captain Janolino aka Pedrong Kastila who had refused to take orders from him and whom he had disarmed along with the Kawit Company for insubordination.

What happened next was the general being hacked in the head with a bolo and elements of the Kawit Company ganging up on him. Mortally wounded, General Luna still managed to stagger away from his assassins and fire his pistol while cursing them for what they are: “Cowards! Traitors! Assassins!”. Colonel Roman was gunned down (perhaps on the street that now bears his name) and Captain Rusca was shot in the leg while coming to the aid of the general.

As General Luna lay dying, an old lady looked down from a window of the casa parroquial and said: “Ano ba, nagalaw pa yan?”. She is said to be Mi Presidente’s mother who Gen. Venancio Concepcion later said to have been “groundworked” by Buencamino to convince her son on the Luna assassination project. And so it was that General Luna died from the more than 40 wounds that was hacked, stabbed, chopped and shot on him.

It did not end there. What followed was a purge of the Lunistas. The general’s closest men were disarmed and detained. Some were killed like Major Bernal who was tortured first and his brother Captain Bernal who was released but was later assassinated in the frontlines. But it was the resbak that rippled deep and long which almost broke the revolution. Vicente del Prado who signed the Malolos constitution in Pangasinan’s behalf bolted the Revolutionary Congress and organized the Guardia de Honor to fight the Americans and avenge General Luna’s death. The Ilocanos never fully trusted Mi Presidente’s Katipunan after that. While making his retreat through Ilocos, Mi Presidente bought along 2 well-known Ilocanos --- Pangasinan’s military chief Col. Juan Quesada and the vicar-general of the revolutionary army Fr. Gregorio Aglipay --- to help parry the hostility of the Ilocanos and the Guardia de Honor. Father Aglipay would move on with the revolution in Ilocos Norte, organizing his own fanatical army of peasants, and refusing to recognize the authority of the Aguinaldista and Tagalog Gen. Manuel Tinio. Apolinario Mabini also have his hands full covering up Mi Presidente to the Hongkong Junta (which included the celebrated painter and the general’s brother Juan Luna) who came to the point of dissenting with the Malolos Republic because of the assassination.

Post Script

It is interesting to note several “what ifs” related to the Luna assassination. First, the task of capturing General Luna dead or alive was given by Mi Presidente himself to his protégé (and hatchetman they say) Gen. Gregorio del Pilar in San Isidro a day before the assassination. Heneral Goyo immediately left for Bayambang to carry out his mission but as it is, General Luna was already on his way to Cabanatuan. What could have happened if the brash Heneral Goyo and the ill-tempered General Luna encountered in Pangasinan?

If he had not been bogged down by his wounds, Col. Benito Natividad who was then General Luna’s top aide and a Novo Ecijano could have accompanied the general to Cabanatuan instead of Colonel Roman. Would the assassination push through considering that an influential Novo Ecijano is accompanying the general? Or how would the Novo Ecijanos react if Colonel Natividad have been killed instead of Colonel Roman?

General Luna had good reports about the Brigada Tinio who was idling in Ilocos while the war went on around them. General Tinio made several requests to General Luna who was Director of War that they be assigned to the frontlines. General Luna then requested the Office of the Captain-General to do so but was refused, perhaps because of a wariness on a possible fusion of the brilliant military tactician and the great army of the north. But what if General Luna and the Ilocos’ Brigada Tinio did come together? Would have it propelled General Luna’s higher ambitions (that was insinuated by the Aguinaldistas)? Or would have it provoked a civil war within a revolution? But what if Luna had deposed Aguinaldo and his pro-autonomy cabinet?

CAVEAT: Most of the information contained in this article was taken from Nick Joaquin’s “A Question of Heroes” and Orlino Ochosa’s “The Tinio Brigade”. Any errors and fallacies in the interpretation of their work are mine alone.

PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) The Gen. Antonio Luna monument in Cabanatuan City’s Plaza Lucero just across the street where he was murdered. (2)The interior of the modern Cabanatuan City church. (3) Inconspicuous signs along a busy street (now named after the fallen general) where vehicles wait for their sundo from the school that used to be a convent marks the crime scene. (4) Remnants of the colonial era church where Capt. Eduardo Rusca took refuge after being shot in the leg are now tucked in the buttresses of the modern structure. (5) A photo of Gen. Benito Natividad scanned from Orlino Ochosa’s “The Tinio Brigade”.


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hanzsapitan said...

Wow what a wonderful entry sir!

Matagal na po ako curious how Luna died. Is it true na dun din kaya inilibing si Luna?

I think TV networks should start making teleserye-like of the katipunan or about our history, which is far educational rather than re-making most of novels or komiks characters.

Sir add ko po site nyo sa links ko.