On this day, March 23 of 1901, marks the capture of General Emilio Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela by the Americans through the help of Macabebe Scouts. A day before that, March 22 of 1869, Aguinaldo was born in Cavite El Viejo (now Kawit) in Cavite.
The skepticism over the "Nanlaban" reason follows the controversial Duterte administration's war on drugs wherever it goes. It is the police's primary word whenever they claim self-defense over an "unproven" drug suspect killed in operation, usually unarmed, eloping, and kneeling to surrender. But it was not the first time that people in power uttered this word as a scapegoat. In the early days of Philippine history, it was also used as the reason why Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna were killed.
Like President Duterte, Emilio Aguinaldo was more of a politician than a hero. Though we cannot deny what he has done for the country, we cannot acquit him from the frailties that became notches placed in his chest. But aside from historians openly calling him a traitor, the “first” president was also tagged as a credit grabber by his critics.
When you try to search who conceptualized the Philippine flag, numerous sources will show that Aguinaldo conceived the design. But this fact was disputed by Julio Nakpil, a close ally of Bonifacio, who later married the latter’s widow, Gregoria de Jesus. According to him, it was Feliciano Jocson who designed the national flag of the country. It was revealed through his comments to Teodoro M. Kalaw’s La Revolucion Filipina, where he recounted his memories of the revolution and the dubious intentions behind Aguinaldo’s action. The copy is now entrusted to the National Library with the condition that it would only be made public after his death.
But who is Feliciano Jocson? Apart from designing the present flag, what made him so significant to be allegedly Aguinaldo’s third victim?
Feliciano Jocson was a Katipunan leader and a pharmacist born on the 9th day of June in 1868 in the old district of Quiapo, Manila. Although he started to go to school at an early age, his family’s meager resources forced him later to discontinue his studies temporarily. Nonetheless, driven by his desire to rise above his family’s poverty, he resolved to save enough money to complete his education and thereby earn his rightful place in the then colonial society.
He obtained his degree in pharmacy from the University of Sto. Tomas around 1895. In the same year, he joined the Katipunan, first in Bonifacio’s faction and then in Aguinaldo's faction. Two years after graduation, he established his pharmaceutical shop in Escolta, Manila, which became a secret meeting place for Katipunan members.
Jocson, together with Jose Alejandrino, was put in charge of procuring arms and funding from the expatriate Filipino community in Hong Kong between 1896 to 1897. Later, through his request and initiative, Aguinaldo authorized the establishment of the Revolutionary Departmental Government of Central Luzon, which consists of Tayabas, Laguna, Morong, Maynila, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, and Bataan, and became its Secretario de Fomento. Other officials were Father Pedro Dandan, President; Anastacio Francisco, Vice President; Paciano Rizal, Secretary of Treasury; and Teodoro Gonzales, Secretary of Interior. Around this time, he allegedly showed General Artemio Ricarte a picture of what eventually came to be the Philippine flag, with its “three colors, one sun, and three stars.”
According to Ricarte, Jocson saw a Cuban flag while reading a newspaper, and with this, he designed a flag that became the basis for the flag we are using today.
When the Pact of Biak-na-Bato was signed between Aguinaldo and Spanish colonial Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera in December 1897, Jocson was among those opposed to the agreement. He opposed it because he was angered at being left out in the initial talks in Pugad-Baboy, in Caloocan, from where he rallied his forces to persevere in the struggle. His campaign against the Pact of Biak-na-Bato was so vigorous that rebels from as far away as Cebu, following his example, likewise defied the treaty.
In March 1898, he tried to launch an attack on the City of Manila, but because his men’s headquarters was itself attacked, his plan fell through. He then proceeded to Laguna but reportedly was arrested by forces loyal to General Pio del Pilar, one of Aguinaldo’s trusted generals. Del Pilar pledged before General Paciano Rizal that he would not yield Jocson to the Spanish government or allow any harm to befall him. Unfortunately, Jocson was never seen alive again. There were reports that he was treacherously murdered on the 4th day of May 1898.
Isabelo de Los Reyes cited him as the “Outstanding pharmacist who offered great sacrifices to the Nation in 1896-97”. Unlike Bonifacio and Luna, Jocson can only be remembered through several streets named after him.
Jocson could have been restrained, but the convenient alibi, like today, was simply “nanlaban”.
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