Emilio Aguinaldo, First President

Emilio Aguinaldo (1869 - 1964)


The president of the first Philippine republic (1899). He started as a member of the Magdalo Chapter of the Katipunan in Cavite, then was elected president of the revolutionary government at the Tejeros Convention on March 22,1897, and, later, Biak-na-Bato Republic. He proclaimed Philippine independence at Kawit on June 12, 1898. His capture foreshadowed the end of large-scale armed resistance to American rule. He ran against Manuel Quezon for the presidency of the commonwealth in 1935 but lost.

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Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy was born into the local elite of Cavite on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. His father had been mayor of Kawit (Cavite viejo) at the time of his death in 1878, a post Aguinaldo himself would hold in 1895. That same year Aguinaldo joined the secret, nationalist brotherhood Katipunan founded by Andrés Bonifacio. After the Philippines erupted in revolt against the Spaniards in 1896, Aguinaldo won several victories in Cavite Province. When Bonifacio came out of hiding in March 1897 and tried to reassert his leadership of Katipunan, Aguinaldo ordered his arrest, imprisonment, and eventual execution on May 10, 1897.

Katipunan forces retreated into the mountains in the face of Spanish attacks. Ultimately he entered into an accord with the Spaniards, agreeing to exile in Hong Kong in exchange for 400,000 pesos. Soon after his arrival there, Aguinaldo purchased the weapons his troops would require to continue the struggle.

After the U.S. declared war on Spain, Aguinaldo saw a possibility that the Philippines might achieve its independence; the U.S. hoped instead that Aguinaldo would lend his troops to its effort against Spain. He returned to Manila on May 19, 1898 and declared Philippine independence on June 12.

When it became clear that the United States had no interest in the liberation of the islands, Aguinaldo's forces remained apart from U.S. troops. On January 1, 1899 following the meetings of a constitutional convention, Aguinaldo was proclaimed president of the Philippine Republic. Not surprisingly, the United States refused to recognize Aguinaldo's authority and on February 4, 1899 he declared war on the U.S. forces in the islands. After his capture on March 23, 1901, Aguinaldo agreed to swear allegiance to the United States, and then left public life. His dream of Philippine independence came true on July 4, 1946. He died in Manila in 1964.