by ERNESTO T. SOLIDUM
Heroes Are Honest And Industrious
The provincial and municipal officials of Kalibo led thousands of participants in a civic parade and commemorative program that marked the 116th anniversary of the 19 Martyrs of Aklan. March 23, 1897 is remembered by freedom loving Aklanons as a day of triumph over injustice and oppression. Delegations in their colorful uniforms, marching cadence accompanied by ruffle of drums traced the symbolic path of 19 Martyr’s St. and Veteran’s Avenue up to the Gen. Francisco Castillo Freedom Shrine. A lone float from Malinao depicted Candido Iban’s revolutionary exploits worthy of national pride and emulation.
Mayor William S. Lachica in his welcome address said that the death of 19 members of the Katipunan is an act of valor and sacrifice for freedom. Their noble deeds continue to inspire us to fight adversities in life such as government corruption, poverty, hunger, ignorance and natural calamities.
Gov. Carlito S. Marquez called for renewed zeal in fighting poverty even as the country has achieved justice (doubtful) and independence. The party leadership has created conducive economic climate for investments since we have a tourism boom and neutralized the communist insurgency. Marquez noted the cutting edge in tourism development created more employment and windows of opportunity for small and medium industries like piña and abaca, processed foods and souvenir items.
Kasangga Partylist Representative Teodoro T. Haresco, Jr. believes Aklan is now on economic take off. That the choices are open for the Aklanons to consider opting for a better life or the long road to poverty and deprivation. The freedom that we enjoy now must be used for personal (community people) advancement in health, education and livelihood.
Cong. Joeben T. Miraflores quoted George Santayana who said that those who cannot remember the past are bound to repeat it. He noted that oppression and injustices are bound to resurrect themselves on those who remain complacent and unfocused in life. The Aklanon martyrs could be emulated in dire circumstances that despite being outgunned, outnumbered and ill-trained they continued to fight for the cause of freedom.
Their struggle could not be in vain if we unite ourselves to strengthen civic awareness by paying taxes, practicing moral values like honesty, loyalty, and dignify labor. To our leaders in government, the clarion call is for effective governance and the promotion of public interest. Aklanons have all the chances to become heroes like the 19 martyrs, concluded the congressman.
(If they have no insatiable greed not only of money but honor and power in governance. The situation needs honest and dedicated officials.)
The re-enactment of the martyrdom the Kalibo Pilot Elementary School teachers and pupils presented drew loudest applause and admiration from the audience. Agile dancers and charmed performers captivated young and old alike with sensitive yet strong choreography. Backdrop of props and cacophony of sounds of mortar fire, agony and pain inflicted on hapless civilians ripped through the blazing noonday sun. (Can we enjoy watching foreigners killing our people?)
The play depicted two OFW’s in Australia named Candido Iban and Francisco Castillo who worked as pearl divers. After winning a lottery ticket, both decided to come home to Aklan and join the revolutionary struggle of Supremo Andres Bonifacio. The pot money was donated to the Katipunan used to buy a printing machine. Armed volunteers came from New Washington, Batan, Malinao, Kalibo, Lezo, Banga, Balete and Altavas. Initiation rites called Pacto de Sangre or Blood Compact was first held in Cawayan, Batan, now New Washington.
Confiscation and destruction of fishing boat named Sagrada Trinidad by Spanish authorities led to open revolt by Gen. Francisco Del Castillo and his men. The target was the Spanish garrison in Kalibo manned by local militia headed by Captain Juan Azarraga on the morning of March 17, 1897. The general astride a horse was shot and killed by a sniper.
Death of Gen. Del Castillo gripped the authorities and people with terror. To quell the rebellion it issued a call for political amnesty. Many members and sympathizers surrendered only to be tortured and jailed. Of the over 100 prisoners, twenty were detained as principal suspects. Fortunately, one was released through the intercession of Fructuosa Meren, Spanish mestiza and prisoner’s wife.
On March 23, 1897, all 19 prisoners were summarily executed by a firing squad in the town square. Their bodies were hastily buried in a mass grave inside a cemetery. By virtue of a Municipal Council resolution, the mortal remains of 19 martyrs were transferred to its present site at corner M. Laserna and Veterans’ Avenue on March 23, 1926.
Today, we honor the patriotism and courage of our Aklanon forbears namely: Roman Aguirre, Tomas Briones, Domingo dela Cruz, Claro Delgado, Angelo Fernandez, Simeon Inocencio, Catalino Mangat, Lamberto Mangat, Valeriano Masula, Maximo Mationg, Simplicio Reyes, Valeriano Dalida, Isidro Jimenez, Canuto Segovia, Gavino Sucgang, Francisco Villorente, Benito Iban, Candido Iban and Gabino Yonsal. To them and their descendants we offer our endless gratitude. /MP