JUAN ANACLETO T. ARANETA
Juan Anacleto Araneta, revolutionary leader and pioneer in the development of sugar industry in Negros, was born on July 13, 1852 in Bago, Negros where his parents, Romualdo Araneta and Agueda Torres migrated from Molo, Iloilo.
He was sent in Manila to study at the Ateneo Municipal, where he received a certificate of perito mercantil. Araneta returned to his hometown and established his own business, and later was elected as capitan municipal (town mayor). In 1891, Araneta became a widow. His wife, Cristeta Sarmiento died, leaving him and their nine children.
The death of his wife did not deter his spirit. Instead, he went with his friend, Claudio Reina, for a tour in Europe and America. It was during this trip that he became acquainted with the Filipino propagandists abroad and learned of modern technologies in farming. He returned to the Philippines bearing the influence of the reformists and his new knowledge in Agriculture. When Spanish authorities divested his properties in Bago, he moved his family to Kanlaon and developed another farm that soon became a productive hacienda. He ordered sugar mill equipments from England and installed them in his hacienda at Dinampalan. He bought farm implements for producing abaca, a rice thresher, and plows.
While Araneta was busy developing his farm, the first stage of the revolution was spreading in the provinces. Alarmed, Spanish authorities all over the archipelago became more vigilant by arresting who they think were capable of revolting against them. Araneta, being known for his liberal-mindedness, was not spared from their lists. He was arrested on 9 January 1897 and languished in prison until March 8 of the same year.
Out from prison, Araneta immediately established revolutionary forces in Negros together with Aniceto Lacson, Leandro Locsin and Nicolas Golez. Araneta lead the South command and Lacson the North command. On November 5, 1898, Araneta hoisted the Filipino flag at the Bago Town and proclaimed the Republic of Negros. At about 1:00 in the afternoon the following day, Araneta marched his forces, most of them armed with farming tools and woods that looked like rifles from the distant, and limited number of guns (a Remington, a Mauser and a shotgun) toward Bacolod. The group of Lacson did the same thing as they marched to Bacolod from the northern side.
From the belfry of the Bacolod Cathedral, the Spanish friars and Colonel Isidro de Castro, the Spanish Gobernador Politico-Militar of Negros, watched the rebel troops marched from opposite directions toward Bacolod and appeared fully armed. Alarmed, Colonel de Castro sent Jose de Luzurriaga and Manuel Fernandez Yuson to negotiate for the surrender of the Spanish soldiers and civil guards, only to realize later that they were tricked by the ingenuity of the rebels.
Subsequently, a cantonal form of government was set up in Bacolod on November 7, 1898 with General Juan Araneta as Secretary of War and Aniceto Lacson as President. This government, however, did not last with the landing of the Americans in Negros on December 28 that same year. Seeing the better-equipped American forces, Araneta urged the government to surrender. His plea was vehemently opposed and criticized by his comrades who later on relented. Thus, America’s take over in Negros was peaceful. The cantonal government was allowed to exist before it was finally dissolved by the time American military government was established in the country.
Back in his hacienda, he kept his interest in Agriculture, acquiring new farming tools and implements, and increasing his plants of different varieties. In 1904, he exhibited varieties of rice, cacao, beans, abaca and many agricultural crops in the Louisiana Purchase Exposition abroad.
In Negros, he founded the Ma-ao Sugar Central that later put up the first American sugar mill in the province. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Baptist Church in Bago.
Juan Araneta did not live long, however, to see the development of Negros due to sugar production he initiated. He died on October 3, 1924, leaving a large number of family members from his two marriages. The first was with Cristeta Sarmiento who died in 1891 and the second with Natalia Salsalida y Bobeda, with whom he had thirteen children.
Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of the Philippine Biography Volume 3. Quezon City: Filipiniana, 1986.