Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Filipino Martyr: LUCIANO SAN MIGUEL
LUCIANO SAN MIGUEL
(1875 – 1903)
A native of Noveleta, Cavite, Luciano San Miguel was born on January 7, 1875 to Regino
San Miguel and Gabriela Saklolo. He was the eldest and only son among five children.
After acquiring his early education in his hometown, he proceeded to the Ateneo de
Manila, working while studying for a degree in agriculture. Upon graduating, he tried to find
employment in Manila, but having found none, he decided to make his living by sewing. After a
while, he found work as an inspector at the hacienda of Pedro Roxas in Nasugbu, Batangas
It was around this time that he met Maria Ongcapin who later became his fiancé. They
were at the point of marriage when the Philippine Revolution erupted in August 1896. Despite her
entreaties, he joined the Katipunan in his hometown, affiliating himself with the Magdiwang
Chapter, some of whose more famous members were Mariano Alvarez, Artemio Ricarte, and Diego
San Miguel who rose to the rank of colonel early in the revolution, led a unit of rebels in
garrisoning Nasugbu, and later, defended it against Spanish forces headed by Colonel Rosas, who
had earlier massacred the town’s civilians. The battle however was lost, with only San Miguel and
a handful of his men surviving.
On March 25, 1897, he joined Generals Artemio Ricarte and Emilio Aguinaldo in Imus,
Cavite for a planned assault on the Spaniards, who had recaptured the town and were on their way
to Cavite Viejo and San Francisco de Malabon. It did not materialize, however, for he and General
Ricarte were unable to find a strategic position from which to launch the attack, while General
Aguinaldo and his men withdrew to Naik.
On the 26th of the same month, San Miguel led his men in assaulting, together with the
troops of Bonifacio, Colonels Antonio Virata and Esteban San Juan and Major Julian Montalan,
enemy soldiers coming from Barrio Bacao in San Francisco de Malabon. The Spaniards were
forced to withdraw but, in the process, were able to snare Noveleta, which had been abandoned, in
turn, by Colonel San Miguel’s troops.
Generally, however, the revolutionists held on to their captured territories, and it became
clear to the Spanish colonial government that it was fast losing the war to the rebels. A truce,
intended to benefit both sides, was proposed. It was formalized in the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, which
was signed in December 1897. The treaty, however, was short-lived, for infractions against it were
committed. As a result, General Aguinaldo returned from his exile in Hong Kong early in 1898
and, forthwith issued a new call to all patriots to resume the struggle against Spain. It was in this
context that on May 20 of that year, Colonel San Miguel appeared before Aguinaldo in order to
receive his command, which was given to him immediately. It was composed of the northern
provinces: Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Morong, Batangas, Laguna, and Manila. The
following June in Kawit, Cavite, Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence and the
establishment of the first Philippine Republic, with Aguinaldo himself as President. San Miguel
was named “talibang pandangal,” or guardia de honor, and conferred the unofficial title of
“general” by his own followers.
Meanwhile, the revolutionaries had been befriended by the Americans, who promised
them arms in their struggle , in exchange for their assistance in the United States’ was with Spain.
After the “Battle of Manila Bay,” tension began to grow between the two “allies” as they squabbled
over territories they had occupied. Soon it became clear to the Filipinos that the Americans were
bent on taking over the Philippines. Early in February 1899, San Miguel received a letter from
General Arthur MacArthur protesting the occupation by some of San Miguel’s soldiers of a barrio
near the American’s command. To prevent the situation from getting out of hand, he immediately
replied to it saying that he would order the men concerned to leave the place. He executed this
On February 4, 1899, while San Miguel was in Malolos, Bulacan, meeting with Generals
Aguinaldo and Ricarte, shooting occurred between the two sides on Balsahan Bridge in San Juan
del Monte, which was part of San Miguel’s command. Thus did the Philippine-American War
Within days of the shooting, and after attempts by the Philippine government to avert war
failed, Aguinaldo mobilized his forces, this time against the new enemy. San Miguel continued to
fight in the redirected struggle with exemplary leadership, for which he was also rewarded with
promotion as a brigadier-general by Aguinaldo, who also appointed him representative of Negros
Oriental to the revolutionary Congress in June 1899.
Life was hard for the revolutionists, who were underfed and ill-equipped. Once, General
San Miguel was compelled to go to his superiors to ask for more provisions for his starving men,
but was told that these had run out. As he went on his way with a heavy heart, however, he saw a
veritable banquet being served before the others, some of whom were generals. He suddenly flared
up, and cried out to them, “In these times of struggle, only bones should be served before you –
and not this feast! It is our men who deserved food such as this, for they are the ones in the front
lines, and we at the rear, who merely give them orders, deserve much less!” One of the generals
felt insulted and challenged him to a duel. Had it not been for the intervention of cooler heads
blood would have been unnecessarily spilled.
Hoping to reverse the trend of the war, with the revolutionists slowly losing to the enemy,
he decided, in late 1899, to revive the Katipunan. On December 6, he issued a circular to this effect
among his officers and troops in Zambales.
He was in San Fernando, Pampanga, when news about General Aguinaldo’s capture
reached him. Naturally, this dampened his spirits, but only for a moment. Like many other
revolutionaries, he resolved to continue fighting. Two years later, on January 15, 1903 was elected
supreme commander of the revolutionary army. In spite of the passage of the Bandolerism Act in
1902, he gathered his forces and embarked on a guerilla struggle that tested the might of the
enemy, thereby becoming one of the most wanted leaders by the authorities.
It is said that at the height of his last battle which occurred in Koral-na-Bato in Antipolo,
Rizal, on March 27, 1903, San Miguel - himself on the very edge of death while his men were being
felled one by one by the enemy’s firepower, was heard uttering these glorious words: “To give up
one’s life for the Motherland and her freedom – this alone, is true happiness and honor!” He was
still wielding his gun and saber when his end finally came.
Alvarez, Santiago. The Katipunan and the Revolution: Memoirs of a General. Quezon City:
Ateneo de Manila University Press,1992.
Malay, Armando J. Memoirs of General Artemio Ricarte. Manila: National Historical
Corpuz, Onofre D. Saga and Triumph: The Philippine Revolution against Spain. Manila:
Philippine Centennial Commission, 1991.
Quirino, Carlos. Filipinos at War. Manila: Vera – Reyes Incorporated, 1981.