Emilio Aguinaldo

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Emilio Aguinaldo

The Philippine revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964) fought for independence of the Philippine Islands, first against Spain and then against the United States.

Born on March 23, 1869, Emilio Aguinaldo grew up in Kawit in Cavite Province and was educated in Manila. Appointed to a municipal position in his home province, he was also the local leader of a revolutionary society fighting Spanish rule over the Philippines. By an agreement signed with rebel leaders in January 1898, Spain agreed to institute liberal reforms and to pay a large indemnity; the rebels then went into exile.

When war broke out between Spain and the United States in April 1898, Aguinaldo made arrangements with the U.S. consuls in Hong Kong and Singapore and with Commodore George Dewey to return from exile to fight against Spain. On June 12 Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippine Islands from Spain, hoisted the national flag, introduced a national anthem, and ordered a public reading of the declaration of independence.

When he realized that the United States would not accept immediate and complete independence for the Philippines, he organized a revolution against American rule that resulted in 3 years of bloody guerrilla warfare. He was captured on March 23, 1901, by Gen. Frederick Funston. Funston and several other officers, bound hand and foot, pretended to be prisoners and were taken to Aguinaldo's camp by Filipinos loyal to the United States. Released and given weapons, they easily captured Aguinaldo, who then took an oath of allegiance to the United States and issued a peace proclamation on April 19. The bitterness caused by the war was soon transformed into friendship as Americans and Filipinos joined to work toward Philippine independence. Aguinaldo retired to private life, and his son entered West Point in the same class as Gen. Funston's son.

In 1935 Aguinaldo ran unsuccessfully for president of the Philippine Commonwealth against Manuel Quezon. After the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941, he cooperated with the new rulers, even making a radio appeal for the surrender of the American and Filipino forces on Bataan. He was arrested as a collaborationist after the Americans returned but was later freed in a general amnesty. He explained his action by saying, "I was just remembering the fight I led. We were outnumbered, too, in constant retreat. I saw my own soldiers die without affecting future events. To me that seemed to be what was happening on Bataan, and it seemed like a good thing to stop."

In 1950 he was named to the Council of State, an advisory body for the president, and in his later years he was chairman of a board which dispensed pensions to the remaining veterans of the revolution. He died in Manila on Feb. 6, 1964.

Further Reading

Aguinaldo tells his own story in A Second Look at America (1957). The outstanding early work on Philippine affairs is W. Cameron Forbes, The Philippine Islands (2 vols., 1928; rev. ed. 1945). Leon Wolff is more sympathetic to the Philippine rebels in Little Brown Brother: How the United States Purchased and Pacified the Philippine Islands at the Century's Turn (1961). A more scholarly account is Garel A. Grunder and William E. Livezey, The Philippines and the United States (1951).

Additional Sources

Turot, Henri, Emilio Aguinaldo, first Filipino president, 1898-1901, Manila, Philippines: Foreign Service Institute, 1981. □

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Aguinaldo, Emilio (1869–1964), revolutionary and statesman of the Philippines.During the Spanish‐American War, Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy consolidated a strong nationalist movement against Spain only to face a stronger opponent of Filipino independence, the U.S. government. Though initially aided by U.S. Navy and consular agents, Aguinaldo's provisional government became the primary obstacle to the annexation policy of President William McKinley after Spain capitulated in August 1898. Six months later, U.S. troops drove Filipino militias from Manila and pursued them into the countryside. With his political council divided between accommodationists and die‐hard nationalists, and his regiments poorly trained and ill‐equipped, Aguinaldo's was perhaps a doomed effort. Nevertheless, he used guerrilla tactics and clandestine political organization to resist, retreating from redoubt to redoubt until his capture by Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston on 31 March, 1901. Accepting defeat, he swore allegiance to the United States and retired to his plantation. In 1935, he lost a bid for the presidency of the Philippine Commonwealth. After supporting Japanese occupation during World War II, Aguinaldo was imprisoned in 1945, but received amnesty. He died in 1964, a tragic but beloved Philippine national hero.
[See also Philippine War (1899–1902).]


Stuart C. Miller , Benevolent Assimilation, 1986.
Glenn A. May , Battle for Batangas, 1992.

James Grant Crawford

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Emilio Aguinaldo (āmē´lyō ägēnäl´ dō), 1869–1964, Philippine leader. In the insurrection against Spain in 1896 he took command, and by terms of the peace that ended it he went into exile at Hong Kong (1897). After the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines and led a Philippine insurrection in concert with U.S. attacking forces. He established a republic with its capital at Malolos and himself as president.

Dissatisfied with the peace treaty that ended the Spanish-American War, he headed a rebellion against U.S. occupying forces from 1899 until he was captured by in 1901. Aguinaldo took an oath of allegiance to the United States, was briefly imprisoned, and retired to private life. In 1935 he ran for president but was defeated by Manuel Quezon. Aguinaldo was charged with cooperating with the Japanese occupying the Philippines in World War II, but was not tried. With V. A. Pacis he wrote A Second Look at America (1957).

See biography by C. Quirino (1969).