Introducing These Dashing but Lesser-Known National Heroes
Every year we celebrate National Heroes Day and while the more popular ones like Rizal or Bonifacio get all the glory, it’s time to acknowledge the valuable contribution of lesser known heroes.
Here are some unsung heroes and their dashing, heroic acts.
Gen. Martin Teofilo Delgado, the first governor of Iloilo, and a rebel leader against the Spanish
If you’ve been to Iloilo, you might remember seeing Delgado’s name everywhere–on streets and even on branded products. A majestic statue stands in front of the newly opened Museum of Contemporary Art and there he is again. He is General Martin Teofilo Delgado, the first governor of Iloilo. Before his career as a politician, he is a rebel who defied Spain’s orders.
Born to an aristocratic mestizo family, Delgado studied teaching at the Ateneo Municipal in Manila. He returned home and taught in a public school for a while. During the 1898 revolt, Spaniards organized volunteer militias around the country. They mistakenly thought that only the Tagalogs are rebellious and maybe those from the province can fight their fellow Filipinos since they’re loyal to Spain. Delgado was then appointed as captain and commander of the 125 voluntarios in Sta. Barbara. Instead of doing his duty, he did the exact opposite. On October 28, 1898, Delgado and his troops marched into Santa Barbara and took over the municipal building. It wasn’t long before uprisings were held in different towns across Iloilo. On November 17, 1898, Martin Delgado was promoted to lieutenant general. On December 24, 1898 the Spanish forces finally evacuated Iloilo and the Filipino flag was raised on Christmas Day, the first time it did outside Luzon.
When the Americans took over the country, Delgado challenged them with guerilla tactics. He was the chief insurgent officer at the time of his surrender on February 2, 1901. The Americans recognized his abilities and appointed him governor on April 11, 1901. He spent his last years as the superintendent of the leper colony in Culion where he died on November 12, 1918.
Brigadier General Jose Ignacio Paua, the sole Chinese general of the Philippine revolution
Born in Fujian, China, Paua went to the Philippines with his uncle when he was 18. He was hopeful to find employment and for a while he became a blacksmith’s apprentice in Binondo. During the revolution, he repaired the Filipinos’ native canons and other weapons. He was later assigned to manage the arsenal and factory of firearms in Imus, Cavite with the help of other Chinese blacksmiths. At the same time, he also fought in several battles in Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, and Tarlac. Two days after he fought at the Battle of Binakayan, he was promoted to Captain.
He was the only pure-blooded Chinese to sign the Biak Na Bato constitution and the only Chinese general of the Philippine revolution. During the Filipino American war, he raised funds to help the resistance in Bicol which led him to be caught and held as a prisoner in Fort Santiago. He was released in June 2, 1900. He later lived in Albay where he was elected as president of the municipality of Manito. He died of cancer on May 24, 1926. His statue stands in a park named after him located in Legazpi City, Albay.
Trinidad Tecson, "Mother of Biak na Bato"
Her name may sound familiar because of her monikers, “Mother of Biak na Bato” and “Mother of Philippine Red Cross.” Trinidad Tecson joined the Katipunan women chapter when she was already 47 years old. She fought with men side-by-side in 12 recorded, bloody battles in Bulacan, including the one in Biak Na Bato. It was said that whenever she gets wounded, once she started feeling better, she would immediately get back to the field.
One of her most famous exploits was when she and three other companions raided a courthouse in Caloocan, Rizal to get more firearms. After this, she led a group of five men to get more firearms in a jail in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija. In these instances, she and her group were able to subdue the guards despite their number.
She earned her name “Mother of Biak na Bato” when her camp served as the headquarters and hideout for Aguinaldo and his troops. Similar to Tandang Sora, she nursed sick and wounded Katipuneros during this time, which eventually earned her the honor of being named the Mother of Philippine Red Cross. For her loyalty, she was named Commissary of War during the Malolos Republic.
When the Spaniards left and the Americans came, she continued to fight under the command of General Gregorio del Pilar. Unfortunately, she was not able to see her country fully liberated at the time of her death on January 28, 1928 at the age of 80. She was buried at the Mausoleum of Veterans at the Manila North Cemetery.
Cesar Fernando Basa, World War II hero
Basa was only 26 years old when he died in the service of the country.
As a young boy who grew up in Isabela, Negros Occidental, Basa was interested in science. He eventually took up Chemistry at Ateneo where he apparently also excelled in playing basketball. He graduated in 1939 and decided to take up a flying course at the Philippine army. He became a pilot a year later.
His agility as a pilot was needed in 1941 and Second Lieutenant Basa was assigned in Batangas under the command of Captain Jesus Villamor. On December 12 of the same year, Villamor and five other pilots were coming back from a surveillance mission when they saw that 54 Japanese bomber planes were attacking the Batangas Air Field. Fresh from the mission, Basa’s plane only had 15 minutes worth of fuel left in his tanks. Despite this, he did not hesitate to join the battle. It took seven Japanese planes to shoot him down and as he parachuted out of the wreckage, he was machine-gunned.
Basa was given the Silver Star Medal and an air base in Floridablanca, Pampanga was named after him.
Captain Jose Cabalfin Calugas, first Filipino to be awarded the WWII Medal of Honor
Born in the farming town of Barangay Tagsing in Iloilo, Calugas knew firsthand the importance of fighting for independence. His town was one of the major areas for the resistance movement during the Japanese occupation. He enlisted right away as part of the Philippine Scouts in 1930 where he trained until 1940.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the scouts learned that they will be deployed to fight against the Japanese. Calugas’ unit, the 88th Field Artillery Battalion, was eventually assigned to Bataan. On January 6, 1942, Calugas was going about his duties as the designated mess sergeant that day who prepares the day’s meals, when he noticed that one of his unit's guns had been silenced and its crew killed. Without second thoughts, he ran the 1,000 yards across the shell-swept area to organize a squad of volunteers who returned Japanese artillery fire. It was even said that he manned a 75-mm cannon by himself, destroying 60 advancing opponent vehicles.
The battle went on for rest of the afternoon while Calugas and his squad maintained their positions. During this time, other soldiers had time to dig in and defend the line. It was a victory for the Americans and Filipinos but months later, Bataan surrendered and Calugas was one of the men who took part in the Bataan Death March. He was herded with other prisoners at Cam O’Donnell in Tarlac until he was released in January 1943. He was assigned to be a laborer in a Japanese rice mill but there, he secretly joined a guerilla unit, 227 Old Bronco. He later participated in the attack against the Japanese garrison at Karangalan. When the Philippines was finally liberated, he was awarded the WWII Medal of Honor, the first Filipino to receive the award.
In his later years, he moved to the US and when he died in the late ‘90s, he donated his medal to a museum in Texas.
Agueda Kahabagan, general of the Katipunan
She may not be a household name, but Agueda Kahabagan is the equivalent of Joan of Arc for Tagalog revolutionaries. Not much is known about her background but it has been noted that she is a native of Santa Cruz, Laguna.
Because of her skill in battle, she was named a general. It was General Pio del Pilar who recommended her promotion to Emilio Aguinaldo, who formally recognized her as a general either on January 4th or April 6th of 1899. In fact, she is the only known general of the armed forces of Katipunan which was recorded in their rosters during their meetings in 1899.
One of her fiercest battles took place in San Pablo, Laguna in October 1897 when they attacked a Spanish garrison under the command of General Artemio Ricarte. She is known in battles for dressing in white and arming herself with rifles and bolos.
During the American occupation, she continued to fight for independence. Miguel Malvar commissioned her to lead detachment forces and General Pio del Pilar also joined her to fight against the Americans in the Southern Tagalog region. She was caught by American forces in January 1902 and what happened to her after that remained a mystery.
Isabelo Del Rosario, independence fighter and musician
Born in San Fernando, Pampanga on July 8, 1878, Del Rosario had always been interested in music. He became known as a violin player who often played the popular danzas and kundimans. It was probably his harana skills that won him the heart of Emilia Abad Santos y Basco, sister of Supreme Court Justice Jose Abad Santos. The young couple had two sons named Pastor and Agapito.
Del Rosario was still in his teens when he joined Katipunan, where he eventually became a captain. When the Americans arrived in the Philippines under the guise of benevolent assimilation, Del Rosario was one of the prominent figures who were opposed to their presence. He was even known to have said, “Den ela sasaup… Sasakup la,” which means “They did not come here to help, but to conquer.”
Captain Del Rosario, or Kapitan Bikong, as he was more commonly known, fought against these new conquistadors, together with other Kapampangans. At one point, he was offered amnesty by the American government but he did not accept this.
After years of resistance, he was finally caught in Sapa Libutad in Mexico Town, Pampanga. Shortly after, he was sentenced to death by hanging. He was only 22 years old. On April 12, 1902, the day of his execution, he was granted one final wish by the Americans: that he can play his violin for one last time. He played “Danza Habanera de Filipina” as he walked towards the gallows. After the song, he smashed the violin at the foot of the gallows and met his end.