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This Warlord of Tarlac Was a Poet and a Revolutionary Hero

La Paz’s Francisco Makabulos protected Central Luzon against the Spanish and the Americans.
IMAGE WIKIPEDIA
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Every town has its folk heroes. In a nation like ours, where almost all of our history is spent in conflict, it’s impossible not to have one. The province of Tarlac is no exception.

Some names famously come from the Melting Pot of Central Luzon. The Cojuangco-Aquino clan still commands respect from Luisita to Concepcion through its hacienda; the indomitable Senator Eva Kalaw came from Murcia; Capas was the home town of Bernabe Buscayno, founder of the New People’s Army. But few can hold a candle to the province’s original folk hero, La Paz’s Francisco Makabulos.

Photo by WIKIPEDIA.
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Born on September 17, 1871 to writer Alejandro Makabulos and Gregoria Soliman, Makabulos had the makings of a writer: His mother taught him the alphabet while his father nurtured his interest, letting him read Spanish classics or contemporary corridos.

As a young man, Makabulos found himself writing plays in his native languages. His Kapampangan works found an audience in Tarlac, while his Tagalog plays were frequently performed in Nueva Ecija.

He also found success in local politics, becoming teniente de mayor and eventually cabeza de barangay of La Paz. He became the fiscal of his local parish, too. Life was good for Makabulos.

At some point in 1895, however, Makabulos met Ladislao Diwa and joined the local Katipunan chapter in Tarlac. His life changed from sedentary playwright to revolutionary. Makabulos quickly busied himself with organizing. He had a knack for lying in wait and preparing his cards before striking.

His careful planning proved to be vital. On August 23, 1896, Andres Bonifacio sounded the Cry of Balintawak, and with it, the start of the Revolution. Nearby Nueva Ecija would follow suit in September. Makabulos, however, decided to wait and see how events would unfold in other provinces.

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Photo by WIKIPEDIA.

On January 24, 1897, he found the perfect opportunity. Makabulos and his men seized the cuartel of the Spanish garrison in La Paz and raided the armory. The timing was perfect—Spanish troops were spread thin in Cavite and Bulacan and recent battles in Pateros and Kakarong de Sili meant no substantial force could be mounted.

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The Katipunan spread quickly all over the province and even beyond it. By June, Aguinaldo appointed Makabulos as Brigadier-General. His swift planning and movement allowed him to spread from Tarlac to nearby Pampanga. The Spaniards responded by appointing General Ricardo Monet as zone commander in Pampanga.

Monet proved to be a fierce rival to Makabulos. The American managed to gain early victories against the general, pushing back the revolutionaries across Tarlac. However, Makabulos was able to regroup and defeat him in a decisive battle in Mt. Kamansi. Makabulos also scored victories in Dagupan, Pangasinan, Tarlac City, and San Rafael, Bulacan.

Makabulos settled in Mt. Arayat. Events outside of his control changed the course of Revolution, however, as Aguinaldo signed a truce in Biak-na-Bato, surrendering and choosing exile over struggle.

Aguinaldo called on his generals to lay down their arms and join the ceasefire: They’ll fight another day, he promised. Some generals did. Others, like Emilio Jacinto and Macario Sakay, were distrustful of the Spanish and didn’t. Makabulos was part of the latter, but he had other plans, as well.

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Though unconvinced, he took the amnesty amounting to P14,000 and “disbanded” his troops. In truth, he began to work underground. With the help of Fr. Gregorio Aglipay, he began to organize in secret, just as he did before. Aglipay assisted in procuring arms while Makabulos set out to appoint councils and create a revolutionary committee. By April 12, 1897, he and his fellow revolutionaries were ready.

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Makabulos quickly resumed operations and established a Provisional Revolutionary Government, appointing himself as president and Aglipay as vice president. Representatives from Ilocos, La Union, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Zambales, and Nueva Ecija convened and drafted a constitution, effectively creating a state in Central and Northern Luzon.

Makabulos had no intention of holding onto power, however. The Makabulos Constitution was drafted with a provision specifically dissolving the government upon the creation of a more suitable one.

The Makabulos government lasted all of one month. Makabulos dissolved the provisional government upon Aguinaldo’s return on May 19 and rejoined his ranks. On May 24, Aguinaldo established the First Philippine Republic in Malolos, and Makabulos was one of the signatories of the Constitution.

Makabulos continued to fight in the Revolution and contended with the American invasion, as well. Makabulos held the Central Luzon region, an important chokepoint between the mountains of Northern Luzon and the urban sprawl of Manila. However, American tactics and force of arms proved to be superior, and they slowly made their advance toward Pampanga and Tarlac.

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Aside from the Americans, Makabulos contended with another faction: the religious Guardia de Honor, fanatics who fought against the Revolution and sought to create their own order. Unable to comprehend the deeper struggle between the peasants, which comprised the Guardia, and the inequalities of his contemporary society, Makabulos tried his best to contain the threat by diverting military resources to fighting them.

This diversion allowed the Americans to defeat Makabulos and take Central Luzon. These defeats, along with Aguinaldo’s assassination of Antonio Luna and widespread demoralization, made Makabulos waver. Ultimately, the birth of his fourth son Paz convinced him to surrender. On June 5, 1900, Francisco Makabulos surrendered in Sitio Tangadan, Labney, Mayantoc, Tarlac.

Photo by WIKIPEDIA.
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Makabulos then lived the life of a typical former revolutionary: He was given a position in the new American government and became municipal president of his home town of La Paz. He went back to writing, producing the plays Uldarico and Rosario. On April 30, 1922, after a bout of pneumonia, he passed away. Thus ended the storied career of the poet-warrior of Tarlac.

Sources:

Talambuhay ni Francisco Makabulos. Pinoy Edition.

Remembering the Zenith of Tarlac Nationalism: A Tribute to the Valor of Gen. Francisco Makabulos. National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Guerrero, M. (2015) Luzon at War: Contradictions in Philippine Society; 1898-1902. Anvil Publishing.

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Justin Umali
Justin is left-handed, left-leaning, and best left in a cool, damp place. He listens to Vampire Weekend when he's down and Car Seat Headrest when he's not. He usually writes about Philippine history and politics, and believes that you cannot change the world without understanding it first.
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