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Who Was Rafael Crame and Why Was Camp Crame Named After Him?

Rafael Crame was a talented officer in the Spanish and American colonial governments.
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In February 1986, at the height of the EDSA People Power Revolution, Camp Crame became the focal point of events as then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then-AFP Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel V. Ramos consolidated their forces at the police headquarters. These days, any mention of “Crame” automatically brings to mind the Philippine National Police Headquarters, but hardly anyone remembers who it was named after and why. 

Rafael Perez de Tagle Crame, was the first Filipino chief of police in the Philippines, which, at the time, was called Philippine Constabulary. He was the grandson of the former governor-general of the Philippines, Joaquín Rafael de Crame, who ruled the country in 1835. 

According to historian and National Artist Virgilio Almario, Crame attended Ateneo Municipal de Manila, and then enrolled at the military academy in Spain from 1879 up to 1881. Crame was serving in the Spanish colonial government when the Philippine Revolution broke out in 1896. He joined the Spanish volunteers to fight against Filipinos. According to Almario, he served as rose in rank as private, corporal, and then sergeant under the Spanish forces from 1896 to 1898. 

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The Spanish government recognized his bravery and intelligence, such that he was promoted to the rank of captain. However, Crame lost his job during a major reshuffling in the Spanish armed forces in the Philippines. According to Almario, the Spanish colonial government only retained four captains in the job, letting go of dozens of others, including Crame. 

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How Rafael Crame Was Recruited by the Americans

When the Americans defeated the Spaniards in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines fell to the hands of the United States after Spain ceded it for a measly sum of $20 million. But not all of the Spaniards living in the Philippines were expelled. In fact, many of them were recruited by the Americans to serve in the new colonial government. Rafael Crame was one of them. 

According to Almario, it was the Americans who established the Philippine Constabulary in 1901. An American officer by the name of Captain Alkinson invited Crame to join, but there was a catch: he would not be a captain. 

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“He started as a fourth-class inspector, but he quickly rose through the ranks as a lieutenant in 1903, captain in 1905, lieutenant colonel and deputy director in 1907, and then full colonel and deputy chief in 1924,” said Almario

Rafael Crame: First Chief of Philippine Police

The Philippine Constabulary or PC succeeded the Guardia Civil and was the forerunner of the Philippine National Police. Crame became the first Filipino chief of police in December 1917. At the time, he held the rank of brigadier general. 

As chief of police, Crame was instrumental in numerous victories against rebels and syndicates. According to Almario, his name rose above the rest when he successfully led a vigorous campaign against entrenched criminal lords in the provinces who ran crime syndicates. Crame was also instrumental in subduing a mutiny in Manila in 1921

Several years after his victory in the Manila mutiny, he died. He was buried at the La Loma Cemetery in Manila. In 2003, his remains were exhumed and transferred to the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

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Sources:

Almario, Virgilio. (2015). Sagisag Kultura (Vol 1). Manila: National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Retrieved from https://philippineculturaleducation.com.ph/crame-rafael/

Tuso, Miriam G. (2009). Rafael Crame (1863-1927): First Filipino Constabulary Chief. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20091027123347/http://geocities.com/sinupan/crame.htm

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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