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Advent Calendar Day 10: Ilustrados and the Treaty of Paris 1898

Following an uneasy lull in the battlefields, some prominent Ilustrados such as Pedro Paterno negotiate a cease-fire, only to have the aborted Revolution resume in 1898 when the United States enters the fray and transports Aguinaldo from his exile in Hong Kong back to Cavite. Sensing the battle lost, the Spanish peninsulares surrender to the Yanquis and come to formal terms with America through the Treaty of Paris. When the Yankees show signs of a permanent occupation, many Ilustrados align themselves with the Revolutionary Forces. Fighting desperately to gain international recognition as an independent Republic, the Aguinaldo Government sends its brightest Ilustrados on diplomatic missions to Washington and Paris. As a long-time member of the Filipino community in Paris, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo is elected one of the three councilors in the Propaganda Committee headed by Jose Ramirez as part of the machinery set up by Felipe Agoncillo.
It is not all heroic work for the Filipino delegation and Felix Roxas’ recollections include the following:
“The arrival of these officials in Paris was the motive of frequent reunions, because all the friends of the Filipino colony rivaled each other in furnishing lavish entertainment in honor of the visitors. In the theaters, in the driveways of the suburbs, in the Ville Armenon, and in the Café de Paris, the Filipinos became known for their distinctive and pleasant appearance.
On the eve of the day of departure of the members of the Commission, a farewell ball was held in their honor at the Square Hotel near the Plaza Montholon, which was graced by the presence of many Parisian young ladies whose elegance and beautiful countenance diffused happiness to all…the evening party was brilliant and magnificent. A special kind of phonograph furnished the music. The affair was made more enjoyable by the presence of a tableful of delicious food, which the guests ate, and by the uncorking of bottles of vintage champagne to quench their thirst.
The ball did not taper off until the guests of honor said they were satisfied; then they bade farewell by carrying a Japanese lantern and marching around the room. This is the way such farewell parties end in France.”
All that frivolity does not prevent the Americans from gaining official control over the Philippines, the Spanish ceding the archipelago to the United States for 20 million dollars. A good number of Filipino Ilustrados resist the new colonizer. But all is not well within the Revolutionary Forces. Antonio Luna, now a general in Aguinaldo’s army, is ruthlessly assassinated by Aguinaldo’s men. His brother Juan is in Paris working to obtain legitimacy for the Aguinaldo Government.
Felix Roxas: “The Filipino delegates had to retreat to Hong Kong so that the Paris panel was reduced to Agoncillo and Luna who worked in accordance with the orders of the Hong Kong Committee. Luna assumed the duty of informing Agoncillo of the news gathered from the press, specially from the ‘Paris Herald’, published in both English and French, which had a section devoted to the military operations of the American troops in the Philippines. Everyday, at 11:30 am, Luna reported in his office at L’Havana Hotel, located at no.4 Rue de Trevise, to consolidate all the news of the day after the two had read and commented on them, and then proceeded to the house of the Filipino dentist, Vergel de Dios, at no.6 Rue Chantilly, where the majority of the Filipino colony living in the area usually took their lunch and supper.
One morning, Luna failed to arrive on time and when he appeared later, he was disconcerted, out of temper, and tear-stained. Asking him what had happened he gave the copy of the Herald and said: “My poor brother, my dear Antonio, has been assassinated!’
The pain this bit of news produced in that big soul in the heart of an artist and patriot, was evident by his facial expression – at times dejected, at other times menacing.
From that time on, he changed his way of life. He appeared as usual at the Vergel de Dios house to eat, it was true, but he spent his leisure time in the fencing salons which he had frequented in the past.
…From that time on, Luna stopped being the constant companion of Agoncillo. They separated…For certain, when his countrymen in Paris bade the painter farewell at the railroad station, [Luna was going to Hong Kong to take his son back with him] somebody had said: ‘Don Juan, for the sake of our country, do not try to avenge the death of Antonio.’” Juan Luna’s personal journey ends when he suffers a fatal heart attack on reaching Hong Kong.
The Philippines remains in violent turmoil with hundreds of thousands killed, among these the flower of Ilustrado youth. Applying ruthless tactics learned from the American Indian Wars, such as the water-cure and the zoning method, the Americans smash all armed resistance by 1903. Ilustrado opposition to the American invaders shifts to the less violent but equally determined political front. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera sets up the Federalista Party seeking to commit the United States to future statehood for the Philippines, but the political temper of the colonized Filipinos grows towards the desire for independence.
Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo & The Generation of 1872
Alfredo Roces
Benpres Publishing