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).
Learn more about Aguinaldo, Emilio with a free trial on Britannica.com.
As a young boy, Aguinaldo received basic education from his great-aunt and later attended the town's elementary school. In 1880, he took up his secondary course education at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, which he quit on his third year to return home instead to help his widowed mother manage their farm.
At the age of 17, Emilio was elected cabeza de barangay of Binakayan, the most progressive barrio of Cavite El Viejo. He held this position serving for his town-mates for eight years. He also engaged in inter-island shipping, travelling as far south as the Sulu Archipelago.
In 1893, the Maura Law was passed to reorganize town governments with the aim of making them more effective and autonomous, changing the designation of town head from gobernadorcillo to capitan municipal effective 1895. On January 1, 1895, Aguinaldo was elected town head, becoming the first person to hold the title of capitan municipal of Cavite El Viejo.
Several of Aguinaldo's descendants became prominent political figures in their own right. A grandnephew, Cesar Virata, served as Prime Minister of the Philippines from 1981 to 1986. Aguinaldo's granddaughter, Ameurfina Herrera, served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1979 until 1992.
In 1895, Aguinaldo joined the Katipunan rebellion, a secret organization then led by Andrés Bonifacio (whom later was killed by Lazaro Macapagal, upon Aguinaldo's orders), dedicated to the expulsion of the Spanish and independence of the Philippines through armed force. He joined as a lieutenant under Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo and rose to the rank of general in a few months. 30,000 members of the Katipunan launched an attack against the Spanish colonizers in the same week. Only one general, Emilio Aguinaldo, successfully launched an attack with his troops. With the Katipunan, he helped the Philippines erupt in revolt against the Spaniards in 1896. He won major victories in Cavite Province, temporarily driving the Spanish out of the area. However, renewed Spanish military pressure compelled the rebels to restructure their forces in a more cohesive manner. The insulated fragmentation that had aided the Katipunan's secrecy had outlived its usefulness. In open war, unified leadership was required.
Bonifacio presided over the Tejeros Convention in Tejeros, Cavite (deep in Aguinaldo territory) to elect a revolutionary government in place of the Katipunan on March 22, 1897. Away from his power base, Bonifacio unexpectedly lost the leadership to Aguinaldo, and was elected instead to the office of Secretary of the Interior. Even this was questioned by an Aguinaldo supporter, claiming Bonifacio had not the necessary schooling for the job. Insulted, Bonifacio declared the Convention null and void, and sought to return to his power base in Rizal. Bonifacio was charged, tried and found guilty of treason (in absentia) by a Cavite military tribunal. Bonifacio was sentenced to death. He and his party were intercepted by Aguinaldo's men, with violence that left Bonifacio mortally wounded. Aguinaldo confirmed the death sentence, and the dying Bonifacio was hauled to the mountains of Maragondon in Cavite, and executed on May 10, 1897, even as Aguinaldo and his forces were retreating in the face of Spanish assault.
However, thousands of other Katipuneros continued to fight the Revolution against Spain for a sovereign nation. Unlike Aguinaldo who came from a privileged background, the bulk of these fighters were peasants and workers who were not willing to settle for 'indemnities.'
In early 1898, war broke out between Spain and the United States. Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines in May 1898. He immediately resumed revolutionary activities against the Spaniards, now receiving verbal encouragement from emissaries of the United States.
On the night of February 4, 1899, a Filipino was shot by an American sentry. This incident is considered the beginning of the Philippine-American War, and open fighting soon broke out between American troops and pro-independence Filipinos. Superior American firepower drove Filipino troops away from the city, and the Malolos government had to move from one place to another.
Aguinaldo led resistance to the Americans, then retreated to northern Luzon with the Americans on his trail. On June 2, 1899, a telegram from Aguinaldo was received by Gen. Antonio Luna, an arrogant but brilliant general and looming rival in the military hierarchy, ordering him to proceed to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija for a meeting at the Cabanatuan Church Convent. However, treachery was afoot, as Aguinaldo felt the need to rid himself of this new threat to power. Three days later (June 5), when Luna arrived, he learned Aguinaldo was not at the appointed place. As Gen. Luna was about to depart, he was shot, then stabbed to death by Aguinaldo's men. Luna was later buried in the churchyard, and Aguinaldo made no attempt to punish or even discipline Luna's murderers.
Less than two years later, after the famous Battle of Tirad Pass with the death of Gregorio del Pilar, one of his most trusted generals, Aguinaldo was captured in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901 by US General Frederick Funston, with the help of Macabebe trackers (who saw Aguinaldo as a bigger problem than the Americans). The American task force gained access to Aguinaldo's camp by pretending to be captured prisoners.
Funston later noted Aguinaldo's "dignified bearing", "excellent qualities," and "humane instincts." Of course, Funston was writing this after Aguinaldo had volunteered to swear fealty to the United States, if only his life was spared. Aguinaldo pledged allegiance to America on April 1, 1901, formally ending the First Republic and recognizing the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippines. Nevertheless, many others (like Miguel Malvar and Macario Sakay) continued to resist the American occupation.
|Prime Minister||Apolinario Mabini||January 21 - May 7, 1899|
|Pedro Paterno||May 7 - November 13, 1899|
|Minister of Finance||Mariano Trias||January 21 - May 7, 1899|
|Hugo Ilagan||May 7 - November 13, 1899|
|Minister of the Interior||Teodoro Sandico||January 21 - May 7, 1899|
|Severino de las Alas||May 7 - November 13, 1899|
|Minister of War||Baldomero Aguinaldo||January 21 - May 7, 1899|
|Mariano Trias||May 7 - November 13, 1899|
|Minister of Welfare||Gracio Gonzaga||January 21 - May 7, 1899|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs||Apolinario Mabini||January 21 - May 7, 1899|
|Felipe Buencamino||May 7 - November 13, 1899|
|Minister of Public Instruction||Aguedo Velarde||1899|
|Minister of Public Works and Communications||Maximo Paterno||1899|
|Minister of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce||Leon Ma. Guerrero||May 7 - November 13, 1899|
During the United States occupation, Aguinaldo organized the Asociación de los Veteranos de la Revolución (Association of Veterans of the Revolution), which worked to secure pensions for its members and made arrangements for them to buy land on installment from the government.
When the American government finally allowed the Philippine flag to be displayed in 1919, Aguinaldo transformed his home in Kawit into a monument to the flag, the revolution and the declaration of Independence. His home still stands, and is known as the Aguinaldo Shrine.
Aguinaldo retired from public life for many years. In 1935, when the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established in preparation for Philippine independence, he ran for president but lost by a landslide to fiery Spanish mestizo Manuel L. Quezon. The two men formally reconciled in 1941, when President Quezon moved Flag Day to June 12, to commemorate the proclamation of Philippine independence.
Aguinaldo again retired to private life, until the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War II. He cooperated with the Japanese, making speeches, issuing articles and infamous radio addresses in support of the Japanese — including a radio appeal to Gen. Douglas MacArthur on Corregidor to surrender in order to spare the innocence of the Filipino youth.
After the Americans retook the Philippines, Aguinaldo was arrested along with several others accused of collaboration with the Japanese. He was held in Bilibid prison for months until released by presidential amnesty. In his trial, it was eventually deemed that his collaboration with the Japanese was probably made under great duress, and he was released.
Aguinaldo lived to see independence granted to the Philippines July 4, 1946, when the United States Government granted full recognition of Philippine independence in accordance with the Tydings–McDuffie Act of 1934. He was 93 when President Diosdado Macapagal officially changed the date of independence from July 4 to June 12, 1898, the date Aguinaldo believed to be the true Independence Day. During the independence parade at the Luneta, the 93-year old general carried the flag he raised in Kawit.
He was given Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa by the University of the Philippines in 1953.
In 1962, when the United States rejected Philippine claims for the destruction wrought by American forces in World War II, president Diosdado Macapagal changed the celebration of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12. Aguinaldo rose from his sickbed to attend the celebration of independence 64 years after he declared it.
Aguinaldo died on February 6, 1964 of coronary thrombosis at the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Quezon City. He was 94 years old. His remains are buried at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite. When he died, he was the last surviving non-royal head of state (self-proclaimed) to have served in the 19th century.
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