Who Was Emilio Aguinaldo?

emilio-aguinaldo Credit: Renzelle Mae Abasolo/CC-BY 2.0

Emilio Aguinaldo was the first president of the Philippine Republic. He was a general who fought in the revolution against Spain and also against the United States during its occupation.

Aguinaldo was born in 1869 on the island of Luzon. He was the son of the mayor of Kawit, and he would go on to hold this same post in 1895. In that year he also became a member of the Katipunan, an underground nationalist group dedicated to liberating the nation from Spanish occupation. During the revolution in 1896, Aguinaldo led forces to a number of victories against the Spanish and eventually asserted leadership of Katipunan.

Spanish forces eventually backed him into a corner, and he agreed to exile to Hong Kong in exchange for a large sum of money. While in Hong Kong, he used the money to purchase weapons to send back to his forces in the Philippines. He returned to the country in 1898 during the U.S. war against Spain and declared Philippine independence. The United States intended to keep the country as a territory, however. In 1899, he was installed as president by the country's constitutional convention and declared war on the United States shortly afterward. He was captured in 1901 and left public life after swearing allegiance to the United States.