OF TREES AND FOREST
By FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR
Mindanao is reeling from a series of earthquakes that has jolted the daily lives of its residents. From July 9 to October 31, six strong quakes hit the Cotabato areas, most of which originating around Tulunan, Cotabato. One of the most powerful was the 6.6 jolt on October 29 and a 6.5-magnitude quake two days later.
Unfortunately, several deaths have been reported due to these tremors in addition to billions of pesos in damage to property. Worse, the sense of security of our kababayans there has been shattered. Residents have been living in a continued state of alarm and anxiety for possible earthquakes that might hit their area.
My family and I send our sincerest commiserations to the family of those who lost their lives and to the entire communities whose lives have been affected. I urge all Filipinos to send help and offer prayers to our affected kababayans in Mindanao.
Disasters and calamities highlight the need to strengthen the capabilities of our local governments to prepare and respond for such eventualities. They are our first responders and no resources should be spared to equip them properly.
It is not just in terms of resources and politics that the imperial center lords it over the rest of the country. In history, or more specifically in the teaching of history, the perspective is almost exclusively centered in Manila or Luzon.
This is why many will probably be surprised that this week we are commemorating the 121st founding anniversary of the Republic of Negros or the Republica Cantonal de Negros, as it was called then when it was formed on November 7, 1898.
This was the culmination of the plan of the Negrense revolutionary leaders who met in Silay to orchestrate an uprising which started on November 5, 1898. Victory was swift as the Spanish forces in Negros surrendered unconditionally the following day.
According to various accounts of the uprising, Filipino forces led by Juan Araneta and Aniceto Lacson marched to Bacolod carrying fake arms consisting of rifles carved out of palm fronds and cannons of rolled bamboo mats painted black. This was apparently enough to fool the Spanish forces into capitulation.
Immediately following the liberation of Negros, a provisional revolutionary government was established with Aniceto Lacson as president. The Negrenses would later inaugurate their own independent Congress on December 26, 1898. The Republic of Negros was short-lived as American forces would occupy its capital in Bacolod in March, 1899.
In my many visits to the area, when I was still a Senator and even now when I visit Camella Homes in Bacolod, I would see the markers of these important events all around the province signifying the pride of Negrenses in their collective and historical courage against people who stand against our people’s freedom.
Unfortunately, this important historical event is glossed over when Philippine history is taught to young Filipinos. The narrative of the Philippine revolution is centered on Manila and its nearby provinces which also bravely resisted Spanish rule. It is important for us to remember and recognize the bravery of those who also gallantly fought for our freedom and independence.
Aside from Negros, several other republics were formed in Iloilo, Cuyo, and Zamboanga. I do not believe that these movements prove that we are divided and incapable of unity. On the contrary, I believe that these various revolutionary movements testify to what is common among us—love of country and the willingness to sacrifice for freedom and independence. It is also proof that local communities are best suited to respond more effectively to their own problems, be it a disaster or an occupying foreign force.