Pinaglabanan, then and now







Aug. 30 was a special non-working holiday in the City of San Juan, as ordered by the President.

The wordings of Presidential Proclamation No. 328, "it is but fitting and proper that the people of the City of San Juan be given the full opportunity to participate in the occasion and enjoy the celebration,” embody how special this day is. Indeed, we take pride in what happened on Aug. 30, 1896—the Battle of San Juan del Monte.

That momentous Sunday in 1896 is considered as the first major battle of the Philippine Revolution when the Katipuneros led by Andres Bonifacio attacked the El Polvorin, the gun powder storage of the Spaniards, armed only with bolos.

The failure in El Polvorin did not deter our forefathers as they proceeded to storm El Deposito, the underground water reservoir in 1800s. Outgunned, the “Mga Anak ng Bayan” were fatally defeated. Estimates say 150 were killed, 200 held captive, many hundreds more were wounded, and captured leaders eventually executed. 

But the defeat in the Battle of Pinaglabanan only strengthened the resolve of the Filipinos and sparked widespread revolts that paved the way for Philippine Independence. 
It all started in Pinaglabanan. That is why, San Juaneños always echo, “Walang kalayaan kung walang Pinaglabanan.”

More than a century later, under our Makabagong San Juan administration, we have embarked on a major improvement for San Juan’s historical significance and cultural heritage to be more known not only in the Philippines but also all over the world.  

We started it by improving and rehabilitating Pinaglabanan Shrine in 2019.

San Juan would not be complete without El Deposito because of its historical significance in the Philippine revolution against Spain, up to the Philippine-American War, including World War II against Imperial Japan. The walls of El Deposito are silent witnesses to the stories of our fight for freedom.  It is also one of the largest remaining Spanish artifacts in the world which is in the midst of our city. So, on Nov. 30, 2021, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the City Government of San Juan opened to the public the El Deposito tunnel and museum, with no less than President Rodrigo Duterte as its first guest.

During the 125th Independence Day celebration last June 12, we inaugurated the newly transferred monuments of three of our great heroes—Gat Andres Bonifacio, Gen. Emilio Jacinto, and Dr. Jose Rizal.  Their statues made by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo, were transferred, by virtue of the approval of NHCP and city ordinances, from their original locations to the hallowed grounds of Pinaglabanan Shrine where Filipinos and foreign visitors could pay better homage and reverence to the heroes of Philippine Independence. 
With San Juan as part of the Department of Tourism’s Hop On, Hop Off Bus program, soon to rise in Pinaglabanan Shrine complex is a Tourist Rest Area—a convergence point serving as an information center, a pasalubong center, and a help desk with lounges, clean restrooms, and cellphone charging areas for foreign and local tourists.

One hundred twenty-seven years since that pivotal day in San Juan Del Monte, as a testament to our continuing efforts to boost historical tourism in our city, First Lady Louise “Liza” Araneta-Marcos honored us with her presence in our celebration of Pinaglabanan Day with a big surprise blessing of ₱2,000,000 from President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as additional cash prizes for the grand winners of our Experience Makabagong San Juan photo and video contest. 

The First Lady, with Sec. Christina Frasco, Deputy Speaker Duke Frasco, PNP Chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda, NHCP Chairman Emmanuel Calairo, Representative Bel Zamora, and myself also unveiled the markers of the monuments of Bonifacio, Jacinto, and Rizal. 

What started in Pinaglabanan in 1896 now continues in our Makabagong San Juan, where history and innovative governance converge.  It is only our hope that in the very near future, all roads will once again lead back to our city, not only to remember the valuable lessons that history teaches us but more so, to celebrate today’s unprecedented gains.

I welcome my readers to this space, hoping to address issues that are not only organic in San Juan but more so to your lives as metro residents. As Metro Manila Council president, I wear another hat that not only seeks to improve the lives of the San Juaneños but also to address our shared concerns (and yes, problems) as urban dwellers who dream of a better Metro Manila for all.

(Mayor Francis Zamora of the City of San Juan is the president of the Metro Manila Council, the chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council, the vice chairman of the Regional Development Council, and the regional representative of the National Capital Region in the League of Cities of the Philippines.)