It is really fascinating when the past is retrieved through reading primary sources such as biographies, letters, and eye-witness accounts as they give substantial information and animate a dry historical narrative.
Regina Malabanan Vda. de Zuño, a Lipeña and later a resident of the town of Rosario, Batangas, shares with us a vivid and compelling story of how she witnessed General Malvar’s surrender to the American troops in Batangas in 1902.
Probably, I am one (if not the only one) of the surviving persons outside the Malvar clan who was fortunate enough to witness the surrender of that brave, courageous, and hardy general, General Miguel Malvar, to the American Army in 1902. This event is of much importance in Philippine history for it closed the curtain to the Fil-American hostilities and paved the way for educational and political progress in the Philippines.
It is my desire to invite the attention of historians to the facts I mention herein, with special emphasis on the specific place of General Malvar's surrender. I personally vouch for the truth of these facts as I was actually with the General from the time the Americans were in the hottest campaign after him, to the time of his actual capture and later his formal surrender.
How I happened to be with him in spite of being a very young girl at the time would seem ridiculous. For who would ever believe that I would be in the thick of battle, confusion, and complication. The story started this way.
When the news about the coming of the Americans spread like wildfire, it struck fear and terror into the hearts of the people, especially in Batangas. The wounds inflicted by the Spaniards were not yet healed by time. The people's hatred and ill-feeling towards them were not yet abated. No wonder, the coming of the next set of "White Conquerors" who might prove to be as rude and cruel was a cause for alarm. My widowed mother, Marta Dimayuga, immediately evacuated us, four children: Manuel (11 years old), Pacita (12), Regina (9), and Hermogenes (1) to her land in barrio Maugat, Rosario, Batangas. I was a little girl of nine. It was in this barrio where I saw Gen. Malvar very often for he was in constant contact with my mother. Mother was fondly called "Capitanang Marta" by General Malvar's men on account of her direct and indirect participation in the hostilities against the Americans. At the time, the General had his insurgent units and headquarters in the wilderness of Mount Malarayat between Lipa and his hometown, Sto. Tomás. My mother, in spite of her sex, braved the risks and perils of death and capture by the enemy and performed espionage missions in Lipa. Armed with a spirit of patriotism and nationalism kindled by her hatred for the Spaniards, she often disguised as a merchant. She would go with a train of three or more pack horses, accompanied by three servants. She brought vegetables, fruits, and other farm products to Lipa, Batangas. With her earnings, she would buy food, medicine, and other supplies for Gen. Malvar's men. At the same time, she conveyed secret reports about enemy activities from prominent persons whom she contacted in Lipa like Don Luis Luna, Don Engracio Buquir, Don Cipriano Kalaw, Don Melecio Bolaños, Don Gregorio Katigbak, Don Catalino Dimayuga, and others. The General, escorted by some bodyguards, everyone on horseback, used to contact my mother after every trip she took to and from Lipa very eager for reports and news about war developments there and in the suburbs.
The Americans, desirous for the immediate capture of the slippery Filipino General, resorted to the "ZONA" system, a method which strictly ordered all people of Lipa and surrounding towns to concentrate in the town proper, with a stern warning that anybody found outside this declared zone would be shot. My mother's hatred and dislike for the whites caused her to decide to join Gen. Malvar instead of getting into a zona. Accompanied by two soldiers, one of them a certain Villegas from Sto. Tomás, sent by the General to act as our guides and guards, we left our place and began our long hazardous trek towards Gen. Malvar’s command post.
When we left Maugat, our group was composed of my mother, we, four children, the two soldiers sent by Gen. Malvar, their wives, and their children. When we were within the dense wilderness in the mountain, we accidentally came upon an enemy patrol. My mother who was wearing a gaban, an official coat of an insurrecto, to warm herself against the cool air of the forest, was mistaken for an insurgent. Our group immediately dispersed but shots were continuously fired at us. When the smoke cleared, I took a sly look behind the bushes and saw that my elder sister and brother were killed and my mother wounded in her thigh and leg. The American bawled the Macabebes for shooting my mother and her children. The head of the patrol ordered the decent burial of my brother and sister, first aid for my mother, who was then carried on a hammock and taken away. That was the beginning of our separation from our mother.
The two soldier guides disappeared. Luckily, their wives and children, my brother Hermogenes and I, escaped detection by the patrol. Again, we were on our uncertain way. We looked for food and water, but providence probably kept us alive. Fortunately, we were located by another set of two soldiers sent by General Malvar to look for us. One of them was a certain Baccay of Sto. Tomás. When we were brought to Gen. Malvar’s camp, with eager open arms and tears in their eyes, the General and his wife embraced us. They took pity on us for the sad fate that befell us two and my other brother, my sister, and my mother. Since then, we were with the Malvar family who counted us as their own children.
One might say that the General did not put dignity on his position because, contrary to military ethics that should be observed by a military leader, Gen. Malvar never parted with his family. His patriotic devotion to his noble purpose and mission did not in any way diminish his love for his family. The exigencies of the times probably justified his act.He directed operations while he cared for his family. When the Americans were too hot on our whereabouts, he finally desired to abandon his headquarters.
Our group was composed of the General and his wife and their seven children; Gen. Mariano Noriel, my brother and I, male servants as “cargadores” and some soldiers. Although we were practically always on the run, he was able to direct operations by his remaining units through his dispersed officers who contacted him on the way. In that hasty retreat, I can still picture him carrying his sickly child, Mariquita, nicknamed Union, on his shoulder while he held his cane with the other hand. This cane was lost during one of the hurried movements.
That long chase brought us to a stiff, long mountain range in the border between Rosario and Lobo, around 50 kilometers from our starting point. It was in this mountain where we experienced all the trials and tribulations of being hunted, testing probably how long we could endure in order to survive. Weary and exhausted by that long journey, subsisting only on a little rice left, wild fruits, and root crop, we could see further weakening and emaciation of our already worn-out bodies. We walked by night and rested by day, most of the time, to avoid detection by the enemy, danger from wild animals, and trouble from the “limatica” (leeches). Worst was the malaria which made prey of all of us. We were protected at times from the hot sky by day or the cold mountain air at night by a crude shelter of a few leaves of the “damoyaca” palm or a roofing of thin blankets. These could not however prevent the penetration of torrential rains. These factors brought extreme frustrations to us. In this place, General Noriel, who was very sick, was captured by an enemy patrol. Those patrols which were lurking around us added more tortures to our troubled minds. We were always tense. We jumped at every unusual noise. We appeared like nomadic, primitive people, moving from one place to another, spending a few days in one place in order to avoid capture or annihilation. The General began to feel that his family and the rest of the group could no longer withstand the ordeals.
One day he sent his godson, a certain Vicente, equipped with a white handkerchief tied to a pole, to Lipa, conveying a message offering the surrender of his family but not himself. The Americans then knowing our location, immediately organized a large camp for a large detachment, with plenty of supplies, in barrio Balugbog, Rosario, for a major operation. In spite of our nearness to that camp, its commanding officer, instead of sending an armed patrol to subjugate the General by force of arms, sent emissaries to Gen. Malvar to convince him to lay down his arms and surrender peacefully. The emissaries were Don Luis Luna, Don Engracio Buquir, Don Gregorio Katigbak, Don Cipriano Kalaw, and others. The General was barefooted and in rolled up pants when he received them. They remained in serious huddle for almost two hours. Finally, he gave way. Probably the circumstances in which he was, the convincing words of the emissaries, the futility of further resistance against a very superior enemy, his solicitude for the welfare of his family, and the promises of the Americans in consideration for his surrender, weighed so much that the General could not resist them. These finally overwhelmed his patriotic determination of “No surrender.” He then issued orders to his remaining units to surrender.
In the best clothes that we could avail ourselves of, we were led by the General towards the enemy’s cantonment. When we entered the camp in single file, we passed between two rows of American soldiers, probably formed purposely for the reception of the surrendering General. As soon as the tail of our line had passed, the Americans broke ranks and they all shouted with glee at the top of their voices, rejoicing for it meant an accomplishment of their mission. Then they crowded around us handing us chocolate candies. That was the first time I saw and tasted American candies.
I failed to notice how the General was actually received. Most likely he was accorded a reception befitting his rank for, when we took our first hearty meal on the dining tables fully laden with delicious food purposely prepared for us, the General was not there. Even so, that was not the actual surrender of Gen. Malvar ------ in Barrio Balugbog, Rosario, Batangas, on April 16, 1902.
About sunset, we were all accompanied on a convoy of calesas bound for Lipa in order to present Gen. Malvar formally to Gen. Bell in that town. We were escorted on both sides by a detachment of American cavalrymen. When we entered Lipa, we were greeted with shouts of joy by the Filipinos and Americans alike. Our American escorts shouted “Ako Malvar, ako Malvar” (I am Malvar, I am Malvar). There was happiness on the faces of the Filipinos, for peace would reign again, and once more they would enjoy the privilege of free movement. For the Americans, there was jubilation, too, because this day marked the end of the bloody conflict and American authority could then be established. General Malvar was received royally by the Americans headed by Gen. Bell.
The whole Malvar family was intact: the General, his wife Mrs. Paula Maloles-Malvar, their children (Bernabe, Aurelia, Marciano, Maximo, Crispin, Mariquita, and Constancia). Because my brother Hermogenes and I were former residents of Lipa (my father, Salvador Malabanan, mother, Marta Dimayuga, and we, four children, were born and baptized there), we had relatives in that town. They came to claim us and we were again united with my mother. My brother and I then parted ways from the Malvars.
It was then that I learned that my mother who was wounded was brought to and confined in an army hospital in Tiaong. When she got well, she was considered probably as having entered the ZONA and, therefore, released and brought to Lipa. She related that she was almost driven insane because she could not determine the fate that happened to me and my brother. She knew that we were alive only when we entered Lipa with Gen. Malvar.
Up to the present and on account of my age, I have no chance to have a reunion with the remaining Malvar children except Aurelia, who I happened to meet during election campaigns in favor of her famous husband, Governor Feliciano Leviste of Batangas.
Gen. Malvar’s picture in the papers, memoirs, and books is a true replica of his actual and natural image. I cannot forget his braided beard. His stern commanding facial expression typifies that of a military leader. Some have asked if he really displayed unusual powers by virtue of his amulets. I should say, he did. My curiosity was attracted often to his unique behavior which made me ponder once in a while. I can cite a few. No matter how tight the situations were, he was never alarmed even in the nearness or approach of enemies. Many times, we were cornered by a tight cordon of soldiers, so near that we could hear them talk. But how in the world could we be able to slip through unnoticed, then dispersed widely yet could always be reunited? That has been perplexing me up to the present. At another instant, my brother had his nose bleeding. The General merely put a small medal into his mouth and the bleeding stopped. And there were many more which I cannot enumerate in this narration. All of his powers might have been bestowed upon him on account of his deep religious devotion. I recall that he never parted with a small statuette and a thin piece of wooden board whereon pictures and prayers of the "Quince Misteriosos" (Fifteen Mysteries) were painted and printed.
When I was married to my late husband, Ysabelo Zuño, an insurgent officer himself, eight years after that surrender, the General and his wife were our sponsors. The best wedding gifts among others they gave us were the following sayings which they advised us to bear in mind always: 1. "Ang salapi ay madaling hanapin, ngunit mahirap ipunin.” (Money is easy to earn, but hard to save.) 2. “Ang tao kahit mayaman, ay dapat mag-arimuhanan.” (A person no matter how rich should be economical.) 3. “Ikaw, babae, ang ilaw ng tahanan na dapat magingat ng susi ng pamamahay.” (You, woman, are the light of the home, who should be its custodian.)
Special thanks to Gabriel Malvar, General Miguel Malvar’s great-grandson, for sharing with us a copy of Regina Malabanan Vda . de Zuño’s ” I Witnessed the Surrender of General Malvar“, featured in the Grade School Magazine for Public School Teachers, 1964.