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Republic of Zamboanga
A Recognition of History
Researched & written by: Zamboanga.com
The First Republic in The Philippines
May 1899 - March 1903
4 Historic Years!
Zamboanga, the ancient and beautiful City of Flowers that was founded in 1635, now acknowledged as Asia's "only" Latin City, was once declared and existed as a sovereign republic within its territory of historic existence inside a revolutionary government popularly chosen by its Chavacano citizens. It resulted from the chaos of war declared between the United States versus Spain and its territories, including its only Asian territory - The Philippines; then, the ensuing war between the Filipinos of Luzon against their former comrades of the conquering U.S. forces; followed thereafter by the battle between the Chavacanos of Zamboanga against their former allies of the ruling Spanish military, and then ultimately against the invading U.S. Army after the Zamboangueños defeated and evicted the ruling Spaniards (who lost and capitulated to the U.S. government in the Treaty of Paris). Afterwards, Gen. Alvarez declared victory and their freedom from all foreign influence by creating their historic Republic of Zamboanga on May 18, 1899.
The Republic of Zamboanga's declared sovereignty lasted from May 18, 1899 until November 16, 1899, wherein its revolutionary government and chosen President General Vicente Alvarez, who led the liberation of the Zamboangueños from the tenuous grip of the retreating Spanish military, along with his victorious military troops, exercised de facto sovereignty over administrative functions and military control within their new country territory and was not subordinate or subject to any other government or authority in the country known as Las Islas Filipinas by its former Spanish rulers, that became The Philippines under its United States conquerors and administrators (which finally resulted as the Republic of The Philippines after its eventual independence from all foreign intervention). President Alvarez proclaimed his new Republic of Zamboanga had overarching rule over the entire island of Mindanao, Basilan and Sulu - effectively the entire southern Filipinas, amidst a tri-party war between the U.S., Spain, and the Philippine islands' natives. Although President Alvarez's overarching claim was grandiose (similar in context to proclaimed Dictator/President Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo's overarching non-de facto claim for the Islands of Luzon and Visayas as the Dictatorial Government of the Philippine Revolutionary Government on June 23, 1898), his more realistic sovereignty was over the existing premises of ancient Zamboanga, which can be estimated to be about the same size as present day Zamboanga City is. Nevertheless, President Alvarez and his troops, along with the redeemed Zamboangueños, became the only citizens of the Filipinas who had complete sovereignty over their de facto jurisdiction, a feat no other Filipinos ever attained during this war, not even his northern cohort, Luzon's revolutionary Dictator/President, and General, Emilio Aguinaldo. That is a sad fact in Philippine history and we aim to correct that misrepresentation herein. Zamboanga was the first sovereign "Filipino" republic ever created in Philippine history.
A Recognition of History: Republic of Zamboanga
( May 1899 - March 1903)
What the Zamboangueños accomplished is quite historical and truly amazing, and deserves to be recognized in the annals of Mindanao, Philippine and World history, regardless of un-published or muted practice. This special historical article was researched thoroughly by Zamboanga.com and is a tribute to all independent Zamboangueños, and a latent recognition of the history of our Republic of Zamboanga. Viva! Libre!
It must be noted herein that a mere proclamation does not warrant the true meaning and application of sovereignty, and without sovereignty, there cannot be independence. Sovereignty is described as "the quality of having supreme, underived and independent authority over a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided. The concept has been discussed, debated and questioned throughout history, from the time of the Romans through to the present day, although it has changed in its definition, concept, and application throughout, especially during the Age of Enlightenment. The current notion of state sovereignty were laid down in the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 (Westphalian sovereignty), which, in relation to states, codified the basic principles of territorial integrity, border inviolability, and supremacy of the state (rather than the Church). A sovereign is a supreme lawmaking authority." In essence, there must be de facto control and command over its proclaimed territory and people before a candidate government can ever be considered legitimate. Historically, Emilio Aguinaldo's dictatorial government and revolutionary government never had de facto sovereignty over any of the major islands of the Philippines during the uprising against either the ruling Spaniards or the conquering forces of the United States. Hence, Aguinaldo's declaration was merely symbolic in effort but was never factual in the true application of de facto sovereignty.
(Revolutionary Government of Zamboanga): May 18, 1899 - Nov 16, 1899 (de facto) - This was the timeline when the new republic was independent and free of any foreign influence or control.
May 18, 1899 - Fort Pilar and its Spanish troops, in Southern Philippines, surrendered to the Revolutionary Government of Zamboanga.
May 23, 1899 - The Spaniards evacuate the city of Zamboanga for good, after burning down most of the city's buildings in contempt of the Zamboangueños' revolt against them.
President of Zamboanga Republic May 18, 1899 to November 16, 1899 [barely six (6)months]:
General Vicente Alvarez was chosen by his fellow Zamboangueños to be their first president and popular leader of the revolutionary government established immediately after the former Spanish garrison troops evacuated to Manila. The events that followed afterwards were historically described as a mob mentality, filled with divided partisanship that lent to "jealous self-interest, biter rivalry, rapacity, and bloodshed" from assassinations and cattle-shooting for amusement. The president and his fellow Christian Zamboangueños' actions could not be considered heroic by any means, but was paralleled with that of the Moro Pirates with whom the fort of Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragosa was erected to defend against.6
The rivalry between the local revolutionary leadership of President Vicente Alvarez and opposition leader Isidoro Midel allowed for the easy subjugation of the city by the American forces when Midel sided with the Americans upon their arrival. As a reward for his help, the new American rulers allowed Isidoro Midel to continue as president of the new Zamboanga Republic for about sixteen (16) months, against the will of the people, after former president Vicente Alvarez fled to Mercedes, then later to Basilan, when the Americans arrived and took control of the fort del Pilar and its remaining armament. The saying "divide and conquer" was aptly applied to the new Zamboanga Republic.6
In Mindanao the Filipino insurgents held the towns of Zamboanga and Mercedes, their force numbering 500 men with rifles, until Commander Very of the Castine, arrived on Nov 18 with 100 men from the Jólo garrison, having been invited by the inhabitants of the towns and Dato Mandi, the principal Moro chief. Alvarez, the Tagal commander, surrendered the posts to the Americans, who promised the inhabitants that they should be allowed to carry arms and to practice the Catholic religion and follow their native laws and customs, and be exempt from taxation until they have recovered in a measure - their former prosperity.
1900s A.D. – The Birth of a Nation and a City
In a municipal election on March 1901, Mariano Arquiza succeeded Isidoro Midel by popular vote and became the first elected President of the Zamboanga Republic, now under American administration, for the next two (2) years: 1901 - 1903.6 The Zamboanga Republic during these unsure years became friendly to the U.S. invading forces, but now that their former Spanish landlords were no longer around and their centuries-old nemesis, the Moro pirates, were being pursued by the American soldiers throughout Mindanao and Sulu, Zamboanga became the same important fort town for the U.S. military as it once was for the Spaniards.
The Republic of Zamboanga and its United States military supervisors used their new-found "friendship" to turn Zamboanga into an embarkation point for U.S. military personnel arriving from Manila or elsewhere to attack various pockets of resistance in Mindanao and Sulu. The legendary Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza's name was shortened to Fort Pilar by the U.S. military and they continued to use the venerable fort as their military headquarters in the southern Philippines.
The U.S. military allowed the patriotic Zamboangueños to hold a "legal" election to publicly elect their next President Mariano Arquiza, after President Isidoro Midel's appointed term expired, in obvious tactic to pacify their "host" while they continue on with their bigger picture of subjugating the rest of Mindanao & Sulu. The Americans learned a lot about the island locals during these friendly period with their Zamboangueño hosts and used it to understand and better implement a ruling strategy over their far-flung empire.
That goal was eventually met after the two year's of President Mariano Arquiza's term, and consequently, the United State's support for the existence of the historical Republic of Zamboanga waned and the country's short existence was terminated as they were getting ready to implement their military rule over the entire southern Philippines, after they defeated the last remaining resistance to their conquest.
After the Republic of Zamboanga was ended, it was given a new life as the seat of government of the new U.S. military rule over the southern Philippines under a provincial entity: the Moro Province.
With the presence and administration of the American conquerors, old town Zamboanga with its mighty Fort Pilar and adjacent U.S. military headquarters in Pettit Barracks was made the capital of the Moro province in 1903, encompassing the islands of Mindanao, Basilan and the Sulu Archipelago. The importance of Zamboanga was elevated to seat of regional government and diocese of Catholicism in the southern Philippines.
As war and conquest have been waged all over the world for hundreds and thousands of years, it is not our place to dispute any sovereignty issues here. However, we can present that the powerful Sultanate of Brunei once controlled an area much larger than the present Philippines, but is now under 6,000 sq. km. in size, slightly smaller than the State of Delaware. Kingdoms rise and fall, rulers come and go, battles are won and lost, but the people remain and rebuild their lives as they have done for centuries, hoping for the best to come to them and peace to be permanent.
Read more about the intriguing History of Ancient Zamboanga.
Z-Published: July 18, 2009
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