What Independence Day means for this grandson of a Katipunero

By Leo Magno

APARRI, CAGAYAN -- For this direct descendant of a Katipunero who struggled for the country’s freedom in 1898, Independence Day no longer means freedom from foreign domination. For him, Independence Day means giving back freedom to the people who till and nurture the same land for which Filipinos fought.

On June 2, 1954, David “Dabo” Canicula Macayayong was born 10 days before Independence Day. His mother is 80-year-old Justina Canicula, born October 7, 1930 in Aparri. She is the daughter of Eladio Canicula, a member of the “Suprema y Venerable Asociación de los Hijos del Pueblo,” more commonly known by Filipinos as the “Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan” (Highest and Most Honorable Society of the Children of the Nation) also known as K.K.K. or Katipunan.

The Katipunan was a revolutionary society founded by anti-Spanish Filipinos in 1892, and Dabo’s grandfather was a Katipunero in Aparri.

According to Dabo’s account, “My forebear hometown of Aparri was the seat of the revolutionary government in Northern Luzon. The revolutionary government covered Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya.”

Dabo said that on August 10, 1898, Colonel Daniel Tirona, a native of Cavite province and one of the intimates of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the country’s first president, was ordered to proceed to Aparri in the insurgent steamer “Filipinas” and establish the revolutionary government in Northern Luzon.

By so doing, said Dabo, he was to hold elections for office-holders under Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government and was authorized to approve or disapprove the results, his action being subject to subsequent revision by Aguinaldo. His forces were composed of four companies armed with rifles.

The “Filipinas” was a steamer of about 700 tons and loaded with a half-cargo of tobacco. The steamer was hiding in the coves around Subic Bay, a harbor north of Manila Bay, when the crew mutinied and killed the 12 officers. They then took charge of the ship and hoisted the insurgent flag. She was owned and officered by Spaniards, but her crew was composed of Filipinos.

Dabo also shared an old photograph which, he said, was taken in September 1898. It shows his grandfather Eladio Canicula with his brothers in arms in the Katipunan. Behind the Katipuneros, the K.K.K. flag can be seen proudly unfurled. Handwritten at the back of the photograph are the words “Una fotografía de revolucionarios del Aparri en Septiembre de 1898.” Dabo said the original photograph was given to his mother Justina by a teacher from Aparri, and he has since had it digitally scanned.

The “Act of the Declaration of Independence” was read publicly in Kawit, Cavite between 4 and 5 in the afternoon on June 12, 1898. Dabo said that stories about his Katipunero grandfather and the declaration of independence make him proud, especially during Independence Day.

However, said Dabo, it is no longer freedom from foreign domination the Filipinos are fighting for more than a century after the revolution. For him, today Independence Day means freedom from economic forces which trap our people into bondage despite working the land they till.

A hundred and thirteen years later, he said, we are still fighting for our land, but not from foreign powers. For this Katipunero grandson whose proud forefathers were born in Cagayan, one of the major rice producers of the country, people are still fighting for the land they themselves till and nurture. He said that as we celebrate Independence Day, that is what we need to think about today and address in the future.

(Photo used for this article with permissionfrom David Macayayong)

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