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August 1896: Revolt in the Philippines

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Filpino Soldiers In the fall of 1896, Filipino nationalists revolted against the Spanish rule that had controlled the Philippines since the sixteenth century. Led by Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964), the 1896 revolt carried the Filipinos to an anticipated war with Spain and an unanticipated war with the United States.

Historians suggest that the roots of the Philippine revolution began with building of the Suez Canal in 1869. With access to Europe, Filipinos were exposed to new ideas about freedom and returned home questioning Spanish rule. In 1872, there was a small revolt in the Cavite Province which launched the revolutionary cause.

Twenty years after the 1872 revolt, Filipino nationalists began to organize secretly. In 1892 Jose Rizal founded Liga Filipina, and in 1895 Andres Bonifacio organized the Katipunan, a fraternal brotherhood of Filipino nationalists committed to independence. Emilo Aguinaldo joined the Katipunan in 1895 and became its leader in the Cavite Province. Once initiated, Aguinaldo became known as Magdalo, named after Mary Magdalene.

AguinaldoIn 1896 the armed struggle began in Manila and quickly spread throughout the country. Aguinaldo defeated Spanish forces in several battles and rose to become the leader of Katipunan. Aguinaldo had Bonifacio arrested and executed in 1897.

When the United States and Spain went to war over Cuba, the Philippines joined the side of the U.S. On June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo declared the independence of the Philippine islands, and in January 1899 he became the president. While the Filipinos believed that a U.S. defeat of Spain would lead to a free Philippines, the U.S. refused to recognize the new government. Outraged by the betrayal, the Philippine republic declared war on the United States. Emilo Aguinaldo, after fighting with the U.S. against Spain, was captured by the U.S. military in 1901 and declared allegiance to the United States. By the end of the Philippine War in 1902, more 40,000 Filipinos and 4,000 American soldiers were dead.


Dyal, Donald H.. Historical Dictionary of the Spanish American War. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 1996.

O'Toole, G.J.A., The Spanish War: An American Epic-1898. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1984.

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