Bridging the Gap
Gen. Martin Delgado: Proud Ilonggo nationalist leader
On October 28, 1898, the general uprising against the Spaniards in Iloilo Province began. Two months after, on December 25, the Ilonggo revolutionary troops marched in military formation and in full regalia from Jaro, a suburb of Iloilo City, and converged in Plaza Alfonzo (now Plaza Libertad) in the downtown area. There they received the formal surrender of the Spanish troops under the last Spanish governor-general of the Philippines, Don Diego de los Rios. The previous day, part of these proud native troops also occupied Molo, another key suburb of the city. On December 28, American troops under Gen. Marcus Miller, on board naval transports, entered the Iloilo Strait and requested landing but was boldly refused by the Ilonggo leaders. This event tactically altered the time table of conquest of the Philippine archipelago by the U.S. Military. The man behind all these historic events was Gen. Martin Delgado, considered to the greatest revolucionario in the Visayas.
General Delgado, popularly known as Tan Martin, was responsible for the start of the revolution against the Spaniards in Iloilo Province. Although he started working as the leader of the voluntarios (those who volunteered to protect the Spaniards and defend Spanish sovereignty) in his town, he used this position to prepare for the independence struggle which he openly declared in October 1898. This event is considered to be the first cry of the revolution against Spain in the province.
General Delgado and his troops eventually succeeded in driving away the Spaniards from the interior towns and closed in on the Spaniards in Jaro, Molo and Iloilo City. Jaro and Molo fell into the hands of the revolutionary troops and Iloilo City was finally surrendered by the Spaniards on December 25, 1898. However, Ilonggo victory over the Spaniards was short-lived because on December 28, the Americans appeared at the Iloilo harbor. A bloody war broke out on February 11, 1899 and the Americans readily occupied Iloilo City after a heavy bombardment on Fort San Pedro.
The struggle against the American troops was a more difficult proposition but the Ilonggo resistance fighters fought hard and were not easily cowed into submission. General Delgado and his men waged a protracted guerilla war in the interior towns of the province that made the Americans to assign more troops in Iloilo to crush the native struggle. Eventually, General Delgado and his men surrendered on February 2, 1901 in Jaro when everything seemed futile.
Judged on the basis of its record, the Iloilo resistance against the Americans performed well compared to other similar movements outside of Luzon. If the duration and the intensity of the conflict are measures of ascertaining the success of the resistance movement in the province, then it can be said that it had truly left its imprints in the annals of the nation's struggle for freedom and independence. Indeed, General Delgado as a man of valor and fortitude was chiefly instrumental in this.
Tan Martin was born on November 11, 1858, the second child of Don Jacinto Delgado and Doña Gabriela Bermejo who both belonged to aristocratic families in Santa Barbara, Iloilo. He first attended the town's parochial school and, thereafter, enrolled at the Seminario de San Vicente Ferrer in Jaro. After his studies at the seminary, he went to Manila and obtained his diploma as a school teacher at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. Then, he taught for some time at the public school in his hometown. At the age of twenty-five, he was chosen teniente mayor, later made capital municipal and juez de paz, which positions he held with distinction. On November 17, 1898, a month after the outbreak of the revolution in Iloilo Province, a revolutionary government was established in Santa Barbara and Delgado was chosen as the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Army.
General Delgado, the proud Ilonggo revolutionary leader and Filipino nationalist, penned the following lines:
"Filipinos, beloved countrymen! Let us never destroy our precious rights because their loss will be our death and shame. Even if we do not have a single rifle, if all the towns will refuse to surrender, with one mind and one heart, the Americans will be ashamed to subjugate or kill us all. If this is the fate that will be ours, you will be greater, Filipinas, than all the nations! (Philippine Information Society 1901)