A. Paulita Roa .
AS the 118th anniversary of the Battle of Agusan Hill draws near, I am once again going to write about that historic battle on a different perspective. This time, it will not be in the battlefield but on a monument in Divisoria whose identity has been subject to many speculations. The most frequent questions asked are: Who built it for whom? Is it for our national hero Andres Bonifacio or for the heroes of the Battle of Agusan Hill?
The book, “The Village: The Story of Early Cagayan de Oro,” is a collection of articles compiled by Francisco R. Demetrio S.J.(Cagayan de Oro 1968). In it is an interview of Fr. Demetrio in 1968 of Mr. Fortunato Yacapin, an eyewitness to the Battle of Agusan Hill. Yacapin said that “the remains of the revolutionaries killed in the battle were interred under the monument of Bonifacio in the center of Divisoria.” We see that small door at the back of the monument and it attests to this fact that this was made so that the bones can be deposited there. The other three monuments in that area do not have such feature.
In historian Ambeth Ocampo’s letter to me in 2009, he wrote that he studied the photos that I sent him and noted that the design of our monument is a copy of the first Bonifacio monument entitled “Grito de Balintawak” by sculptor Ramon Martinez, not by National Artist for sculpture Guillermo Tolentino as I previously thought. This was installed in 1911 at the Cloverleaf Bridge in Quezon City and subsequently transferred in Vinzon’s Hall in UP-Diliman. I took pictures of the Bonifacio monument in UP and noted that it is exactly the same as the one in Divisoria except that the pedestal is different.
However, I noticed that the other monuments in Divisoria contained markers that specifically tell us who the particular monument is dedicated to. Not so with this second monument (I took the liberty to name this the second monument since this was built around 1930-31 after the Rizal monument that was erected in 1917) whose marker do not mention of the name Andres Bonifacio but only a brief dedication in Spanish that says “A pueblo a sus heroes.” In English, it means “From the town to its heroes” and the heroes here refer to Capt. Vicente Roa y Racines and his men of the First Company of the Mindanao Battalion who were all killed in Agusan Hill on May 14, 1900.
But who built this monument and what was the name that he gave to it? Historian Ocampo is right when he wrote that the similarity of the two monuments had a hold on the people that for decades, they called it Bonifacio and Balintawak. No one took a serious note of the text of the marker and the marked absence of Bonifacio’s name in it.
I went through a fruitless period in my research on the details of this second monument and finally my eureka moment came when I read an article of the late Kagay-anon historian, Dr. Blas Ch. Velez about his father, Apolinar, who was a revolucionario, a governor of the Misamis Province and the Municipal Mayor of Cagayan from 1930-1933. He said that when his father was the mayor, he built the second monument with the help of the citizenry and called it the Cry of Freedom monument. He ordered the exhumation of the remains of Roa and his men in Agusan Hill and placed it on a special crypt inside the monument.
And now for the final question: Why is it that Velez placed a statue of Bonifacio in that monument? In my opinion, the sculptor Ramon Martinez had a mold of his Bonifacio statue that he could readily cast for his buyers. So we see similar Bonifacio monuments all over the archipelago. This was true of other sculptors during the American colonial period when there was a frenzy of monument building across the country but mostly that of Jose Rizal, an American favorite. A good example is that our Rizal monument is similar to the one I saw in Loboc, Bohol.
In the Bonifacio monument, we see a defiant looking man with upraised arms. One holding a bolo and the other, the Philippine flag. It represented the men of the First Company of the Mindanao Battalion who fought two companies of American soldiers in Agusan Hill while their battleship bombarded them from the bay. They were outnumbered not to mention the fact that the enemy had superior weapons but they fought heroically till majority of them were killed. Capt. Roa was the last to die and an American snatched a medal from his breast, perhaps as a memento from this fallen but brave Kagay-anon warrior.