Mutiny at Calaganan

It remains little known to this day, but Misamis  was the  only  region in Mindanao  which actively  joined  the  Katipunan  revolt against  Spain.

On September 29, 1896, 350  revolucionarios,  including 50 Bukidnon lumads, overwhelmed the Spanish garrison  and raided the armory of the Fuerza Real de Nueva Victoria in Calaganan, (present-day Balo-i, Lanao del Norte).

The fortress Fuerza Real de la Nueva Victoria in Calaganan (present day Balo-i, Lanao del Norte) was ransacked by the Disciplinarios on Sept. 29, 1896 to start the only Katipunan-led revolt in Mindanao.

Unable to seize Cagayan because of superior Spanish forces, the  revolucionarios  proceeded to Sumilao, Bukidnon and marched down the coast  where they commandeered a boat and landed in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental.

From  there  the group stormed the Tercio Civil  outpost in Gingoog  where the uprising was finally put down in January  1897 with the help of reinforcements and a gunboat from Butuan.

It may have occurred 124 years ago but digging deeper into this event could change the way the present Philippine flag looks like.

Local history researchers believe government should fund further research into determining if there is a need to redesign the sun in the Philippine flag with nine instead of eight rays.

As every grade school student knows, the eight rays of the sun in the Philippine tricolor stand for the eight provinces in Luzon which first rose in revolt against the Spanish colonizers in 1896.

But Antonio J. Montalvan II. a Kagay-anon columnist, social anthropologist, university professor and heritage activist, says existing historical sources indicate there was one other Katipunan-led revolt in the island which occurred during that same period in 1896 but which has not been recognized by Filipino historians.

Map of Misamis tracing the path of the Calaganan Mutiny by Elson Elizaga.

The Calaganan Mutiny” is detailed in the letters of  Vicente Elio y Sanchez of Camiguin to the Manila-based Spanish newspaper La Oceania Española and two other historical sources but has never been linked to the “First Cry of Balintawak” led by Andres Bonifacio.

One reason for this could be that Elio’s letters never got past Spanish censors anxious to douse the flickering flames of revolution which had broken out in Luzon.

The mutiny exploded in September 29, 1896 among the so-called “Disciplinarios” or conscripts consisting mostly of convicts from Luzon, who were pressed into battle against the Moros in Lanao.

Women and children took shelter in the San Agustin Church while the menfolk joined the Spanish soldiers as Voluntarios to stop the incoming force of Disciplinarios from Calaganan.

In late August, 1896, the Katipunan revolution against Spain broke out in Luzon. Exactly a month after, or September 29, 1896, a group of Filipinos from Luzon deported to the Spanish fort in Calaganan for training in military discipline to fight against the Moros of Lanao, mutinied against their Spanish superiors upon receiving instructions from the Katipunan in Manila.

These Disciplinarios who numbered 300 soldiers belonged to the Third and Fourth Companies of the regular Spanish Army stationed in Iligan.

They raided the Spanish armory and proceeded to Cagayan to attack the town, being joined by some Moros.

On the way, they ransacked convents and homes of Spanish peninsulars.

Upon  receipt of this bad news, Lt. Col. Juan de  Pratt,  the Military-Governor  of Misamis Province, immediately mustered  and trained Filipino volunteers for the defense of Cagayan with  the approval  of  the Capitan General de  Filipinas.  

The  provincial capital lacked  sufficient troops for this purpose  since  rein­forcements were badly needed to quell the Katipunan revolt in Luzon. At that time, the seeds of revolt  against the Spaniards were sprouting and Luzon was  in  a state of unrest, especially in the provinces around Manila Bay.

Formation of Voluntarios who were made up of Cagay-anon volunteers led by local hero Apolinar Velez who routed the Disciplarios in Sta. Ana, Tagoloan with the help of Spanish soldiers.

The Filipino volunteers were grouped into a unit and divided into four sections of infantry named as the Tercio de Voluntarios  de  Cagayan. They Regiment No. 72 under the overall com­mand of Col. D. Camilo Lasala.

One  of these volunteers was Apolinar Velez, who took  leave from  his civil government duties as the Clerk for the  Court  of  First  Instance  of the province of Misamis,  Notary Public  and  Registrar of Commerce.

Apolinar Velez y Ramos

He was given the rank of 2nd Lt. of Infan­try after his training and designated as  the officer-in-charge for  the defense of Cagayan, including all phases of  defense  as outposts,  deployment of men, and the safety  of Filipino  and Spanish civilians and their families. The women were quartered at the convento of St. Augustine which was reinforced by army senti­nels.

Meanwhile, the mutineers were on their way to Cagayan  which was  in a state of tension with the residents in  constant  fear: news was that the Disciplinarios were pillaging town after  town, killing  Chinese merchants, robbing the people  and  raping  the women.

One midnight, twelve of the toughest rebels took advantage of the darkness and slipped in near the Fuente del General Blanco (present-day Ysalina bridge at Carmen) and killed the sentry. However, this alerted  the  whole garrison and an exchange of fire drove the rebels out of town.

Puente del General Blanco (General Blanco bridge) c. 1893 Hand-colored lithograph from La Illustracion Filipino
 This suspension bridge known as the Colgante Bridge of Misamis had the misfortune of collapsing on the very day that it was inaugurated. Fortunately, this illustration of it was made before its collapse
(gavel&block : benefit – Vicky Sycip Herrera (VSH) Foundation)

Next day, a column under the command of Col. Lasala  pursued the  rebels and finally caught up with them in the town of  Santa Ana,  Tagoloan. The Tercio de Voluntarios de Cagayan  had  their baptism  of  fire and defeated the rebels, scattering  those  who were able to escape towards the mountains.

From Cagayan, they proceeded to Sumilao, Bukidnon where they were joined by a band of Higa-onons. They next attacked Balingasag, and raided the outpost of Gingoog on January 1897.

By that time, news of Rizal’s execution had reached Cagayan and Misamis, and this further stoked the anger of the town folk, fanning the flames of the local Katipuneros.

It took a Spanish gunboat, recalled from the Tercio Distrito de Surigao, to finally subdue the resistance in Gingoog. This was the only known Katipunan revolt in the whole of Mindanao.

What appears to be remarkable about this particular mutiny is that besides happening at approximately the same time as the Katipunan revolt in Luzon, there is apparently a direct link between it and the Katipunan revolt in the person of Pio Valenzuela, a cousin of Arcadia Valenzuela of Lapasan, Cagayan de Misamis (as Cagayan de Oro was then known) who visited Mindanao during this period (ostensibly on instructions from Andres Bonifacio himself!)  to instigate a similar revolt in Mindanao.

Pio Valenzuela was the trusted aide dispatched by Andres Bonifacio to foment a Katipunan-led rebellion in Mindanao.

Augustinian Recollect chronicles confirm that this revolt was  in fact  instigated by a communication from Katipuneros in Luzon, making Mindanao  the ninth province to join the Katipunan revolt, albeit not included in the eight rays of the sun in  the  Philippine  flag which represent the eight provinces which  first  rose  against Spanish tyranny.

 “We have yet to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the direct link between the Katipunan revolt in Luzon and the Calaganan Mutiny, but there appears to be extant sources which seem to indicate that such a link did exist, and that Pio Valenzuela did indeed come to Mindanao on the instructions of Andres Bonifacio to foment a revolt against the Spaniards,” Montalvan said.

Another unique aspect of the revolt was that it was participated in by Mindanao’s tri-people: the Christian immigrants, the indigenous natives in the person of Higa-onons from Bukidnon, and a group of Moros from Lanao, making it not only a Katipunan revolt, but one in which all three of Mindanao’s tri-people was represented.

“Should a direct link be established between Bonifacio’s Katipunan revolt in Luzon and the Calaganan Mutiny, then the people of Mindanao can rightfully petition the national government to add a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine flag,” Montalvan said.

What needs to be done at this point is to verify primary sources such as the Consular Letters of the French Embassy in Manila to Paris where the Calaganan Mutiny is described in detail, Montalvan added.

The letters are now in the archives of the National Museum in Manila, as are other extant documents like the historical account of the Jesuit historian Pablo Pastells in which the “Calaganan Mutiny” is also described in detail.

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1 Comment

  1. The picture there above is not that of Fort Victoria in Calaganan (By the way do you know where Calaganan is in the Lanao Sur ?) but of the old Fort of Iligan destroyed completely by the flood in Iligan in 1912.

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