Honoring a Revolutionary Hero of Zamboanga City PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 17 May 2013 14:43

Tomorrow, the Zamboanga City Government will lead in honoring one of the greatest heroes of the Philippine, a Zamboangueño, named Gen. Vicente Alvarez. He led the Filipinos in a victory fight against the oppressive Spanish regime in the 18th century and took over Fort Pilar.  In his honor, a city street has been named after him.

I got to know more about him from the article written by Queenie Ann Palafox for the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, “Vicente Alvarez and the Battle for Fort Pilar” (http://www.nhcp.gov.ph). I am reprinting major portion of the article for Pep Talk readers.

“For decades, many believed that Mindanao did not participate in the Philippine Revolution against Spain in 1896 and 1898, and that it was led by the Tagalogs and the Visayans from Luzon and the Visayas respectively. Mindanao’s place in the history of the Philippine Revolution is not often highlighted in history books when in fact, the people in Mindanao struggled for freedom like what the Tagalogs and the Visayans did.

One of the biggest military feat in Mindanao is the capture of Fort Pilar in Zamboanga including the Spanish troops and their commander, General Diego de los Rios, last Spanish governor general of the Philippines. This became possible through the leadership of Gen. Vicente S. Alvarez. 

Alvarez was born on April 5, 1862 and was the fifth son of Alvarez y Villasis and Isidora Solis. After finishing his early education in the Liceo de Zamboanga, he studied in the Ateneo de Municipal in Manila and the Spanish Military Academy. He worked in the office of the Spanish governor general in Malacanang Palace before going to Sulu to support Jamalul Kiram II to gain the throne of the Sulu against other rival claimants.

When the Philippine Revolution spread to Mindanao, he organized an army of Christian Filipinos, Tribal warriors, and Muslim Krismen and fought the Spaniards for freedom’s sake.

Alvarez initiated the revolution in Zamboanga, in March 1898. He was able to take control of the peninsula, except the port of Zamboanga and Fort Pilar, which were fortified by the Spanish forces.

The Revolutionary Government was organized by Alvarez, Ramos and Calixto with Calixto having the rank of major, Ramos  as captain and in command of the two companies assisted by Captain Gowito Sebastian, and Alvarez  who was unanimously appointed as the general of the revolutionary forces. Together, they constituted the Revolutionary Council.

The Revolutionary Council based at Masinloc was able to plan the attack on Fort Pilar after being fully armed. Anticipating the attack, the Spaniards set up the first line of defense but the revolutionary forces were able to penetrate the Spanish defense line by the use of native fishing boats that stole into Santa Barbara landing just below the Barrio’s wharf.

Realizing their vulnerability to the attack coming from the revolutionary forces, the Spanish troops withdrew and regrouped inside Fort Pilar where they could make their last stand.

The Spanish troops and the revolutionary forces continued to exchange fire for three days as the former did not want to surrender. When Gen. Alvarez saw that the Spanish troops was on the verge of losing the fight, he called for a truce for the evacuation of the family and dependents of the Spanish troops  inside the fort.

General Alvarez knew that both sides were preparing for the eventuality and it was just as matter of time when the fort would fall into his hands. More forces from the revolutionary side were arriving to surround the fort and demoralize the Spanish forces.

On the 17th of May, Spanish General de los Rios finally gave up the fight and admitted the defeat of the Spanish forces when a white flag  was hoisted above the breastwork. He sent a small party under a flag of truce to get in touch with Gen. Alvarez that he would surrender the fort.

General Alvarez, together with Maj. Calixto, Captain Ramos, Gowito and Nidel entered the fort on the morning of May 18, 1899. General de los Rios saluted General Alvarez to acknowledge his victory; General Alvarez also returned the courtesy. On the same day, Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo, cousin of Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo, arrived in Zamboanga carrying the presidential message confirming Alvarez’ title as general”.

Zamboanga City Government thru the City Tourism Office will commemorate the heroic feat of Gen. Alvarez and his troops tomorrow with a Holy Mass at Fort Pilar and wreath laying at Plaza Alvarez.

By Dante Corteza