By Freddie G. Lazaro, PIA 1, Ilocos Norte
BATAC CITY – Locals marked the 147th birth anniversary of Ilocano freedom fighter General Artemio Ricarte also known as Vibora during the Philippine revolution of 1896.
The Philippine Vetarans Affairs Office (PVAO) and the Batac city government jointly organized the event which started with a mass, followed by wreath-laying, awarding of oldest surviving veterans and a medical mission.
Batac City Councilor Florencio P. Laud, the event’s main speaker, recalled Ricarte’s heroism and life as a teacher, a soldier and a patriot.
“Ricarte was a model to teachers, an inspiration to the military forces and to the Filipino youths as he displayed values that need to be emulated in this generation,” he said.
Born in Batac on October 20, 1866, Ricarte joined the ranks of the Katipunan under the Magdiwang Council where he held the rank of Lieutenant General.
Records showed that at the start of the Philippine Revolution on August 31, 1896, Ricarte led the revolutionists in attacking the Spanish garrison in San Francisco de Malabon. He crushed the Spanish troops and took the civil guards as prisoner.
At the Tejeros Convention in 1897, Ricarte became the Captain-General and received a military promotion to Brigadier-General in Emilio Aguinaldo’s army and he was appointed as the first Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
He led his men in various battles in Cavite, Laguna, and Batangas. Aguinaldo designated him to remain in Biak-na-Bato, San Miguel, Bulacan to supervise the surrender of arms and see to it that both the Spanish government and Aguinaldo’s officers complied with the terms of the peace pact
“Ricarte was a Filipino general during the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine–American War and was also regarded as the Father of the Philippine Army,” Laud said.
When the Philippine–American War started in 1899, he was the chief of operations of the Philippine forces in the second zone around Manila but he was captured by the Americans in July 1900.
In 1901, he was imprisoned and deported to Guam with Apolinario Mabini.
In the early 1903, both Ricarte and Mabini would be allowed back into the Philippines upon taking the oath of allegiance to America but he refused it, instead he lived abroad.
Afterwards, Ricarte and his family settled down in Japan, where he taught the Spanish language at the Shogio Kugio Gakko in Kanagawa and Kaigai Shokumin Gakko School in Tokyo. He lived a very quiet life there until the outbreak of World War II in 1941.
He returned to the Philippines with the Japanese Army to help in the pacification campaign with the promise of Prime Minister Tojo to grant Philippine Independence after a year, which was held on June 12, 1943.
Towards the end of the war, he refused to leave the country saying: “I cannot take refuge in Japan at this critical moment when my people are in direct distress. I will stay in my Motherland to the last.”
He died on July 31, 1945 of dysentery in Barrio Nagparaon, Kalinga, Mountain Province at the age of 78. His grave was found 9 years later in 1954 by treasure hunters.
Ricarte’s body was exhumed during the administration of President Ferdinand E. Marcos and was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on March 22, 1978.
A landmark was also inaugurated by historian Ambeth Ocampo, chairman of the National Historical Institute on April 2002 at the same site where Ricarte died.#