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General Artemio Ricarte’s Big Yet Unexpected Role in the June 12, 1898 Declaration of Philippine Independence.

Artemio Ricarte in his later years while living in Yokohama, Japan. It was then and there where he wrote his letter to Jose P. Santos, reminiscing his participation in the declaration of independence three decades ago. From the NHCP photo collection (

June 12, 2020 marks the 122nd celebration of Philippine Independence. As a nation, we are once again celebrating this historic event. It reminds us of the triumph of the Filipino people. One of the less known sources on the very first declaration of independence can be found in the letters of Gen. Artemio “Vibora” Ricarte, which can be accessed in microfilm at the Main Library of the University of the Philippines Diliman. The account of General Artemio Ricarte serves as an interesting jigsaw piece in reconstructing the historic event. He was among the privileged few who were invited to witness the declaration of independence in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898.

In his letter to his friend Jose P. Santos dated July 27, 1928, he recounted the historic independence festivities. His account reveals his big yet unexpected role during the event.

Artemio Ricarte’s letter (in Filipino) to Jose P. Santos, part of which contains his recollections of the declaration of independence in 1898. From the University of the Philippines Diliman. (

Translated from the original Filipino, it reads,

When the Declaration of Independence took place on the 12th of June, 1898, near the bridge of Cavite and beside the house of Gen. Aguinaldo, I, after being enthusiastically convinced by Gen. Trias, Gen. P. Alvares, Gen. Pantaleon Garcia, and many others, was forced to give a speech. I came there without any speech prepared; so, after I was pushed to the spot for speakers such as Mr. Felipe Buencamino and other experts in doing that, I looked for something that I could talk about. In front of the speakers was the flag, and because no one among the previous speakers told anything about it, I took the flag as the subject of discussion. I could say that the people liked my speech, because when I paused for a while, people shouted “mabuhay, mabuhay” and I was often congratulated by Mr. Buencamino and the others. Perhaps it was only then when the people learned the meaning of each symbol, the sun and three stars, and I was given a thundering and almost unending wave of hurray when I ended my speech: “My beloved countrymen, now that I introduced to you the true meanings of each symbol constituting the flag of our race, let us persevere to place her beside other flags like her, or better yet, let her fly above the others for aggrandizement of the Philippines and the entire mankind.” When I ended my speech, I cued the band to play the music I brough from Mapagtiis [Katipunan name of San Francisco de Malabon], the “Marcha Nacional Filipina” composed of Prof. Mr. Felipe. That is why, when the Declaration of Independence took place on the 12th of June, 1898, I was the last one to deliver a speech.

San Francisco de Malabon (now Gen. Trias), Cavite, captured by the forces of Artemio Ricarte on 31 August 1896, but was retaken by the Spaniards the year after. From the newspaper Ilustración Ibérica (24 April 1897) from the Biblioteca Nacional de España (

In a letter to historian Emanuel Baja dated June 11, 1925, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo recounted that he saw Gen. Ricarte giving speech:[The flag] was displayed to public view from that front window and General Ricarte spoke a few words of tribute to the idealism of the new flag.” Little did he know that Gen. Ricarte did not plan any of what happened. By stroke of luck or genius, Gen. Ricarte had chosen the right topic for the right time.

This the right time for us to reaffirm our love and high respect for our Flag!

Source: for the Flag (as Witnessed by Artemio Ricarte)

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