A skirmish in “Rombong”

Very little is known or documented about the history of resistance in the Island of Romblon during the Revolutionary Period and during the Philippine-American War. From what we can gather in the internet and in some history books, we know that in 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo dispatched his generals to the Visayas to expand the authority of his revolutionary government to the Central and Southern Philippines. And on 25 July 1898, Katipunan General Mariano Riego de Dios captured Romblon. Four days later, the Spanish politico-military governor Don Carlos Mendoza formally surrendered control of the Island to the Revolutionary Forces.

Romblon formally became a province on 16 March 1901 after the Americans established a civilian government in the Island.

My wife being a native of Romblon and having been mesmerized by the island’s unspoilt and natural beauty and by its warm and friendly people, I have taken keen interest in studying the culture and history of Romblon.

And so, after stumbling upon an article published in the newspaper THE MANILA FREEDOM, dated 23 December 1899, I knew I stumbled upon a gem – a veritable proof of the Romblomanon’s gallantry in battle and brave resistance against the invaders. I thought, this could very well be the first clash on record between the American forces and the Filipino resistance in Romblon during the Philippine-American War.

In the article, it was reported that the American gunboat Concord returned to Iloilo on 19 December 1899. Onboard was the corpse of a Private Folley of C Company, Eighteenth Infantry, and a wounded Marine from the Concord’s crew. This, according to the article was “the result of an attack against the insurectos on a small island to the North of Panay, called Rombong [Romblon].”

It was reported that the American forces under the command of General Carpenter, “consisting of the First Batallion of the Eighteenth Infantry, seconded by the Mosquito fleet,” easily captured Concepcion and Capiz.

“Concepcion, the supposed point of strongest resistance in the province, and Capiz, the objective point of the advancing column, each fell into Carpenter’s hands with very little opposition, only a few shots being fired at either place. The intermediate small towns of course hoisted white flags at the first approach of the Americans.”

Following his easy-pickings in Concepcion and Capiz, General Carpenter then proceeded to the Island of Rombong (Romblon), “upon hearing of an organized force at the abovementioned island, determined to carry off all the laurels to be found at the North, and if need be, take his men far up towards Luzon.”

General Carpenter dispatched companies C and D of the Eighteenth Infantry and gave orders to the Concord and its Mosquito fleet to capture Romblon.

“In due time the place was reached and the truth of the reports concerning the insurecto force was verified.”

The Concord’s men tell the following story of the attack on Romblon:

“After some maneuvering to find the best point for attack, the Concord began to make her shrapnel sing genuine American songs and her rapid-fire guns talk pure English, seconded by the doughty little whistlers from the Mosquito fleet. The enemy, well entrenched as they were, stood it well for a short time, then, choosing the safest of two or three evils, began to survey the general trend of the hills in the rear. This movement was not joined in by all, however, as the subsequent firing showed very conclusively. When the shelling seemed to have demoralized them sufficiently, a landing of the men was begun.”

“No sooner had the boats come within easy range, then a rapid fire was opened upon them from the ditches and precipitous hill, to which many of them had retreated. At first fire, Private Folley yielded his life, having been shot dead while yet in the boat. Then fell the lad from the Concord, wounded in the knee.”

“But a landing was made, despite the bullets of the enemy, and a charge, shared equally by soldier and sailor, soon [did] the common tale of victory for American arms and the utter route of the enemy.”

Although the battle ended in the defeat of the Filipino forces, owing to the rapid-fire guns of the Americans, the valiant effort of these fighting Romblomanons to defend their island is highly commendable. This little chapter in Romblon’s history of defiance and resistance during the Philippine-American War must be recognized and told.

“The island is a small one, comparatively…” it said so in the article in the MANILA FREEDOM. But these brave Filipinos in this small island of “Rombong” did put up a hell of a fight! They proved to be a very worthy opponent to the Americans, so much so that they said: “A force sufficiently strong will no doubt be landed immediately. With all their cunning tricks in slipping out of tight places, they may well thank their stars if they escape from there.”

#Romblon #PhilippineAmericanWar

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The gunboat Concord

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