The hanging of Isidoro Ramirez

It was January of 1900. The war between the native Filipino forces defending the motherland and the invading American occupation forces, rages throughout Northern Luzon. At that time, the Province of La Union was considered as the “hotbed of the insurrection” with at least five active guerrilla units operating in it.

These units belong to the legendary Tinio Brigade, under the command of 22 year-old General Manuel Tinio.

US military records as well as captured insurgent documents tell of a notorious and fierce guerrilla activity at the town of Bangar – the last town to the north of La Union.

US Army Captain F.O. Johnson of the 3rd Cavalry summarized the situation in Bangar in his report dated March 6, 1900 to General Samuel Young, thus:

“I have definite information on the existence of at least five insurrecto organizations within a radius of ten miles of Namacpacan and Bangar. The topography is such that it is impossible to bring large forces in contact with these insurrectos. When they greatly outnumber the Americans; they fight, otherwise they retreat into the mountains. The situation is such that it is unsafe to send out bodies of less than 40 or 50 men. The insurrectos have a well-organized system of espionage and all movements are immediately reported by couriers. Secret information leads me to distrust most of the native officials…”

Such was the situation in Bangar at that time that even the American forces dare not venture around without sufficient numbers. Even the Parish Priest of the town, Padre Bonifacio Brillantes was supportive of the guerrilla cause. The priest was later convicted for having once rung the church bells in a bid to warn the insurgents on the approach of the Americans.

Map of La Union

MAP OF LA UNION. Photo from the book “Tinio Brigade”

The guerrillas of Bangar, headed by Captain Anacleto Mendoza – tagged by the Americans as the ‘prime disturber’ in that part of La Union – welcomed the New Year of 1900 with successive strikes that infuriated the occupation forces.

On the night of January 10, 1900, a band of some fifty armed guerrillas stormed the Presidencia of Bangar and executed the Presidente Municipal, “who had earlier been marked for liquidation for his collaboration activities.”

Isidoro Ramirez, a native son of Bangar, Cabeza de Barangay and an officer in the Tinio Brigade, was among them.

A cavalry patrol was dispatched to pursue these daring raiders but the patrol was ambushed by Filipino forces near Sudipen, then a part of Bangar. Two Americans were killed and three others were wounded.

‘War in the mountains’

In the face of a superior enemy, Filipino freedom fighters then, resorted to guerrilla warfare, where harrasment of enemy forces, cutting of telegraph wires, raids on enemy posts and detachments and the execution of traitors to the cause formed an integral part of.

General Arthur Mac Arthur acknowledged the prevalence of  liquidation of spies and traitors as a form of punishment on the part of the guerrilla army. In 1901 he reported:

“The cohesion of Filipino society in behalf of insurgent interests is most emphatically illustrated by the fact that assassination, which was extensively employed, was generally accepted as a legitimate expression of insurgent governmental authority. The individuals marked for death would not appeal to American protection, although condemned exclusively on account of pro-Americanism, or give information calculated to insure their own safety, even when such procedure could easily be accomplished by means of conference with American commanders, who in many instances were stationed within the barrios where the victims resided.”

General Tinio in early 1900 ordered his troops to execute those who will surrender to the enemy as well as native officials who will support or give the enemy aid. Filipino insurgents would even leave a note with words “TRAIDOR DE LA PATRIA” on the foreheads of the traitors they executed.

After his capture, Isidoro Ramirez was tried by a US Military Commission convened June 3, 1900 in San Fernando, La Union, for the daring night attack on the Presidencia of Bangar and the execution of the town’s traitorous Presidente Municipal.

He, along with his town mate and cousin Manuel Bautista and Maximo Roldan, a native of nearby Namacpacan (now Luna, La Union) were sentenced “to be hanged by the neck until they are dead.”

Americans hang 2 Filipinos in Bangar La Union

A public hanging in Bangar. Photo from Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 by Arnaldo Dumindin

The three were publicly executed at the Plaza of Bangar on November 23, 1900. There were no priests on the scaffold that day, noted historian William Henry Scott.

Adriel Obar Meimban, in his book “La Union: The Making of a Province 1850-1921,” wrote that Bangar served as the stage where the Americans held public executions of sentenced insurgents. Ramirez, Bautista and Roldan, he said, were the first Filipino patriots felled in these “macabre public hangings”.

Lieutenant Patricio Zaydin and Guerrilla Chief Natalio Valencia were also publicly executed on the same scaffold in September of 1901; a month later, Lieutenant Francisco Peralta.

Lieutenant Hilario Quesada, Jefe de Linea Aniceto Angeles, Fermin Directo and Tomas Torres were also hanged there in 1901.

On all occasions, according to Meimban, the townsfolk were herded to witness these “morbid public executions” at the center of guerrilla-infested Bangar, perhaps to instill fear among the populace and to punish the town for supporting the guerrilla cause.

But the public hangings did little or nothing to stem the tide of resistance of the Ilocanos. If at all, this only inspired the people to carry the fight further until the end.

American scholar James Le Roy writes of the increased guerrilla activities in the Ilocano Provinces in the mid-1900:

“Increased activity on the part of the guerrillas, especially in Northern Luzon, has been noted as beginning in July, and their aggressiveness became steadily more accentuated during the succeeding months. Early in September, General Young put in another insistent call for more troops to cope with a very pronounced accession of vigor and boldness on the part of the Ilocano guerillas.”

General J. Franklin Bell, in his analysis of the Ilocano resistance during the last half of 1900, noted: “The month of September was characterized by aggressive activity on the part of the Ilocano insurgents. Early in the month it became evident that a new concerted movement was being made in all the provinces of the first district in the interest of the insurgent cause.” Gen. Bell furthered that the “movements were general and simultaneous, indicating a common source of authority…”

insurgent collumn

“An Insurgent Column on the march.” (Collier’s Weekly; May 10, 1900)

The ‘war in the mountains – fit for the small against the big’ (guerra de montaña es la propia del pequeño contra otro mayor) as described by Col. Juan Villamor in his memoirs, continued to rage in Northern Luzon for almost two years.

In the face of overwhelming odds, Ilocano patriots under the Tinio Brigade carried on with the struggle, inspired by the selfless sacrifice offered by patriots like Isidoro Ramirez and the countless other martyrs who died in the defense of La Madre Patria. 

Orlino Ochosa, in his book “The Tinio Brigade”, summed up the valiant and impressive resistance of the Ilocanos:

“Manuel Tinio and his brave band of Ilocanos and a few Tagalogs fought the invaders for almost two years. Surely it was a short war, but that beau geste demonstrated once more the sturdiness and indomitable character of the Ilocano “nation,” this time fighting as part of the Filipino nation; and it was a great struggle that proved the worth and mettle of their Tinio Brigade. The history of that brigade is the history of that war.

The last word on the historical and political significance of the Ilocano phase of our national struggle for independence comes from no less than the American Commander himself, General Arthur Mac Arthur, who defined that little war in Ilocos as the “most troublesome and perplexing military problem in all Luzon”.

In all Luzon.”

Isidoro Ramirez and the others who the Americans ‘made an example of’ on the gallows of Bangar during the height of the war, were tagged as mere “outlaws and guerrilla marauders” by the occupation forces.

But for the people whose freedom and liberty they so valiantly fought and paid the ultimate price for – they were patriots.

Isidoro Ramirez – a native son of Bangar, Cabeza de Barangay and an officer in the Tinio Brigade – is my great-grandfather.

Sources:

• The Tinio Brigade, Orlino A. Ochosa
• Ilocano Responses to American Aggression 1900-1901, William Henry Scott
• La Union: The Making of A Province 1850-1921, Adriel Obar Meimban
• “Letter from the Secretary of War relative to the reports and charges in the public press of cruelty and oppression exercised by our soldiers toward the natives of the Philippines”, February 1902, US War Department

1 Comment

  1. Wow..i always like the historical events of our morherland and the true patriots who fought with it against all odds.
    I salute


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