CABANATUAN City: If not for the indie movie “Heneral Luna” shown last year, locals – including students – would never have appreciated the significance of Plaza Lucero here, which has been converted into a parking area, and the almost unnoticed marker in the Catholic church wall fronting it.
Some 117 years ago, on June 5, 1899, Antonio Luna, acknowledged bravest general in the Philippine-American War, was killed by the men of Emilio Aguinaldo in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.
History books said that Aguinaldo telegrammed Luna, who was then in Bayambang, Pangasinan, to meet him in the new capital in Cabanatuan to form a new cabinet. Luna, known for temper, was furious when he did not see Aguinaldo at the agreed meeting place.
Instead, he found Felipe Bunencamino, the foreign minister, with whom he had a verbal tussle for the latter’s relaxed treatment of the Americans, and Capt. Pedro Janolino, whom Luna earlier suspended for insubordination. Buencamino and Janolino were close Aguinaldo allies. Furious, Luna stormed out, but Janolino hacked him from the back with a bolo in the head. Subsequently, Janolino’s men fired shots at the fallen general. Luna died from 30 gunshot and stab wounds. His two aides – Colonel Francisco Roman and Captain Eduardo Rusca – who came to rescue Luna were also killed.
Now, only a statue of Luna would remind – if at all – Cabanatuan folk, especially students, whose attention is mostly on cellphones and other gadgets.
The 500-meter long Gen. Luna street that starts beside the hero’s death place and ends at Maharlika Highway does not make locals remember, either. The irony is that Paco Roman Street, named in honor of Luna’s aide Francisco Roman, is longer than Gen. Luna Street.
But what easily makes them remember Luna now is the same ill temper and curses of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.
David Lapuz, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, likens Duterte to Luna. The former also displayed patriotism in his younger years by joining progressive organizations that criticize the United States government for its unperturbed intervention in the Philippines’ social and political affairs.
Licab town Mayor Willy Domingo, known for his penchant in Philippine history, also saw similarities between Duterte and Luna, who are both known for their expletives. The other Philippine presidents notorious for cussing were the late Presidents Manuel Luis Quezon and Manuel Roxas, said Domingo.