Who Was Miguel Malvar?

The Filipino-American War was a war that was waged from the year of 1899 to 1902. It was declared after the Treaty of Paris which had resulted in the Philippines being handed over to the United States by Spain at the end of the Spanish-American War. It was a time of great loss, especially on the Filipino side of the war. Civilian casualties were at an all-time high, with some estimations putting the death count up to a million strong.

And as is expected in times of strife, many great men rose to prominence and went down in the history books. One of these was Miguel Malvar, a Filipino general. Miguel Malvar served in both the Philippine Revolution, and its formal extension that was named the Filipino-American War. At one point, he even led the revolutionary forces after their previous leader had been captured. So, let’s take a brief look at the life of General Miguel Malvar, and exactly what he is remembered for today.

Childhood and Early Years

Miguel Malvar was born on the 27th of September in the year of 1865 to parents Maximo Malvar and Tiburcio Carpio in San Miguel, a neighborhood in Santo Tomas, Batangas. He was fortunate enough to have been born in a well-off family; they were quite wealthy and were also famed amongst their fellow townsfolk. For most of his life, it didn’t seem like Miguel Malvar would actually go on to achieve greatness. He turned down the opportunity for higher education, and instead opted to become a farmer. He also helped his brother study medicine, something one would look at and assume that his brother was the one destined for fame.

However, he had had a revolutionary classmate back in the private school he had studied at, one Apolinario Mabini, and perhaps some of his ideals had rubbed off on Miguel Malvar. If they had, they wouldn’t show themselves too soon, because Miguel Malvar seemed quite content with settling down, and got married and had thirteen children, two if which did not live long.

Revolutionary Miguel, General Malvar

Miguel Malvar was friends with Jose Rizal, a Filipino nationalist who would come to be known as the national hero of the Filipino people. Joseng Batute, older brother to Jose Rizal, was also a revolutionary and a friend of Miguel Malvar. With the Philippine Revolution gaining more and more traction with each passing day, and being surrounded by so many passionate revolutionaries, it comes as no surprise that Miguel Malvar ultimately chose this path of life as well.

At first, Miguel Malvar didn’t join the Philippine Revolution, but the Katipunan. The Katipunan was a revolutionary society whose main focus was the liberation of the Philippines from Spain. This perhaps paints as clear a picture of Miguel Malvar’s priorities as possible; the goal of helping the Philippines achieve independence from Spain. Later on, he joined up with the Philippine Revolution, and quickly went from commanding a small army of seventy men to being the military commander of Batangas.

Miguel Malvar would go on to coordinate strikes with General Emilio Aguinaldo and General Paciano Rizal, leaders of the revolutionaries in Cavite and Laguna respectively. In 1897, just a year after the Philippine Revolution had begun, Miguel Malvar’s senior officer General Edilberto Evangelista would die at the Battle of Zapote Bridge. This event would lead to Miguel Malvar succeeding him as general.

The following few month saw a lot of complicated politics take place amongst all the Filipino rebel leaders. Petty infighting and squabbling was shifting the focus of the revolution from the one that actually mattered; pushing back the Spanish and gaining independence. And it wasn’t until the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, a pact that effectively sought to abolish the Philippine Revolution with help from General Emilio Aguinaldo, that the revolution regained its focus proper. General Miguel Malvar would oppose the pact, alongside many other generals, and would resume hostilities towards the Spanish. Emilio Aguinaldo, sensing the fact that he was getting nowhere with Miguel Malvar, resorted to issuing a circular that ordered the generals to stand down. January 6th of 1898 saw Miguel Malvar cease his attacks.

General Miguel Malvar During the Filipino-American War

When it finally seemed that the Spanish would be driven back – the Filipinos enlisted by the Spanish to fight the Americans defected to Aguinaldo’s army as soon as they could – and the Philippines would finally gain independence, the Americans swooped in and snuffed that little moment of relief and joy. The city of Manila was captured on the 13th of August in 1898 by the Americans, shortly after Kawit, Cavite had declared independence after years of resistance.

Three days after the Filipino-American War had gone into full effect, General Miguel Malvar was made second-in-command to General Trias, commander of the Filipino forces in Southern Luzon. Later on, General Antonio Luna would order General Miguel Malvar to go on an offensive to retake Manila. This would end in failure due to the subordination of the Kawit Battalion, and Miguel Malvar would spend months poking and prodding at the American forces present there with little effect. This would further extend to months of failed sieges against the recently captured Calamba, Laguna.

After General Emilio Aguinaldo was captured and General Trias had surrendered, the line of succession placed General Miguel Malvar as president of the Philippine Republic. His time as president wouldn’t be long, and neither would it be full of any notable successes. The revolution was crashing hard, and the only reason Miguel Malvar escaped American troops was because of clever disguises. However, on the 13th of April in the year of 1902, Miguel Malvar surrendered himself to American General J. Franklin Bell, not only because he wanted his countrymen to suffer no more, but also because with the rapid fall of the revolution many officers and close members of the rebel groups had deserted the rebellion.

When the war was finally over, the Americans tried offering Miguel Malvar different positions in the American colonial government, all of which Miguel Malvar staunchly refused to accept. He died on the 13th of October in the year of 1911 in Manila due to complications from liver failure, and was buried in his hometown of Santo Tomas, Batangas just two days later.

Conclusion

Miguel Malvar has a statue of him in Malvar, Batangas, a municipality named after him for his brilliance in the Filipino-American War, and is also featured on coins released in 2015 to commemorate his 150th birth anniversary. In the end, we can remember Miguel Malvar as a leader that stuck to his morals and ideals till the very end. If you’re interested in reading up about famous historical figures, we have a huge catalog for you to check out. Like this post on the personality of Benjamin Harrison. Or, if you’d like to read about the treaty that led to the Filipino-American War in the first place, we have a post about it here.