We forayed into history to choose our wedding date, it had to be significant for both of us, not only for his side of the family, but also for mine. So, Rizal’s birthday, June 19 was out and so was his heroic death by firing squad on 30 December. The Malolos Congress came to mind, that assembly convened three months after the Declaration of Independence in Kawit, in 1898, when the USA’s invading forces were creeping in, pitching tents along the coast, pretending to be allies. Aguinaldo and his council decided to take the Revolutionary Government to Bulacan, out of reach of American canons to convene a congress and draft a Constitution for an independent Republic. Elections for delegates were held in areas where that was possible, about 50 delegates were appointed by Aguinaldo to represent unliberated areas.
Indeed, the Malolos Congress of 15 September 1898, was the historically sentimental event that involved both the Aranetas and Guerreros. So, are we going to get married at the Barasoain Church? I liked the idea instantly but he said, no. Tonypet wanted us to get married in Spain, of all places, in Avila where there is a church dedicated to Santa Teresa de Jesus. It definitely was not because Teresa is my second name. The venerable doctor of Holy Mother the Church, abstemious reformer of religious orders was Tonypet’s aunt (on his mother side, the Zaragosas) , many generations removed. You may be a descendant of the national hero, he taunted, but I am related to a saint! Tonypet has always had a fondness for the last word.
So, let us wish each other a very happy anniversary, Tonypet. Fifty- five years after Avila and 122 after that constitutional convention of our great grandfathers in Malolos, even if destiny has limned the contours of our story with greyish tones. Yet, we are still the best of friends and legally married to each other. The marriage knot must still be in the firm grip of your Tita Teresa de Avila.
The First Republic of the Philippines which, proudly, is also the first in Asia remains to be a polemical issue among Filipinos. Unfortunately, many of us have not yet heard of it. Strangely enough, National Artist Carlos Francisco, did not give the First Republic an eminent place in his most spectacular mural which is already a declared National Cultural Treasure. For that matter, I think it is tragic that there is no national celebration on 15 September, or 21 January. Year after year, the Malolos Congress and the First Republic are commemorated only at the local level, in Bulacan where the Barasaoin Church is located. In 1989, to everyone’s surprise, the then newly-elected President Joseph Estrada held his inauguration ceremonies in Barasoain, for historical continuity. After lunch, he went to the Luneta to deliver the official panegyric to his constituents.
I have asked my historian friends about this cavalier attitude to the ineluctable fruit of our anti-colonial and anti-imperial struggles that was the Philippine Revolution. The First Republic may have been short-lived, hegemonic powers made it impossible for us to gain international recognition; it was crushed by superior military might, but we did it! How tragic that there is no national celebration for either 15 September or 21 January, for that matter.
We continue to duke out this issue in various seminars and congresses. Could it be because of the ignominies heaped on Aguinaldo, the first President, that the Malolos Congress and the First Republic remain to be side shows? Nostalgic renegades that we are, Tonypet and I wanted 15 September to be center stage, so we celebrated our nuptials on that momentous day.