BRIGADIER GENERAL BONIFACIO ARANAS
Brigadier General Bonifacio Aranas was born on June 5, 1875 in Agoho, Mambajao, Misamis Oriental but he led the Cebuanos in fighting against the Spaniards to take control of Cebu’s northwest towns.
“Heneral Asyong” as he was better known to his relatives and friends in Mambajao, was a victim of treachery which cost him his life. The Philippines insurrection caught him in Cebu while he was a young student in the ancient Collegio de San Carlos. An elder brother, the late Father Teodoro Aranas, was a coadjutor at San Nicolas Church in Cebu City at the time. But the younger one avoided seeing the other for fear that the latter might be incriminated in his revolutionary activities
Young Aranas joined the revolution and through sheer courage and leadership, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, under General Leon Kilat. The 21 year old general commanded a unit that defended an important sector in Cebu province. In a series of bloody skirmishes in Tuburan, General Aranas and his gallant men wiped out a detachment of Spanish and Filipino caribeneros sent out to capture him dead or alive.
General Aranas was sent to Cebu to study at the Seminario de San Carlos where he finished a degree in Philosophy. There was a time in the seminary when he broke his plate in protest of the poor quality of the food; the meals at the seminary had improved after that.
General Aranas’ refusal to be cowed by just anybody was made more evident when he came home to Mambajao. There he had an altercation with some Spaniards who got jealous of him for his sharp shooting prowess with the gun. This incident prompted his older brother to advise him to stay calm or just leave Mambajao so as not to involve the family in his personal quarrel with the Spaniards.
General Aranas left his hometown and went back to Cebu where Mariano Hernandez recruited him to join the Katipunan. There were no recorded accounts of his successful leadership in the battles of Cebu and San Nicolas, but Leon Kilat, who knew of his performance and courage, named him brigadier general.
From April 4 to 6, 1898, the Katipuneros extended their control in the northwest part of Cebu and on April 7, they forced the Guardia Civil (Spanish Civil Guard) at Tuburan to surrender their firearms to the revolutionary forces.
It was the same day, however, that Leon Kilat was assassinated in Carcar. What followed then were the arrival of the Spanish reinforcements and the recapture of Cebu and San Nicolas, forcing the leaders of the revolution to flee to the mountains.
From where Leon Kilat had left off, General Aranas’ leadership in the revolution became prominent. He led the Katipuneros to Toledo where he raided the barrios near the poblacion then recruited at least 5,000 more fighters to join his force.
On April 12, the Spaniards in Balamban wrote a letter to General Aranas signifying their intent to surrender. But General Aranas and a native leader, Claudio Bakus, suspected a ruse and approached Balamban from another direction. The tactic proved correct and the revolutionaries subdued the Guardia Civil and its militiamen, also forcing the parish priest and the municipal captain to escape.
As evening fell, General Aranas left and led his men to Asturias where a number of pro-Spanish Cebuanos, instead of fighting, deserted the town. There, General Aranas was able to recruit more men to join the revolution. General Aranas then met Pedro Giralde, at that time tagging the alias Sancho Baldomero, and discussed the attack to recover the town of Tuburan from Spanish hands, the most vital point in the northwest coast.Tuburan could be approached by boat only so their plans included fighting on the beach.
On April 14, General Aranas arrived with some 6,000 men, armed mostly with pinuti and with rifles they seized from the battles in Cebu, Toledo and Balamban. General Aranas and another general, Maxilom, led the fight in overpowering the forces of Tuburan.
Later on, General Aranas temporarily retreated to the mountains to prepare for besieging the Spaniards in the towns of Bogo, Borbon and Tabogon. In Tabogon, General Aranas took a banca (a small wooden boat) and crossed the seas to the Camotes islands. On April 17, he arrived in Tagbilaran, Bohol where he made preparations to lead a battle in Camiguin, at his home province, and to visit his sick mother in Mambajao, when he was finally captured by Guardia Civil in a town of Bohol. An old friend and a former classmate in whose house General Aranas had been hiding were waiting for a chance to proceed by banca to Camiguin allegedly tipped off the Spaniards.
Hogtied and heavily guarded, General Aranas was taken back to Cebu on April 18 and thrown into the scorpion-and-rat-infested dungeon of centuries-old Fort San Pedro Abad. Before he was jailed, however, he came face to face with his old foe, General Adolfo Gonzales Montero, the last Spaniard Military Governor of Cebu and Commander of the Cebu garrison.
General Aranas dared the Spanish Governor to a “duel at the plaza in order to find out who was braver and who deserved to live.” The Governor, furious seeing his youthful adversary who caused the loss of his men, slapped him and spat at him and shouted: “Canalla!” (rabble) . Angered by General Aranas show of disrespect against him, Montero immediately ordered the execution of the Filipino General at Carreta.
For months General Aranas suffered much during his captivity. Nobody was allowed to see him except the guards. His old, ailing mother passed away without seeing him.
When he was finally marched out to his execution at Carreta, the young general still carrying himself with military bearing, walked between the famous Tabotabo brothers of Cebu who were executed with him for anti-Spanish activities. A military band, playing martial music, accompanied the prisoners to their end. General Aranas made his last confession to his brother, Father Teodoro Aranas, who was allowed to witness his execution.
Days before he was executed on April 18, 1898, upon orders of General Montero, General Aranas wrote to his parents in Misamis asking forgiveness for the troubles he had caused them, saying: “Dili lamang kamo maguol kanako kay panahon na sa pagtugyan ko kang Bathala sa akong kinabuhi...kay matam-is ang kamatayon nga ihalad alang sa atong kagawasan.”
General Bonifacio Aranas earned the distinction of being the only Filipino rebel officer allowed by Spanish military authorities in Cebu to wear his full uniform as General when he was executed at Carreta, Cebu City in 1898. His body was burned and buried without the last blessing. Although he failed to carry on the revolution to his hometown in Misamis, he left behind the Cebuanos the show of courage and personal sacrifice to fight against the Spanish rulers, with string of victories, before his execution.
Today, he is well remembered in his hometown, Mambajao. The Military Camp is named after him, Camp General Bonifacio Aranas and the main street of Mambajao as well, Bonifacio Aranas street. And a street in Cebu City is also named after his name. His remains was buried in the Heroes Shrine of Mambajao, Camiguin.
**Sources: The Freeman - Garry B. Lao with data sourced from the Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission; and Rafael A. Bautista, Mambajao, Camiguin.