The Battle of Pinaglabanan is the symbol of the Katipunero’s baptism. This bloody encounter between the Katipuneros and the Spanish civil guards occured on August 30, 1896 in the hills of San Juan.
Pinaglabanan was the first major battle fought, and the initial Katipunero mortification. Katipuneros were never involved into professional army. They moved on foot, had few rifles and guns, but were prepared to fight hand-to-hand, man-to-man.
The Aborted Attack on Intramuros
The Katipuneros agreed to launch a concrete attack against Intramuros, the seat of the Spanish colonial government at midnight of August 29, 1896. The signal for the attack would have been the extinguishing of the lights on Luneta. The night passed with lights of Luneta remaining lit.
Bonifacio realized that he has not sent a signal to begin the coordinated attack. He retreated in Balara and aborted the attack on Intramuros the next day.
Scheduled nonetheless was the attack in the San Juan del Monte’s polvorin or powder magazine. The polvorin protected Manila’s potable water supply. Since the walls of Intramuros made a direct attack difficult, the strategy was to capture the reservoir in San Juan and dry up water supply of the Intramuros.
The Massacre at Pinaglabanan
The Katipuneros outnumbered the defenders but the Mauser rifles of trained King’s men were superior to the bolos, few Remington rifles, and equally meager shot guns of the Katipuneros.
Strong Spanish reinforcements arrived at San Juan del Monte. Katipuneros fought valiantly in the battle that was their baptism of fire. Historian Gregorio Zaide even describe the Battle of Pinaglabanan was “more of a massacre that a battle.” When close to 200 Katipuneros died in the battle.
By 3pm that day, Governor General Ramon Blanco, declared martial law in eight provinces of central Luzon: Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Manila, Morong (Rizal), Nueva Ecija and Pampanga where the revolution made an impact. These provinces will be honored for their early commitments to the liberation efforts as the eight rays of the Philippine Rebulic’s flag.
The Bloody End that began the Fight for Freedom
Katipuneros failed to capture the powder house in San Juan near the water works. They also failed to capture Intramuros, the seat of government for the Spanish colony.
The initial defeat in Pinaglabanan could have discouraged the Filipino forces from rising in arms against a superior enemy. The Battle of Pinaglabanan could have been taken as a signal that the revolution was futile and useless, but what it actually did was to ignite a full-blown revolution. Although it ended in disaster, the failed attack was not the end of the fight against the Spanish rule. The fight for freedom has just started at Pinaglabanan.
Information source: Vision’s of the Possible, Felice Prudente-Santa Maria