Mutiny Philippines: Andres Novales and his attempt at empire

   Independence Day in the Philippines is near this year and this is exhibited by the many flags and tricolors waving in many establishments nationwide. This will be the nation's 117th Independence Day (Does the number ring a bell, or rather, a police siren?). However, it must not pass our attention that in 1823, 75 years and 10 days before our own Independence Day, Andres Novales and a force of around 800 soldiers declared independence not in Kawit, Cavite but in Manila.


Mutiny is a situation in which a group of people (such as sailors or soldiers) refuse to obey orders and try to take control away from the person who commands them (See Merriam-Webster definition of mutiny). Related words include insurgency, insurrection, rebellion, coup and coup d'√©tat. In the Philippines, there is no shortage of mutinies and coups that may be tackled. This series is dedicated to that matter.

See the second part of this series by clicking here (The January Coup).

Spanish Army division under General Pedro Caro y Sureda
fights against France during the Napoleonic Wars
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

   Andres Novales, an insular (creole) with Mexican blood, was born in Manila at around 1800. Before his mutiny, he served as captain in the King's Regiment (sometimes termed as the First Regiment or the King's Own Regiment). Thinking about it, his father was also a captain in the Spanish army. He was a cadet at age 9, whereas cadets today in the Philippine Military Academy had to be at least 17 years old. At 14, he graduated as a lieutenant. Having fervor to serve the army, he notified his commander, an unnamed lieutenant colonel, about his desire to fight for Spain in the Napoleonic Wars. His commander warned him that it would mean risking his rank, because fighting in Spain meant he will be a rankless volunteer. Novales pushed forward this endeavor. He also fought for Spain in the South American Wars of Independence, which followed the Napoleonic Wars. Upon his return in Manila, he was conferred the rank of captain.

   His claim to fame was his ill-fated mutiny that had the best chances to claim Intramuros (even Aguinaldo and his Philippine Republican Army will not occupy Intramuros, thus the declaration of independence at Kawit). Reassigned to fight of pirates in Misamis, but definitely a disguise of the government for exile, a typhoon prevented the departure of his ship. Thus, at around 10 PM of June 2, Novales, whose popularity rivaled that of the Governor General, gathered the officers of his regiment, including Lieutenant Ruiz and Sergeant Mateo, in the barracks. After a short discussion, they agreed to start the mutiny right there and then. The officers, Ruiz, Mateo and 20 other sergeants of the regiment, managed to recruit 800 men, mostly made up of Mexicans and other South American nationalities (a surprisingly large number, taking in mind that the Katipunan itself only had 300 members by 1895). Back in their barracks, they unanimously declared Novales as Emperor of the Philippines, the absolute monarch of the archipelago. At around midnight or 1 AM, Manila was awakened by the cries of Novales and his men marching through the Camino Real: Viva la independencia (Long live independence) and Viva el Emperador Novales (Long live the Emperor Novales).

   Surprisingly, the people of the city and its suburbs, rather than to despise the soldiers interrupting their sleep late at night, waved flags and shouted in support of the Emperor Novales. At 2 AM, they managed to seize key government and religious buildings, including the Manila Cathredal and the City Hall. They arrested or assassinated all Spanish officers they found, including former Governor General Mariano Fernandez de Folgueras and the commandant of the Palacio del Gobernador (it would be 40 years earlier before the Governor General transfers his residence to Malacanan Palace, which was outside Intramuros). At 6 AM, they reached the gates of Fort Santiago, which guard was headed by Lieutenant Mariano Novales, brother of Emperor Andres.
This is my moment dear brother, to liberate our country from the hands of oppressors. I am already master of the city and of the palace, and all of the constituted authorities. I therefore exhort you to join me in proclaiming independence in the fort you command, and to prepare to defend the sacred cause like a true citizen.
This is what he exhorted to his brother. Mariano, perhaps expecting rewards from the Spanish government, did not let Novales enter Fort Santiago, to the extent of threatening to use the cannons of the fortress against the Emperor's forces. He did, however, express his desire to provide supplies for the Emperor and his forces given that they do not attempt to enter the fort. To make the long story short, Governor General Juan Antonio Martinez (hastily coming to Manila from Pampanga) and the Spanish forces regained the areas of Intramuros that Novales had capture. The government immediately executed Emperor Novales, Ruiz, and the 21 sergeants of the regiment at 5 PM of the same day, June 3. The rest of the remaining mutineers were deported. This was a most usual event in the Spanish empire at the time, although the speed of the events might have one baffled to this day. Displaying his valiant spirit until the last minute, he appealed the Governor General, even if they had no real trial, not to execute Ruiz and the 21 sergeants, claiming that he was Emperor of the Philippines was only an individual pursuit. Apparently, he wanted to die alone to save his comrades. The latter went deaf to Novales's appeal.

His last words were: "Let my death and that of my companions be an example to you; we die innocent, for having attempted to give you freedom..." (It was said he would have continued has his next words not drowned by drum music, which preceded his being shot. The Governor General feared his final words might stir the people to stage another revolt.)


   Had the London Magazine been wrong in its use of "true citizen" in Andres's exhortation to his brother, then it is apparent that Novales had intentions of building up a constitutional monarchy. It is possible that while fighting in Spain and South America, he witnessed and learned of things like the French Revolution (1789), the Cadiz Constitution (1812) and the burgeoning republics in the former colonies. Thus, it would be injustice if one is led to think that Novales only staged his mutiny due to disappointment on his ranking in the armed forces. Just take note of his speech to his comrades in the barracks as noted by Edmund Plauchut:
You all know how during the French invasion of Spain the revolutionary Cortes acknowledged overseas subjects to be Spaniards of equal rights with peninsulars. And you cannot have forgotten that on King Fernando [Ferdinand] VII's return from captivity His Catholic Majesty thanked us Filipinos for our loyalty to him.
Of course, discrimination of peninsulars to insulars caused Novales to be stuck to the rank of captain (even if he was capable of being a major or lieutenant colonel given his experience), as well as many others who did or did not join him to be left behind in the lower echelons of the armed forces. Such discrimination is not only within the armed forces, as this was only a starting point. The Palmero Conspiracy in 1828 would reveal that the Spanish were bent to regain even government offices for peninsulars. While it is to be noted that Novales, like many of his contemporary insulars in the Philippines, may have had a limited view of what a Filipino was (that is, Spanish born in the Philippines), here is a man of mixed blood saying that he was Filipino. Perhaps, he possessed a more liberal, even revolutionary, view on what a Filipino was. However, there is scant evidence to analyze his views. It is possible that he was only using the term to appeal to the people and gather support.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826)
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
   Also, there is evidence that the mutiny is not planned on advance. An excerpt from a letter written by Stamford Raffles, known for being founder of Singapore, on January 20, 1823 suggests a "very formidable conspiracy" being formed in the archipelago. Raffles was not alone in this observation. Governor General Martinez himself, in a proclamation to the people on January 3, 1823, spoke of a "horrible conspiracy on foot, by which your commerce, your manufactures, your property, your repose, and your lives were threatened." Apparently, the people heeded not to Martinez as they cheered on Novales almost five months later. However, the vagueness of their statements may present that they had not completely ascertained that it was Novales who would spearhead the mutiny, for he would only be sent to Misamis by June 2. It is to be noted as well that gathering 800 people is not an easy task. As said earlier, the Katipunan only had a membership of 300 by 1895. At this time, the Katipunan was existing for three years. If we are to trace when Martinez and Raffles noted this "conspiracy," it would provide Novales more or less six months to gain such force. Was it his popularity as a hero of both the Napoleonic Wars and South American Wars of Independence? If so, it would explain why Ruiz and his other men proclaimed him emperor. Although without sufficient basis, there is also an assumption that Novales received a sort of "go" signal from Mexico, which just succeeded gaining independence in 1821. He may have gotten the "emperor" campaign from Mexico. Still, I say that there is insufficient basis because there is no clear evidence on how stable was Novales's connections to Iturbide and Mexico since it seems he did not even set foot on the country when he fought the Wars of Independence. Also, how much aid did Mexico provide Novales? It is possible that the government at Mexico was only hoping for someone like Novales to stand up and succeed before they would take action. He did have Mexican provenance, and some of his men were of Mexican provenance as well, but it would require more thorough and exhaustive study to see this through. Did other creoles like Varela, the "Conde Filipino," promise anything to Novales so as he would take action? Or, are they also caught by surprise as much as the Gomburza during the Cavite Mutiny?

File:Jose rizal 01.jpg
Jose Rizal (1861-1896)
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
   The mutiny would have a striking similarity with Simoun's plan in Chapter 33 of El Filibusterismo, Ang Huling Matuwid, if taken with further analysis. Is it of possibility that Rizal also learned of Novales and his mutiny? If so, he must have chosen the only mutiny that had the best chance to take Intramuros. Of course, there are modifications to this plan, since it is apparent that Simoun commanded more forces and resources than Novales did. Also, it had been 68 years between the publication of El Filibusterismo and the mutiny of Novales. This, therefore, may display Rizal's view on how Novales's lightning fast military campaign might be utilized for a successful revolution. It is also taken into note in this article that Andres Bonifacio (having the same first name as Novales?) may have a background of either Rizal's El Filibusterismo, Novales, or both in formulating his plan to take Intramuros in 1896. Below is an excerpt from the said chapter.
Simoun, meanwhile, screwed on solidly a curious and complicated mechanism, put in place a glass chimney, then the bomb, and crowned the whole with an elegant shade. Then he moved away some distance to contemplate the effect, inclining his head now to one side, now to the other, thus better to appreciate its magnificent appearance. 
Noticing that Basilio was watching him with questioning and suspicious eyes, he said, "Tonight there will be a fiesta and this lamp will be placed in a little dining-kiosk that I've had constructed for the purpose. The lamp will give a brilliant light, bright enough to suffice for the illumination of the whole place by itself, but at the end of twenty minutes the light will fade, and then when some one tries to turn up the wick a cap of fulminate of mercury will explode, the pomegranate will blow up and with it the dining-room, in the roof and floor of which I have concealed sacks of powder, so that no one shall escape." 
There was a moment's silence, while Simoun stared at his mechanism and Basilio scarcely breathed. 
"So my assistance is not needed," observed the young man. 
"No, you have another mission to fulfill," replied Simoun thoughtfully. "At nine the mechanism will have exploded and the report will have been heard in the country round, in the mountains, in the caves. The uprising that I had arranged with the artillerymen was a failure from lack of plan and timeliness, but this time it won't be so. Upon hearing the explosion, the wretched and the oppressed, those who wander about pursued by force, will sally forth armed to join Cabesang Tales in Santa Mesa, whence they will fall upon the city, while the soldiers, whom I have made to believe that the General is shamming an insurrection in order to remain, will issue from their barracks ready to fire upon whomsoever I may designate. Meanwhile, the cowed populace, thinking that the hour of massacre has come, will rush out prepared to kill or be killed, and as they have neither arms nor organization, you with some others will put yourself at their head and direct them to the warehouses of Quiroga, where I keep my rifles. Cabesang Tales and I will join one another in the city and take possession of it, while you in the suburbs will seize the bridges and throw up barricades, and then be ready to come to our aid to butcher not only those opposing the revolution but also every man who refuses to take up arms and join us." 
"All?" stammered Basilio in a choking voice. 
"All!" repeated Simoun in a sinister tone. "All -- Indians, mestizos, Chinese, Spaniards, all who are found to be without courage, without energy. The race must be renewed! Cowardly fathers will only breed slavish sons, and it wouldn't be worth while to destroy and then try to rebuild with rotten materials. What, do you shudder? Do you tremble, do you fear to scatter death? What is death? What does a hecatomb of twenty thousand wretches signify? Twenty thousand miseries less, and millions of wretches saved from birth! The most timid ruler does not hesitate to dictate a law that produces misery and lingering death for thousands and thousands of prosperous and industrious subjects, happy perchance, merely to satisfy a caprice, a whim, his pride, and yet you shudder because in one night are to be ended forever the mental tortures of many helots, because a vitiated and paralytic people has to die to give place to another, young, active, full of energy! 
"What is death? Nothingness, or a dream? Can its specters be compared to the reality of the agonies of a whole miserable generation? The needful thing is to destroy the evil, to kill the dragon and bathe the new people in the blood, in order to make it strong and invulnerable. What else is the inexorable law of Nature, the law of strife in which the weak has to succumb so that the vitiated species be not perpetuated and creation thus travel backwards? Away then with effeminate scruples! Fulfill the eternal laws, foster them, and then the earth will be so much the more fecund the more it is fertilized with blood, and the thrones the more solid the more they rest upon crimes and corpses. Let there be no hesitation, no doubtings! What is the pain of death? A momentary sensation, perhaps confused, perhaps agreeable, like the transition from waking to sleep. What is it that is being destroyed? Evil, suffering--feeble weeds, in order to set in their place luxuriant plants. Do you call that destruction? I should call it creating, producing, nourishing, vivifying!"
   The Novales mutiny is only a footnote in Filipino history, a brief episode that is not even given attention. In fact, it is not even a footnote in most textbooks today. However, as Filipinos commemorate their Independence Day, it is still of worth to remember his drive for independence. That is, a man of mixed blood, a soldier who was veteran of many wars, fought for the independence of the Philippines.

"Like you I am a Filipino. I feel the injustice done to the loyal sons of the soil, and I know that what has happened to some of you will eventually happen to the rest of us."
- Andres Novales, June 1823


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See the references by clicking here.
The article on Andres Novales in Wikipedia is written by the author of this blog.

Mutiny Philippines: Andres Novales and his attempt at empire Mutiny Philippines: Andres Novales and his attempt at empire Reviewed by Al Raposas on Wednesday, June 03, 2015 Rating: 5

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