On May 6, 1902, a new nation was declared, the Republic of Katagalugan, also known as the Tagalog Republic. This little known nation did not last long – only until 1906 and was not recognized by any foreign power. Its president, however, remains remembered in his homeland to this day – a hero or a villain, depending on who you ask.
Macario Sakay had emerged from a working class background in his native Luzon island just outside of Manila, Philippines to a position of military leadership during the Filipino wars of independence from Spain. However, the Filipino people’s struggle for independence was part of the larger conflict known as the Spanish-American War and their hard-fought struggle brought them from colonial status under a dying power (Spain) to an emerging one (United States). For many Filipinos this was an unbearable situation – they were still under the dominance of a foreign people.
Sakay led his followers in a struggle against the American troops that had helped in the liberation of the Philippines from Spain, but had not gone home. He declared his nation’s independence and set up a government. He has been, however, painted as a bandit and a criminal because he was, in the end, not victorious. In 1906, Sakay was captured by American troops and was sentenced to death for treason: a sentence that was carried out in 1907. Had he been victorious (or more so), Sakay could have been remembered with the likes of Che or Bolivar, but he was not. As we all know, history is written by the winners.