The Aquinos of Tarlac in the Philippines

By Renato Perdon

 

Presidential candidate Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III came from an illustrious family in Tarlac in the Philippines. His great grandfather was revolutionary leader Gen. Servillano Aquino and his grandfather, Benigno Q. Aquino, was a distinguished legislator and member of the Quezon Cabinet. His father was senator and opposition leader, the late Benigno S. Aquino and his mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino.

 

Presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino was born in Manila in 1960 to Corazon and Benigno Aquino, Jr. His father, a senator was the strong opponent of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

 

General Servillano Aquino

The great, grandfather Gen. Servillano Aquino was a revolutionary leader. He was born in Angeles, Pampanga in 1874 to Braulio Aquino and Petrona Aguilar de Hipolito. He was well educated having completed at Colegio de San Juan de Letran his bachelor of arts degree and land surveying. He continued his study of law at the University of Sto. Tomas but dropped out of school when he married Guadalupe Quiambao. The couple had three children, namely, Gonzalo, Benigno, and Armando.

 

He actively participated in the activities of the Katipunan and was captured and jailed at Fort Santiago. Sentenced to death for sedition, he was however freed as result of the Pact of Biac-na-Bato and joined Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in exile in Hong Kong.

 

During the second phase of the Philippine revolution, he was promoted to full colonel under Gen. Makabulos in Central Luzon and military governor of Tarlac. During his term military governor, the radical peasant movement Guardia de Honor, sowed terror among landowners in the province. His father-in-law who was the town president of Murcia, Tarlac, and his wife were killed by the peasants. His sons escaped death when their grandmother managed to hide them while the killing was taking place.

 

During the Filipino-American War, he became the leader of Pampango troops that attacked Caloocan and pushed their way to San Lazaro and Sampaloc. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general and appointed deputy to the Malolos Congress.

 

After the war, he was court-martialled by the Americans after he surrendered ‘unconditionally’ to Brigadier General Frederick Dent Grant and later sentenced for life. After three years, he received pardon from President Theodore Roosevelt upon recommendation of US Secretary of War William Howard Taft.

 

He returned to Tarlac and rejoined his three children who were living with their grandmother and Petronila, the sister of his late wife. When Petronila’s husband died, he married his sister-in-law and had a daughter, Fortunata. When his second wife died in 1923, he divided the Murcia hacienda among the heirs. He was only 49 years old and devoted much of his time to his new farms and developing into rice or sugar land his estates that included Hacienda Tianang, Hacienda Lauang, Hacienda Pandakaki, and Hacienda Paligue.

 

At the ripe age of 72 years old, he married Belen Sanchez of Concepcion. His third wife had a miscarriage and by the age of 75 years, he became the father of Herminio. General Servillano Aquino passed away at the age of 85 leaving children from three wives.

 

Benigno Q. Aquino

Servillano’s son, Benigno S. Aquino was a wartime leader, a distinguished legislator and member of the Quezon cabinet. He was born in 1894 in Murcia but grew up in Concepcion, Tarlac. He had cartilla lessons under a private tutor and later studied at the school managed by Bartolome Tablante in Angeles, Pampanga. He boarded at the school of Modesto Joaquin in Bacolor. He transferred to Colegio de San Juan de Letran in 1904 where he excelled in oratory receiving medals and the star pupil in the philosophy class. He graduated at the age of 13 with a bachelor of arts degree. Then he studied law at the University of Santo Tomas and completed a bachelor of laws degree in 1913 and passed the bar the following year.

 

In May 1916, he married Maria Urquico, a scion of a rich rice merchant family in Tarlac and one of the country’s first certified public accountant in 1915. She and Benigno lived in a house near the Tarlac market where their first child, Antonio, was born.

 

The family lived at the 1,200-hectare Hacienda Tinang which was inherited by Benigno from his father in 1923. They lived in a large brick house known as Casa Grande or Bale Maragul, the biggest in town fronting Calle Real. With the help of his brother-in-law, he cleared the hacienda, planted sugar cane, and put its old sugar mill back into operation but continued his law practice by commuting between the farm and the town...’

 

Aquino served as representative of the second district of Tarlac from 1919 to 1928, then senator from 1928 to 1934, and assemblyman from 1935 to 1938. He became the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce in 1938. In 19141, he resigned from the cabinet.

 

During the Japanese period, he served in the puppet government of Pres. Jose P. Laurel. When the Japanese surrendered, he was imprisoned at the notorious Sugamo prison in Tokyo. It was at the concentration camp that Aquino developed a heart condition.

 

He was arraigned before the People’s Court, he entered a plea of innocence to the charge of treason and asked for bail. In Sept. 1946, he was released provisionally and stayed most of the time in Tarlac where he nursed himself back to health.

 

His political comeback took place in 1947 when he became a close ally of Pres. Manuel Roxas. In December of that year, he suffered another heart attack and died of cardiac arrest. Four days after his death, the case of treason against him was dismissed. He was buried in Concepcion, Tarlac.

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