KASAMA Vol. 10 No. 3 / July-August-September 1996 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Filipino Patriot and Hero:
Colonel Quintin Salas

"History is rich in its evaluation of the Spanish rule in the country which is not all condemnable. But truth to tell, the Spanish Colonial time is also a history of a subject people abused by foreigners. Our forefathers then were strangers in their own land for they were born subjects, not freemen. It was indeed an era when knowledge was a passport to condemnation, subservience considered a virtue and self-assertion for freedom, and human dignity looked upon by the white masters with disdain and contempt. It was a time when sealed lips were more beautiful than inspired and truthful tongues. It was a time when kneeling to the human Gods was more welcomed than a handshake of brotherhood and cordiality; a time when the voice shouting for freedom was an echo in the wilderness, a time when the meaning of the Cross was blended with the venom of power."

From the speech delivered by then Asst. City Fiscal Agustin T. Misola at the 1978 commemoration ceremony of the late Colonel Quintin Salas.

by Dee Dicen Hunt

Colonel Quintin Salas

Quintin Salas was one of eleven children born to Nicolas Salas and Nicolasa Dicen in Dumangas, Iloilo on the island of Panay on 31 October 1870.

In the 1890s Quintin Salas was serving the Spanish colonial government as Teniente Mayor (Vice-Mayor) and later as Capitan del Pueblo (Municipal Captain) of Dumangas when he was made commander of the local Filipino volunteer militia. These voluntarios were organised by the Spanish to suppress uprisings against their authority as had already begun in Luzon.

In secret communication with the revolutionary leaders of the province, Quintin Salas, upon acquiring men and arms, turned Revolucionario and convinced his men to join the rebellion against Spain by leading the uprising in Dumangas on October 28, 1898.

Salas and his troops liberated the surrounding towns, confiscated the firearms of the cuadrilleros (police), set prisoners free, and seized public documents. He was commissioned a full colonel and designated chief of operations for the central zone of Iloilo Province by General Martin Delgado, general of the Ejercito Libertador (as the revolutionary army of Panay was then known). On December 5, 1898 the revolutionary government of the Visayas pledged its allegiance to the principles of the Malolos Congress.

But then, another foreign master came, this time the Americans as the victor in the Spanish-American war. The Philippines was ceded to the U.S. for $20 million with a guarantee to protect the property and business rights of Spanish citizens. The Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898. Eleven days later, U.S. President McKinley issued the "Proclamation of Benevolent Assimilation" which expressly indicated America's intention to stay permanently and assume control and disposition of government – an open declaration of its war of aggression against the peoples of the Philippines.

Thus, armed hostilities between U.S. imperialism and the Filipino peoples began in a revolutionary war of national liberation and by the use of gunboat diplomacy the Philippines became a colony of the United States.

Salas was with Delgado when the revolutionary army entered Iloilo City on December 25. But while the Filipinos were attacking and capturing the few remaining Spanish garrisons, the U.S. was preparing to capture the Visayas.

When a U.S. occupying force was sent to Iloilo in March 1899, Salas and the other revolutionary leaders of Panay denied the American request to land in Iloilo and instead made preparation to defend the province. They dug trenches along a 10km battleline and waited, facing Guimaras Strait and the might of U.S. naval power. Salas was among the leaders at the battlefront.

From February to September, Salas held his ground in Balantang until American reinforcements arrived forcing his troops to retreat. He'd earned the respect of his people, and even the enemy called him "General" Salas.

With the fall of Cabatuan, the last capital of the revolutionary government in Panay, many of the Visayan leaders surrendered to the Americans, but Quintin Salas, together with six Ilonggo generals and the remaining revolutionary troops, chose instead to wage guerrilla warfare against the Americans. He surprised them with night assaults and daytime ambushes. The Salas guerrilla forays lasted for more than two years.

But finally, the generals and other guerrilla leaders surrendered and Salas found himself alone. He was persuaded to give up by his friends and former comrades-in-arms and, realising that further resistance would be futile as well as destructive of lives and properties, he laid down his arms in October 1901, nine months after his commanding general surrendered.

In 1908, exiled from Iloilo, he went to Manila, graduated from the Escuela de Derecho with a degree of Bachelor of Laws, was admitted to the Bar in 1912, and practiced law for a while until he was allowed to return to Iloilo. Quintin Salas died of tuberculosis on January 24, 1917. His only surviving child, Rosario, became the first Ilonggo woman lawyer.