Antonio Luna

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{]] Laureana Novicio-Ancheta, from Luna, La Union (formerly Namacpacan).[1] His father was a traveling salesman of the products of government monopolies. His older brother, Juan, was an accomplished painter who studied in the Madrid Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Another brother, José, became a doctor.[2]


At the age of six, Antonio learned reading, writing, and arithmetic from a teacher known as Maestro Intong. He memorized the Doctrina Christiana (catechism), the first book printed in the Philippines.[1] Common Catholic vocal prayers were all included in the book. The primary goal of the book was to propagate the Christian teachings in the Philippines.[citation needed]

He initially studied at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1881.[1] He went on to study literature and chemistry at the University of Santo Tomas, where he won first prize for a paper in chemistry titled Two Fundamental Bodies of Chemistry. He also studied pharmacy, swordsmanship, fencing, and military tactics, and became a sharpshooter. On the invitation of his brother Juan in 1890, Antonio was sent by his parents to Spain, to acquire a licentiate (at Universidad de Barcelona) and doctorate (at [[Universidad Central de Madrid]{About|the Filipino pharmacist and general|the Spanish footballer|Antonio Luna (footballer)|the Philippine Navy ship|BRP Gen. Antonio Luna (PG-141)}}

Antonio Luna de San Aden y Novicio-Ancheta
Antonio luna small.jpg
General Antonio Luna
Nickname(s) Antonio, Cafre
Born (1866-10-29)October 29, 1866
Manila, Spanish East Indies
Died June 5, 1899(1899-06-05) (aged 32)
Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Philippines
Allegiance  First Philippine Republic
Service/branch Philippine Revolutionary Army
Years of service 1898–1899~"assassinated"
Rank Kapitan Heneral.jpg Captain General
Battles/wars Philippine–American War
Awards Philippine Republic Medal
Relations Juan Luna, brother

Antonio Luna de San Pedro y Novicio-Ancheta (October 29, 1866 – June 5, 1899), an Ilocano born in Manila, was a Filipino pharmacist and general who fought in the Philippine–American War. He was also the founder of the Philippines's first military academy, which existed during the First Philippine Republic. He was regarded as the most brilliant of the Filipino military officers during the war.[3] Succeeding Artemio Ricarte as commander of the Philippine Revolutionary Army, he organized professional guerrilla soldiers later to be known as the Luna sharpshooters. His three-tier defense, now known as the Luna Defense Line, gave the American troops a hard campaign in the provinces north of Manila.[4]

Family background[edit]

Antonio Luna was born on October 29, 1866 in Urbiztondo, Binondo, Manila. He was the youngest of seven children of Joaquín Luna de San Pedro, from Badoc, Ilocos Norte, and Spanish [[Filipino mestizo|mestiza]) in Pharmacy.[1]

Reform propagandist[edit]

Luna with fellow propagandists Eduardo de Lete (center) and Marcelo H. del Pilar (right). Photo was taken in Spain in 1890.

In Spain, he became one of the Filipino expatriates who mounted the Propaganda Movement and wrote for La Solidaridad, headed by Galicano Apacible. He wrote a piece titled Impressions which dealt with Spanish customs and idiosyncrasies under the pen-name "Taga-ilog". Also, like many of the Filipino liberals in Spain, Luna joined the Masonry where he rose to being Master Mason.[1]

Luna was active as a researcher in the scientific community. After receiving his doctorate, Luna published in 1893 a scientific treatise on malaria entitled El Hematozoario del Paludismo (Malaria), which was favorably received in the scientific community. He then went to Belgium and France, and worked as assistant to Dr. Latteaux and Dr. Laffen. In recognition of his ability, he was appointed commissioner by the Spanish government to study tropical and communicable diseases.[1]

In 1894, he went back to the Philippines where he took the competition for chief chemist of the Municipal Laboratory of Manila, came in first and won the position.[2] He and his brother Juan also opened the Sala de Armas, a fencing club, in Manila.[1] When he learned of the underground societies that were planning a revolution and was asked to join, he scoffed at the idea and turned down the offer. Like other Filipino émigrés, he was in favor of reform rather than revolution as the way towards independence.[2] Nevertheless, after the existence of the Katipunan was leaked in August 1896, the Luna brothers were arrested and jailed in Fort Santiago for "participating" in the revolution.[2] His statement concerning the revolution was one of the many statements used to nail down the death sentence for José Rizal. Months later, José and Juan were freed but Antonio was exiled to Spain in 1897, where he was imprisoned at the Cárcel Modelo de Madrid.[1]

His more famous and controversial brother, Juan, who had been pardoned by the Spanish Queen Regent herself, left for Spain to use his influence to intercede for Antonio. Soon enough, Antonio's case was dismissed by the Military Supreme Court and he was released.[2]

Antonio, repenting for his blunder during the first phase of the Philippine Revolution, which ended at the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, then prepared himself for the second phase, which began upon the return of Emilio Aguinaldo in Cavite, that he had decided to join. Upon his release, Luna studied field fortifications, guerrilla warfare, organization, and other aspects of military science under Gerard Leman, who would later be the commanding general of the fortress at Liège.[5]

Upon arriving in Hong Kong, he was given a letter of recommendation to Aguinaldo and a revolver by Felipe Agoncillo. He returned to the Philippines in July 1898.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Luna also courted Nellie Boustead, a woman who was also courted by José Rizal.[2] Boustead was reportedly infatuated with Rizal. In a party held by Filipinos, a drunk Antonio Luna made unsavory remarks against Nellie Boustead. This prompted Rizal to challenge Luna into a duel. However, Luna apologized to Rizal, thus averting a duel between the compatriots.[6]

Philippine–American War[edit]

Antonio Luna, The Fiery General

Antonio Luna was one of the first to see action in Manila on August 13, 1898, when the Americans landed troops in Intramuros. Since June 1898, Manila had been completely surrounded by the revolutionary troops. Colonel Luciano San Miguel occupied Mandaluyong; General Pío del Pilar, Makati; General Mariano Noriel, Parañaque; Pacheco, Navotas, Tambobong, and Caloocan. Gregorio del Pilar marched through Sampaloc, taking Tondo, Divisoria, and Azcárraga; Noriel cleared Singalong and Paco, and held Ermita and Malate. Luna thought the Filipinos should just walk in and enter Intramuros to have joint occupation of the walled city. But Aguinaldo, heeding the advice of General Merritt and Commodore (later Admiral) George Dewey, whose fleet had moored in Manila Bay, sent Luna to the trenches where he ordered his troops to fire on the Americans. After the chaos following the American Occupation, Luna tried to complain to American officers at a meeting in Ermita about the disorder made by American soldiers.[2]

To silence Luna, Aguinaldo appointed him as Chief of War Operations on September 26, 1898, and assigned the rank of Brigadier General. In quick succession, he was made the Director of War and Supreme Chief of the Army, arousing the envy of the other generals. Luna felt that bureaucratic placebos were being thrown his way, when all he wanted was to organize and discipline the enthusiastic but ill-fed and ill-trained troops into a real army.[2]

Luna saw the need for a military school, so in October 1898 he established a military academy at Malolos the Academia Militar, the precursor of the present Philippine Military Academy. He appointed Manuel Bernal Sityar, a mestizo captain formerly serving the Spanish Army, as superintendent. He recruited other mestizos and Spaniards who had fought in the Spanish army during the 1896 revolution for training. However, the academy had to be suspended indefinitely by March 1899 due to outbreak of the Philippine–American War.[2]

A score of veteran officers became the teachers at his military school. He devised two courses of instruction, planned the reorganization, with a battalion of tiradores and a cavalry squadron, set up an inventory of guns and ammunition, arsenals, using convents and town halls, quartermasters, lookouts and communication systems. He built tranches with the help of his chief engineer, General Jose Alejandrino, and had his brother Juan design the school's uniforms (the Filipino rayadillo). He also insisted on strict discipline over and above clan armies and clique loyalties.[5]

Deciding that the fate of the infant Republic should be a contest for the minds of Filipinos, Luna turned to journalism to strengthen Filipino minds with the ideas of nationhood and the need to fight the Americans. He decided to publish a newspaper, "La Independencia."[7]:63 This four-page daily was filled with articles, short stories, patriotic songs and poems. The staff was installed in one of the coaches of the train that ran from Manila to Pangasinan. The paper came out in September 1898, and was an instant success. A movable feast of information, humor, and good writing, 4,000 copies were printed, which was more than all the other newspapers put together.[5]

When the Treaty of Paris, under which Spain was to cede the Philippines to the United States, was made public in December 1898, Luna quickly decided to take military action. He proposed a strategy that was designed to trap the Americans in Manila before more of their troops could land by executing surprise attacks while building up strength in the north. If the American forces penetrated his lines, Luna determined that he would wage a series of delaying battles and prepare a fortress in northern Luzon. This, however, was turned down by the High Command, who still believed that the Americans would grant full independence.[5]

The Americans gained the time and the opportunity to start hostilities with the Filipinos at the place and time of their choice. On the night of February 4, 1899, when most of the Filipino generals were at a ball in Malolos to celebrate the success of the American anti-imperialists delaying the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, the Americans staged an incident along the concrete blockhouses in Santa Mesa near the Balsahan Bridge.[8] An American patrol fired on Filipino troops, claiming afterwards that the Filipinos had started shooting first and the whole Filipino line from Pasay to Caloocan returned fire and the first battle of the Filipino-American War ensued. Two days later, in response to the incident, the US Senate voted for annexation. In doing so, the conflict became the war of conquest, occupation and annexation that Luna, Mabini, and others had predicted and about which they had warned Aguinado and his generals previously.[5]

Luna, after receiving orders from Aguinaldo, rushed to the front lines from his headquarters at Polo (present-day Valenzuela City) and led three companies to La Loma to engage General Arthur MacArthur's forces. Fighting took place at Marikina, Caloocan, Santa Ana, and Paco. The Filipinos were subjected to a carefully planned attack with naval artillery, with Dewey's US fleet firing from the Manila Bay. Filipino casualties were high, amounting to around 2,000 killed and wounded.[8] Luna personally had to carry wounded officers and men to safety; of these rescues, the most dramatic was that of Commander José Torres Bugallón. After being hit by an American bullet, Bugallón had managed to advance another fifty meters before he was seen by Luna to collapse by the side of the road. As the Americans kept up their fire on the road, Luna had to gather an escort of around 25 men to save Bugallón, who Luna declared was equivalent to 500 men. Surviving the encounter, Luna tried to encourage Bugallón to live and gave the latter an instant promotion to lieutenant colonel. However, Bugallon died thereafter.[5]

On February 7, Luna issued a detailed order to the field officers of the territorial militia. Containing five specific objects, it began "by virtue of the barbarous attack upon our army on February 4," and ended with "war without quarter to false Americans who wish to enslave us. Independence or death!" The order labeled the US forces "an army of drunkards and thieves"[8] in response to the continued bombardment of the towns around Manila, the burning and looting of whole districts, and the raping of Filipino women by US troops.[5]

When Luna saw that the American advance had halted, mainly to stabilize their lines, he again mobilized his troops to attack La Loma on February 10. Fierce fighting ensued but the Filipinos were forced to withdraw thereafter.[5] Caloocan was left with American forces in control of the southern terminus of the Manila to Dagupan railway, along with five engines, fifty passenger coaches, and a hundred freight cars. After consolidating control of Caloocan, the obvious next objective for American forces would be the Republic capital at Malolos. However, General Otis delayed for almost a month in hopes that Filipino forces would be deployed in its defense.[9]

Nevertheless, with their superior firepower and newly arrived reinforcements, the Americans had not expected such resistance. They were so surprised that an urgent cable was sent to General Lawton who was in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), with his troops. Illustrating the concern that the Americans had, the telegram stated, "Situation critical in Manila. Your early arrival great importance."[5]

General Tomás Mascardo, military commander of Pampanga

A Filipino counterattack began at dawn on February 23. The plan was to employ a pincer movement, using the battalions from the North and South, with the sharpshooters (the only professionally trained troops) at crucial points. The sandatahanes or bolomen inside Manila would start a great fire to signal the start of the assault.[5] Troops directly under Luna's command were divided into three: the West Brigade under General Pantaleon García, the Center Brigade under General Mariano Llanera, and the East Brigade under General Licerio Gerónimo.[5] It was only partly successful because of two main reasons. Firstly, some of the successful Filipino sectors ran low on ammunition and food, and were thus forced to withdraw to Polo. Secondly, Luna failed to relieve the Kapampangan militia, already past their prime, when the battalion from Kawit, Cavite, refused to replace the former, saying that they had orders to obey only instructions directly from Aguinaldo. Such insubordination had become quite common among the Filipino forces at that time as most of the troops owed their loyalty to the officers from their provinces, towns or districts and not to the central command. As a result, the counterattack soon collapsed, and Luna placated himself by disarming the Kawit Battalion.[5]

Luna, however, proved to be a strict disciplinarian and thereby alienated many in the ranks of the common soldiers. An example of this occurred during the Battle of Calumpit wherein Luna ordered General Tomás Mascardo to send troops from Guagua to strengthen the former's defenses. However, Mascardo ignored orders by Luna insisting that he was going to Arayat to undertake an "inspection of troops". Another version of Mascardo's reasoning emerged and it was probably that which reached Luna. This version was that Mascardo had left to visit his girlfriend.[10] Luna, infuriated by Mascardo's actions, had decided to detain him. However, Major Hernando, one of Luna's aides, tried to placate the general's anger by convincing Luna to push the case to President Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo complied to detain Mascardo for twenty-four hours. Upon returning to the field, however, the Americans had broken through his defenses at the Bagbag River, forcing Luna to withdraw despite his heroic action to defend the remaining sectors.[1]

Luna proferred his resignation, mainly in resentment for the rearmament of the Kawit Battalion as the Presidential Guard. Aguinaldo hesitantly accepted the resignation. As a result, Luna was absent from the field for three weeks, during which the Filipino forces suffered several defeats and setbacks. Receiving the depressing reports from the field through his La Independencia correspondents, Luna went to Aguinaldo and asked to be reinstated with more powers over all the military chiefs, and Aguinaldo agreed by making him Commander-in-Chief of the Filipino forces in Pampanga and Bulacan.[5]

The Luna Defense Line was planned to create a series of delaying battles from Caloocan to Angeles, Pampanga,[4] as the Republic was constructing a guerrilla base in the Mountain Province. The base was planned to be the last stand headquarters of the Republic in the case the Americans broke through the Defense Line.[5] American military observers were astonished by the Defense Line, which they described as consisting of numerous bamboo trenches stretching from town to town. The series of trenches allowed the Filipinos to withdraw gradually, firing from cover at the advancing Americans. As the American troops occupied each new position, they were subjected to a series of traps that had been set in the trenches, which included bamboo spikes and poisonous reptiles.[5]

By the end of May 1899, Colonel Joaquín Luna, one of Antonio's brothers, warned him that a plot had been concocted by "old elements" or the autonomists of the Republic (who were bent on accepting American sovereignty over the country) and a clique of army officers whom Luna had disarmed, arrested, and/or insulted. Luna shrugged off all these threats, reiterating his trust for Aguinaldo, and continued building defenses at Pangasinan where the Americans were planning a landing.[5]


On June 2, 1899, Luna received two telegrams - one asked for help in launching a counterattack in San Fernando, Pampanga; and the other signed by Aguinaldo himself, ordered him to go to the new capital at Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija to form a new cabinet. Having high hopes that he would be promoted as Prime Minister and Secretary of War, Luna set off; first by train, then on horseback and eventually in three carriages to Nueva Ecija with 25 of his men.[8] During the journey, two of the carriages broke down, so he proceeded with just one carriage with Colonel Francisco Román and Captain Eduardo Rusca, having earlier shed his cavalry escort. Upon arriving at Cabanatuan on June 5, Luna alone, proceeded to the headquarters to communicate with the President. As he went up the stairs, he ran into an officer whom he had previously disarmed for cowardice, and an old enemy whom he had once threatened with arrest, a hated "autonomist". He was told that Aguinaldo had left for San Isidro in Tarlac. Enraged, Luna asked why he had not been told the meeting was cancelled.[5]

As he was about to depart, a single shot from a rifle in the plaza rang out. Still outraged and furious, Luna rushed down the stairs and met Captain Pedro Janolino, accompanied by some elements of the Kawit battalion whom he had previously dismissed for insubordination. Janolino swung his bolo at Luna wounding him at the head. Janolino's men fired at Luna, while others started stabbing him, even as he tried to fire his revolver at one of his attackers.[5] He staggered out to the plaza where Román and Rusca were rushing to his aid, but they too were set upon and shot with Roman being killed and Rusca severely wounded. As he lay dying, Luna uttered "Cowards! Assassins!". He was hurriedly buried in the churchyard, after which Aguinaldo relieved Luna's officers and men from the field, including General Venacio Concepción, whose headquarters in Angeles, Pampanga, Aguinaldo besieged the same day Luna was assassinated.[5]

General Frederick Funston facilitated the capture of Aguinaldo in 1901

The death of Luna, the most brilliant and capable of the Filipino generals at the time,[citation needed] was a decisive factor in the fight against the American forces. Even the Americans developed an admiration for him.[5] General Frederick Funston, who received the credit of capturing Aguinaldo at Palanan, Isabela, stated that Luna was the "ablest and most aggressive leader of the Filipino Republic."[11] For General James Franklin Bell, Luna "was the only general the Filipino army had."[11]

Subsequently, Aguinaldo suffered successive, disastrous losses in the field, as he retreated northwards. General José Alejandrino, one of Luna's remaining aides, stated in his memoirs that if only Luna had finished the planned guerrilla camp in Mountain Province, Aguinaldo may have not been running for his life at the Cordillera Mountains.[5] For historian Teodoro Agoncillo, however, Luna's death did not directly attribute to the resulting fall of the Republic. In his book, Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic, Agoncillo stated that the loss of Luna showed the existence of a lack of discipline among the regular Filipino soldiers and it was a major weakness that was never remedied in the course of the war. Also, soldiers connected with Luna were demoralized and as a result eventually surrendered to the Americans.[8] On March 23, 1901, Aguinaldo was captured in Palanan, Isabela by American forces. He was later brought to Manila, and made to pledge allegiance to the United States on April 1.[8]

Luna-Cojuangco Affair[edit]

There were rumors that persist to the present concerning Luna diverting millions of pesos from the Republic's treasury, particularly from Ilocos and Pampanga, to the hometown of his sweetheart, Ysidra Cojuangco. Ysidra was the aunt of Jose Cojuangco, father of Corazon Aquino. Luna's wealth was allegedly to have been entrusted to Ysidra, resulting in the latter becoming one of the richest women in the Philippines by 1900.[12] Anti-Luna factions and personalities of the Aguinaldo government did not make any statements of allegations of plunder by Luna during and after the Philippine–American War.[citation needed]


English series ₱50 bill.
Military offices
Preceded by
Artemio Ricarte
Commanding General of the Philippine Army
23 January 1899 – 5 June 1899
Succeeded by
José de los Reyes

Media portrayal[edit]

  • Heneral Luna, a 2015 biopic based on his life as one of the greatest generals of the First Philippine Republic, stars as Antonio Luna "John Arcilla".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dumindin, Arnaldo. "Philippine-American War, 1899–1902". Retrieved June 29, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, A plot to kill a general (October 27, 2008), The Philippine Star.
  3. ^ Agoncillo, Teodoro (1974). Introduction to Filipino History. 
  4. ^ a b c Marcos, Ferdinand (1968). The contemporary relevance of Antonio Luna's military doctrines. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Jose, Vicencio (1972). The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna. Solar Pub. Corporation. 
  6. ^ Ocampo, Ambeth (2010). Looking Back. Anvil Publishing, Inc. pp. 20–22. ISBN 978-971-27-2336-0. 
  7. ^ Sonnichsen, A., 1901, Ten Months a Captive Among Filipinos, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
  8. ^ a b c d e f Agoncillo, Teodoro (1960). Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic. 
  9. ^ Linn 2000, p. 92.
  10. ^ Ocampo, Ambeth (1997). Luna's Moustache. Anvil Publishing. pp. 22–24. 
  11. ^ a b "General Antonio N. Luna 111th Death Anniversary". Manila Bulletin. 4 June 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  12. ^ "AQUINO – COJUANGCO | FACTS THEY DONT WANT YOU TO KNOW HD". Retrieved 25.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  13. ^ "General Antonio Luna Parade Grounds". UP ROTC. Retrieved 8 August 2010. 
  14. ^ Wertheim, Eric: The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World 15th Edition, page 552. Naval Institute Press, 2007.
  15. ^ "REMEMBERING GENERAL ANTONIO LUNA". Retrieved 25 August 2012. 
  16. ^ "Department of National Defense". Retrieved 25 August 2012. 

External links[edit]