Artemio Ricarte

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This article is about the Filipino general. For the Philippine Navy ship, see BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37).
Artemio Ricarte
Nickname(s) Víbora (Viper)
Born (1866-10-20)October 20, 1866
Batac, Ilocos Norte, Captaincy General of the Philippines
Died July 31, 1945(1945-07-31) (aged 78)
Kalinga, Mountain Province, Commonwealth of the Philippines
Allegiance  First Philippine Republic
Flag of the Tagalog people.svg Republic of Biak-na-Bato
Philippine revolution flag kkk1.svg Katipunan (Magdiwang)
Service/branch Philippine Army Seal 1897.jpgPhilippine Revolutionary Army
Years of service 1896–1900
Rank Kapitan Heneral.jpg Captain General
Battles/wars Philippine Revolution
Philippine–American War

Artemio Ricarte y García (October 20, 1866 — July 31, 1945) was a Filipino general during the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine–American War. He is regarded as the Father of the Philippine Army, and the first Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (March 22, 1897- January 22, 1899) though the present Philippine Army grew out of the forces that fought in opposition to, and defeated the Philippine Revolutionary Army led by General Ricarte.[1][verification needed]Ricarte is also notable for never having taken an oath of allegiance to the United States government, which occupied the Philippines from 1898 to 1946.


San Francisco De Malabon- Aug. 31,1896

Cavite - 1896-1898

Laguna - 1896-1898

Batangas - 1896-1898

Zapote River - June 13, 1899

Early life[edit]

From the legal union and matrimony of Esteban Ricarte y Faustino with Bonifacia Garcia y Rigonan were born three children: Sixto, Artemio, and Yluminada, in the town of Batac, province of Ilocos Norte. He finished his early studies in his hometown and moved to Manila for his tertiary education. He enrolled at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He prepared for the teaching profession at the University of Santo Tomas and then at the Escuela Normal. After finishing his studies, he was sent to the town of San Francisco de Malabon (now General Trias) in Cavite province to supervise a primary school. In his new job, he met Mariano Álvarez, another school teacher and a surviving revolutionary of the 1872 Cavite mutiny. Ricarte then joined the ranks of the Katipunan under the Magdiwang Council, where he held the rank of Lieutenant General.[2] He adopted the nom-de-guerre, "Víbora" (Viper).[3][4][5]

Philippine Revolution[edit]

Main article: Philippine Revolution

After the start of the Philippine Revolution on August 31, 1896, Ricarte led the revolutionists in attacking the Spanish garrison in San Francisco de Malabon. He crushed the Spanish troops and took the civil guards as prisoner. On March 22, 1897,during the Tejeros Convention, Ricarte was unanimously elected Captain-General and received a military promotion to Brigadier-General in Emilio Aguinaldo's army.[6] He led his men in various battles in Cavite, Laguna, and Batangas. Aguinaldo designated him to remain in Biak-na-Bato, San Miguel, Bulacan to supervise the surrender of arms such that both the Spanish government and Aguinaldo's officers complied with the terms of the peace pact.

Philippine–American War[edit]

The second phase of the Philippine Revolution was ushered in when the Americans brought back Aguinaldo from exile on May 19, 1898. Ricarte was a minor figure at this stage. He was the rebel commander of Sta. Ana when Manila fell to the Americans on August 13, 1898. With the help of Rear Admiral George Dewey, commander of the American Asiaric Squadron anchored in Manila Bay, and General Wesley Merritt of the American Army, the Filipino troops routed the Spanish command of General Fermin Juadenes. This eventually led General Jaudenes to surrender the City of Manila to Admiral Dewey, thus the liberation of the Philippines from the Spanish colonizers.

General Ricarte was jubilant over the victory, thinking it was the prelude to the attainment of complete Philippine independence. Unfortunately, however, the Americans afterwards refused to recognize the participation of the Filipinos in the siege of the city and even deprived them of their rights as victors to triumphantly enter its gates. The Americans, having gotten rid of the Spaniards with the help of Filipinos, were intent on possessing the Philippines. This development saddened Ricarte, to the extent that later on, he considered another option by which Filipinos could gain their independence.

When the Philippine–American War started in 1899, he was Chief of Operations of the Philippine forces in the second zone around Manila. In July 1900, he tried to infiltrate the American lines to enter Manila but he was captured by the Americans. For six months, he was locked up in the Bilibid Prisons but stubbornly refused to swear allegiance to the United States. Because of this, the Americans exiled him to Guam, together with many of the other rebel prisoners in the islands, including Apolinario Mabini. The exile lasted for two years.[5]

Post-War Era[edit]

In early 1903, both Ricarte and Mabini would be allowed back into the Philippines upon taking the oath of allegiance to America.[7]:546 Just as their transport USS Thomas pulled into Manila Bay, both were asked to take the oath. Mabini, who was ill, took the oath but Ricarte refused. Ricarte was set free but banned from the Philippines. Without setting foot on Philippine soil, he was placed on the transport Galic and sailed to Hong Kong.

In December 1903, Ricarte returned to the Philippines disguised as a seaman,[7]:546 on board the Wenshang. Ricarte planned to reunite with former members of the army and rekindle the Philippine Revolution. Upon meeting with several former members and friends, he discussed his general plan and the continuation of the revolution. After said meetings, some of these members turned on Ricarte and notified the Americans, specifically the ex-General Pío del Pilar. A reward for US$10,000 was then issued for Ricarte's capture, dead or alive. In the following weeks, Ricarte traveled throughout central Luzon trying to drum up support for his cause.

In early 1904, Ricarte was stricken by an illness that put him at rest for nearly two months. Just as his health was returning, a clerk from his outfit, Luis Baltazar, turned against him and notified the local Philippine Constabulary of his location at Mariveles, Bataan. In May 1904, Ricarte was arrested and spent the next six years at Bilibid Prison.[7]:546 Ricarte was well received and respected by both the Philippine and American authorities. He was frequently visited by old friends from the Philippine revolutionary war as well as U.S. government officials, including the Vice-President of the United States under Theodore Roosevelt, Charles W. Fairbanks.

Due to good behavior, Ricarte served only six years of his 11-year sentence. On June 26, 1910, he was released from Bilibid Prison. But upon his exit he was detained by American authorities and taken to the Customs-House in Bagumbayan. He was again ordered to pledge his oath of allegiance to the United States. He still refused to swear allegiance and within the hour of the same day, he was again put on a transport and deported to Hong Kong.

From July 1, 1910 to 1915, Ricarte lived in Hong Kong, first on the island of Lamah, at the mouth of the harbor, and, later in Kowloon where he initiated the publication of a fornightly, El Grito de Presente (The Cry of the Present). His name was repeatedly brought to light whenever any manner of uprising occurred in the Philippines. To get away from damaging propaganda, he and his wife, together with his family moved to Tokyo and, later, to Yokohama, Japan, where he lived in self-exile at 149 Yamashita-cho. While in Japan, Ricarte and his wife, Agueda opened a small restaurant, Karihan Luvimin, and returned to teaching. They chose this name for it is so that Filipino travelers in Japan would know that there were Filipinos living there. Being an educator, Gen.Ricarte taught Spanish language at the Kaigai Shokumin Gakko School in Tokyo. To augment the family income, Agueda sold copies of her husband's book, "Hispano-Philippine Revolution", or Himagsikan nang manga Pilipino Laban sa Kastila (The Revolution of Filipinos Against the Spaniards) was published in Yokohama in 1927. It became very saleable to Filipinos on board ship.[3] Agueda Esteban, his wife engaged in the real estate business, which enabled the couple to purchase three houses in Japan.

The family lived in a China-town section of the city. This exposed the family to Chinese tradition. In all the years they stayed in Japan, the patriotic fervor of Gen.Ricarte never waned. Every year, he never failed to celebrate Rizal Day and Bonifacio Day by hosting big affairs with Filipino students and workers and Japanese officials.

Wartime and Ricarte's Return to the Philippines

Just as Ricarte's life was fading away into obscurity, World War II began and Imperial Japanese Army invaded the Philippines. In 1942, when Japan's military forces occupied Manila, Prime Minister Tojo asked Ricarte to return to the Philippines to help maintain peace and order. He reminded Tojo that the United States had already promised to give the Philippines its independence in 1946. Tojo thus promised Ricarte that if he could bring about peace and order in the Philippines within a year, the Japanese government would hand back to the Filipino people their independence. As he had always aspired to see a free Philippines, Ricarte accepted the offer. Under this agreement, he gained the respect of the Japanese.

His first big move to restore peace and order among our people was to request Prime Minister Tojo to release all Filipino prisoners of war who had served with the USAFFE.

Ricarte and Benigno Ramos

Sometime in November 1944, Gen. Artemio Ricarte informed his wife, Agueda that President Laurel and his cabinet would have a meeting in Baguio with high-ranking Japanese officials and that he had to be present there. He would tell her further that in case he had to stay longer in Baguio, he would send for his family to join him.

Before he left Baguio, Benigno Ramos, the leader-founder of MAKAPILI, invited him over to his place (where the Christ the King building in Quezon City is now located). He went there together with his granddaughter Ma. Luisa D. Fleetwood. While they were having their lunch, Ramos asked him to sign up as a member of the Makapili Organization. Gen. Ricarte, refused. He told Ramos that he did not have to sign up with the said organization in order to prove his patriotism and loyalty to his people. He added that everyone knew of his concern for them through the years.


General Ricarte's tomb at the Libingan ng mga Bayani

Near the end of World War II, Ricarte again found himself taking flight from American and Filipino forces. Ricarte was implored by colleagues to evacuate the Philippine Islands but had refused, stating "I can not take refuge in Japan at this critical moment when my people are in actual distress. I will stay in my Motherland to the last."

In April 1945, the "Battle of Bessang Pass" was midway. It had started in January of that year, when Filipino forces raided the foothills of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur in pursuit of the Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the "Tiger of Malaya" and his forces, which Ricarte had joined. In May, there was a lull in the fighting, as casualties mounted on both sides from the armed conflict, but worsened by malaria, cholera and dysentery. In June, Yamashita’s army found themselves surrounded on all sides and Bessang Pass fell on June 14, 1945. Ricarte had fallen ill and suffered from debilitating dysentery. At Hungduan, Ifugao,[8]:167–168 Ricarte died on July 31, 1945, at the age of 78. His grave was discovered nine years later in 1954 by treasure hunters. Ricarte's body was exhumed and his tomb now lies in Manila at the Heroes' Cemetery. Furthermore, a landmark was inaugurated by historian Ambeth Ocampo, chairman of the National Historical Institute with a granddaughter of Artemio Ricarte, on April 2002, at the same place where the general died.


In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ "Brief History". Official Website Armed Forces of the Philippines. Retrieved on 2013-04-19.
  2. ^ Alvarez 1992, p. 8.
  3. ^ a b c 'Ri-ka-ru-ru'te', Ambeth Ocampo, Philippine Daily Inquirer
  4. ^ Alvarez 1992, p. 47.
  5. ^ a b "141st birth anniversary of General Artemio 'Vibora' Ricarte". Manila Bulletin. October 20, 2007. 
  6. ^ Agoncillo 1990, pp. 177–178.
  7. ^ a b c Foreman, J., 1906, The Philippine Islands, A Political, Geographical, Ethnographical, Social and Commercial History of the Philippine Archipelago, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
  8. ^ Ogawa, T., 1972, Terraced Hell, Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., ISBN 080481001x

9. General Artemio Ricarte (Vibora) - Personal Account of Ma.Luisa D. Fleetwood, granddaughter of General Artemio Ricarte

10. Ricarte, Artemio (Vibora) The Hispano-Philippine Revolution. Yokohama, Japan, 1926. 99.p


Military offices
Preceded by
Commanding General of the Philippine Army
22 March 1897 - 22 Jan 1899
Succeeded by
Antonio Luna