Mateo Noriel Luga
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Lieutenant General Mateo Noriel Luga (1868, Tumauini, Isabela–1935, Manila), was an Ibanag revolutionary, named one of the 100 prominent natives of Cebu. He was not a Cebuano but an Ibanag from Isabela province who came to Cebu to help the Cebuanos in their struggle against Spain and the United States.
General Mateo Luga was a native of Tumauini, Isabela province. He responded to the call-to-arms against the Spaniards towards the end of the 19th century. He left home in 1896, joined the Katipuneros in Bulacan, Manila, Laguna, and Cavite, and he fought the Spanish forces in Balinta, Antipolo, Montalban, San Pedro de Makate, Palipanan, Monting Lupa, Kalo-okan, and other areas until early 1899. During this period, Mateo Luga gained the necessary skills and experience to lead men in combat.
Between the summer of 1898 and mid-1899, the province of Cebu witnessed a so-called "war within a war." At the time, the armed insurrection against Spain was at its peak. In December 1898, the Spanish Governor Adolfo Montero abandoned the province of Cebu and sought refuge in Zamboanga. As a consequence, Juan Faller Climaco and Arcadio Maxilom established a revolutionary government in Cebu. Climaco had served as a Capitan Municipal of Toledo, and Maxilom was a member of the Katipunan. The two Cebuanos were appointed chief of staff and councilor of peace and internal order, respectively. With the unexpected arrival of the American occupation forces in Cebu, armed hostilities broke out between the American occupying forces and the fledgling Cebuano revolutionary force in February 1899.
In April 1899, General Emilio Aguinaldo and Secretary of War General Antonio Luna handpicked Mateo Luga as the Katipunan's personal adviser to the Cebu revolutionary government. With his two bodyguards, Manalo Luga and another Luga cousin, Mateo proceeded to Cebu disguised as a sailor on board the cargo ship Butuan. On the way to Cebu, the group passed through Iloilo where Mateo Luga met his future wife, Ruperta Valdez, a comely Ilongga of Spanish descent. He proceeded to Cebu where he was arrested by the local revolutionaries upon arrival, on suspicion of being a Spanish spy. He was brought before General Climaco, who freed him upon ascertaining that he was indeed sent by General Aguinaldo and General Luna to Cebu, based on a letter written by the former. The Cebu revolutionary government divided Cebu into three operational sectors: the north under General Maxilom, the south under General Troadio Galicano, and the central zone under General Luga. From then on, the combat exploits of Mateo Luga in the Visayas began. He was the only non-Visayan in the Cebu revolutionary force.
The first encounter between the forces of General Luga and the Americans was in Mahayahay. Raids, assaults, ambushes, and frontal confrontations between the forces were carried out from 1899 to the latter part of 1901. General Luga's fiercest battle was at Sudlon, the Revolutionary redoubt of the Katipuneros. The confrontation lasted for nine days, until January 8, 1900. The Americans assaulted the Kota defenses of General Luga, only to turn back, leaving their dead and wounded behind. Despite the superior armaments of the Americans, it was the Katipuneros' knowledge of the terrain, their fighting acumen, and their willingness to sacrifice that gave them an edge over the Americans.
In the ensuing months, forays were made into American territory. On one occasion, General Luga and his force almost captured General Henry W. Lawton at Pardo. The Americans were having a party when General Luga conducted a raid, which surprised the Americans. General Lawton, who was present, escaped by running to the seashore, boarding a launch, and remaining on board while the raid was in progress. Other bloody battles were those in San Nicolas, Bulusan, Guadalope, Mabolo, Talamban, and the city itself. General Luga was a wanted man, and his wife and children were imprisoned by the Americans to force him to surrender. Instead of succumbing to their pressure, he slipped into the city and rescued his family.
General Mateo Luga was a worthy opponent against the Americans. Cunning and elusive, he earned such nicknames as Alimokon (a species of wild dove which is difficult to capture), Agta (the black giant of Cebuano folklore); and Tagolilong (a mysterious being which can make itself invisible at will).
Tribute to the man
In Cebu was Mateo Luga, who had been a gallant insurgent leader before donning the red epaulets of the Constabulary. No member of the corps wore the uniform of the jungle police with greater distinction than this swart, fearless Filipino.
Luga had fought Stacey in the middle islands, and there were other American officers to testify to the courage and cunning of this leader. He was an honorable soldier who earned the respect of the American army. They tell a tale about Luga. It happened during the days of the insurrection, when he had been one of Aguinaldo's most sturdy commanders. Filipino soldiers serving the American cause had been inflamed with the legends of the mighty Luga, and had deserted the American camp and sought service under their countrymen. Luga had heard them out and then had placed them under an armed guard. At daylight a small squad of men had appeared before the American lines. With them were the deserters and a message to the American commander from Luga. He had written, "I return to you deserters from your camp who sought service with me. I request that you do the same should any of my men weaken from their duty. It is my desire to wage honorable warfare."
That then, was Luga, who in 1908 was wearing the red epaulets of the Constabulary. He had been sent to Cebu Island with instructions to keep the island clean and bandit free. And Cebu was clean, under the administration of this capable and valiant native officer.Before me lies Luga's accolade, written by an American officer who saw much service in the Philippines: "In Mateo Luga, you saw a man to remember as long as you live." 
The end of hostilities
On September 15, 1901, General Robert P. Hughes, heading two thousand troops, arrived in Cebu, and towns, villages, and crops were laid to waste. Homes and the people's means of livelihood were demolished, and little distinction was made between the combatants and the victims of the war. Bereft of the necessary support to continue hostilities, terms of peace were discussed with the Americans. One by one, the revolutionary leaders surrendered after General Maxilom laid down his arms on October 27, 1901. General Luga and his troops surrendered to Captain Frank McIntyre of the 19th U.S. Infantry on the same day.:525
General Luga believed that the surrender was not the end of his fighting career. He accepted the commission to become an officer of the constabulary organized by the Americans to maintain peace and order in the locality. Despite his mistrust of the Americans, he accepted the commission they offered, hoping that he could help bring peace back to the countryside. He joined the constabulary force along with a few men, including General Rafael Crame. His exploits as a peace officer reached all the way to Samar and Leyte, running after a bandit group known as the Pulahanes. He was tasked to make Cebu clean and bandit-free. The year 1908 found Luga completely in control. He had risen to the rank of captain in the constabulary, where he was known as one of the most capable and valiant officers.
Home is the soldier from the hills
In 1914, rumors were rife that the United States and Japan would be the two world powers vying to control South East Asia. Captain Luga openly expressed his disagreement with this development, having been critical of the onerous provisions of the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Act. The act provided for the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth, under which a ten-year transitional government supervised by the United States would be set up prior to independence, as well as the reservation of American military and naval bases in the Philippines. General Luga called the act, "a castle coated with honey". He continued: "Those naval and military reservations are the stumbling blocks to the granting of our freedom and in our policy on foreign relations. There is really nothing wrong with us if America will not go to war with other countries. But if she does, we will be the first ones to suffer for we will be made to pay dearly for the consequences." This visionary statement would be proven later during the Second World War. Although General Luga had an unblemished record of service, his opinions led him to be placed under surveillance. Eventually, his pride led him to resign from the constabulary.
Upon his resignation in 1914, he was employed by the Philippine Refining Company, an American firm that was the predecessor of Unilever Philippines. After this, he worked for the Public Lands Commission, where he was assigned the task of giving away homesteads to deserving applicants. On his own, he was able to acquire 24 hectares in Sagay, Negros Occidental where he retired into a simple country life with his wife, Ruperta, and their children, Maria, Jose, Pilar and twins Emilio and Antonio, who were named after General Emilio Aguinaldo and General Antonio Luna.
A veteran's wish
On January 23, 1924 (the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the First Philippine Republic held at the Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan), General Luga was interviewed by Celestino T. Alfafara of the Cebuano periodical Bag-ong Kusog. When General Luga was asked what he wished for the Filipino people, he replied:
"We the veterans, are already old, but before we die, there is only one wish that I am asking from God. Even though we have no money to leave behind because we are poor, we do wish that before we go to our final resting ground, we can see that you who are left behind can enjoy the fruits of the freedom we have been hoping for."
When his last taps were sung
On his way back home to Negros from a visit to his hometown in Isabela, General Mateo Noriel Luga was found to be stricken with cancer. He died in Manila in 1935. His funeral was a reunion of his comrades-in-arms, including General Aguinaldo and the remaining Katipuneros.
- Hurley, Victor (1938). Jungle Patrol: The Story of the Philippine Constabulary. New York: E.P. Dutton. Chapter XVI
- Foreman, J., 1906, The Philippine Islands, A Political, Geographical, Ethnographical, Social and Commercial History of the Philippine Archipelago, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
- Mojares, Resil (1999). The War Against the Americans. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila Press.
- Piedad, Publio (1965). "Sudlon: A Historical Landmark." Cebu: History of Its Four Cities and Fifty-Nine Municipalities. Cebu City: Mely Press.
- Quisumbing, Jose (1963). Warwick Barracks. Quezon City: Progressive Printing Palace.
- Wolff, Leon (1968). Little Brown Brother. Manila: Erewhon.
For further reading
- Alfafara, Celestino. Ang Ika-Kawhaan ug Lima nga Sumad sa Republica Filipina. Bag-ong Kusog, (March 14, 1924).
- Gen. Mateo Luga on the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Law, Translation of an article in Bag-ong Kusog, (September 19, 1933).
- Cultural Heritage monograph Series on Local History. Vol. 1. Mateo Luga: The Tribal Filipino as Revolutionary.