Under the Red and Gold: Being Notes and Recollections of the Siege of Baler (Excerpt)

From Under the Red and Gold: Being Notes and Recollections of the Siege of Baler, by Saturnino Martin Cerezo, translated by Frank Loring Dodds, F. Hudson Publishing Company, Kansas City, 1909.

Captain Las Morenas desired especially the repopulation of the town, the administrative regeneration of the District, and the unity and concord of the people. He was an optimist, and he proposed to himself to convert them morally and socially. He did, in fact, succeed to a certain extent, owing to the commercial relations already spoken of; because, on account of the desire for gain, and believing that the past was completely forgotten, the people were already returning to their habitations.

It is true that the return to normal conditions, which was going on all over the islands, contributed powerfully to this repopulation of the town; but the return to normal conditions was more apparent than real, and, according to the “voice of the people,” temporary “until June.” It did, however, greatly serve to tranquilize the minds of the people.

Because of the Captain’s undue confidence, we had soon to bewail a misfortune. In seeking, perhaps, the good-will of the people, he had taken as his adviser or counselor (at least, so it was thought from his intimate intercourse) the schoolmaster, one Lucio, and had devoted himself assiduously to the cultivation of the lands pertaining to the Comandancia, making use for that purpose of the gratuitous services of the people. This method of farming, a proof of his confidence in the genuineness of the peace, he committed to the charge of the schoolmaster, who was not long in gaining the enmity of all the inhabitants.

The people, in fact, complied in this service very unwillingly, claiming that, owing to the private nature of the object of the service, their labor ought not to be devoted to it without compensation, even though it were ordered under the letter of the law; that it was prejudicial to their interests; and that it was an abuse. So, while the Captain supposed that, on account of his attractive manner toward the people, whatever he ordered would be cheerfully received and obeyed, they, on the contrary, were objecting; and, in their eagerness to get satisfaction out of somebody, they blamed the schoolmaster for having advised such a disagreeable servitude. The labor and the murmuring went on until finally the poor schoolmaster was murdered by the people.

It is certain also that it was this individual we had to thank, on our part, that there was not done at this time and under favorable conditions that which soon became so necessary to the preserving of our lives, and which was so simple and easy to do.

As Baler had no water supply except from a watercourse which flowed around its south and west, on the opposite bank of which the dense woods began, and as the whisperings of the revolution were constantly spreading, it occurred to me that the situation would be critical if, having to confront a new siege, we should find ourselves without water; either because the enemy would deprive us of it by diverting the stream, which would be an easy matter, or else, by hiding themselves in the woods, they could render it impossible for us to obtain it, since, safely screened by the dense thickets, they could easily drive us away or shoot us at will.

The very slight elevation of the land and the nearness of the sea convinced me that it would be a simple matter to dig a well. I indicated this to Las Morenas, pointing out that the plaza was the place most suitable to the purpose, and explaining to him, judiciously, my suspicions. He heard the proposition somewhat carelessly, saying that we would talk it over with the schoolmaster. And so he did; but as the latter, surely wanting in truthfulness, argued that already, on other occasions, efforts had been made to open wells, but without success, my project was abandoned.

Saturnino Martín Cerezo
Author: Saturnino Martín Cerezo
(1866-1945) Assumed command of the detachment of Spanish soldiers during the Siege of Baler (1898-99).

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