Aklan pays tribute to 19 Martyrs
BY BOY RYAN B. ZABAL
KALIBO, Aklan – The province of Aklan is commemorating the 115th year of heroism of the 19 Katipuneros of Aklan on March 23.
Highlights of the celebration are the wreath-laying ceremony at the Aklan Freedom Shrine and a commemorative program to remember the patriotic acts and timeless legacies of the Aklan martyrs.
The Congress enacted March 23 of every year as a special non-working holiday in the whole province of Aklan by virtue of Republic Act No. 7806.
The Aklan Freedom Shrine, one of the landmarks in the capital town of Kalibo, is topped by the statue of the gallant General Francisco del Castillo riding in his horse. The nineteen steps of the shrine contain the mortal remains of the 19 heroes of Aklan.
The other highlights of the celebration include the civic military parade, mass offering for the 19 Martyrs and patriots of Aklan at Saint John the Baptist Cathedral, toiling of church bells, re-enactment by the Kalibo Pilot Elementary School teachers and floral offerings at the death markers of General Francisco del Castillo and the 19 Martyrs.
The historic event is jointly organized by the municipal government of Kalibo, the provincial government of Aklan, the Aklan Congressional Office and the Kalibo Sto. Nino Ati-Atihan Foundation, Inc. (Kasafi).
Hundreds of Aklanons and local officials led by Aklan Governor Carlito Marquez, Aklan Rep. Florencio Miraflores, Kalibo mayor William Lachica, Ang Kasangga PartyList Rep. Teodorico Haresco, Jr. and Kalibo vice mayor Madeline Regalado are expected to grace the event in the morning of March 23.
In the afternoon, a commemorative program is also celebrated at General Francisco del Castillo Memorial School in Barangay Mabilo, Kalibo, Aklan.
Historical accounts showed that the first Katipunan movement outside Luzon was organized in Aklan and fought the Spaniards during the 1896 Revolution.
According to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, March 23, 1897 is remembered as the day of execution of the “Nineteen Martyrs of Aklan.” They are Ramon Aguirre, Tomas Briones, Domingo de la Cruz, Valeriano Dalida, Claro Delgado, Angelo Fernandez, Benito Iban, Candido Iban, Simeon Inocencio, Isidro Jimenez, Gabino Yonsal, Catalino Mangat, Lamberto Mangat, Valeriano Masinda, Maximo Mationg, Simplicio Reyes, Canuto Segovia, Gavino Sucgang and Francisco Villorente.
General Francisco del Castillo, who had donated his fortune to found a national press for the Katipunan, led his fellow Aklanons in the cause of freedom after learning that the Spanish authorities would be sending expeditionary forces to Capiz in February 1897. He immediately organized local leaders and sealed their firm resolve to take control of the Kalibo local government with a blood compact.
As narrated by historians, many Katipuneros were captured after General del Castillo’s death, until only 19 were left. On March 23, 1897, they were executed.