Forget him not: Tan Juan Araneta


The man on the horse is General Juan Anacleto Araneta, known as Tan Juan to most, a revolutionary leader from Bago City, Negros Occidental. Tan Juan was a liberal-minded individual who fought against the Spaniards when they occupied the island. His monument proudly welcomes visitors to our humble city – or well, USED TO welcome newcomers and those who are coming home. Recently, his monument has been reduced to this:

Photo by Blitz ZA Raga
Photo by Blitz ZA Raga

I am away from home, have been for quite some time, so I just saw a rather emotional post on Facebook by one of my aunts from the Araneta side chastising those who made the beheading a laughing matter. I am upset and offended by the incident, but what bothers me more is how some of my fellow Bagonhons reacted to such a pointless act.

Let me get this through: I feel strongly about this because he is my great great grandfather. Putting the familial tie aside, and above every thing else, he is my hero – and mind you, yours too.

He was a well-educated man, and was very much interested in improving the state of agriculture in his town. When the Spaniards threatened his hometown, he led the southern forces of the revolution and declared the Republic of Negros on November 5, 1898. Whatever they lacked in resources, they made up with ingenuity. Marching to Bacolod to scare off the Spaniards, they only had three firearms with them, but a number of canons and rifles made from farming materials. They appeared to be fully-armed so the colonisers were forced to surrender. Tan Juan then served as the Secretary of war when the cantonal government was established.

Why do I have to get fussy about this? To tell you honestly, growing up, Tan Juan was my icon of freedom. I learned about Tan Juan before I learned about Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. I grew up to stories about him from my grandparents: how he led the revolution, how smart he was, how respected he was in the community. No, he was not perfect – but he was a man of principle, and he fought hard for our freedom.

The identity of Bago City, and the Bagonhons are directly tied to Tan Juan and his part in the revolution. His monument serves as reminder that a humble man on a horse, with countless people backing him up, gave us the freedom we enjoy today. I don’t know about you, but independence means a lot to me.

This incident should be a wake-up call to us locals, as well as the local government, that we might have been overlooking our history these past decades. Do our youth understand why we celebrate Al Cinco de Noviembre, or is this just one of those holidays they look forward to because it means no school and no work? Do people even know who the man on the horse is and why he is part of our identity as a people?

The challenge now, dear local government, is what do you do? How do you react to this, and how are you planning to educate your people about your own culture and history? There is nothing sadder and more unfortunate than forgetting – but I will never forget. To Lolo Tan Juan, I will forever be proud and grateful.

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