26. Part Four: Ysidra and Luna, The Road of Destiny



     It was the road of destiny for President Aguinaldo, from Kawit to the gates of Manila, where he was betrayed by Americans into inactivity while awaiting the arrival of its troops from the United States, then north of Manila pursued by superior American forces to Cabanatuan, to Palanan and defeat.
     El Camino Real was also the road of destiny for the starcrossed lovers, Ysidra Cojuangco and General Antonio Luna, leading from Barasoain during the Malolos Congress when love first bloomed, to Paniqui where they spent their last night together, to Cabanatuan where Luna was assassinated, hacked with bolos and perforated with bullets. The hub of El Camino Real is Manila, and there on Taft Avenue in the La Salle College, two other Antonios, both Cojuangco, died violently, shot and bayoneted along with their families by retreating Japanese invaders.
     We traveled the road of destiny, on Good Friday to Kawit, to Heroes Hill, Ayala Alabang, Manila Memorial Park; and recently for the last leg of our trail in quest of the Holy Grail, to Malolos, Paniqui and Cabanatuan.
     We dropped by the Archbishop of Tarlac Florentino F. Cinense who requested the Parish Priest of Paniqui Pedro Capitly to open to us old Baptismal Registries that dated back to 1869. Our worst fears were confirmed, the Books No. 13 and 14 covering the period from 1874 to 1902 were missing. We were hoping to find the baptismal record of Ysidra's natural son allegedly with a Chinese mestizo, or a record of its death and burial; and/or the baptismal record of Antonio Cojuangco, which would at least state the age of the baby (in days) at the time of baptism. Alas, as in the Barasoain Church records, as in the Ateneo Annual of 1918, as on his tombstone in Manila Memorial, as now in the Paniqui church records, evidence of Antonio Cojuangco's birth is missing. Incredible!
     We were told that some information might be available at the old ancestral estate of Doña Ysidra in Paniqui itself, now occupied by ex presidential candidate Danding Cojuangco. Ric Manapat, Steve Latorre and myself, all involved in the campaign against Danding, opted to send a team of researchers from UP, led by an Ateneo graduate student, named Emmanuel, literally “sent by God.” A student of para-psychology under Father Jimmy Bulatao, he joined us upon the prompting of his divining rod.
     After being questioned at length, Emmanuel and his team gained the confidence of the old family retainers who showed them a portrait and bust of the venerable Doña Ysidra Cojuangco, a statue of the clan founder Don Martin who migrated here from China. Also the old house, now called Y.C. Building, near the railroad terminal that once brought General Arthur MacArthur to the Cojuangcos, and from which Cojuangco rice was transported by military trains free to Manila, courtesy of MacArthur.
     Emmanuel was also regaled with eerie ghost stories, of a troubled soul that knock on doors, peruse books and papers, and wander around various parts of the house. But it was when he and his team were brought to the old mausoleum called Ermita, that Emmanuel began to feel the presence of something not of this world, not unlike that in the movie Wuthering Heights (from a novel by Emily Bronte) after Cathy died and her spirit haunted Heathcliff in the barren windswept moors. In the white heat of summer and dark brooding interiors of the family chapel, Emmanuel sweated under a strange spell.
     Plaques behind the altar listed each deceased family member, including two foetuses that were born dead, but there was no evidence of Ysidra's love child who supposedly died in infancy. Antonio Cojuangco and his son Antonio Jr. and those who died with them, were listed as having been killed on February 12, 1944 -- wrong day and wrong year!. The mystery of the wrong dates deepen. Outside, at the back of the chapel in an obscure corner where it lay unattended and weathered for the last ten years, was another marker probably intended to replace the marker with the wrong date.
     This marker said, “Dr. Antonio C. Cojuangco, + FEB. 13, 1945 A LA EDAD DE 45 AÑOS... “ At last another clue to Antonio's birth! If he was anywhere between 45 years of age to 45 years and eleven months when he died, he must have been born between March 1899 and February 12, 1900. But his Ateneo Annual says he was born in the year 1899; therefore we revise our estimate of his birth to between March 1899 to December 1899, in which case Antonio was conceived nine months before, between June 1898 and March 1899...this is consistent with our previous estimates, well within the time Luna was attending the Malolos Congress and fighting a war.
     The love story of Ysidra Cojuangco and Antonio Luna is a story told within the Cojuangco family itself, especially from the side of Tecla Chichioco, Ysidra's sister-in-law and the alleged mother of Antonio Cojuangco. Wouldn't Tecla's relatives at the time notice that Tecla was not at all pregnant before she allegedly gave birth to Antonio??
     The oral history came from other sources: the family of Eulalio Saulo who brought the gold of Luna from the Ilocos to Ysidra, especially Encarnacion Saulo-Padilla, who was a friend of Ysidra herself; the family of Tiburcio Hilario who also escorted the gold of Luna from Pampanga to Ysidra; from the leaders of the revolution exiled in Guam (Artemio Ricarte, Apolinario Mabini) who told their fellow exile Pedro Abad Santos who then told his fellow socialist Luis Taruc; Archbishop Florentino Cinense (who speaks Pangalatok) listening to gossip in his own hometown of Cabanatuan.
     Emmanuel the para-psychologist was fascinated by the fact that while his other brothers stayed close to the Paniqui hacienda, Antonio, like Luna the cosmopolite, was attracted to the city where he lived on Taft Avenue in Pasay, and was always addressed as Doctor, never Don like the others. He was fascinated by the temperament of Ramon and his son Tonyboy, and that of the legendary Luna, quoting Morgan & King saying that temperament is indeed an inheritable trait.
     On our way out of Paniqui, a fleet of cars with screaming sirens met us along the highway. Emmanuel panicked, saying that he is too young to die, not having tasted the joys of marriage. Suddenly with the thought that the fleet of cars may turn back to pursue us, we directed our car out of the road going south to Manila, to the road going east to Cabanatuan where Antonio Luna was assassinated. It was as if some strange spell had fallen over Emmanuel and the rest of us, compelling us almost against our will to the road of Luna's destiny, to Cabanatuan where he spent his last day on earth.
     Rushing down the stairs and seething with uncontrollable rage, Antonio Luna was met by Captain Pedro Janolina, who hacked him with a bolo on the temple above the ear. The Kawit presidential guards joined in, firing and slashing at the hapless General, who pulled out his gun and retreated to the streets, bleeding profusely from 30 mortal wounds, and he died, muttering, “Cowards! Assassins!” For an hour his body lay at the plaza under the withering afternoon sun. Then for no reason, soldiers hacked Luna's body with sadistic glee, wrapped him in a tattered mat and brought him inside the church, where a doctor noted that his intestines were falling out of his undershirt. Darkness and bats swooped down to keep him company.
     We traced the steps Antonio took in his rendezvous with death. We noted that place where he died, by the side of the church. We asked where his body is buried, and officials said the body was brought back to his home town in Batac in Ilocos Norte. We inquired later from the officials of Batac and were told that the body was buried in Cabanatuan where he was killed. If the body is neither in Cabanatuan, nor in Batac, where is it?? Mr. Pedro Ukong, researcher at the data bank of the National Historical Commission, tells us that there is no record of where General Antonio Luna was buried, and the pertinent documents relating to the relationship of Antonio Luna and Ysidra Cojuangco are missing from the archives. Is it possible that his body was retrieved by his sweetheart Ysidra Cojuangco, and buried with his love child, Antonio C. Cojuangco, who was among those massacred by the Japanese troops in La Salle during the Battle of Manila?? Is it possible that the extra skeleton in the coffin of Antonio C. Cojuangco is not that of his Chinese amah as claimed, but that of his own father? A DNA test of the two skeletons would ferret out the truth and lay this matter to rest. Antonio C. Cojuangco himself died a horrendous death along with his family during the World War II.
     Antonio Cojuangco and his family sought refuge in La Salle College trying to dodge American bombs randomly dropped on Manila, when suddenly the Japanese soldiers went on a shooting and bayoneting rampage. He died bleeding of multiple wounds, as did his wife Victoria, his son Antonio Jr., daughter Trinidad, and daughter-in-law Nene de las Alas, the bride of 18 months of survivor Ramon Cojuangco who found himself on that tragic day, a widower, an orphan, and a surrogate father to sister Lourdes.
     We all ended up in the deepening dusk on the street where Luna was killed, and on the plaza where he lay dead, hacked and butchered, and we thought of his tragic love Ysidra, and the rivers of blood that flowed from the two other Antonios sprawled in the corridors of La Salle.
     It was then that Emmanuel murmured, “Peace be with you, Antonio Luna, you restless tormented soul. You are no longer dead. Your noble blood lives on in the veins of another man, another Antonio.”
     Again congratulations, Tonyboy Luna.

     (SMART FILE, issue 014 & 015, April, 1994, with data added February 16, 1998)