The Heneral and Ysidra love story

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - October 16, 2015 - 10:00am

Heneral Luna and his love affair with Ysidra Cojuangco is the stuff of legends. It is our Romeo and Juliet, our Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Their story would make terrific fiction but as they say truth is stranger than fiction and none more so than this unbelievable story of love, war and treachery….and it is still unraveling with consequences to the fate of our country.

Almost 50 years ago I wrote the Untold Story of Imelda Marcos. I published its 13th edition recently and once again it was sold out. Someone should start writing the Antonio Luna and Ysidra Cojuangco love story using the background of the beginnings of our struggle to build a nation. That would make our history more readable.

Nothing like a love story as a backdrop for the excesses of war, of men and women willing to kill and to be killed for whatever cause they are fighting for. Antonio and Ysidra met and fell in love at the height of the Philippine war of independence against the Americans. The theme of the film “Heneral Luna” is about the cowardice and treachery of oligarchs like Paterno and Buencamino.  They were businessmen and business counted more than freedom and independence from colonialists. It is men like them who would kill their compatriots to preserve their social and economic dominance. As the film goes, Emilio Aguinaldo was a weak leader who could be manipulated by intrigue and chicanery of ambitious oligarchs. He had other virtues but he did not bother to find out what was behind the Paterno-Buencamino intent to eliminate first Mabini as chief minister of Aguinaldo’s council, and, after that, Luna.

* * *

The Antonio-Ysidra story has been around for sometime especially during political seasons. It reached a height during Marcos’ rule and martial law.

The late Ricardo Manapat wrote “Some are Smarter than Others” to document the graft and corruption of Marcos’ rule but it failed to excite Filipino readers. It had all the facts and figures for a well-researched expose but it did not have a compelling love story. The columnist Larry Henares also wrote a series of columns on the affair and wanted the answers to three questions:

Manapat asked Henares, “Whom shall I quote in my future works? Was there ever any admission on the part of the Cojuangco family that the source of their original wealth is the hero Antonio Luna? Whatever happened to the alleged love-child born of Ysidra Cojuangco and Antonio Luna? But the curiosity soon fizzled out.”

* * *

Ysidra had a neighbor Encarnacion Saulo and her stories were credible because Ysidra used to tell her stories about the affair and how Antonio Luna used to bring gold and silver to her house regularly during the war.    

Moreover, Ysidra and Antonio had a love child and that there is evidence that the love child survived and was adopted by her brother Melecio who had four sons. either Jose, father of ex-President Corazon Aquino; Juan, the twice-married, childless one; Antonio, the grandfather of Ramon and the great-grandfather of PLDT’s president Tonyboy Cojuangco; or Eduardo, the father of  Danding Cojuangco.

* * *

Where did the gold and silver come from? According to the Henares’ series “it may have come from local treasuries in the Ilocos region and carried in convoys of carts to Ysidra’s house in Paniqui, Tarlac.”

This story came from Ka Fred Saulo and Henares and Manapat scoured for old letters for documentary evidence. They were hoping for some old letters, some documentary evidence in the hands of Ka Fred Saulo.  

They did find another witness, an Encarnacion Saulo-Padilla, who was a friend of Ysidra Cojuangco and who died in 1960.

Apart from the gold and silver from municipal treasuries, historian Carlos Quirino writes in his unpublished book Luna also commandeered gold vessels from churches in Pampanga. These were also entrusted to Ysidra.

So gold and silver were brought by Luna from both Ilocos and Pampanga to Ysidra that was believed to be the source of the Cojuangco fortune. (Not very different from the Yamashita gold that the Marcoses claim is the source of their wealth.)

There is the opinion that Ysidra may not have known to whom to return the gold and silver entrusted to her by Luna at the time. But she must have known it later and in my opinion should have taken steps to return them. I believe a thorough investigation should be conducted and the treasure of the Revolution returned to the Filipino people.

There is no prescriptive period as the Cory 1987 Constitution, Article 11, section 15, stipulates: The right of the State to recover properties unlawfully acquired by public officials or employees, from them or from their nominees or transferees, shall not be barred by prescriptions, laches or estoppel.

Encarnacion, Ysidra’s friend and neighbor, said that Ysidra confided to her that she and Luna were very good friends and left her many valuables “not once but regularly” and on many occasions.

Encarnacion is the daughter of Eulalio Saulo who confirmed the story because he was one of the military escorts of the gold shipment to Ysidra. Her testimony is the first direct evidence from Ysidra admitting what many Luna contemporaries long suspected, “that the source of the Cojuangco fortune was the gold and silver commandeered by Luna to finance his guerrilla war from up north and regularly turned over to Ysidra.

Another source is Gen. Jose Alejandrino, the confidant of Luna. He told his nephew, Ambassador Jose Alejandrino, that before Luna left for Cabanatuan he said to him in the presence of Col. Paco Roman he was leaving the gold and silver in the custody of Ysidra until he returned. Luna did not say what the value of the treasure was worth. Gen. Alejandrino’s grandnephew, BayanKo adviser Jose Alejandrino, believes Ysidra had no intention of stealing the money. “You have to understand the circumstances at the time,” he said. “After Luna was assassinated, Aguinaldo disarmed all his officers in Angeles. The revolutionary army quickly disintegrated. The Americans kept chasing Aguinaldo. So Ysidra didn’t know who to return the money to. She was just the lucky beneficiary.”


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