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Why Aug a significant month in PH history?

By Severino Samonte

Among the 12 months of the year from the last decade of the past century to the present, August can be considered as one of the most significant months in Philippine history.

Here’s why, based on a partial compilation by former Philippine News Agency’s (PNA) writers of selected historical events that took place in the country during the month of August from the 1890s up to at least the first decade of the current century.

It was in August 1896 when a group of brave but poorly armed Filipino patriots and nationalists led by Andres Bonifacio formally launched the campaign for Philippine independence from Spain.

They organized earlier the “KKK or Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan” (Highest and Most Respectable Society of the Sons of the People) in a secret meeting in Tondo, Manila on July 7, 1892. Its ultimate objective was to free the Filipinos from over 300 years of Spanish occupation.

The discovery of the secret society by Spanish authorities on Aug. 19, 1896 forced the “Katipuneros” led by Bonifacio to bring the fight to the field.

The revolutionaries gathered in the fourth week of August 1896 in a place near what was then popularly known as Balintawak and raised the so-called first “Cry” for freedom, characterized with the tearing of their “cedula” or residence certificate.

The specific place where that very important event occurred was unclear as old history books contained a number of different place names, including Balintawak itself, Balara, Bahay Toro, Pugad Lawin, Kangkong, Pasong Tamo, Banlat, Caloocan, Novaliches, and Sampalukan.

The exact date also has remained debatable up to these days, with some saying it occurred on August 23 or 24, and some insisting on August 25 or 26.

The annual observance of the first “Cry of Balintawak” was held nationwide every August 26, centered in Balintawak, Quezon City, until the date was moved to August 23 and the name of the celebration changed to “Cry of Pugad Lawin” during the Macapagal administration in 1963.

The conflicting dates and places of the so-called first “Cry” of the 1896 Revolution prompted noted historian, author and professor Dr. Soledad Borromeo-Buehler to write a book titled “The Cry of Balintawak: A Contrived Controversy” which was published in 1998 by the Ateneo De Manila University Press.

Another major reason that made August a significant month was its being the birth month of two former Philippine presidents: Manuel L. Quezon on Aug. 19, 1878 in Baler, Tayabas (now Quezon); and Ramon F. Magsaysay on Aug. 31, 1907 in Iba, Zambales.

It was also in August that two Filipino presidents died. The first was Quezon, first president of the Philippine Commonwealth, and the second was Mrs. Corazon C. Aquino, the country’s first woman president. Incidentally, both of them died on the same date, although 65 years apart: Quezon on Aug. 1, 1944, and Mrs. Aquino on Aug. 1, 2009.

On Aug. 2, 1968, an intensity 7 earthquake jolted Manila, causing the collapse of the Ruby Tower in Sta. Cruz, Manila and killing hundreds of people. The tremor’s epicenter was traced at Casiguran, Quezon. It was considered as the most destructive one in the Philippines prior to the July 16, 1990 Luzon killer earthquake.

It was on Aug. 4, 1964 when then President Diosdado P. Macapagal signed Republic Act 4166 designating June 12 of every year as the Independence Day of the Philippines. Previous to this, the Filipino people used to celebrate their freedom day on July 4, the day the United States finally recognized Philippine Independence on July 4, 1946.

The June 12 celebration was in recognition of Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo’s declaration of Philippine Independence from Spain on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite.

It was on Aug. 19, 1916 when the US Congress enacted the Jones Law or the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916. It contained the first formal declaration of the US government to grant independence to the Philippines.

The Philippines joined four other Asian countries on Aug. 8, 1967 in the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Bangkok, Thailand. Aside from the Philippines, the other original members of Asean were Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Brunei Darussalam joined on Jan. 8, 1984; Vietnam on July 28, 1995; Laos and Myanmar on July 23, 1997; and Cambodia on April 30, 1999, making what is now known as the 10-member Asean.

Also on Aug. 8, 1901, the former Philippine Constabulary was organized by authority of Act No. 175 of the Philippine Commission to assist the American military in combating lawlessness in the country. The PC was replaced in 1999 by the present Philippine National Police or PNP.

On Aug. 21, 1983, former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was assassinated at the then Manila International Airport upon returning from a three-year self-exile in the United States.

The murder, blamed on the Marcos administration, triggered a series of demonstrations and protests from an enraged nation which culminated in the Feb. 22-25, 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt that forced President Ferdinand Marcos and his family to flee to Hawaii.

This resulted in the installation of Aquino’s widow, Mrs. Corazon C. Aquino, as the country’s 11th and first woman president, following a snap election earlier that pitted her against Marcos on Feb. 7, 1986. (PNA)


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