EDILBERTO EVANGELISA (1862 – 1897)
AN ENGINEERING graduate from the University of Ghent in Belgium, Edilberto Evangelista retuned to the Philippines in September 1896, about three weeks after the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution. Detained for several days by the Spanish authority in Manila for possession of Rizal’s two novels’, Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which he read in Europe, Evangelista shortly after the released went to Cavite to join the Revolution. Arriving in Kawit on October 23, he was accepted by Aguinaldo who eventually designated him chief of the engineer corps of the incipient Filipino army.
Historians believe that Aguinaldo’s manifesto issued on October 31 in excellent Spanish and calling for the creation of a revolutionary government, might have been written by Evangelista. IN line with this manifesto the Magdalo Council called the Imus assembly on December 31. The Magdiwang Council newly recognized and headed by Andres Bonifacio; the haring Bayan (King) attended the Imus assembly, which, however, was abruptly adjourned because of the arrival of Paciano Rizal with his sister – in law, Josephine Bracken, the hero’s widow.
During the Imus assembly, Emilio Aguinaldo openly campaigned on the floor for the election of Evangelista for the proposed revolutionary government. He said that an ilustrado like Evangeslista would “command the respect of the Spaniards who had branded the Caviteños as bandits and ignorant peasants.” Moreover, being an outsider, Evangelista was neutral in the ongoing rivalry between the Magdalo and Magdiwang Councils of the Katipunan.
The Magdiwang leaders strongly opposed the Magdalo proposal to create a new revolutionary government. They claimed that there was no need for it because the Katipunan itself already functioned like a full-fledged government with national, provincial and municipal branches. No agreement was reached in the Imus Assembly.
Meanwhile, the central government in Manila suddenly launched a major offensive against the revolutionaries under the overall command of Spanish General Jose Lachambre. Operations in Magdalo territory went in full swing. The Spaniards were already knocking the gates of Imus, the Magdalo capital. Then suddenly the Magdalo Council under Bonifacio called convention at Tejeros on March 22, 1897. The Magdiwang leaders were already amenable to the idea of setting up a revolutionary government. With its back to the wall, fighting a life-and-death struggle against the enemy, the Magdalo Council had only a few hours to prepare for then convention that was set Magdiwang territory.
Came the day of the convention. Their territory still outside the battle zone, the Magdiwang leaders and followers attended in force. On the other hand only eight Magdalo leaders were able attend. Aguinaldo himself could not come because he was pinned down in a seesaw battle in strategic Pasong Santol, in Salitran, Dasmariñas, and the gateway to the Imus capital.
But the time of Evangelista, the man Aguinaldo was grooming for the presidency of the revolutionary government, was already dead. He had been killed in the Battle of Zapote, February 17. This explained his absence at the convention. Aguinaldo believed the time for holding such a convention to unify the Magdalo and Magdiwang factions under a revolutionary government had long passed. In a few weeks the revolutionists would be driven out of Cavite. The revolutionary government then would have no territory to rule. As far as Aguinaldo was concerned it was too late to hold a convention.
The convention under Bonifacio’s chairmanship was held anyway. But to the chagrin of Bonifacio, Ricarte, and other Magdiwang leaders, Aguinaldo was elected president of the new revolutionary government in absentia. The rest is history.
Born to a poor family in Sta. Cruz, Manila, on February 25,1862, Evangelista worked hard to earn enough money for his education abroad. He had been a schoolteacher, a cattle dealer, and a tobacco merchant in Cebu, and later a contractor of public works prior to his departure for Europe.
It was at the instance of Rizal the Evangelista took up engineering in Belgium. He graduated with honors. Despite offers of lucrative jobs in Belgium and Latin America, Evangelista decided to return to the Philippines because he wanted his country to benefit first from his knowledge acquired abroad. An idealist and a patriot, Evangelista was a model for the Filipino youth. He became a Caviteño by a reason of his ultimate sacrifice for his country. He died after successfully defending Zapote.He was buried in the cemetery of Bacoor, Cavite.
[Source: (1) Jose Alejandro, the prince of freedom. Manila, 1949; (2) Pedro S. Achutegui, S.J., and Miguel Bernard, S.J., Aguinaldo and the Revolution of 1896. A Documentary History. Quezon City, 1972; (3) Gregorio F. Zaide, Great Filipinas in History. Manila, 1970; (4) Eminent Filipinos. Manila, National Historical Commission, 1965; (5) Prominent Caviteños in History. Copyright by Esteban A. de Ocampo, 1941; and (6) Leon S. del Rosario, “Gen. Evangelista Headed First PI Engineers’ Corps in Revolution,” Philippines Free Press, February 18, 1957.