At the beginning of the 20th century the long Philippine-American war was just about over, having cost an estimated half a million lives. American annexation of the Philippines was complete – to the satisfaction of most Filipinos but not quite all of them. Throughout the first decade of American rule several political groups continued to resist the new rulers, including General Macario Sakay, who declared himself president of the free Tagalag archipelago

Sakay created a flag for his new republic, drew up a constitution and warned all Filipinos not to swear allegiance to the United States. He declared that he would not cut his hair until the struggle was over. The American response was that all long-haired Filipinos were bandits, and law-abiding people should beware of them.

Four years after his declaration of independence Sakay was persuaded to lay down his arms for the sake of peace, so that Filipino delegates could be appointed to the new legislative body, the Philippine Assembly. For giving up his resistance, he and his forces were promised a general amnesty.

Accordingly, on July 4th, 1906, Sakay and his men marched down from the hills, where they had lately taken refuge, into Manila, to the music of a brass band and the shouts of welcome of hundreds of townspeople. But the Americans had set a trap for them. On July 17th, 1906, Sakay was arrested and thrown into prison on charges of banditry and armed rebellion. He was tried, found guilty, and hanged on Friday, September 13th, 1907, along with another “rebel,” Colonel Lucio de Vega.

History has shown that the Americans badly misjudged Sakay. He was certainly not a bandit, recognising the right to privacy and calling on his followers to respect the lives, livelihoods and property of the people. Fortunately, the next 45 years of American benevolent colonialism and the succeeding three brutal years of Japanese occupation, during which Filipinos and Americans fought side by side, dulled if not erased the bitter memories of the Philippine-American war.