March 20, 2003. The Fil-American War at the turn of the 20th century has definitely been a cruel chapter in our nation's history. Who really started it is just as worse as the bloodbath that ensued, with both protagonists guilty of "the worst scourge of mankind," as Gen. Douglas McArthur put it.

The battle at Pulang Lupa, Torrijos, Marinduque, on Sept. 13, 1900, proved this. In that battle, Col. Maximo Abad, together with 37 of his trusted offiers and men, laid out a plan to ambush Capt. Devereux Shields and a hundred of his men in Pulang Lupa.

Niņa Vanessa Leynes, a University of the Philippines Los Baņos student from Marinduque, mentions that the officers and men belonged to the Marinduque Revolutionary Force's infantry division and militia battalion.

Leynes discloses that "the three columns of the Filipino guerillas surrounded the Americans (in the latter's passageway). The fight lasted the whole morning and ended about two o'clock in the afternoon the following day when the remaining Americans finally surrendered."

For more than a century, the battle at Pulang Lupa was all but unknown to Filipinos, were it not for the sense of history by Gov. Carmencita Reyes.

Reyes tapped the sculptor Bulaong of Bulacan to do a mural of the historic battle. With researchers from the National Historical Institute, namely Porfeo Encomienda, Romeo Sacay and Eleanor Samonte, Bulaong conceptualized the mural using concrete as his medium.

The monumental mural rises on a mountainside some seven kilometers away from the town proper of Torrijos, the site of the bloody battle.

The mural is a pictorial narrative of the history of Torrijos and the almost forgotten battle.

No less than 72 human figures, in high relief, and in various degrees of action and orientation, essay the bloody battle in a total of 60 concrete frames joined together to form a horizontal mural.

The work can be divided into five separate but interconnected thematic sets. The first set on the left side (composed of 12 frames) depicts the resourceful and industrious locals under an overbearing foreigner.

The second set of 12 frames shows Shields and his men trapped in an ambuscade by Captain Abad's contingent. The Filipinos, many of whom were barefooted, engage the enemy in a fierce fight, while the others led their American captives to wherever, perhaps the town plaza for public execution.

In the third set, the protagonists continue to annihilate each other, with the locals obviously enjoying an upperhand. Above is a Filipino about to slash open an American's throat as the latter vainly raises his handgun vertically upward - thus missing his Filipino slasher completely.

The fourth set shows an American down on his knees, presumably Shields, his right arm raised in surrender as his barefooted Filipino captor aims his pointed stake at the American's right underarm. A church on the third layer of concrete frames stands witness to the victory of the Filipinos.

The fifth and final set exhibits the firearms which the Filipinos have captured. As a Filipino warrior counts the captured firearms with the tip of his sword - a symbol of his authority and bravery - the American prisoners of war are led away.

This pictorial narrative points out this gory truth about war: it is a necessary evil; it is brutal, cruel and senseless.

A few weeks ago, Pope John Paul II, obviously pained by the impending US-led war against Iraq, intoned: "War is always a defeat for humanity."

The battle at Pulang Lupa, Torrijos, Marinduque, already proved that in 1900.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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