Fil-Am Ako contributing editor, Kristine suggested Gregorio del Pilar for this segment after reading one of F. Sionil Jose books, where one of his main characters died at the Battle of Tirad Pass. I thought this would be a great opportunity to feature the “Boy General,” especially after last week’s celebration of Philippine Independence Day.
Gregorio del Pilar y Sempio (November 14, 1875—December 2, 1899) was one of the youngest generals in the Philippine Revolutionary Forces during the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War. He was called the “Boy General” because of his youth at 24-years-old.
During the Spanish American War and established the government of the First Philippine Republic, del Pilar was appointed section leader of the revolutionary forces in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. On June 1, del Pilar landed in Bulacan, quickly laying siege on the Spanish forces in the province. When the Spaniards surrendered to del Pilar, he brought his men to Caloocan, Manila to support the other troops battling the Spaniards there.
When the Philippine-American War broke-out on February 1899, del Pilar led his troops to a short victory over Major Franklin Bell in the first phase of the Battle of Quingua on April 23, 1899, in which his forces repelled a cavalry charge and killed the highly respected Colonel John M. Stotsenburg, after whom Clark Air Base was originally named (Fort Stotsenburg).
Battle of Tirad Pass
On December 2, 1899, del Pilar led 60 Filipino soldiers in the Battle of Tirad Pass against the “Texas Regiment”, the 33rd Infantry Regiment of the United States led by Peyton C. March. The five-hour standoff resulted in Del Pilar’s death. Del Pilar’s body was later despoiled and looted by the victorious American soldiers.
Del Pilar’s body lay unburied for days, exposed to the elements. While retracing the trail, an American officer, Lt. Dennis P. Quinlan, gave the body a traditional U.S. military burial. Upon del Pilar’s tombstone, Quinlan inscribed, “An Officer and a Gentleman”.