PRESIDENT GARCIA’S SPEECH AT TURN OVER RITES OF SIMON DE ANDA MONUMENT AT THE PORT AREA, SUNDAY MORNING, JUNE 8, UNDER AUSPICES OF THE MANILA LIONS.
WHY must the memory of Simon de Anda y Salazar, a Spanish governor-general, be immortalized in Philippine history? Why should a monument be erected to perpetuate his name? These are questions that must be answered on this memorable occasion that we set aside to rededicate the monument in his honor. I will start by saying that Simon de Anda transcended his time. Sent by Spain as a colonial governor over the Filipinos in 1770 at a time when colonialism was generally identified with abuses, oppression, and exploitation of the colonized masses, Simon de Anda on the contrary defended the Filipinos from such injustices and despotism.
Simon de Anda was a hero in three important episodes of Philippine history.
First, when the City of Manila capitulated to the British invaders in 1762, Simon de Anda, then a simple member of the Audiencia of Manila, rebelled against that decision of the government of Spain in the Philippines. He fled to Bulacan and Pampanga and organized the resistance movement against the British occupation. He headed a strong organization of guerrillas composed mainly of Tagalogs and Pampangos to engage the British in a war of attrition until the latter took to their war vessels to return to India in June, 1764. It was therefore Simon de Anda with his guerrilla forces that forced out the British from the Philippines and it was to him that the proud British bowed. Failing in their conquest, they returned the City of Manila to the Spanish rule one year and eight months after they had entered it in triumph. Anda was the towering-hero of the whole episode.
Second, after this significant victory, Simon de Anda returned to Spain where he was received by his king and his people with the honors and glories of a returning victor. He could have concluded his career in the midst of the hosannas and laurels showered upon him by a grateful King and a grateful and idolizing people, but his great soul prodded him to go back to the Philippines, the place of his glorious exploits to undertake a messianic task. This mission was to redeem the Filipinos from the abyss of oppression and tyranny by friars. At that time this undertaking was definitely quixotic, but men like Anda anointed by Destiny of greatness did not falter or waver. He accepted the offer of his King to be the governor-general of the Philippines only after he presented a memorial dated April 12, 1768, in which he depicted to the King of Spain the deplorable conditions in the Philippines, and frankly expressed his desire to put an end to it. It was a memorial in which he fearlessly denounced the oppressions and abuses committed against the Filipinos in the name of the Spanish sovereign and he accepted the governor-generalship only upon assurances that in that capacity he could redress the grievances of the Filipinos.
When he returned to the Philippines as governor-general in 1770, he discharged that high office with the greatest courage and high determination to govern the Filipinos with justice and to grant them the enjoyment of the inalienable rights of man. He did his best and his utmost to restore the good name and prestige of the Spanish sovereign to the love of the people of the Philippines who learned to hate Spain and its King because of the transgressions of the rulers sent here. Unfortunately, however, Anda came too early for his time. He was misunderstood, maligned, and mistrusted by his fellow countrymen in the Philippines until death ended his incumbency in 1776. At his tragic end only his Filipino friends whose affection and love and devotion he won, were at his bedside. When the end came the reactionary forces and the forces of obscurantism rejoiced. He died without achieving much of the noble program that prompted him to come back.
But his sacrifices were not in vain. His ideals of justice and equality germinated in the heart of succeeding generations of Filipinos. Many more heroes and martyrs followed his footsteps in the fight for the redemption of the Filipinos. After him came Rizal who denounced in burning language the same abuses, the same oppressions, that Simon de Anda tried to fight in his time. After him came Bonifacio with the galaxy of Filipino heroes and revolutionaries to keep aflame the fight for justice and the fight for the human rights of the Filipinos.
The third great historic crusade of Simon de Anda, celebrated in Philippine history, is his gallant fight for the rights of Filipino priesthood. When Simon de Anda was yet a member of the Audiencia, the fight for the secularization of the parishes in the Philippines came to a head. So when he came back as governor-general, he advanced the secularization movement by ordering that the parishes be vacated by regular religious orders and turned over to the Filipino priests who had long been held down because of race and color prejudice. This order hit a hornet’s nest and the friars flung the gauntlet and fought back. They disobeyed the orders of periodic visitations of the parishes, denied the Archbishop of Manila of the power of visitation under Anda’s order, and there started a turbulent fight between the Governor-General and the friars which ended by a final Royal Decree whereby the secular parishes were forcibly taken from the hands of the Filipino priests and returned to the friars as their private preserve. Anda failed to retain the continued support of his King.
Again, the fight of Simon de Anda for justice to the Filipino priests ended in a failure at that time. Anda came too soon for his time. But after his defeat, however, other brave souls picked up his fights and continued until justice was achieved. So many martyrs like Burgos, Gomez, and Zamora had to give up their lives for the rights of the Filipino priesthood for which Simon de Anda, Spanish governor-general, fought so nobly and so heroically. This was one of the greatest issues involved in the Philippine Revolution of 1896, and this was one of the issues that inspired the pen of Rizal and Plaridel and glorified the sword of many other illustrious heroes of our country. Simon de Anda, a Spaniard, led the fight that ultimately made it possible for Archbishop Santos, Rosales, and many other church dignitaries to occupy the exalted position in the church they now hold. To Simon de Anda they owe eternal gratitude.
Thus, Simon de Anda deserves the undying gratitude of our country. Spaniard as he was, yet he fought for justice to Filipinos and for doing so he paid a high price which only great souls are willing to do. He fought against abuses, oppression, and corruption, whether perpetrated by a white, brown, or black man. He lost the love of his own fellow countrymen because he did not want to lose the love of his God, who is the source of eternal justice, of truth, and of the right. But let Simon de Anda know that if he had lost the love of his own countrymen, the Filipino people for whom he fought and died, will forever treasure his name as one of the greatest benefactors of their country. Simon de Anda! Rest in peace and rest with the assurance that the Filipinos who loved you in 1776 still love you now and forever!