The tyrannical and oppressive reign of the Crown of Spain had undoubtedly caused bitter tears and bloodshed to the Filipino people. The long history of Spanish rule was indeed marked by abuse and discrimination of sorts that many Filipinos tried to escape such wrath. Most significant of which was the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK). Founded by Gat. Andres Bonifacio, the Katipunan envisioned to overthrow, by use of arms, the rule of the Spaniards over Philippine soil. The high-spirited call to overcome the colonial power eventually reached Nueva Ecija. And the Novo Ecijanos bravely heeded to the cause. For two nights initial recruitment for the Katipunan took place in Gapan and Mambangnan, San Leonardo. The first was held at the residence of the then Teniente Mayor of Gapan Pantaleon Valmonte; while, the second occurred at the house of Crispulo Sandico. It was truly not difficult for the people of Nueva Ecija to act subversively against the oppressors and to sympathize with the noble calling of the secret organization. Among the first Novo Ecijanos to join the Katipunan were Mamerto Natividad, Marcos Ventuz, Epifanio Ramos, Domingo Cecilio, and Mariano Llanera who in the middle part of the Katipunan struggle would serve as general of the revolutionary government.
However, the secret organization was unmasked prematurely because of the irresponsibility of Teodoro Patinio who confessed the existence of the Katipunan to his sister and a nun. The two women urged Patinio to disclose the same to a priest. Sure enough he did it. Father Mariano Gil of Tondo upon knowing the impending threat to the frailocracy and the government immediately reported what he learned to the Spanish high authorities. And acting on the information, the governor general ordered the civil guards to search premises and arrest suspected members of the Katipunan. By ill-fate the ledger that contained all the names of Katipuneros fell in the hands of the government.
Gat. Andres Bonifacio and his men, though still unprepared, on August 26, 1896 declared war against Spanish rule. The First Cry of Pugadlawin was the beginning of the open hostilities between the colonizers and the Katipunan freedom fighters. And on August 29, 1896, the Bonifacio-led Katipunan seized the Spanish arsenal at San Juan del Monte. Many more battles took place.
Hoping to contain the insurrection, Governor-General Blanco in turn placed the country under Martial Law. The arrest of suspected members of the revolution further increased in number. Bloodshed became inevitable.
The atrocities spread fast. The inherent violence of military rule was never made exclusive in the capital for it likewise reached nearby provinces. In Nueva Ecija, the same fate occurred to Katipuneros. On August 31, upon the order of Colonel Val, Captain Machorro, the head of the civil guards in the capital of the province, forcibly arrested and detained Mamerto Natividad and Marcos Ventuz. The following day, September 1, Captain Machorro proceeded to Gapan also to arrest Teniente Mayor Valmonte. Being close friends, Valmonte was able to convince the civil guard captain that he would voluntarily go with him the next day. Because of this, Valmonte was able to tell Llanera of the impending plans of the civil guards. And on that very day, realizing the urgency of the situation, they conceived a plan which later on would be laid down in the pages of history as one of the significant events in the revolutionary period.
On the night of the same day, assisted by able men, Marcelo Payumo, Samuel dela Merced, Alipio Tecson, Juan Horquiza, Andres Romero and Rogino Ortiz Luis, Llanera scouted in search of men who were then members and non-members of the Katipunan. Making the most of what they have, the Llanera group planned to seize the provincial capitol and free their arrested comrades with the employment of a diversionary tactic---
The Katipuneros acted as they planned. They disguised their true intent by employing the Musikong Bumbong of Cabiao and informed the communities that they would be heading towards the Capitol not for some other reasons but to pray for the release of their fellow comrades.
September 2, 1896, Tuesday, around 11 am in Cabiao, the Katipuneros were lined-up and ready to face whatever might be the consequences of their acts. Llanera mounted on his horse and the Musikong Bumbong played eagerly as their hearts longed for the reckoning hour. From Sityo Pulo, the band played on. As it passed the old church, its bell tolled--- a sure message that the reign of greed would have to face the wrath of the oppressed Novo Ecijanos.
The Katipuneros then reached San Isidro. Surprised as he was, Governor Val ordered his men to inquire of what the commotion was about. Doubting as to Llanera’s true intent, he instructed Captain Machorro to prepare the guards for an armed confrontation.
Three in the afternoon, Llanera and his men approached the Capitol. Captain Machorro, Sgt. Moreno,and six civil guards warned the incoming Katipuneros to stop. Realizing the true resolve of the Katipuneros, the civil guards fired at them…. Violence ensued… The Llanera-led group attacked at the enemy, face-to-face; while the Valmonte-led Katipuneros fought from the rear.
For three days, the battle that would later on be dubbed as the First Cry of Nueva Ecija claimed many lives from both ranks. And out of Providence and sheer determination, the Novo Ecijanos gradually crushed the enemy defenses. The Spanish fortress, the symbol of its enthronement for hundreds of years, was decisively demolished by the brave heart and insurmountable courage of the Novo Ecijanos. For the first time, the oppressed was feared by no less than the oppressor….
Such was the reason why we are here this very day; to commemorate the show of courage and bravery of our ancestors and to remind us that despite the seemingly unsinkable odds, the spirit of the TRUE NOVO ECIJANOS PREVAILED. The Novo Ecijano, needless to emphasize, has a unique legacy on its own. Look yonder and behold the flag….indeed I fervently pray that such ray that stands for our Blood’s bravery shall not be lost in all of us and that every ounce of blood that Llanera, Valmonte and the rest of the Katipuneros sacrificed would not be put in vain. Such is my prayer. Such is what I also ask from you….