sually, when we think of epic speeches, what pops up to our minds are the likes of William Wallace, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and a who’s who of famous greats (and villains also) in the pantheon of history.
Here in the Philippines, the best that we could probably recall is Douglas MacArthur’s famous “I shall return”speech during World War II. Yet, making speeches that sound totally epic is not exclusive to foreigners; a lot of Filipinos have also made speeches designed to rouse the fighting spirit of their audience. As we’ll see later on, these speeches are just as epic as their foreign counterparts.
Rajah Besar Tupas’ Speech To His People (1565).
The speech, made by Cebu’s last Rajah Besar Tupas on the day of his battle (April 27, 1565) with the forces of Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, exhorted the people of Cebu to rise up and repel the invader just as the men of Mactan (a reference to Lapu-Lapu) did long ago.
In the same speech, he also warned that should they lose, the Spanish would deprive them of their land and liberty. True enough, with his loss Tupas was forced to convert to Christianity and sign a peace treaty with Legaspi, effectively giving the Spanish control over Cebu.
“Let us, then, arm ourselves and repel these invaders. We must defend our country. We can make and end of them as the men of Magtang did of their predecessors who came here in the days of our grandfathers.”
Tamblot’s Speech To the Boholanos (1622).
As we can all remember, one of the earliest uprisings during the Spanish period happened in Bohol in 1621 and was led by the babaylan Tamblot who wanted the people to return to the religion of their forefathers. What made this speech more epic was the fact Tamblot made it during the battle with the Spanish and in the midst of a heavy downpour.
Knowing the rain rendered the Spanish guns useless, Tamblot urged his followers to charge the Spaniards since he believed their deities provided them a miracle with the unexpected downpour. With this victory, he assured them, all of the Visayas and the rest of the country would surely rise up.
Unfortunately for Tamblot, he didn’t count on enemy native soldiers using their shields as an umbrella for the Spanish, thus enabling their guns to remain dry and usable. In the end, his uprising was crushed.
“We people of Bohol like to live free. Now that we see our chance, let us not lose it. Of all Filipinos, we have the reputation, as well as of being the tallest and of the finest Filipino features, of being the stoutest hearted. Now the time has come to rid ourselves of the oppression of the Spaniards. Let us show our spirit and live up to our reputation.”
Don Alonso Macombo’s Complaint To the Spanish Commander (1650).
During a time when the Sumuroy Rebellion of 1649-1650 was in full swing in Samar, the Spanish sent reinforcements all over the archipelago to quell the uprising. One such group, the Lutao (men from Zamboanga), was headed by Don Alonso Macombo.
Eager to fight, the Lutao were instead made to build forts under the command of Don Gines de Rojas. Fed up with this routine, Macombo finally confronted Rojas one day and told him point-blank that they had not come all way from Mindanao to haul logs, but to fight. If they weren’t going to fight, they might as well go home, he said.
To prove themselves, Macombo urged Rojas to send them to the most dangerous campaigns. Rojas, of course, obliged them to their satisfaction and joy.
“Why are you wearing us out with profitless labor? You weary yourself and keep your men exhausted on fortifications that are wholly unnecessary. We Lutaos came here from Zamboanga not to haul logs but to fight. If there is to be no fighting, then permit us to return to our homes. For the coxcombs and foppish adventurers from Manila, an assault may seem too dangerous an enterprise. But we are veterans and eagerly await the chance to distinguish ourselves. If you think us boasters, please assign to us the brunt of the battle that we may employ our courage in carrying out our own advice.”
Datu Ubal’s Vow To Kill A Spanish Conquistador (1596).
Datu Ubal,the Muslim datu of Buayan in Cotabato, made this promise in front of his guests during a feast sometime in April 1596 that he would kill the highest-ranking Spaniard who would come to invade their land.
True enough, the unlucky Spaniard—a conquistador named Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa who was the leader of the Spanish expedition—met his end at the hands of Ubal two days later in the Battle of Buayan when the latter struck him in the head with a kampilan.
“Hear now my vow. May a thunderbolt strike me on land, a cayman devour me in the sea, and may never a woman look with favor on Ubal if I rid not the land of the Buhahayanes of this mercenary invader.”
Sultan Kudarat’s Speech To The People Of Lanao (1638).
If there is ever going to be a real-life Filipino equivalent of a badass movie speech, this would be it. Sultan Kudarat, the famous hero of Mindanao who successfully opposed Spanish attempts at colonization, made this speech to the Maranao (where he had sought refuge after the fall of his capital in Lamitan, Basilan into the Spaniards) in 1638.
In his speech, he exhorted the people of Lanao to continue resisting and blasted those who had submitted and collaborated with the enemy. Sure enough, the people heeded his call to resist the Spanish; Kudarat himself lived until the ripe old age of 90 and was regarded as one of Mindanao’s most powerful Muslim rulers, having thwarted countless Spanish attempts to decisively defeat him.
“You men of the Lake, forgetting your ancient liberty, have submitted to the Castilians. Such submission is sheer stupidity. You cannot realize to what your surrender binds you. You are selling yourselves into slavery to toil for the benefit of these foreigners.”
Captain Andres Novales’ Speech To His Fellow Mutineers (1823).
The speech comes from Captain Andres Novales, an officer who was discontented with the way he and his fellow insulares (Spaniards born in the Philippines) were discriminated by the peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain).
In his speech, he lamented how Filipinos (the insulares called themselves as such) suffered prejudice at the hands of the peninsulares, being constantly bypassed for important positions in church and state affairs. So on the night of June 1, 1823, he and his fellow mutineers rose up in different parts of Manila. They also attempted to occupy Fort Santiago but failed after Andres’ brother Mariano refused to open the gates.
Spanish soldiers later quelled the uprising and executed Novales and the ringleaders. Yet for all his failure to overthrow the Spanish, Novales would later inspire future Filipino heroes, including Jose Rizal.
“We have the same rights, let us show the same valor in fighting for them. Who among us will be so mean-spirited as longer to stay in an ungrateful service where we are distrusted and wronged?”
Andres Bonifacio’s “To The Brave Sons Of The People” Speech (1897).
Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio published his exhortation “Mararahas Na Manga Anak Nang Bayan” to his men during a lull in the fighting between November 1896 and March 1897. In his speech, he praised the men for their courage on the field against the Spaniards who have resorted to cowardice by massacring civilians and plundering villages.
He also said that while losing one’s life is to be expected on the battlefield, it will be for a higher purpose. Hence, he urged them to continue fighting on until they can finally secure the liberty of their country from the Spanish oppressors.
“The bravery you have manifested since the start of this Revolution in fighting against the Spanish enemy is the clearest proof that you are not terrified by the noise of the preparations for the invasion here of the army of Polavieja. That army, in a short span of time, has demonstrated marked cowardice and base conduct by torturing and killing multitudes of our non-combatant people. Their burning of the towns here, their desecration of the purity of our women without regard to their weakness, the murder of the old and of helpless infants – these acts are not those of any man of honor and courage. They cry out for vengeance and justice.”
Emilio Aguinaldo’s Address On The 1st Anniversary of Declaration Of Filipino Independence (1899).
As polarizing a figure as Emilio Aguinaldo, even he found the time to make an epic speech. Made during the first anniversary of the declaration of Filipino independence in Angeles, Pampanga on June 12, 1899, Aguinaldo exhorted the people to continue the fight against America because their cause was just even though they were outmatched from the start.
This speech was a far cry from his earlier positive tone towards America, an admiration that spurred him to regard the Philippines as under the protection of the “Mighty and Humane North American Nation” and ignore the warnings of Antonio Luna and Apolinario Mabini of the latter’s imperialist ambitions until it was too late.
“Let us go forth to the fight against America, a nation powerful in the sinews of war and rich in resources, although we can count only upon the valor and self-denial of our soldiers and the patriotism of the Philippine people. The contest is an unequal one, but no matter. Justice and right are on our side.”
Manuel Quezon’s Third Inaugural Address (1943).
Right up to his death, Manuel Quezon believed he would be returning home to see his country free from Japanese rule.
On his third inaugural speech as president (his Vice President Sergio Osmeña graciously stepped aside and allowed him to remain president for the duration of the war) which was broadcast on November 15, 1943, Quezon asked the Filipino people to continue resisting the Japanese with all their might until Douglas MacArthur could fulfill his vow to liberate the country.
He empathized with their pain and suffering, and re-assured them that no matter how sick he was, he was always constantly working for the day he could finally return to his own country.
“My fellow countrymen, I am proud of you. I know that you have been wielding against the enemy two potent weapons: Filipino unity and faith. Stronger than any arm of destruction, your weapons are of untold and terrible power. Stronger than a thousand sheets of steel, with them you are invincible. Carry on, and today, I repeat to you with conviction what General MacArthur said when he arrived in Australia from Bataan: “I broke through and I will return. People of the Philippines, I will return with General MacArthur. Our day of redemption is at hand.”