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Who was Simeon Ola?

Every September 2, the province of Albay commemorates the life of General Simeon Ola y Arboleda, the last Filipino general to surrender to American forces during the Philippine-American War.

Simeon Ola
Photos via wowlegazpi

General Ola was born in the town of Guinobatan on September 2, 1865 to Vicente Ola and Apolonia Arboleda. He served as teniente de cuadrillos of Guinobatan and was a trusted confident of the parish priest, Father Carlos Cabido. These positions helped him carry out his revolutionary works – recruiting men and acquiring firearms for the revolutionary army. He connived with the jail warden in his town, Sergeant Loame, to free about 93 prisoners. The prisoners soon joined his army.

In April 1898, he fought in the battle of Camalig. General Vito Belarmino, the Zone Commander of the Revolutionary Forces in the Bicol Region, designated him the rank of a Captain. Fully committed to the cause of the revolution, he also raised funds amounting to P42, 000.00, which he turned over to General Mariano Trias, Secretary of Finance of the Revolutionary Government.

On January 23, 1900, he was promoted Major after he successfully effected an ambush and captured three American soldiers: Dubose, Fred Hunter and Russel. In February that same year, his troops fought against the Americans in Arimbay, Legaspi. His cousin Jose Arboleda perished in the bloody battle.

American soldiers’ mighty firepower and combat training did not dampen his spirit; he continued to fight so that his men were encouraged and more men joined his army. With the army of Colonel Engracio Orence, he fought valiantly in the battle of Binogsacan in Guinobatan, Albay. His army rested for over a month in July 1901 when he accompanied General Belarmino to Manila.

He resumed his campaign in August by raiding the town of Oas, Albay. On August 12, 1902, he ambushed the American detachment at Macabugos, Ligao.

Ola became a marked man to the Americans. Although his troops were easily repulsed during battles, the Americans took him seriously. From March to October 1903, the Americans set up the reconcentration system as a means to stop Ola’s activities. Because of the damage it caused even to the innocent civilians, they turned into negotiations.

They sent Ramon Santos and Major Jesse S. Garwood of the Constabulary as emissaries to negotiate for his surrender, which he politely refused. Instead, he carried on his battle. On July 15, 1903, he ambushed the 31st Philippine Scout Garrison under the command of Sergeant Nicolas Napoli in Joveliar, Albay. The persistent effort of the peace panel and his battle weary men made Ola realized that he could never win the war. He became open to the agreement set by Colonel Harry H. Bandholtz, the Assistant Commander of the Constabulary in Lucena, Tayabas, for his surrender.

The agreement included general amnesty, fair treatment and justice to his comrades in arms. On September 25, 1903 the negotiating panel composed of Ramon Santos, Eligio Arboleda, Epifanio Orozco, Frank L. Pyle, John Paegelow, J.B. Allison and Joseph Rogers went to his camp in Malagnaton, Mapaco, Guinobatan. Eventually, Ola surrendered to Governor Bette and Colonel Bandholtz.

Charged with sedition, Judges Adam Carson and James Blount presided over his case. He was sentenced of 30 years imprisonment on November 10. 1903. Fortunately, he was granted executive clemency so he was released from prison on October 8, 1904. In 1910, he entered politics and won as town mayor of Guinobatan, which he served until 1913. He was again elected to the same position in 1916. He served the term until 1919.

Simeon Ola died on February 14, 1952 and was interred at the Roman Catholic Cemetery of Guinobatan. Camp Simeon Ola in Legazpi City, formerly called the Regan Barracks, was named after him.(Via wowlegazpi.com)

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