Aguinaldo and the red house over yonder…

August 24, 2012
The area where rich Chinese immigrants built their palatial houses.

After months of searching.  That “red mansion” where Aguinaldo met with Consul Pratt is elusive as ever.

So somebody, please, help!

River Valley was said to be the location of that historic meeting between Aguinaldo and Pratt. Trouble is that this street stretches from the foot of Fort Cunning and ends somewhere near the SGH grounds.

I chanced upon some old online photos of what local historians calls the “magenta cottage” somewhere in the River Valley. I was thinking that this could probably be the place. Magenta is not that far from red, right? Unfortunately, this structure is also a goner.

I was told that most of the mansions in the old River Valley area had already been demolished with the exception of this one called Tan Yeok Nee house. Now leased to the University of Chicago. This mansion is not in the present day River Valley St. but is considered to be part of the original cluster of mansions in the said district.

Aguinaldo arrived in Singapore from Saigon on April 21, 1898. During that same day, an Englishman sent word to Aguinaldo that the US Consul wants to meet him in person. This surprised Aguinaldo because he thought he did a good job disguising himself so as not to attract unwanted attention. Turns out that Dewey had informed the Americans in the island of his arrival.

April 22, Aguinaldo met with Spencer-Pratt at around 9pm. On April 25th, according to Aguinaldo the last conferences ended in the US Consulate of Singapore. April 26th, the Filipino president boarded the ship Malacca and headed straight to Hong Kong, where he met the Hong Kong Consul Wildman. Accounts on how many times he met with the Americans is not clear. The dates I rely on was what the young president wrote. What really was agreed upon by both parties, if there ever was an agreement reached, is still being debated by historians. We have today documents both from Aguinaldo and Dewey available – its up to us to read and study them.

That red house could very well be where our fate as an independent nation was decided after the Spaniards left the islands. These meetings took place before the crucial commencement of the Spanish American war. Aguinaldo had several meetings with the American Consul. The latter assuring him of  protection and recognition although no one, not Spratt nor Dewey, committed to put these assurances in writing. Historians believe that this was Aguinaldo’s mistake. But if you look at what was going on during that time, you know that Aguinaldo was not in the position to force US to sign anything. Not even tissue paper. If he had been bold and showed the Americans that he would resist them, he knows his group does not stand a chance. He must survive and continue to deal with the American. Buy sometime and hope that things go his way.

At the beginning it appears that he had faith in the Americans. But he must have been naive to think that US won’t take possessions of the islands. Even newspapers at that time were writing about who’s next in line after the Spanish. If not the US, maybe the Germans or the Japanese. So there was that reality and there’s really no escaping it. It seems that the plan was to kick the Spaniards out and hope that the super power that would replace them would treat us better. I can’t help but look back and think about Rizal and his reasons for opposing an armed revolution. He was right all along.

Did Aguinaldo sold us out? Or was he a victim like many of his supporters believe? Was he promised independence by the Americans?

My personal view is that Aguinaldo had power and holding on to it in mind. The priority was to survive. Considering Americas military strength and the conditions at that time, I think Aguinaldo realized that he can’t insist on his position and that it was best to abide so as not to be crushed. He was literally, caught between a hard place and a humungous rock!

It was a realpolitik moment for him.

Some people get upset about this view but the man lost control and crashed the entire thing. The abusive reputation of his men and the deaths of Luna and Bonifacio didn’t help. Considering the odds he faced, I think even he was not surprised that he lost the war. In the end, he was arrested with the help of the Macabebes – Filipinos like him.

Of course, its easy to make these observations now because we have all the historical references we want. But man, to his credit,  just imagine being him during those days. You’re that young and the weight of liberating your nation, hang in the balance. Its weight all on your shoulders.


There’s another place that is of historical value for us Filipinos. The Raffles Hotel. Aguinaldo was said to had also met up with the American party here. This was around 1898.

Quite a historic place. In this hotel they invented the world famous Singapore sling. It was also here that they killed the last known wild tiger in the island after it strayed in its bar. Poor animal just wanted a sling.

There’s a great resource available on line that can help Filipinos paint a  picture of what’s going on in the background of things. A book entitled, “A Treaty of Peace Between the United States (read here) gives us a good look at the official communication between Aguinaldo and the Americans in Singapore.

“Reseña Veridica de la Revolución Filipina”, written by Aguinaldo himself, provides us with his personal accounts of what happened during those meetings, also an invaluable resource.

This could be a prewar houses now used as a shops. There are popular food hunts in the area still selling traditional dishes.
There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors.
– Jim Morrison
Beautiful old houses now posh apartments. I’m often surprised to find such structures in the middle of sprawling high rise buildings.
This is one of the bigger house that could be classified as a villa. But I have little information what this is aside from it appears to be constructed before the pacific war.
I don’t know what the insides of these lovely little houses looks like but I love seeing such creativity. They made small garages for their cars without damaging the look and integrity of these wonderful gems.
I would go down from the bus just to take pictures. Which sounds crazy and I think it is but I love recording such things. This one has been recently painted. They appear to be residential houses.
At the backdrop of what looks like old Chinese temples are expensive residential condominiums. I enjoy seeing such strong contrasts. The old coexisting with the new.
The iconic Raffles Hotel.
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Mr Teng

River Valley is much bigger and covers a wider area than the street we know today. Most mansions had already been bought and developed. Some shops still exists and are quire popular to this day.


[…] from popular historian Ambeth Ocampo inquiring about the Mansion’s location. I wrote a blog about my search to find it many years […]

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