Aguinaldo’s “The Mansion” in Singapore

February 25, 2020
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The Mansion’s significance

One of the most important events in our history is a little-known meeting between Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and Edward Spencer Pratt, who served as US consul general from 1893-99 to Singapore. The American facilitated the meeting with the goal of persuading Aguinaldo to resume his armed struggle against Spain. Pratt pledge that the US would grant Filipinos independence after Spain is defeated. Aguinaldo went back to Hong Kong then sailed back home. He disembarked in Cavite on May 19, 1898, treated like a returning Roman conqueror.

Aguinaldo wrote:

 “The United States would at least recognize the Independence of the Philippines under the protection of the United States Navy. The Consul added that there was no necessity for entering into a formal written agreement because the word of the Admiral and of the United States Consul were, in fact, equivalent to the most solemn pledge that their verbal promises and assurance would be fulfilled to the letter and were not to be classed with Spanish promises of Spanish ideas of a man’s word of honor. In conclusion, the Consul said, “The Government of North America, is a very honest, just, and powerful government.”

It turns out that Consul Pratt did not have the clearance to get into such a deal. Or was it a brilliant ploy to induce the young general to resume his rebellion? Was he misled to support the American forces? Were they mere pawns in some larger chess game?

Where the two met

The historian, Alfredo Saulo, in his book “Emilio Aguinaldo: Generalissimo and President of the First Philippine Republic–first Republic in Asia,”  wrote that Aguinaldo met “the American consul the next day (April 22, 1898), between 9 and 12 o’clock in the evening, at a secluded place called “The Mansion,” on River Valley Road. Present at the meeting, besides Aguinaldo and Pratt, were Bray, who acted as interpreter.”

The Mansion was an odd name for a hotel business. So I ran a check on manuscripts of the time. Old newspaper ads from the Straits Times and other broadsheets shows that it was indeed its official name. The US Congressional records confirm it.

Locating The Mansion wasn’t easy because the wealthiest Straits Chinese and European traders built their mansions in the area.”The Mansion,” is not a private home though its name suggests otherwise. It’s typical to unearth records that refer to these houses as mansions.

Resuming the search

Last January 28 I received a message from popular historian Ambeth Ocampo inquiring about the Mansion’s location. I wrote a blog about my search to find it many years ago.

I have an idea where it once stood but have no documents to substantiate it. All I have is a hunch and we all know that a hunch will not hold up in court.

The interaction reminded me of how important discovering the place is for us Filipinos. The event and place’s historical significance must not be lost. It deserves to be remembered and retold.

The last conference between Aguinaldo and the Pratt was held in the former US consulate in Singapore on April 25, 1898.

The Mansion. Architectural drafts and notes. 1910-11. Courtesy of NAS.

Location located

Last week I finally found what I’ve been searching for all these years. Thanks to the National Archives of Singapore’s extensive building records that date back to more than a century.

I found a plan for a comfort room The Mansion’s owner wanted to add (yes, a baño) that was to be built in 1910-11. The architectural draft provided important details but it was a hand-drawn map that provided the answer to my long-standing question where property used to stand.

Today, a condominium called The Imperial stands on The Mansion’s former location. The closest landmark would be the Sri Thendayuthapani, a 19th-century Hindu temple. This temple was already standing when Aguinaldo lodged in The Mansion.

Too bad, El Presidente was not much of a writer. He did not have the fondness for writing like Rizal. We’ll never get to read what he thought of that Indian temple, which must have been strange for him. Or what were his impressions of Singapore and that of “The Mansion.”

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