JUAN A. ARANETA                




Juan Anacleto Araneta, Visayan revolutionary leader and pioneer in the development of sugar industry in Negros, was born on July 13 1852 to Romualdo Araneta and Agueda Torres in Molo, Iloilo. The Aranetas, however, later moved to Negros and settled there.


As a young boy, Juan Anacleto took part in many escapades When he was about 19 he was brought to Manila by his brother-in-law, Pedro Sarmiento, who enrolled him at the Ateneo Municipal. In school, he showed great promise as a scholar and earned medals of merits in school. He graduated with a perito mercantil degree or the equivalent of a Bachelor of Commerce. Among his contemporaries in school were Jose Rizal, Jose Alejandrino, Cayetano Arellano, Apolinario Mabini, and many others.


When he returned to his hometown, Juan incurred the suspicion of the friars in the province. This animosity did not, however, stop him from being elected Capitan del Pueblo like his father before him. Only his dynamic personality and the high regard and respect of the people of Bago and other towns of the province prevented him from being summarily liquidated by the authorities.


In 1891, after his first wife died, Juan went to Europe with a friend, Don Claudio Reina. He saw many of the Filipino leaders then living in the different capitals such as Madrid, London, and Paris which he toured at leisure for about 18 months.


The Spanish authorities did not look too friendly on his return As a consequence, he lost the land that he and his sisters had inherited from their parents. Because of this, he took his family to the slopes of Kanlaon mountain where they started to farm anew.


His travels abroad made him see the advantages of machineries and tools for agriculture. He ordered a sugar mill from England and installed this in his hacienda at Dinapalan. From time to time he bought farm implements like a baler for abaca, a rice thresher, and plows of improved models.


However, this love for modern agricultural tools led to his own undoing. The authorities found out that boatloads of mysterious cargo were being unloaded near his land in Lumangub. Considering the restless activities in the rest of the island, the authorities placed him under arrest He was taken from his hacienda to Concordia in January 1897, and was brought to Himamaylan and later to Ilog which was then the capital of the province. His diary hinted that even in prison there was a plan to organize the revolutionary forces in the province. There were annotations showing that he made contact with other leaders in the province.


Finally, Juan Araneta was brought to Bacolod where he was released in October 1897. On November 5, 1898, a messenger from Talisay brought news that the revolutionaries and the casadores were already fighting. At about ]:00 in the afternoon, the revolutionary forces in Bago started toward Bacolod. They had only three firearms with them: a Remington rifle, a Mauser rifle, and a shotgun. Gen. Araneta who led the rebel forces told his men to cut nipa stems or pagong, and to shoulder these as if they were rifles. In case they lost one another, the password was to be "Otud."


The Spanish authorities in Bacolod, who saw them marching toward the town, thought that they wanted to surrender their arms. Surprised, the Spaniards were advised by the rebels to surrender in order to avert bloodshed. The Spaniards readily agreed. It was only when Bacolod was already in the hands of the rebels, that the Spanish reinforcements from Iloilo arrived.


A cantonal form of government was set up in Bacolod with General Juan Araneta serving as Secretary of War. When the Americans arrived in Iloilo he counseled the cantonal government to submit to the American forces. This was vehemently opposed and ridiculed by his companions in arms. But his idea was finally adopted and so the Americans occupied Negros without encountering hostilities.


In 1904, he was appointed one of the commissioners to the St. Louis Exposition where he put on exhibit over 1,000 varieties of rice, Samples of cacao, beans, abaca, and many other agricultural crops from Negros and Panay. All these exhibits were of exceptional merit. As a result, gold and silver medallions were awarded to him.


He kept in touch with new things in agriculture either in tools and implements or crops. He tried to grow different crops on his farm and even planted trees that were found in other places. When the Ma-ao Sugar Central was organized he became one of its founders. He lent to the corporation the titles of his land to back up the new enterprises. He prevailed upon his lessees to plant wide areas of land to sugar cane. Unfortunately, "Don Juan" did not live long enough to realize his dream of seeing the sugar central freed of its obligations. He died on October 3, 1924, leaving behind a large family of about 25 living members.