From General to War Criminal to National Hero

From General to War Criminal to National Hero-

The Life of General Faustino Ablen

By Master Carlton Kramer


General Fastin Ablen- Lead the revolute for independence on the Island of Leyte against the Spanish and then against the Americans.

His men referred to him as their General, Braulio Pedoy called him Master, and the Spanish & the Americans as the enemy, but all agreed that General Faustino Ablen was an extraordinary leader and relentless fighter.

During the Philippine American War, each Island had their own general(s) to fight for their country’s independence. Leyte is one of hundreds of main Islands in the Philippines and General Ablen didn’t receive any help from the outside. Each island had to rely on their own resources to fight the foreigners. The Island of Leyte is 110 miles by 40 miles, but is heavily forested and mountainous. It is slightly bigger than the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Philippine – American War began in 1899 and officially ended in 1902. After the war ended, there were just a few generals that refused to accept the new government and continued to fight on their respective islands. General Ablen has the distinction of being the last anti-colonial Filipino General in the Philippine – American War who continued his rebellion until his capture in1907.

Faustino Ablen was born in Leyte. He was married and had children; A master in the art of Derobio Escrima. He was also a freedom fighter who made the rank General in the early 1880’s.

On the Island of Leyte, General Ablen fought against the Spanish over 10 years for the independence of the Philippines. He was eventually captured and imprisoned on a penal island for over a decade. Freed after the Spanish – American War and release back to Leyte, he quickly took control back and led the rebellion against the Americans who landed at Ormoc in 1901.  It is said his daughter ran the finances in the armed struggle.

Upon his return to Leyte, he founded a religious insurgent group called the Pulahans. The Pulahans launched themselves into battle with bolos, and would escape with the foreigners modern weapons. During the Pulahan Wars, from 1902 to 1907, General Ablen is said to have controlled between 10,000 -15000 troops, making it a very formidable army and a serious threat to the new government.

The American Generals informed their superiors in Washington DC that there couldn’t be peace in the Philippines until Ablen was killed or captured. The U.S. government then sent to Leyte a huge army to put down the rebellion. The new government also placed a 2,000 peso reward on the General, dead or alive. (A huge award for those days).

The Pulahan movement ended when the 8th US Infantry captured General Ablen with 4 other rebels on June 11, 1907. During his capture, General Ablen had been shot, wounding his left eye and ear. The soldiers carried him in a sling down the mountains to Ormoc City where he was photographed and displayed to the locals. Official records show that one of these rebels was immediately executed upon arrival at Ormoc and the others were sentenced to 35 plus years in prison. After the sentencing the General’s family and friends, never heard from him again.

Although the Philippine American War officially ended in 1902 , General Ablen continued to fight for another 5 years until he was captured by the US Infantry on June 11, 1907.

?Some history books say that Faustino Ablen was also executed shortly after capture; others say the Americans placed him on a boat and took him away and that he was never heard of again.

GGM Pedoy told us the authorities offered him immunity if the General would accept the new government. They asked him to publicly accept the new government and to salute the new Philippine Flag, along with the American Flag. He refused to do this simple task, in respect to his soldiers that had died fighting for independence.

The GGM said that General Ablen escaped from prison and returned  to Ormoc and fled into the  Amandawing Mountains. There he met Braulio, who was only 6 years old. The story of General Ablen  doesn’t end here, because the GGM  lived with him for 11 years, until  the General told him it was time to take his Masters test and leave Leyte.

After escrima classes, the GGM use to tell us instructors the stories about his Master, General Faustino Ablen:

  • About his powers through Anting- Anting
  • The in and out people and how to react to them
  • The medicine man he and the General met whose body was ½ black and the other ½ of his body was white. Two different colors that ran straight down the middle of this person’s body
  • Life under the Spanish and then the Americans rule.

In 1988, the GGM asked Chief Peter Schmall and I to take him and Mrs. Pedoy back to Ormoc, Leyte. He wanted to find his relatives before he died. The GGM was in his mid eighties at the time and had left the Philippines for Hawaii in 1927. Peter and I said “sure”, and we kind of forgot about the promise, but the GGM didn’t. One year later, it was time to go, which turned out to be a fantastic adventure. I will never forget when the GGM asked the locals if they ever heard of General Fastino Ablen. Every single person said yes, “He is a national hero who fought against the foreigners for our country’s independence.”  I cannot tell you how happy this made the Great Grand Master, for his Master had gone from a “General” to a “War Criminal” to a legendary “National Hero” all in the GGM’s lifetime!

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