The Day the General was Captured

By UH Professor Gerald Busch

The American Army captured General Faustino Ablen on June 12, 1907. The only photograph known of

Ablen shows him in shackles with half his head bandaged. We know from the Great Grandmaster Braulio Pedoy said that the General survived that day and somehow made it back to the mountains of Ormoc, where Pedoy, as a six-year-old boy, met him. While much is written about the General as “Papa Faustino Ablen, leader of the Pulehanes,” historians have little to say about the day of the capture or the outcome of his arrest.

The events that led to Ablen’s capture are described in the diary of an American soldier, Frank King. The

following is taken from FrankKing’s diary, described in the book “A Bee in His Bonnet,” published by

King’s grandson, BernardFleury.

Frank King came to America in 1898. He joined the U.S. Army and fought in the Spanish-American

War, the Philippine Insurrection, and World War I. Some indication of his exceptional skill as a

soldier is seen by the fact that not only did he survive World War I, but he was cited for heroism

in a number of battles in France under General John Pershing.

The surrender of Emilio Aguinaldo in 1902 was the end of the Philippine-American War. However, the news eventually reached the island of Leyte, where, at the time, the General, known as Papa Faustino Ablen, led his freedom fighters, called the Pulehanes. General Ablen instantly decided that he and his army would not accept this truce and would continue his efforts to free his country from foreign colonialism.

The commander of the US forces in the Philippines wrote to Washington DC in 1906 that there could be no peace in the Philippines until General Ablen was killed or captured. The commander was confident that he could end the rebellion on Leyte because it is one of the smaller islands in the country, just 110 miles by 40 miles. (About the size of the Big Island in Hawaii).

King’s diary describes General Faustino Ablen as “the author of a fanatical religious movement called Dios-Dios and fancied himself to be a prophet. Ablen had been born on February 4, 1854, and was

fifty-three years old when Company G, Eighth Infantry, became part of the American forces determined to hunt him down.”

Besides spending a large army to Leyte to catch the General, the Americans had gathered as much

information about General Ablen as possible, demonstrating their keen desire for his capture. This

included information about his wife and seven children. He had been a farmer near Ormoc for ten years after his marriage. In 1885, he organized the“Fanatical religious movement known as Dios-Dios or God-God movement. He declared to his loyal followers that he possessed supernatural powers and would absent himself from time to time, saying upon his return that he had been on a visit to heaven!”

The American army collected quite a bit of intelligence about Faustino Ablen. He was noted to have no education and could not read. At age 22, he married Feleciana de Los Santos, a fisherman’s daughter in Ormoc. They had five daughters and two sons, with his daughter Benedicta assisting in the Pulahanes operations. His sons Ulderico and Lucio also served under his leadership. The Spanish arrested Ablen and his brothers, Victor and Cayetane, and deported them all to a prison in Zamboanga in 1889.

Here, we come to the only vague reference to anything regarding escrima, which is no specific mention. After his release from the Spanish prison, he returned to Ormoc, where he was commissioned as a “Captain of the Boleros, troops armed only with bolos.” The Americans found this so little threat that no intelligence was gathered or recorded on the type of training involved in being a Bolero.

By 1903, Ablen’s army was named the “Pulahanes.” The word “Pula” was Visayan for “red” and

“han” meant “organization.” The soldiers wore a red sash of clothing. In April 1905, Frank King’s

Company G, Eighth Infantry, joined the search for the capture of Faustino Ablen. King noted that

despite the scouts spotting Ablen, he had a knack for disappearing before the unit arrived at the location.

“I still get the creeps some nights from the weird cries that ceaselessly pierce the blackness.

Sometimes, we’re not at all sure that the Pulahanes are not calling to each other to plan an

attack because one of our boys on sentry duty was found headless after a night of unusually

weird cries, and he hadn’t had a chance to utter a sound!”


For over 15 months, Company G went on numerous expeditions on Leyte but could not capture Ablen.

No matter how much stealth was used, Ablen evaded capture. However, Company G made progress in capturing or killing numerous Pulahanes.

King’s Diary continues.

“May 30, 1907: An exciting day! Today at noon, we marched to Tabontabon, where it was reported that a volunteer had been wounded in the leg when the Pulahanes fired on him and his band. The medic bandaged him up and sent him back to Dagami. Then we proceeded to the scene of the fight between Tabontabon and Aslom, our column coming up on one side and Lieutenant Farrow’s on the other, and caught in our net the wife and child of Ablen. We got them here under heavy guard until we reached Burauen.

The Americans continued on the trail of Ablen, with fresh tracking and information provided by“spies and voluntarios.” They heard the Pulahanes would attempt to unite through theMaabab Trail. The unit stationed themselves there with 24-hour watch on the trail. They continued their search deeper into the Pulahan territory yet began to run low on provisions and had to start to return to Buranuen.”

On June 12, 1907, King described the following:

“Yesterday, we sighted two Pulahanes on our way back to base, but at first, they didn’t see us. We crept up to a point about eighty yards from them, and the trail making a sudden turn brought them into view. One of the Pulahanes was carrying a rifle and a revolver, showing he was probably the leader. Two sharpshooters in front covered them carefully and ordered them to halt. We completely surprised them, but they still jumped behind some bushes. At the same time, we fired. Moving to the spot where the men had left the trail, we found one man wounded. The other had escaped. From the description we had of Ablen and from the ornaments and large cross this man wore, we thought we had captured FaustinoAblen. He was semi-conscious, and using an interpreter, we found that we had at long last captured the “Pope” of the Pulahanes, Faustino himself. But he was severely wounded in the head, so we hurried back to Burauen, hoping to save his life so that he could be used to persuade other Pulahanes to surrender.”


After his capture, Frank King stopped writing about General Ablen; however, we know that he survived

his head injury. We might think his Anting-Anting was not working that day, as he was captured.

However, it might also be said that perhaps it worked to save him as he survived what must

have been a severe wound to the head by a sharpshooter by diving out of the way at the last

instant. Battlefield medicine has evolved significantly in the last 100 years, but the chances of

surviving a head injury in 1907 were very slim.


Not much is written about General Ablen after his capture; there are a few mentions that he was

hung and a few other online articles stating that he died in prison. GGM Pedoy’s version of the event

that the American offered him a pardon if he talked his troops into surrounding and for him to salute

the US and Philippine flags in public in a surrender ceremony. He refused this offer, saying it would be

disrespectful to his soldiers who had died during the war. According to the GGM, the General

escaped the prison with the help of the Filipino guards because they considered him a local war hero.

After his escape, the Americans were so upset that they placed a large reward on his head. The bounty

was so large that General Ablen knew he had to hide deep in the jungle where no one would know his


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