Juan Anacleto Araneta was a pioneer sugar farmer and revolutionary leader during the Negros Revolution.
He was born on July 13, 1852 to Romualdo Araneta and Agueda Torres in Molo, Iloilo. The Araneta family later moved and settled in Negros permanently.
His brother-in-law, Pedro Sarmiento, brought him to Manila at the age of 19. He was then enrolled at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. Showing great promise in school, earning medals of merit for his endeavors, he graduated with" Perito Mercantil" degree, equivalent to a Bachelor Degree in Commerce today. His schoolmates include Jose Rizal, Jose Alejandrino, Cayetano Arellano and Apolinario Mabini among others.
Juan was elected "Capitan del Pueblo" like his father when he returned to Molo. Juan was also known as "Tan Juan". However, the friars in the province had become suspicious of him and only the high regard and respect of the people of Bago and other towns prevented his summary liquidation by the Spanish authorities.
Juan went to Europe with Don Claudio in 1891 after his first wife died. He met many Filipino leaders living in Madrid, London and Paris. When he returned in the Philippines, the Spanish authorities became more antagonistic toward him upon knowing his activities. He lost the land that he and his sisters inherited from their parents as a result. He took his family to Mt. Kanlaon in Negros and started farming for a living. He brought many gadgets to his hacienda in Dinapalan. It even became a legend among common people that he had magical powers because he used a telescope to supervise his laborers from afar, but in reality, he was only able to see their actions.
His travels to Europe brought him knowledge of new machineries and tools for agriculture. But, this new discoveries of modern tools brought his downfall. Spanish authorities grew suspicious of the boatloads of cargo being unloaded near his land in Lumangub. In January 1897 he was arrested and brought to Concorida, then later brought to Himamaylan then to Ilog. During his imprisonment, his diary hinted that there were plans to organize the revolutionary forces in the province. He was released in October 1897 in Bacolod.
On November 5, 1898 (or better known as "Cinco de Noviembre" in Negros Occidental), a messenger from Talisay brought news that the revolutionaries and the "cazadores" were already engaged in conflicts. The revolutionary forces in Bago started marching toward Bacolod at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Bringing only 3 firearms (a Remington rifle, a Mauser rifle and a shotgun), General Juan Araneta led the rebel forces. Juan told his men to cut nipa stems (pagong) and shoulder these as if it were rifles. In case they contact each other, the password would be "utod" which means brother (or sister or sibling) in Hiligaynon. They also made cannons from rolled bamboo mats painted in black.
The Spanish authorities in Bacolod saw them marching toward the town. The Spaniards were surprised and advised by the rebels to surrender to prevent bloodshed. The Spaniards agreed willingly and it was only when Bacolod was already in the hands of the rebels that the Spanish reinforcements from Iloilo arrived.
Viewing Negros as part of a Grand Republica Filipina on November 27, 1898, the planters-revolutionaries declared a "federal cantonal" government with the unwieldy name of "Gobierno Republicano Federal de Canton de Ysla de Negros" composed of the island's two provinces. On that day the Filipino flag fluttered for the first time over all the independent island of Negros.
During the same day, Negros elected its first government officials:
• General Aniceto Lacson - President
• General Juan A. Araneta - Secretary of War
• Don Eusebio Luzurriaga- Treasurer
• Simeon Lizares - Secretary of Interior
• Nicolas Golez - Secretary of Fomento
• Antonio Jayme Ledesma - Justice
• Agustin Amenabler - Agriculture and Commerce
• Melecio Severino - Executive Secretary
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. His idea was finally adopted, however, and the Americans occupied Negros without encountering hostilities.
The Republic came under U.S. protection on 1899 changing its name to "Republic of Negros". But, this was dissolved by the United States on April 1901.
In 1904, Juan was appointed as one of the commissioners to the St. Louis Exposition. He put on exhibit over a thousand varieties of rice, samples of cacao, beans, abaca, and many other agricultural crops from Negros and Panay.
He was also one of the founders of Ma-ao Sugar Central. He lent to the corporation the titles of his land to back up the new enterprise. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to realize his dream of seeing the sugar central freed of its responsibilities.
Juan Anacleto Araneta was married 4 times to different women:
• First wife, Celestina Diaz, with whom he had a child: Emilio D. Araneta
• Second wife, Cristeta Sarmiento, with whom he had 9 children: Elisa S. Araneta, Romualdo S. Araneta, Félix Sarmiento Araneta, Gertrudes S. Araneta, Jaime Carlos S. Araneta, Jorge Leon S. Araneta, José Sarmiento Araneta, Luisa Flavia S. Araneta and Ramón Sarmiento Araneta
• Third wife, Natalia Salsalida, with whom he had 13 children: Agüeda Ma. Filiciana Salsalida Araneta, Romualdo Marcial Salsalida Araneta, Crestita Pascuala Salsalida Araneta, Teresa Bonifacia Salsalida Araneta, Guillermo Hillarion Salsalida Araneta, Ana Justina Salsalida Araneta, Maria Rica Salsalida Araneta, Patrocenia Dominga Salsalida Araneta, Teodoro Antonio Salsalida Araneta, Silvia Agustina Salsalida Araneta, Woodrow Cecilio Salsalida Araneta, Felipe Alberto Salsalida Araneta and Félix Alberto Salsalida Araneta
• Fourth and last wife, Juanita Camillarosa, with whom he had 2 children: Trinidad Camillarosa Araneta and Rufina Camillarosa Araneta
"Don Juan" died at the age of 71 on October 3, 1924. He left behind a large family of about 25 members.
TRIVIA: November 5 was declared by President Corazon Aquino as a special non-working holiday in the province through Republic Act No. 6709 signed on February 10, 1989.
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