Chapter One
1. Aromahan: The First Seeds of Rebellion

Outside observers, ancient and contemporary, have never been kind to Kalookan. Not unlike today's mass media people, travelers of long ago passed by, looked around cursorily and then, in the snug warmth of a convent cell or hotel room heaped abuse on the inhabitants of a town they hardly knew.

One of these early chroniclers was one Fray Joaquin Martinez de Zuņiga, an Augustinian friar who visited Kalookan at the close of the 18th century. The place was then only a barrio of Tondo called "Aromahan" ("Espina" to the Spaniards) because it is nestled in the shores of Dagat-Dagatan where thorny aroma plants grew in abundance. In this cluster of fishermen's huts, hugging the western base of the hill that would later become the poblacion, [The town would be called "Kalookan" only after the hilltop had been settled] Fray de Zuņiga found only about 100 "tributes" whom he described as being so poor that they could not even afford to repair the church built in 1765 by the Augustinian fathers.

Describing the inhabitants, Fray de Zuņiga wrote:

In their customs, ingenuity and qualities, they are like the rest of the nation. As they live close to Manila, they are more civilized; in compensation, they are more addicted to gambling, and more deceitful in their dealings with others.

On the local peace and order condition, the good friar reported that "murdered men were seen on the roads, naked and pierced with dagger stabs, thereby showing the terrible conditions in which they had been killed to rob them" [Quoted in Professor Leopoldo R. Serrano's History and Cultural Life of the Town of Caloocan, which won first prize in a contest held by the provincial government of Rizal in 1953. Unless otherwise indicated, all references to Serrano in this book are taken from the said work.]

No other outsider would write about Kalookan in such a derogatory manner until the decades following the Second World War!

Historians, unfortunately, have not been less inconsiderate.  Fray de Zuņiga's observations have remained in the archives and have been freely quoted by subsequent writers without regard to the context in which whey had been written.

The author of this work feels that Fray de Zuņiga's report need not be accepted at its face value. He was a representative of the religious order that had built the church which he found to have been so deplorably neglected, and this could have affected his objectivity. It is felt that all circumstances obtaining in Aromahan when the friar visited it close to two hundred years ago should be examined to explain, if not justify, the character of its people.