The Other Side of General Juan Araneta

January 18, 2022

Known more as the brains behind the march from Bago City towards the San Sebastian Cathedral on November 5, 1898, General Juan Anacleto Torres Araneta loved the soil as much as his country.  His affinity for farming brought unexpected color to his bucolic existence. 

Photograph by Bago City LGU

Tan Juan, as the general was fondly called, had gone into diversification of his crops when everyone else was preparing their farms for exclusively sugarcane cultivation. He grew sugarcane, coffee, abaca, rice, bamboo, and fruit trees.  This action showed that he was a man who was not afraid to be different, and to think ahead.  He believed in investing in gadgets and machineries which either made him a larger-then-life legendary figure among the townspeople, or got him into trouble with the Spaniards. The former gave him the reputation of having the ability to see from a great distance (he owned a telescope) while the latter made him an unfortunate target of suspicion by the authorities when his shipment of agricultural implements to Negros was thought to contain arms.  This led to Tan Juan’s incarceration. 

The monument of General Juan Araneta at the Bago City Public Plaza. Photo by Bago City LGU

Just like fellow revolutionary hero Gen. Aniceto Lacson, Tan Juan went to study at the Ateneo Municipal in Manila where he graduated with a Perito Mercantile degree.  The call of the soil lured him back to Bago where he set up a farm on borrowed capital.  He eventually was able to come up with enough money to pay off the loan principal that he obtained with his land as collateral…only to have him lose his lands when the lender never appeared to accept Araneta’s payment.  This heart-wrenching incident showed the indomitable spirit of our hero.

The Balay ni Tan Juan in Bago City. Photo by Bago City LGU

Tan Juan started anew in Ma-ao, a barrio in Bago, with his family and proved that success knows no location.  His real talent as a farmer shone through – despite the aforementioned disappointment – when, in 1904, he was chosen as one of the country’s representatives to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, or St. Louis World’s Fair in Missouri in the United States. He brought with him produce from his farms in Negros- (enumerate produce) – and his delegation won (enumerate awards).

Photographs of the St. Louis World’s Fair were downloaded from The Atlantic.

William H. Thompson makes his address at the Louisiana Monument in the Plaza of St. Louis on Opening Day of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Thompson, president of the National Bank of Commerce in St. Louis, served as treasurer of the company, chairman of the Grounds and Buildings Committee and vice-chair of the exposition’s Executive Committee. 1904-04-30
Inside entrance at Palace of Machinery In summer 1903 construction continues inside the entrance to the Palace of Machinery for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition — the 1904 World’s Fair. 1903
Group of Bontoc-Igorrotes “Head-Hunters”. [Louisiana Purchase Exposition]. World’s Fair Presentation Album 9, plate 641a. Photograph by Jessie Tarbox Beals, 1904. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 34126. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

There’s no doubt that in war and in peace, as victim or victor, soldier or farmer, Gen. Juan Araneta strode into life with his full person and poured his heart into every venture.  He became Secretary of War of the Negros Republic, and, in jest, the Secretary of Love (24 children by 4 women).  With other partners, he established the Ma-ao Sugar Central with majority of the capital raised by taking out a loan on his haciendas. At the time of God’s harvest, Gen. Juan Anacleto Araneta’s vast landholdings was a total of 4,000 hectares.

Mr. Clem del Castillo (3rd from right), a grandson of the general, unfurls the scroll depicting the Araneta family tree.