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Manila’s first Filipino mayor
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Manila’s first Filipino mayor: August 7, 1901

On this day in 1901, Filipino lawyer Arsenio Cruz Herrera was appointed by Governor General William Howard Taft as president of the four-man Manila City Council and became Manila’s first Filipino mayor.

Herrera was born on Dec. 14, 1863 in Tondo, Manila in Tomás Cruz and Ambrosia Herrera. In his youth, he studied at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran where he completed his bachelor of arts degree in 1880. He continued his studies at the University of Santo Tomas, finishing Law and Jurisprudence while working as a library assistant. After graduating and passing the bar, he opened up his own law firm.

As part of the Philippine Revolution

During the Philippine Revolution, Herrera served as one of President Emilio Aguinaldo’s legal advisers along with Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista and Felipe Buencamino. Aguinaldo even appointed him as War Director but he refused the position for lack of a military background. The position ultimately went to Antonio Luna.

Instead, he decided to be part of Malolos Congress that drafted the constitution of First Philippine Republic. After the republic’s inauguration in 1899, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Interior, serving under Interior Secretary Teodoro Sandiko.

He also devoted his time to managing the El Heraldo dela Revolucion, the republic’s official newspaper as well as teaching law at the republic’s Universidad Cientifico-Literaria de Filipinas.

During the American period

When the Malolos Republic fell apart due to the Filipino-American War, Herrera decided to avail of the Philippine Commission’s offer of amnesty. Before he was appointed as Manila’s first Filipino mayor, he joined the Federal Party, which supported American rule in the country.

As Manila’s first Filipino mayor, he was more of a figurehead as the Americans still made the major decisions for Manila. During his term of office though, Manila’s first city hall was built on the site presently occupied by the Bonifacio Shrine. After being at odds with the policies of Governor General Luke Wright, he resigned on Sept. 18, 1905.

After his resignation, Herrera ran (and lost) twice for a seat in the Philippine Assembly. He eventually won on his third try, winning a seat as assemblyman for Rizal Province’s First District. Herrera died on April 8, 1918.


Torres, Cristina. The Americanization of Manila, 1898-1921. UP Press: Manila, Philippines. 2010. p. 52

McCoy, Alfred. Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State. University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, Wisconsin. 2009. pp. 239-240

Duka, Cecilio. The Struggle for Freedom. Rex Bookstore: Manila, Philippines. 2008. p. 170

The Evolution of Manila. Presidential Museum and Library.

Trivia Question:

Who were the other three American members of the Manila City Council (including the council secretary)?

Yesterday’s answer: Inday: Heart to Heart

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