One of the bravest generals in the Filipino-American War was Licerio Geronimo. He was born in Sampaloc, Manila on 27 August 1855 to Graciano Geronimo and Flaviana Imaya of Gapan, Nueva Ecija. Having no formal education, Geronimo learned to read from his friends and practiced by reading awits and corridos, which earned him qualifications to join the poetical joust called duplo.
He spent his childhood helping in the farm – cutting grass, gathering woods or herding the carabao. At the age of nine, he lived with his grandfather in a farm in San Miguel, Bulacan. He was already 14 years old when he joined his father in Montalban where he practically did all farm chores.
Geronimo married twice. When his first wife Modesta de la Cruz died, he married Cayetana Linco of San Mateo with whom he had five children. To support his family, he worked in the farm and as boatman, transporting passengers and laundresses along the Marikina and Pasig Rivers.
Geronimo joined the Katipunan when Bonifacio established a chapter in Montalban. When revolution broke out in 1896, Geronimo went to Balintawak on request of Bonifacio. On August 30 that same year, he was with the group that attacked San Juan del Monte. In Montalban, he organized his own force with men from San Mateo and Marikina, using Mt. Puray as their base of operations. His troops served under General Francisco Makabulos that operated in San Rafael, Bulacan and under General Mariano Llanera. The latter operated in the towns of San Miguel, Bulacan and Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. “General Cerio” as he was fondly called became popular among the revolutionists because of his skills in combat. He triumphantly defended his post from the Spaniards and augmented ammunitions and supplies of the revolutionists by ambushing Spanish carts.
When the pact of Biyak-na-Bato was signed, he retired to his farm. In May 1898, Guillermo served the Spanish Militia Territorial which Spain formed after its fleet was destroyed at Manila Bay.
Upon Aguinaldo’s return and the fight against Spain continued, Geronimo left the Militia and joined General Pio del Pilar on 13 August 1898. In November of the same year, Aguinaldo appointed him division general for San Mateo, Rizal. When the Philippine-American War broke out, Geronimo defended Marikina. He helped build trenches and reorganized the Filipino troops in San Juan and Mandaluyong. Antonio Luna appointed him commanding general of the third military zone with operations in Manila and Rizal.
In December 19, 1899 a battle in San Juan ensued, wherein General Cerio and his guerilla force, Tiradores de la Muerte, inflicted severe blow to the enemies by killing General Henry W. Lawton and 13 American soldiers.
Geronimo was a great disturbance to the Americans for his damaging guerrilla tactics against them. In July 1900, General Trias named him jefe superior of the joint forces of the second and third zones of Manila. In August, he took command of the district of Morong.
With most of the areas in the country placed under control of the Americans and with the successive surrenders or captures of revolutionary leaders, Geronimo was convinced to give up. Thus, on 29 March 1901, through the efforts of the Federal Party, Geronimo surrendered his forces to Captain Henderson of the 42nd Infantry.
On 1 June 1902, he worked with the Philippine Constabulary as a fourth class inspector. He rose from the rank to third lieutenant and as inspector in December of the same year. As a Constabulary officer, he run after the ladrones operating in the towns of San Mateo, Marikina, Malabon, and Novaliches.
On May 16, 1904 Geronimo was dismissed from the service despite his valuable services in the Constabulary on the grounds of engaging in gambling. After his dismissal, he returned to farming in Montalban. He died on January 16, 1924.
* Extracted from these sources:
Fabella, G. F. “The Battle of San Mateo,” Philippine Free Press. December 18, 1954. (With photo)
Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume 1. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publishing, 1955.
Quirino, Carlos. Who’s Who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1995.