A SIGNIFICANT point in history concerning Licerio Topacio needs clarification. One biographer, Sol H. Gwekoh, says that had Topacio not gallantly given way to a young man, Emilio Aguinaldo, he would have been the leader of the Philippine Revolution. Another biographer, Benjamin M. Bolivar, claims that Topacio “declined the honor” when Aguinaldo offered him the leadership of the Revolution.
Collating and analyzing all the facts involved in this particular case, what really happened was the following:
Because of the on-going Lachambre offensive in Magdalo territory, only eight Magdalo leaders were able to attend the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897. They were Baldomero Aguinaldo, Daniel Tria Tirona, Licerio Topacio, Felix Cuenca, Cayetano Topacio, Crispulo Aguinaldo, Antonio Montenegro, and an unidentified Magdalo leader. Except for Montenegro and this unidentified leader they were all members of the Magdalo Council or Government.
Licerio Topacio was the eldest of the Magdalo present. In deference to his age he must have been considered by the group for nomination as president of the revolutionary Government to be established. But he declined because he was too old (58) and that the presidency needed a younger, stronger man. The next choice was Emilio Aguinaldo, who was absent, defending the strategic Pasong Santol in Dasmariñas against repeated assaults by Lachambre troops. It was an excellent lucky choice. Aguinaldo was elected president of the Revolutionary Government in absentia.
Looking back to this crucial incident in our history, it cannot be denied that Aguinaldo had a big edge over Topacio not only in age (28) and stamina but also in military experience and prestige. After the Battle of Imus (September 3, 1986) and the Battle of Binakayan (November 9-11), Aguinaldo’s prestige as a military leader had risen like a meteor, making him a living legend. It was this image as a living legend, more than anything else that won for Aguinaldo the majority votes in the Magdiwang-dominated Tejeros convention.
Had Licerio Topacio, instead of Aguinaldo, been nominated in the Tejeros Convention, the chances were that he might have been decisively beaten by a younger and more famous man, Andres Bonifacio, the Katipunan Supremo and Haring Bayan (King) of the Magdiwang Council or Government. Of course, with such an outcome “history would have taken a different course,” as claimed by biographer Gwekoh.
Born in Imus, Cavite, on August 27, 1839, to Miguel Topacio, a former gobernadorcillo, and Marta Cuenca, the young Licerio finished his studies in Imus. He was not able to pursue higher education in Manila. But he kept on developing his inborn talent by self-study, and when the Revolution broke out he showed exceptional leadership in battle.
After the Philippine-American War, Topacio was twice appointed as municipal president of Imus. He died on April 19, 1925 at the age of 86.