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The Mystery of Mateo Carino's Death

Learn about the truth behind Mateo Carino's mysterious death, one of the most important Ibaloi and Igorot leaders of his time.

Discover the untold story behind the enigmatic death of Mateo Carino, a pivotal Ibaloi and Igorot leader, in this compelling exploration of his historical significance.

There has always been a vague uncertainty surrounding Mateo Cariño's death. There are no written accounts of his death, as far as we know, no definitive story handed down from Ibaloi elders, and even local historians, regarding his death.

Despite his being arguably the biggest Ibaloi personality of his time and being an undisputed leader of his people, Mateo Cariño would no longer appear in official and unofficial American accounts, including newspaper and magazine reports, soon after the documented Cañaos thrown by Mateo from 1901 to 1902 for the benefit of the foreign colonizers who have come into the Ibaloi homeland to claim the victor's spoils of war.

All that the Cariño family and descendants know and believe through tradition and reputation, is that Mateo Cariño died on June 6, 1908. And this date is also the date of death inscribed on Mateo's tomb at the Cariño family plot at the Baguio Cemetery. So we may have the date of Mateo's death but no one really knows the circumstances surrounding his death.

Mateo Cariño Photo: Harvard

The landmark Cariño vs. Insular Government decision proclaiming the Doctrine of Native Title

On February 23, 1909, almost 9 months after Mateo's death, the Supreme Court of the United States of America handed down its decision on the now famous Cariño vs. Insular Government case. The Decision was penned by Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Contrary to the claims and position of the military, legislative and executive branches of the US government, the court ruled that Camp John Hay, a wide tract of land upon which the American military built a camp, was 1.) not public land; 2.) that it was in fact PRIVATE PROPERTY by NATIVE TITLE; and 3.) that it belonged to Mateo Cariño.

On September 28, 1909, Metcalf Clarke, an American businessman, filed a manifestation with the court, saying that Mateo Cariño had died (without specifying when he died, except that he claims Mateo Cariño died after the U.S. Supreme Court decision was handed down) and now claims that after the said court decision but prior to his death, Mateo Cariño had allegedly SOLD the said property to Metcalf Clarke.

Clarke attached to his said Manifestation a copy of an alleged Deed of Sale, dated March 4, 1909, or 9 months after Mateo's presumptive death, upon which Mateo allegedly affixed his thumbmark. Mateo Cariño had allegedly sold the entire property to Metcalfe Clarke for the amount of P6,000.00 Pesos.

Needless to say, the court gave credence to Clarke's manifestation and on June 29, 1910, Certificate of Title No. 2 over the said property was issued in the names of Metcalfe Clark, John W. Hausserman and Charles C. Cohn (Clarke had conveyed 1/3 of the property to Hausserman and Cohn.) On October 6, 1910, Clarke, Hausserman and Cohn, by virtue of a Deed of Sale, sold the said property to the United States of America for $75,000.00 U.S. Dollars.

Mateo Cariño and family, Baguio City Photo: Harvard

A Hitherto Ignored, Overlooked and Disregarded Document

A simple Google search for "Mateo Cariño" will yield a Philippine Supreme Court decision on case G.R. No. L-4158 dated March 20, 1908, stemming from an incident which happened on April 24, 1907 in Manaoag, Pangasinan. This is a case of Robbery with Homicide, entitled "THE UNITED STATES, Plaintiff, v. MATEO CARI𝗡̃O, ET AL., Defendants."

In this decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court imposing the death penalty on the defendants. So Mateo Cariño was actually meted the death penalty for Robbery with Homicide on March 20, 1908 and this decision was final and executory because it was already the Supreme Court deciding on the case. You will notice that this date fits the date of death of Mateo that his family knows and believes. If the death penalty was affirmed on March 20, 1908, Mateo could very well have been executed on June 6, 1908.

This is incontrovertible evidence that the manifestations of Metcalfe Clarke and the purported Deed of Sale, dated March 4, 1909, are fraudulent and were designed to swindle Mateo Cariño and his family out of the rightful ownership over Camp John Hay.

Why the Americans wanted to keep Mateo's execution a low key, almost secretive, affair

If Mateo's death were to become widely publicized and if it were to become common knowledge, then it would have become doubly difficult or even impossible to defraud the Cariño family out of the rightful ownership over Camp John Hay. They had to keep Mateo's death under wraps so the court could justify giving credence to their allegations.

Metcalfe Clarke, John W. Hausserman and Charles C. Cohn were described by one prominent lawyer as the original American carpetbaggers, even possibly the forerunners of the US Central Intelligence Agency. They conspired and manipulated events to take advantage of the Cariño family, who as Indigenous People with a completely different world view, had no idea of what was going on.

What was Mateo Cariño doing in Manaoag, Pangasinan?

This now is the hundred dollar question. It is of course illogical for Mateo Cariño, reputed to be the richest member of the Ibaloi tribe, to be engaging in armed banditry, as a case of robbery with homicide would like us to believe. Perhaps Mateo Cariño was engaged in something far more significant and worthwhile rather than tinkering with robbery and homicide.

Let us first establish that Mateo Cariño was in close contact with the Philippine revolutionaries. This is evidenced by the arrest of Juan Cariño, Mateo's teenage son, together with Nicanor Sison, a Pangasinense businessman and known revolutionary leader, on May 13, 1900, on their way to Manila carrying P5,000 worth of gold dust for the revolutionaries (William Henry Scott, "Ilocano Responses to American Aggression 1900 - 1901," pages 82 - 83). The US Military believed that Mateo and his elder brother, Gov. Juan Oraa Cariño of Tublay, had sent no less than P50,000 to Manila to aid the revolutionary effort.

The Need for a Central Revolutionary Base

In the movie "Heneral Luna," Antonio Luna would insist that instead of making a deal with the Americans, the Filipino fighters should continue fighting because they could retreat to a Central Revolutionary Base in the Cordilleras. In this base they could regroup and fortify their ranks. Antonio Luna would say that an Igorrote chieftain promised them a base in the Cordilleras.

Ansagan - The Last Frontier

Ansagan in Tuboy Valley was a vast swath of virgin forest land which would eventually be opened and settled in by Sioco Cariño, eldest son of Mateo Cariño, during the 1920s. It is located between the western mountain range of the Agno River on the east and the eastern range of the Bued River on the west. Due to its inaccessibility and remoteness, Ansagan would have been considered the last frontier by Mateo and other Ibalois of their time. With their intimate knowledge of the geography of the area, Mateo would have known of such a wide unopened virgin area.

The remoteness and inaccessibility of Ansagan would have made it the ideal Central Revolutionary Base in the context of the Philippine - American war at that time.

Lessons from the Resistance against Spain

The almost 300 years of resistance against Spain taught the Ibalois some lessons in successful resistance. One lesson would have been the importance of a buffer zone in the lowlands. In fact, some Ibalois would settle and take up residence in Agoo and other barrios in La Union during the Spanish time, which strengthened the links between the Ibalois and Ilocanos.

At the foothills of Ansagan would of course be Pangasinan - particularly the towns of San Manuel, Pozorrubio, Binalonan and Manaoag, which at that time were just barrios. A successful revolutionary base in the mountains of Ansagan would entail forging strong links with these aforementioned barrios of Pangasinan, of course including Manaoag.

Mateo Cariño Photo: Harvard

Mateo Cariño - Bandit or Hero

After hosting the documented Cañaos in 1901 to 1902, Mateo Cariño would become scarce and as mentioned earlier, would no longer appear in official and unofficial accounts. Perhaps he would, in today's lingo, "go underground."

The premise of this piece is that Mateo Cariño undertook a sensitive mission for the Philippine revolutionaries. He could have been tasked by the leaders of the revolution to prepare a central revolutionary base in the Ansagan area. He would bring along with him his trusted lieutenants, which probably would have included his son Juan, mentioned earlier as being arrested bringing aid to the Philippine fighters.

Mateo would spend time familiarizing himself with the area, mapping possible camp sites, defense lines, entry and exit points etc. He would have linked up with his Pangasinense counterparts and lay out plans to consolidate the lowland buffer zones. Perhaps the incident described in G.R. No. L-4158 was in furtherance of consolidating the said buffer zones.


From the document of G.R. No. L-4158, we see that around midnight of April 24, 1907, Mateo and 5 companions forced their way into the house of the victim. They were accompanied by several others who did not enter the house. Upon entering, these defendants ordered the victim to lie face down on the floor. This he refused to do, and when they attacked him he seized his bolo and wounded one of the party in the breast, but was forced to flee through the window, pursued by the band. The wounded party turned out to be Mateo Cariño. He will be arrested a few days later recuperating at the house of one of his companions.

An analysis of the details of the incident will show that that is not the way to commit robbery with homicide. The details look more like an arrest. Mateo Cariño and his companions look like they were exercising some sort of political authority over the area and were making an arrest of an 'enemy agent.' Consolidation of the buffer zones would entail cleansing the area of the 'eyes and ears' of the enemy.

In conclusion, Mateo Cariño was wounded in the battlefield, was captured in the battlefield and subsequently was executed by the enemy forces of the invading foreigners. Mateo Cariño was a freedom fighter, he died a hero and he correctly linked his people's (the Ibalois') struggle for self-determination with the wider struggle of the Filipino people for national freedom and democracy.

Written by: By Jack Cariño via Joaquin Cariño

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