"It was a battle above the clouds," wrote American war correspondent Richard Henry Little. On this day a century ago a battle raged between 60 Filipino soldiers headed by General Gregorio del Pilar and 300 Americans under Major Peyton C. March at a mountain pass 4,441 feet above sea level in the highlands of Ilocos Sur. Gen. del Pilar, then aged 24, was one of the youngest generals in the revolutionary army. He was the commander of General Emilio Aguinaldo's rear guard. With the American forces close behind him, Gen. Aguinaldo desperately needed to delay the enemy's advance so he could escape and continue keep alive the struggle for Philippine independence.
On that fateful morning of the 2nd of December 1899, the battle was fought at Tirad Pass. The battle raged for six hours and by 10 o'clock it was over. Correspondent Little wrote "It was reported that while Gregorio del Pilar was fighting the troops of General March and was surrounded by the dead and wounded who fell by his side, he valiantly inspired his troops by his example." Gen. del Pilar was the last to fall. Of the sixty Filipinos who fought with him, only eight were able to escape.
Among Gen. del Pilar's belongings was his diary which had his last entry. He wrote: "The General (Aguinaldo) has given me a platoon of available men and has ordered me to defend this pass. I am aware what a difficult task has been given to me. Nevertheless, I feel that this is the most glorious moment of my life. I am doing everything for my beloved country. There is no greater sacrifice."