The Life and Works of Dr. Jose P. Rizal
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Apolinario Mabini

Message List #1350 of 22704 < Previous Next >
Apolinario Mabini, Part I
Posted By: Offline aringaseo

Fri Jul 23, 2004 5:30 pm |

Below is the full text of a brilliant essay on Mabini and Carlos Bulosan by Caroline S. Hau. If the text gets cut off because of its
length, I'll send the rest later. Hau's book is a must read. Readers in the US can order a copy of from the University of Hawaii Press. I
also have a copy of Nick Joaquin's critical essay on Mabini (yes, Joaquin did read Majul) from A Question of Heroes. I'll post that
essay (and perhaps another on Aguinaldo) tonight or tomorrow.

from Necessary Fictions: Philippine Literature and the Nation, 1946-1980 by Caroline S. Hau. Quezon City: Ateneo
de Manila University Press, 2000. pp 214-242.

Chapter Six

Unfinishing Revolution

Revolutionary endeavors draw their emotional and intellectual energy from the belief that it is necessary for a people to completely break with an oppressive past,
and from the imperative of devising a broad, comprehensive program of struggle across the spectrum of everyday life to transform the economy, politics, culture, and social relations. During the first two-and-a-half decades following America's "granting" of independence to the Philippines, Filipino nationalists and state policymakers had perforce to contend with the issue of whether independence, and the questions of sovereignty and social change that it inevitably raises, had any concrete basis in Philippine realities, and its implications for nationalist discourse and practice. What is, indeed what should be, the basis of sociopolitical action that aims at radically transforming a society where "freedom" remains a potential and an ideal rather than an actually existing condition? More importantly, how might the "Filipino" subject of history be equipped to embark upon transformative action? State-sponsored nationalist programs based the capacity to work toward social transformation on the
individual's knowledge of her country's "true" history, condition, and course of development. The state operated on a model of pedagogy aimed at making "good citizens" of the people: Official nationalist projects viewed the transformation of the subject's [end of page 214] consciousness as a condition for political action, hence the priority given by the state to education during the first decade of the Third Republic. But two major criticisms can be leveled at this dominant conception of the relationship between thought and action. For one thing, it defines the "problem of consciousness" in overly narrow ways, since action is held to proceed from knowledge, a conception that presumes an idealized "classroom" situation where the subject determines the "whole" truth first before acting on it. Another criticism is that this account of social change is undermined by the postwar history of the Philippines, especially by the Philippines' domestic affairs and international relations, which hinder, in vexing and
recalcitrant ways, the actualization of the "universal" norms of freedom and development. After all, the first twenty years of the new Republic had been characterized by
internal and external upheavals, underscoring the deep-seated problems that continued to afflict a society riven by conflicts that could not be resolved by the state's
rhetoric of independence and self-realization, the very rhetoric that sought, in essence, to proclaim the end of revolution.

Despite the seeming depoliticization of the period's literature, questions about revolutionary agency and radical social transformation, and about alternatives to the dominant conception of the relationship between thought and action, resonated in a number of Filipino literary texts. 1 Perhaps the most interesting formulation of the
question of political agency and change can be found in an incomplete novel by Carlos Bulosan – who had been based in America since the early thirties – about the Huk rebellion that broke out during the second half of 1946, just weeks after the inauguration of the newly independent Philippine Republic.

2 This chapter examines the aesthetic and theoretical underpinnings that inform Filipino attempts at coming to terms with the conflict ridden and often deeply frustrating
vicissitudes of Philippine colonial and neocolonial experience. The act of coming to terms with the haunting problems of Philippine history takes the form of
nationalist attempts to "rewrite" and "correct" a series of historic revolutionary undertakings that, to all appearances, had been truncated by external and internal
circumstances. I will read Bulosan alongside Apolinario Mabini, whose formulation of la revolucion filipina provides a layout of the issues concerning not just the
making of a revolution, but also the subject of experience that is both created and made necessary by it. Both Mabini and Bulosan embarked on their writing
projects in the wake of popular struggles spearheaded by the Katipunan in Mabini's time [end of page 215] and by the Huks in Bulosan's time -- which a combination of external and internal repression had curtailed. Their writings attested to the survival and resilience of popular struggles not through nostalgic evocations of a glorious
revolutionary past, but through a fraught discourse of "missed opportunities" that posited the Philippine revolution as an "unfinished" project. In another, more important sense, these writings performed he unfinishing of the revolution by rethinking the perceived failures of popular struggle in terms of the necessity and difficulty of the task of perpetual critical re-vision (that is, correcting errors and learning to see things differently) and struggle. In so doing, they reformulated the idea of revolution in terms of a complex, nuanced account of the relationship between truth and action. For Bulosan at least, this reformation consists of thinking through the implications of "temporality" for revolutionary struggle. Temporality is here understood not just as a sense of time, of how time is a crucial, ineluctable factor that determines the nature, success, and
consequences of political action; temporality is also understood as the problems of risk and contingency which haunt all political action in the name of national liberation. Bulosan's The Cry and the Dedication provides a sophisticated theorizing of the "unfinished" revolution in terms of a "corrective" openness to contingency and risk. This openness to time, far from leading to debilitating despair and inaction, is actually the condition of possibility of radical political action and responsibility.

Writing the Revolution

The Cry and the Dedication tells the story of seven Huk guerrillas who travel through Central Luzon toward the city of Manila for a rendezvous with a Filipino expatriate
named Felix Rivas, who carries in his head the information that will allow the revolutionary party to obtain much needed funds for financing the revolutionary struggle.
Each of these guerrillas has been chosen for his or her ability to perform tasks specified by the nature of the mission, although none of them, not even their charismatic
leader Hassim, knows the full details of the mission. Since one of their assigned tasks involves gathering information about the places through which the group must
journey, most of the members who make up the mission are of necessity "natives" of those places, familiar with the landscape and inhabitants. Moreover, the journey also
doubles as a political mission that aims to establish contact and political affiliations with other organized groups in the area and, just as important, undertake political education in hopes of recruiting new members; this explains [end of page 216] the committee's choice of the charismatic leader Hassim, a member of the Political
Committee of the party, to head the mission. In addition, the members of the group have been selected because they themselves are instrumental to the success of the mission: Dante, a writer, is the only person who can identify Rivas, whom he knew from his fifteen-year stay in the States; and only Mameng, the lone female member
of the mission, can actually confirm that the contact person is indeed Rivas the activist, who had been emasculated by American vigilantes in California.

On the way to Manila, each member of the mission gets a chance to re-establish contact with his or her family. The connections that are renewed allow the rebels to
"bring" themselves into the open (the word Bulosan uses in the novel, rendezvous, means "present yourself"), but the act of re-establishing contact with the family and old
friends also forces each member to provide an accounting of themselves as rebels whose commitment to the revolutionary cause outweighs all considerations of personal happiness. The act of presenting themselves, too, leads to confrontation which, on more than one occasion, results in violence and claims the lives of "enemies" who may happen, painfully enough, to be their loved ones. During one public confrontation at the end of the novel, for example, Dabu and his comrades end up shooting at a bridal party that they had gate-crashed when the irate bridegroom and his friends attempt to manhandle the rebels. For Legaspi, the longed-for meeting with his family ends in the death of his brother, who had been the town's most notorious collaborator and idler. In another, much more serious, confrontation, Dante is killed by his own brother, a priest who is also the town's kingpin. Despite these setbacks, including the death of the only man who can identify Felix Rivas, the mission forges ahead toward Manila.
When Bulosan began thinking about writing a series of novels that would encompass the modern, hundred-year history of the Philippines, he singled out the years 1951
to 1961 as a period of "great crisis in Philippine history," a period particularly sensitive to the pressure of "historical currents and cross-currents" (Bulosan 1960,
258-59). And indeed, although Bulosan died in 1956, before he could see the period through its conclusion, he had gleaned the import of events then taking place in both
national and international stages and had correctly diagnosed the crisis as taking shape around one word: revolution.

In the Philippines, the Huk rebellion constituted a potent challenge to the Philippine government, while in Asia and Africa, the struggle for independence by the colonies of the imperialist powers gained momen- [end of page 217] tum after the Second World War. The term "Huk," which referred originally to Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap, or People's Army Against Japan), was formally established in March 1942 by the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (Communist Party of the Philippines) –Socialist Party, and based primarily in Central Luzon. After the war, the Hukbalahap changed its name to Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (People's Liberation Army), and established close links with the Democratic Alliance as an umbrella organization. It spoke out openly on the collaboration issue, and actively campaigned for agrarian reform. After the government unseated a number of the Democratic Alliance candidates following their strong showing as a minority party in the first postindependence election in 1946, and after the Roxas administration banned the party in 1948 as a "subversive" organization, the Huk launched its first attacks on the army in several towns. At its peak in 1950, the Huk had an army of 12,500 people and a mass base of 54,000. Both Elpidio Quirino and his successor Ramon Magsaysay made the containment of the Huk rebellion a cornerstone of their domestic policies. Although the Huk suffered several defeats and went into a
decline in the late fifties, it continued to lead an underground existence throughout the sixties before one of its officers, Bernabe Buscayno, became the commander-in-
chief of the New People's Army, the military arm of the new Communist Party of the Philippines. What these internal and external events had in common was the way they were imagined by those who played a part in the conflict: it could not have escaped Bulosan's notice that for one side, at least, the wars were conceived in revolutionary terms as a struggle for "national liberation." Bulosan's political leanings made him particularly sympathetic to the advocates of decolonization, including the Huk, whose rebellion against the government had its roots in tenancy problems and continued government harassment. Bulosan's novel, however, should not be read as a history of the Huk rebellion; it should be read alongside the history of the Huk rebellion, of which the novel forms a kind of "corrective" supplementary reading. If, as E. San Juan conjectures, Bulosan had begun writing about the Huk rebellion when the movement was at the peak of its power in the early fifties, he lived to see the movement falter under the combined weight of American aid and the government's anti-insurgency and public-relations campaigns. 3 Bulosan wrote his novel in the shadow of the general disillusionment following the government's repression of the Huk rebellion. It also mattered that Bulosan wrote about the Huks from a distance that was at once literal and symbolic. Sympathetic to the Huk movement [end of page 218] but also looking at it from the "outside," as it were, at a remove from the contingencies of everyday struggle in which the rebels were embroiled, he grappled with the problems the movement faced by drawing on his readings of Marxist and socialist literature and on published accounts, such as Luis Taruc's, of the rebellion. His novel constitutes an aesthetic rendering of, even as it provides a wishful "solution" to, such problems and missed opportunities as the scarcity of couriers, lack of political education, and failure of the political missions to expand the mass base of the movement. His explicit references to these problems, which those involved in the rebellion subsequently confirmed, can be read as a kind of diagnosis, written when the rebellion had begun to lose momentum, when, in other words, the major symptoms of the movement's decline as Bulosan outlined them had become painfully manifest (Kerkvliet 1979, 177, 207, 229, 235). By wishful "solution," I mean that Bulosan's novel, in taking as its subject a political mission led by a charismatic Huk hero, imagined a scenario of alternative undertakings, a what-should-have-been that sought to fill holes opened by practical exigencies attending a revolution in progress. Bulosan was concerned with addressing a persistently thorny issue the national liberation movements faced: the need to generalize or broaden, if not "nationalize," popular revolutionary consciousness. This entails the ability of historical actors participating in the struggle to move from local to collective concerns; the movement from particular to universal is held to be the
necessary goal of any program of struggle for social and political change, since exclusive emphasis on the people's localized struggle cannot properly nor successfully combat hegemonic power (Lazarus 1994). The novel brings out this issue through its evocation of the various groups of people that the mission encounters in its journey toward Manila; these groups were often formed for mutual protection and the redressing of grievances arising from the oppression the people suffered at the hands of landlords and the military. But, as Bulosan puts it, "[t]o fight the enemy without a political set up in view was disastrous and fatal, Hassim knew" (1986, 169). This explains the fact that in the novel the magnificent seven doubled as a mobile reconnaissance-cum-teaching unit even as it undertook the dangerous task of going into the capital, Manila, into the heart of the enemy, to secure financial aid from allies abroad.

La Revolucion Filipina

While Bulosan's views about the problems attending the revolution may have been culled from his readings of Marxist and socialist literature [end of page 219] and of
firsthand accounts such as Taruc's Born of the People (1953), it might also be instructive to compare and contrast his views on the revolution with those of a fellow
Filipino who had been instrumental in creating and fomenting the idea of a "Philippine Revolution." I am referring, of course, to Apolinario Mabini, author of La
Revolucion Filipina (1931), an assessment of the watershed events that took place in the last decade of the nineteenth century and led up to American acquisition of the
Philippines as a colony. Though Mabini's role in producing the discourse on the Philippine Revolution is indisputably significant, Filipino scholars have not accorded his influence the recognition it deserves. In his essay "The 'Unfinished Revolution' in Political Discourse" (1998), for example, Reynaldo Ileto traces the emergence of the discourse on the unfinished revolution to the late fifties, when a controversy over the "shape of history" erupted from within the academia. Filipino politicians, who hired intellectuals to write their speeches and craft their political image along populist lines, quickly took up, as electoral slogans and policy catchwords, the discourse of the "unfinished revolution." Although, as sketched out in the first chapter, the educational institution was generally conservative in its pedagogical practices and disseminated
a "reformist" and evolutionary framework for viewing historical change, the academia was also the site of the production of alternative histories by a minority group of
intellectuals and journalists who, according to Ileto (1998, 180-82), either formerly belonged to the Communist Party or were sympathetic to the Huk rebellion.
The radicalization of political discourse involved a major revisioning of Philippine history, and its recasting as a history of the continuing struggle of the Filipino people for independence. Teodoro Agoncillo and Renato Constantino were two of the most influential articulators of this historical paradigm of revolutionary struggle as the defining process of becoming-nation undertaken by the Filipino people. This critical revisioning of history entailed the resurrection of Andres Bonifacio as the representative embodiment of nationalist revolutionary action alongside a rereading of Rizal that sought to bring out the "revolutionist" strains in the latter's work and career (see Daroy and Feria 1968). Ileto's genealogy of the discourse of the "unfinished revolution" reaches back to the first few decades of the twentieth century, to the labor and peasant movements that articulated the demand for social change. Ileto chooses, as the bridge between the Philippine Revolution of 1896 and "unfinished revolution" of the twentieth century, the figure of Bonifacio: "A history that gives primacy to Bonifacio invariably includes themes that go beyond mere freedom from Spanish rule; it points to the [end of page 220] confiscation of church lands, the punishment and even execution of errant friar curates, and it carries a critique of the ilustrado betrayal of the cause" (1998, 182-83). Bonifacio, indeed, was the crucial "bridge" linking the Philippine Revolution to the Unfinished Revolution, but Ileto's account fails to explain exactly
how this link was forged and articulated within the gap between the events of 1896 and the labor and peasant movements of the early decades of this century. The
"missing link" in Ileto's genealogy is Apolinario Mabini, whose La Revolucion Filipina is arguably the first theoretical interpretation of the elite betrayal of the
Revolution, and contains, against the dominant grain of an Aguinaldo-based leadership, a positive reassessment of Bonifacio as the rightful hero of the Revolution. 4
As one of two major thinkers (the other being Jose Rizal) whose ideas gave la revolucion its ideological shape, and as head of Emilio Aguinaldo's wartime cabinet
during the second phase of the revolution, Mabini was, and remains, in many ways, an anomalous figure in the pantheon of Filipino heroes. The fact that he defied simple
categorization may be part of the reason that few historians, with the exception of Cesar Adib Majul, have devoted themselves to studying him and few Filipinos have
celebrated his memory. 5 This amnesia may owe something to the fact that Mabini resists the idealizing impulse of official national projects. There is undoubtedly much to admire in Mabini: a paralytic, he was also an indefatigable worker and a prolific writer. He was born poor and he died poor: though possessed of considerable power and influence, he did not enrich himself through speculation on the finances of the government. He was a homegrown intellectual who never went abroad, yet he was a true heir of the intellectual tradition of Europe. Sensitive to the demands of local exigencies, he was all for strengthening the revolutionary leaders' executive power, but he made this power dependent on the leader's unity with and accountability to the people. Mabini's checkered career, however, demanded considerably more discussion than the sound-bite commentary that accompanies most popular treatments of national heroes. He denounced the revolution when it broke out, but became its greatest -- and increasingly solitary -- articulator and defender. He condemned the abuses the revolutionary forces committed against the civilian population, yet he believed in violence as a means for liberating the Philippines from colonial rule. He was a philosopher involved in the day-to-day activities of planning and running the government. He mistrusted, and criticized, American colonization of the Philippines, but urged Aguinaldo to open negotiations with the [end of page 221] Americans to buy the revolutionary army some time to recoup and marshal its forces. He was Aguinaldo's personal adviser, but it was for Aguinaldo that he reserved his most damning criticism when, in exile, he wrote his reassessment of the revolution.

Mabini's political philosophy has its provenance in Aristotle and in the European liberal tradition. Child of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, Mabini provided the intellectual ammunition for rationalizing Filipino struggle against Spanish and, later, American colonialism. Endowed with inalienable rights, mainly the right to life, individuals work toward the realization of these rights and the satisfaction of their needs through mutual help and institutions like the government that are supposed to protect the people's natural rights against abuse and violation. Independence from colonial rule is an imperative because it is the foundation on which the Filipinos' present and future well being rests. Through these basic ideas, Mabini created an indivisible bond between politics with ethics, a bond that, as Cesar Adib Majul argues, distinguishes Mabini from other philosophers of the Philippine Revolution (1998, 41). Mabini's main contribution to Philippine history lay in his reorganization of the revolutionary government. But his insistence on independence as a prerequisite for the establishment of a republic and his distrust of American intentions pushed him into bitter conflict with those in government, like Pedro Paterno, T. H. Pardo de Tavera, and Felipe Buencamino, who wanted the Philippines to become an American protectorate. In the ensuing power struggle within the government, Mabini lost out to his opponents, and resigned from his post in May 1899. In that year, the
Americans captured and imprisoned him, and then exiled him to Guam in 1901 because he refused to recognize American sovereignty in the Philippines. He was allowed to return to the Philippines in 1903 after he finally agreed to sign an oath of allegiance, but he died shortly thereafter. His political career can be read as an allegory of the fortunes and debacles of the revolution itself. Like Bulosan, Mabini wrote about the revolution from a physical distance. While Bulosan wrote his novel at a physical distance from the Huk struggle, Mabini wrote Revolucion Filipina at a temporal distance from the "failure" of the revolution: Revolucion is a reflection upon a crisis that, in some sense, had already peaked, though it had yet to fully run its course. Mabini's intellectual project basically consisted of a critical assessment that attempted to restore to the Philippine Revolution's failure the idea of missed opportunities. He attempted to construct the "event" of the revolution by establishing its etiology. As important as it was for [end of page 222] Mabini to account for why a revolution, as opposed to "mere riots" (which how Mabini characterized the other revolts before 1896), took place at all, it was even more important that he explain why the revolution failed, and why, to an important extent, it remained unfinished. Mabini ended his account of the Philippine revolution, not in a capitulative mode that treats the revolution in nostalgic terms as a glorious event of the past; he chose an interrogative mode of address that gestures toward the survival of popular struggle and the possibility of a continuing revolution, even though, in the meantime, he himself had made the "imprudent" choice of recommending the peaceful option of mutual reconciliation of Americans and Filipinos": "And a question to finish. Will the concession of the reforms of old asked of the Spanish government yet have the Filipinos satisfied? I am very much afraid of the negative, for the aspiration to independence, almost unknown before, is now strongly beating at the inner part of every heart."

6 When Bulosan makes the people the originary source of the revolution, he is reaffirming something that Mabini, too, had been concerned with stressing. For Mabini, as for Bulosan, the revolution is a popular movement (movimiento popular) culminating in a violent change in the organization and operation of the three public "powers"
(executive, legislative, and judicial) (1931, 275; English trans. 1998, 215). The event that is the revolution is characterized as a violent outburst motivated by the
irresistible necessity" on the part of the people, a need generalized through the "sentiment of national union or solidarity" (sentimiento de unidad o solidaridad nacional)
(278; trans. 217) to improve their condition in life. A revolution happens when this generalized need overpowers the equally strong instinct for "self-preservation"
(instinto de conservacion) on the part of the people. Mabini attributes the violent outburst to a number of missed opportunities, notably the colonial government's
curtailing of the evolutionary option that emphasizes slow change and reforms. For Mabini, the desire to improve one's lot is a "natural" attribute of the historical
process itself, which tends toward increasing progress brought about by the people's growing consciousness of their situation, and spurred by comparison through contact
with other nations. Any government that attempts to thwart the natural, historical progress of the people toward increasing freedom and development would have to deal with the consequences of its repressive measures, which, far from curtailing the people's desire for freedom and self- reliance, serve to make these needs irresistible, "after
the manner of the air, which the more [it] is compressed the greater is [end of page 223] the elastic force it acquires" (asi como el aire cuanto mas comprimido tanto
mayor fuerza elastica adquiere) (289; trans. 223). 7 This enables Mabini to posit the possibility of future revolutions in the event that their leaders or conquerors
do not satisfy the people's needs. At the same time, Mabini was also aware that although the revolution is essentially a people's movement harnessing the explosion of the people's vital needs (which explains his sympathetic treatment of Andres Bonifacio), the form this action took, that is, the "political" nature of the event itself, also engenders within itself the specific danger inherent in politics: the generalization of the view of one class across the social whole (which explains his negative assessment of Aguinaldo). For Mabini, the generalization of the views of one class across the social whole -- a failure of representation that meant another opportunity lost -- is precisely what accounts for the revolution's subsequent failure. The people stopped fighting the moment they realized that the leaders who were supposed to represent them and fight for the people's needs and aspirations, were fomenting agitation for the benefit of their own "special interests." Thus, the summary trial and execution of Andres Bonifacio signaled the "first triumph of the personal ambition upon true patriotism" (304-5; trans. 233). For Mabini, political ideals and personal interests were incompatible; his characterization of Emilio Aguinaldo assumes a supraindividual dimension by making Aguinaldo the representative not just of the people, but of the class of elite whom the people recognized as their leaders. A key to Mabini's theory of the revolution is his belief in the possibility that revolutionary leaders can embody the ideals and aspirations of the people. Mabini believed that the moment of revolution signified that moment of total identification of the leaders with the people, whereas the subsequent acquisition of political power "corrupted" these representatives of the masses, who began to further their selfish interests. Mabini in effect located the idea of revolution within a horizon of collective unity -- of absolute exemplarity -- in which the revolutionary leaders' interests coincided with the people's interests.

But while the logic of revolutionary exemplarity allowed Mabini to reconcile the seemingly contradictory conditions of "belonging" to a specific group or class and
to the collective social whole, he also had to deal with the problems this logic of exemplarity could not neutralize. Mabini's concept of "the people" from whom the
revolution derives its impulse and form is itself defined as a differentiated unity in which each part recognizes the integrity and necessity of the other. Mabini was well
aware of different interests at work in Philippine society, but, as Majul [end of page 224] argued, he "initially underestimated the nature and possibility of the conflicts
between those different interests" (1998, 290). The danger to politics arises precisely because the leaders, and "the people" themselves for that matter, cannot simply or easily be defined as the source of a priori reason and virtue -- neither of them is the repository of essential goodness or wisdom, which means that neither of them can be said to be the predetermined essence of the revolution. To assign an a priori reason and virtue to either the leaders or the people, a move that basically inaugurates the moment of revolution, is always already a retrospective decision of writing; that is, the investment of radical potential in the people or in a leader is made possible through an act of writing after the fact of revolution, in this case, Mabini's ethico- theoretical project of "accounting" for the revolution he neither foresaw nor controlled.

Thus, to speak of "the people" as bearers of the revolutionary potential, one cannot simply point to a mass of Filipinos and say, "These are the people." "The people"
is a complex term of reference that does not simply point to actually existing physical bodies "out there." Mabini's notion of "the people", in fact, brings into play two
different senses of the term -- by "people" (el pueblo, which Mabini uses interchangeably with the juridico-legal term ciudadanos or "citizens") he means both an organic
collectivity whose basic needs and desires constitute the primary basis of revolutionary action, and the aggregate of individuals whose aspirations are vulnerable to being co- opted by forces from within the group, and by external forces such as the American government. For Mabini, the political definition, which posits a radicalized collective consciousness, and the sociological definition, which posits an existing mass of people whose interests have yet to be radicalized, can neither be conflated nor separated. It is, in fact, the fraught relation between these two ideas of "the people" that Mabini seeks to theorize. Revolucion Filipina sets the theoretical grounds for
conceiving of the interplay between two denotations of "the people." For Mabini, this intertwining of two senses of "the people" supplies the rationale for, and is itself an
important component of, a continuing process of revolutionary pedagogy. Mabini is not blind to the fact that, whatever else he may claim about the needs and
aspirations of the people, the revolution "means" not the mere amelioration of the vital needs of the people, but a qualitative rupture in, or a radical transformation of, the needs and aspirations themselves. The revolution thus involves not the mere satisfaction of needs, but a shift to a different level of thinking and feeling. Furthermore,
points of local unrest, dissatisfaction, dysfunction, and disruption can [end of page 225] become the nuclei of social change only if they are given political direction
and organization. Herein lie the roots of Mabini's idea of the necessity of political education.


Message List #1354 of 22704 < Previous Next >
Nick Joaquin in Apolinario Mabini
Posted By: Offline aringaseo
Sat Jul 24, 2004 6:50 pm |

Below is Nick Joaquin’s (scathing) essay on Mabini from A Question of Heroes. The essay has been reformatted so that those who wish to cite it may do so in accordance with the pagination of the original printed text. I know that this essay is only tangentially related to Rizal but hopefully Dr. Yoder wouldn’t mind my posting it in this message group.
Joaquin, Nick. “Apolinario Mabini, July 23, 1864 - May 13, 1903.”
In A Question of Heroes: Essays in Criticism on Ten Key Figures of Philippine History. Makati: Ayala Museum, 1977. pp. 132-154

APOLINARIO MABINI (JULY 23, 1864 - MAY 13, 1903)

A flowering of law immediately preceded the Revolution. That event had had a long line of harbingers, the earliest being the folk artists-builders, painters, sculptors, wood carvers, ikonmakers - who stamped the country, from the Ilocos to Zamboanga, with a look of oneness. When the country had achieved a style of culture, the writers and propagandists arose to proclaim its oneness. Then, on the very eve of the Revolution, as though fate were indeed preparing the country for government, a galaxy of great lawyers appeared.

Mabini, who became a lawyer in 1893, was but the keenest of a group that would, in early American times, invest law with the prestige it still inordinately enjoys among us. Says Rafaél Palma of Mabini’s class: “Never in the memory of the University (Santo Tomás) had so many vigorous minds and such well-equipped talent been gathered together in a single hall.” The group included a future mayor of Manila, two future judges, two future assemblymen, a future provincial governor, and several future abogados de campanilla. But of that “brilliant nucleus of talented youth,” Mabini “stood out like a star of the first magnitude.”

The group would have assured the First Republic of a sufficient supply of legal talent; it did impress the Americans, when civil government was re-established, with the number of legal-minded Filipinos available for government positions. Epifanio de los Santos has noted another stroke of providence in that class of 1893 that produced Mabini, the future prime minister and foreign secretary of the First Republic:

“It must have been most useful to him that among the subjects of the University should figure that of International law, public and private, something which, until the uprising of ‘96, would seem to have no relevance to the practice of the law profession in the islands. An unexpected turn of events, developing from 1897 but principally in 1899, justified the existence of that subject, an eventuality the Spaniards themselves could not have suspected. But for this circumstance, it’s quite sure that neither Mabini nor any other of those directly involved in that ephemeral government (the First Republic) would have found themselves prepared for the grave responsibilities they had to face.”

The Filipino had advanced from folk art to literature and [end of page 135] propaganda and then, just before the Revolution, to law. And from law it was but a step to self-government. The lawyer was represented in the Revolution by Mabini; and as if to make unquestionable our mastery of that most subtle and urbane of the professions, there’s no European schooling or sojourn to which Mabini’s accomplishments may be attributed.

Europe had been a necessary catalyst for the generation of Rizal. By the time of Mabini, the Filipino intellectual had advanced beyond the need for enlightenment abroad. Compassion has, in our times, been expressed for Mabini because be could not afford a European education, along with the gratuitous observation that he might have become even greater if he had studied in some German university instead of having to make do with backward local schools. But the very point of Mabini’s accomplishment is that all his schooling, all his training, was done right here in his own country. The argument of Rizal’s generation was that Filipinos were not yet ready for self- government because they had too little education and could not aspire for more in their own country. The evidence of Mabini’s generation was that it could handle the affairs of government with only the education it had acquired locally. It no longer needed Europe; it had imbibed all it needed of Europe. That is the cultural meaning of the break with Spain. Mabini proved that, without having to go to Europe to learn, he could find his way deftly through the intricacies of civil law and rise to the heights of international law.

His was a legal mind. He was interested in law as an idea, as an ideal, but not as a profession. He was never what we would call a practicing lawyer. Though he joined the Guild of Lawyers after graduation, he continued to work in the office of a notary public, set up no office of his own. But law was his life, his [end of page 136] true love, and whenever he appears in our history he is arguing a question of legality.

He urged the surrender at Biak-na-bato but afterwards questioned its legality because “there was bad faith on both sides.” He was for the resumption of the Revolution but questioned the legality of the Declaration in Kawit because he felt that one man, a dictator, could not proclaim a nation’s freedom in the name of its people; only the people themselves could do that; and he did not rest until the Kawit act had been ratified by the representatives of the people in the provinces controlled by the revolutionary armies. He was for constitutional government but questioned the legality of the Malolos Constitution because, in his opinion, the Congress in Malolos was merely a consultative, not a legislative, body. He willingly stepped aside as prime minister to give way to Paterno but questioned the legality of the Paterno cabinet on the ground that its avowed policy - to seek an autonomous government under the Americans - violated the Constitution. He even saw the struggle between Aguinaldo and General Luna as a question of legality: Luna’s aspiration to topple the Paterno cabinet and replace it with one headed by himself was legal - “una aspiracion legal y correcta” - whereas Aguinaldo’s resentment of it endangered the rule of law by undermining military discipline.

Mabini launched into his biggest fight after the Revolution, and again it was a battle over legality. In letter after letter, article after article, he sought to prove that the American occupation of the Philippines was illegal. He built up his case too well; it cost him his life; for he was deported to Guam, where bad food and prison conditions further weakened his already frail health. He died within three months after he was released.

But to the end we see his lawyer’s mind splitting legal hairs. [end of page 137] He had asked for permission to return to the Philippines but was told he could not do so unless he took the oath of allegiance to the United States. He asked if he could return to the Philippines first and then take the oath. The answer was no. Worried that he might have been misunderstood, he hastened to explain that his request was not a “quibbling with my pen” to avoid taking the oath. He had wanted to return to the Philippines first to see for himself if the people had really accepted the government under the Americans. If they had, then it was a legal government - and he could take the oath of allegiance. But he wanted to see for himself first if the circumstances “justified” his taking the oath - “so that I may not be taken for a flippant man with no regard for his word.” The picture we get is of a mind at once scrupulous and intricate, sharp and elusive. It is not, perhaps, a great intellect. He calls himself a man of letters but he shows no interest in literature or the arts, or in any other field outside law. His mind is of a single dazzling facet, not the multi-faceted marvel that distinguished the men of the generation just before him: Rizal, Del Pilar, the Luna brothers. Though born a peasant, he had no interest in agriculture Though involved in a war, he did not bother to understand military strategy.

As a writer, his style is alternately plain and convoluted, but its qualities are legal rather than literary. He concentrates on polemic and abstraction; is not, one feels, really interested in people. He sees history as a series of problems confronting men, not as men confronting problems. In his Memorias, he remembers all the legal problems of the Revolution but not a single dramatic scene. He can write about such a portentous event as the June 12 act in Kawit without actually telling what happened, only whether it was wise or rash, but not if it was moving. He allows himself few flights of fancy. The closest he gets to being lyrical is in the True Decalogue, which might have been written by a Man of Reason of the 18th century, Mabini’s spiritual century. What we have, finally, in the post-Revolution Mabini, is a lawyer endlessly, tirelessly arguing a case. And that is his greatness. For the case he seemed to have lost then, he is winning today. It was inevitable that, having rediscovered June 12 and Aguinaldo, we should now be redisco- [end of page 138] vering Mabini; though it’s doubtful that the current interest in him will fetch him completely from the shadows, for those shadows are part of his element. There is a mystery about him. The sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued cripple moves behind veils, behind curtains. He was one of the most
voluminous writers of the Revolution, we know almost everything about him as an official; but we know almost nothing about him as a man. We know he was sick; we do not even know why he was sick. The older generation clams up when the talk turns to Mabini the person. Even as a public figure, he never seems completely onstage; he always seems to be standing behind somebody else. As a young propagandist, he was behind the figure of his protector, Numeriano Adriano. During the Revolution, he was behind the figure of Aguinaldo. He was not a leader but rather a power behind the throne

Even after he and his cabinet have fallen, we still sense him hovering behind Aguinaldo, like the Mind encroaching on the Will. It has been claimed that many pronouncements of Aguinaldo’s were actually Mabini’s issued under Aguinaldo’s signature. Of our heroes, Mabini was the sphinx - a verbose one but a sphinx nevertheless; and he may have carried his secret with him to the grave.

The logical explanation for the aura of mystery around Mabini would be his sickness, which is, superficially, the most mysterious thing about him. The trouble is that there is no evidence the sickness wrought any decisive change in him. If he was a sober, austere, undemonstrative, single-minded, rather remote, rather dry person after his incapacitation, he was obviously all that even before it. His coolly objective attitude toward the world did not became notably subjective even when sickness should have forced him in on himself. We do not have here a young man full of sweetness and light whom a cruel fate turns into a serious thinker. He was already gray of hue even before his crippling. A classmate of his has said that, as a young student, Mabini “never displayed the gaiety and joviality characteristic of the students of those times.” Even as a youth, he already showed no [end of page 139] interest in human relationships, moved apart from his classmates, formed no real friendships. The only tie he formed during this period was with Adriano, who was an older man. After his accident, he suddenly took interest in his former classmates, but only because he wanted to make use of them. One astonished classmate who had long disappeared into a provincial farm found himself summoned to Manila, to the house on Nagtahan, from which, he says, he emerged “completely transformed,” no longer believing that the destiny of the Philippines was wedded to that of Spain and eager to offer himself to the reform movement Mabini had described in “such convincing, such hypnotic terms.”

His classmates at the university also noticed that Mabini never fell in love, never even indulged in a flirtation. His youthful continence may have been dictated by his poverty: he never had enough money for books or room rent, let alone girls; but even when he became more affluent, after his graduation, he sought and formed no attachments. Love was never a factor in his life. Nor can it be said that property was the factor, that the facts of poverty were what shaped his character, were what drained the juices from his heart. He does not seem to have been very embittered by it. Poverty was a dreadful inconvenience: that was all; but then, he was a man of frugal wants. We know he was [end of page 140] poor, we do not feel he was poor: no man could have been more detached from the circumstances of his life. And it’s doubtful that he would have been very much different if he had been born rich. We automatically think of Bonifacio as proletarian, of Rizal as gentry; but we do not think of Mabini as a peasant at all. Despite his concern over the agrarian problem, despite his amazing awareness of the class struggle lurking just under the surface of the Revolution, he was himself a man of no class, belonging neither to the peasants nor to the ilustrados, and siding as often with one as with the other.

When the Liga Filipina split into moderates and radicals - or, rather, into the haves who had so much to protect and the havenots who had but their chains to lose - Mabini firmly chose to side with the propertied señores against Bonifacio’s proletariat - because Bonifacio’s revolt-minded faction was “tainted with illegality.” But when the Malolos Congress was divided over the question of whether power should reside in a parliament dominated by the rich or in a president backed by a peasant army, Mabini stood with Aguinaldo against the ilustrados - again because he saw the attempt of the Congress to locate power as “illegal.” In short, Mabini was a man entire to himself, remarkably self-contained, looking out - and down - on the wracked world from his tower of pure law. Not friendship nor love nor class kinship ever bled him of emotion. And since this was already his temperament before he fell sick, his sickness would seem to have no relevance to his life. It was an accident, nothing more. We can ignore it, it has no importance, since it wrought no transformation in Mabini, apparently had no effect on him.

But, then, we may be looking for the wrong thing. We seek a transformation when the effect-the desired effect-of the sickness may have been, precisely, no transformation at all. What Mabini could have been after was the preservation of his detachment, of that inner solitude untroubled by friendship, love, clan loyalties, or any sort of emotional involvement. And the time when he fell ill- between 1895 and 1896 - was precisely the time when his precious detachment was in greatest danger of being swept away. Poverty had hitherto served to protect him from friendship and love, but now he had a well-paying job: there was no longer any excuse for not going out into the world of men and women. Obscurity and his low birth had hitherto served to protect him from society, but he had been graduated from the university with signal honors, he was gaining fame as a lawyer and, most of all, he had plunged into the reform movement, which could mean being enmeshed in the sort of relationships he did not care for. Sooner or later, he would have to emerge from behind the back of Adriano and strike out as a leader on his own. But that, precisely, was what he did not want to be: a leader. There is no parallel here with Rizal. Rizal, a more robust character, shunned involvement too, but because he knew he did not have the qualities of leadership. Mabini did, and he knew he did; but he was the type who could lead only as pure mind, not as will. He had the intellectual equipment; he did not have the emotional power. He could project his mind, make Mind encroach on Will - but on somebody else’s will. Recall that classmate of his who emerged from the house of Nagtahan “completely transformed,” offering himself to Mabini for whatever task the reform movement might demand.

That was how Mabini wanted to operate: as pure mind. He was not a true leader but a natural “power behind the throne.” But the only way he could work as pure mind was to rid himself of his body, to be “without foot,” as he himself said. The trend of events of 1895- 96 was, however, pushing him toward a more physical role in the reform movement than as a proselytizer of youth and a mentor of neophytes.

And at the very time when it seemed he would be called to act with mind and body and feet, he fell sick, became paralyzed, turned into a cripple. And from that crippling emerged “ the Brains of the Revolution,” the man who shaped the Republic from a hammock.

Was not that what he had wanted all along? His constant, mock-pathetic references to his [end of page 141] infirmity sound very much as if they came from a man who did protest too much. His sickness deprived him of nothing he really wanted and served as a shield between him and emotional entanglements, as poverty and obscurity had previously done. It saved him from being shot along with his mentor Adriano and all the other “moderates” who had thought to save their skins by disengaging themselves from Bonifacio, only to find too late that their prudence was their doom. But Mabini the Mind survived, because he had lost his feet. It will be argued that this theory is tenable only if it can be shown that Mabini’s disability sprang from a willed sickness, not a fortuitous one, as seems to be the case. But it can be argued in turn that what happens to a man is very much like that man - is, in fact, the man himself. Psychologists seek in every accident some lurking intention, however dim; nothing in life is really fortuitous. Anyway, the thing to do is examine the various explanations that have been offered for Mabini’s mysterious sickness.

The most prevalent legend has Mabini falling sick because of an act of gallantry - in the polite, not impolite, sense of the word. A Frenchwoman’s horse had escaped from the stables during a tremendous storm and Mabini had run out to catch the horse for the Frenchwoman. Some say that he fell sick because he got soaked to the bone; others say that, besides getting soaking wet, he had fallen from the horse while riding it back to the stables. The trouble with this legend is that none of Mabini’s biographers have cared to cite it, not even Palma, who knew Mabini personally - which indicates that the legend’s veracity is not beyond doubt.

Another more pertinent legend -pertinent to the theory given above - has it that Mabini’s disability was a recurrence of a childhood sickness. The young Mabini had his first formal schooling in the poblacion of Tanauan and, according to the legend, he daily hiked the distance from his isolated barrio to the town proper, getting burned by the sun and chilled by the rains, and falling many a time, for Tanauan is rugged mountain country. Moreover, the boy, physically fastidious, had the habit of taking a bath whenever he came home from school, however tired or hot or drenched with sweat he might be. For this reason or the other, he contracted an illness that might have been infantile paralysis. He recovered; but, between 1895 and 1896, when Mabini found himself increasingly exposed to the world of men and women, the ailment mysteriously returned, leaving him paralyzed. There is material here to make a psychologist’s nostrils dilate - but, again, the legend is unsubstantiated, though we do have this hint, from contemporary folklore, that there may have an element of volition, however subconscious, in Mabini’s crippling. The third legend was delicately alluded to by Palma and bears out Aldous Huxley’s contention that a man can develop one faculty to extraordinary proportions only at the peril of leaving [end of page 142] his other faculties in a vestigial form. Palma’s allusion hints at this: that Mabini developed his mind at the expense of his body, and that the body took its revenge by betraying Mabini, who was a
giant in matters of law but a baby in matters of sex. (One is surprised, in the portraits of Mabini in his later 30s, to see a man who has been through two wars, has been involved in a government during its most agonizing crises, and has been ill most of his life, looking so youngish and unmarked.)

The common gist of this third legend is that Mabini was the victim of a trap known in the current vernacular as pikot. He had a friend he sometimes visited, and during these visits he came to know the friend’s sister, who was much younger than Mabini, then around 30. On one such visit, a storm broke out and Mabini was persuaded to stay the night in the house. In the middle of the night, he discovered that he had been trapped, not only by the girl and her parents, but by his own vengeful body, which had yielded him up to passion. Horrified, he jumped out a window and fled through the cold rain. The fall from the window had maimed him and he was under treatment for about a year. Then, in January, 1896, he developed paralysis.

Like the other two legends, this third one is but rumor and hearsay, though it has the merit of having been mentioned, in print or talk, by at least two men who knew Mabini, who studied his life and wrote about it. All these legends have two things in common: rain and a fall. The third one is the most complex and detailed, and makes allegoric [end of page 143] sense. If Mabini’s body did betray him, we can understand why he should want to punish it all his life, by turning it impotent. The man of reason and rectitude may have literally been paralyzed with horror at what he had done. But the tragedy, by annulling his body, left him all intellect, as he may
have wished to be.

On the 98th birthday of the Sublime Paralytic, a monument by Tolentino was unveiled at the Department of Foreign Affairs in honor of the first State Secretary of the Philippines, the man who conducted armistice negotiations with the Americans, who advocated trade relations with the British even while the Revolution was going on, and who sought to elevate the cause of the Revolution to the very halls of the Vatican. The Mind was in fine form, but it failed. Aguinaldo’s Ministro del Exterior couldn’t get anybody in the world to recognize the First Republic. And the man who, to a certain extent, made Aguinaldo would end up disillusioned by what he had created.

Said Mabini in the end:
“The Revolution failed because it was badly directed, because its leader won his post not with praiseworthy but with blameworthy acts, because instead of employing the most useful men of the nation he jealously discarded them. Believing that the advance of the people was no more than his own personal advance, he did not rate men according to their ability, character and patriotism but according to the degree of friendship or kinship binding him to them; and wanting to have favorites willing to sacrifice themselves for him, he showed himself lenient to their faults. Because he disdained the people, he could not but fall like an idol of wax melting in the heat of adversity. May we never forget such a terrible lesson learned at the cost of unspeakable sufferings!” Though this is Mabini close to emotionalism, never was his detachment so manifest. The Mind that had possessed and used the Will had withdrawn, and was now watching, with cold eyes, the discarded, diseased body dissolving “like an idol of wax.” [end of page 144]

The war against the Americans was the first the Philippines fought as a national community. The 1896 Revolution had failed to win the support of the Creoles, of the native principalia, or even of the nationalists. It was repudiated by Rizal, denounced by Antonio Luna, rejected by Mabini It was carried out mainly by the proletariat of Manila and landed gentry of Cavite and it was confined to the eight Tagalog and Pampango provinces. The other provinces not only did not join but eagerly helped in suppressing the revolt, oversubscribing their quotas when the government called for volunteers against the Tagalog rebels. Aguinaldo at Biak-na-Bato thought to speak for a nation but was, alas, speaking of a country banded against him, for the first phase of the Revolution failed largely through the efforts of the Ilocos, Bicol and Visayan provinces.
Only two years later the picture had changed.

Aguinaldo at Malolos, with the Gringo at the gate, has the entire nation massed behind him. All the segments of Philippine society, from clergy to peasant, have gravitated round the Caudillo to present one face to the invader. Malolos synthesizes a society, a culture, a history, a nation. Here, come together at last, after 300 years of movement towards this point, stand the Creole (Calderón, Pardo de Tavera) and the principalia (Paterno, the Aranetas, the Legardas) and the ilustrado (Mabini, Luna, and the Guerreros), standing side by side with native clergy and peasantry. It is as if, with the American intrusion, the diverse elements of Philippine society, hitherto so strange to one another, had suddenly realized what they had in common - vis-a-vis the alien presence. It is a tremendous picture, and a tragic one. For a moment, the nation had form, had unity - but only for a moment. A few months later, the clergy has been alienated, the rich and the learned are fleeing to American-held ground, the generals are falling on each other. As Mabini flees north in a hammock he notes that even the people are turning away from the Revolution, preferring “to submit
themselves to the conquerors, and being joined in this by many of the revolutionaries.”

What had happened? Why was not the unity sustained - a unity which, though it might not have stopped the Americans, might have come down to us in the form of suppler state, a tighter [end of page 145] community? For Philippine society cracked apart into hostile classes at Malolos, and we are still trying to mend the fissures.
Why did it crack up? In retrospect, Mabini blamed Aguinaldo: Aguinaldo, “an idol of wax,” had equated the advance of the people with his own personal advance. Mabini blamed the rich folk of Manila: they had merely wanted to “protect their own persons and interests.” Mabini blamed the army: both officers and the men had “lacked virtue.”
But is Mabini himself without blame?
If he was, as Recto put it, the “intellectual architect of the Revolution,” should he not answer for the faulty structure? From June, 1898, to May, 1899, he was the power behind the throne, the “black cabinet” of Aguinaldo, the real authority in the government: is not command responsibility therefore his? He began with a state in which all the classes of society had voluntarily united; when he was through, that consensus was in shambles. Can he escape reproach? He knew that the Revolution could succeed only if Philippine society was united and he spoke constantly of the need for unity. But was he himself a force for unity or for division?

The argument that at Malolos the propertied class was merely trying to protect its interests does not answer the question, for Mabini, if he were a true leader, would have known how to show the haves in what manner their selfish interests coincided with the larger aims of the Revolution. One aim of the Revolution was to transfer the national wealth back to Filipino hands, which might become impossible if the Spaniard were merely replaced by the Gringo. In fact, the rich folk of Manila must have been aware of this. Their orientation was toward Latin-American events and they knew perfectly well what had happened in those Central American and Caribbean countries into which the Gringo had carried his carpetbag. They had come to believe that their sal- [end of page 146] vation lay in the success of the Republic and the expulsion of the invader. And this must have been why they were so eager to join Malolos - until they found that there might be no protection there either. When Paterno took over, it was too late; the harm had been done; the rich had got a big scare and were now ready to believe that the Creoles were right in fearing to arm the masses. And so began the exodus of the wealthy from Malolos back to American-held Manila, because they now knew they had nothing to gain and everything to lose should the Revolution succeed. Precious support had been lost for the Republic.

If the loss had been counter-balanced by a gain in the support of the masses, the alienation of the rich would have been justified; and the Revolution would have become, in its last phase, as in its first, a proletarian move- [end of page 147] ment. But in a country like the Philippines, prestige is a force; and what the rich and influential spurn, the poor won’t touch either - as poor Mabini learned when he saw the common folk, too, turning away from the Revolution, after it had been abandoned by the glitter folk from Manila.

Superficially, Malolos can be viewed as a struggle between two camps to “capture” Aguinaldo. In one camp were Paterno, Calderón and the wealthy Manileños. In the other were Mabini, Luna and the peasant army. What Paterno represented is clear enough: property rights. But what did Mabini represent? Though born a peasant, he can hardly be said to represent the peasantry. He had as great a distrust of it as any Creole; he believed in the leadership of an intellectual elite; he didn’t think that any Juan, Pedro or Pablo could handle the portfolio of foreign affairs; he wanted an Arellano or Pardo de Tavera. When he could no longer turn to clergy or gentry or Creole or ilustrado, having antagonized all of them, he began to identify himself more and more with “the people,” but he was a man with little emotional need for people. Ultimately, we have to grant that he was moved by noble abstractions: “reason and justice” in the first phase; “independence” in the second. But he failed to give flesh to these abstractions. They remained cold thoughts in his legal mind. What were the common folk to make of “reason and justice”? Or of arguments for independence from a man who had to be borne hither and thither? And so the people preferred “to submit themselves to the conquerors.” Mabini could not lead them. And yet, in a sense, Mabini and Luna, though both ilustrados who had rejected the Katipunan, were the last Katipuneros. They wanted to make a clean sweep of the existing society and start all over again, with only the basic mass. In this respect, they were, in the end, the true revolutionaries.
“Routine,” said Mabini, “is the very antithesis of revolution.

The various theories about this or that social class trying to “capture” the Revolution miss one point: that all these social classes which achieved solidarity at Malolos had at one time or another attempted revolution and could regard Malolos as the fruit of their frustrated or abortive efforts and the triumphant Revolution as the result of what they had started. [end of page 148]

The fight of the native secular clergy to possess the Church in the Philippines had started the Propaganda Movement. The fight of the Creoles to wrest the government in Manila from the Peninsulars had started the trend toward autonomy, secession, independence. The fight of the native principalia for reforms had started an awareness of the Philippines as a nation. And the brief unsuccessful uprising of the Manila proletariat in August, 1896, had started the idea of a national war of independence, which itself was not.

None of these groups, not even the Katipuneros, could claim Malolos as its own particular product. The Katipunan would not have been but for the Propaganda; nor the Propaganda but for the insurgencies of the clergy, the Creole and the rising middle class. Malolos was therefore a collective creation, truly of the People - as long as the term was not narrowed to mean merely proletariat or peasantry or masses. All the social classes, all of them having failed in their individual revolts, were being given another chance at revolution, but this time as a collective effort. A true leader would have labored to keep it that way; and in justice to Aguinaldo it must be said that, when he had partly broken away from Mabini’s domination, he did make an effort to pull back what was dropping off. That was one reason for the Paterno cabinet. But by that time, to repeat, it was too late: the unity of faith had cracked. And the paralysis was moving up from limb to heart.

The theory today is that Mabini had a more sophisticated view of the Revolution than his fellows, that he saw it as a class war. If this be true, then Mabini’s profound insight, though it makes him relevant to our times, made him fatal to the movement he directed during its most crucial phase, because he would have been fighting a class war when he should have been fighting a war of independence. But how accurate was his insight?

The bourgeois advocates of a unicameral congress in Malolos argued that a single chamber sufficed to represent the totality of Philippine society because there were no divisions among the classes. They may have been naïve, or they may have had sinister motives for wanting to limit congress to one house (to limit membership or control to their class) but they surely would not have advanced the reason they gave if there were notorious social animosities in the country at the time. Furthermore, the single
chamber perfectly expresses the spirit of the moment: all the social classes assembled as one body, under one roof, speaking [end of page 149] with one voice. And if agrarian unrest did throb just under the surface, who knows what therapy comradeship in arms might have wrought if the Revolution had been pushed as a collective effort of all the classes, with peasant and landlord, rustic and gentleman fighting side by side? Closeness in war might have resulted in mutual sympathy after the war, and in a peaceful effort to solve each other’s problems. When the haves abandoned the Revolution, they abandoned the country to a future of social strife, which was, in fact, what Mabini had already started by antagonizing the middle class.

Mabini’s objections to the Malolos Congress are explicable on the ground of his obsession with legality, but they show him to be a confused and most unrealistic statesman. He objected that the delegates were mostly of the ilustrado or upper class when he himself believed that the masses must be led by the elite of society. He objected that many of the delegates had not actually been elected by the people (having been appointed by Aguinaldo - that is, presumably, by Mabini) when he was, at the same time, arguing that the forms of government were impossible to observe properly during a time of war. In Kawit, he had objected to the June 12 Act of Independence on the ground that a military dictator could not speak for the people; in Malolos, he wanted the military dictator, not a congress, to speak for the people.

In the often-incomprehensible debate in Malolos over whether power should reside in the President or in Congress, one begins to suspect that this time Mabini was not interested in the law, he was interested in power. He did not want a powerful congress not so much because the President might become a tool of the bourgeoisie as because Mabini might no longer have the President for his tool. With the throne would go the power behind the throne. (Aguinaldo was somewhere quoted as complaining that Mabini, jealous as a woman, wanted the President all to himself.) It was Mabini who wanted Arellano and Pardo de Tavera for the foreign office; they accepted, then suddenly resigned shortly afterwards, saying that they could not agree with Aguinaldo. But it was Mabini they could not agree with. And Calderón would remark that to differ with Mabini was to be considered an “enemy of the Revolution.”

Calderon wanted a Congress and a Constitution powerful enough to curb the excesses of the army, excesses that were alienating the country folk. There would be sneering afterwards at the impotence of a Constitution the author of which (Calderón) had to flee for his life from the threats of a revolutionary general (Malvar). But this was precisely the sort of thing that Calderón feared would happen unless the army was placed under a strong law, a law the strength of which Mabini vitiated with his insistence that it was a military dictator, and the military chiefs, who could best curb the army. Apparently, Mabini later realized his mistake. In retrospect - and
so much of the man’s sublimity is in his retrospects!-- he allowed that the Revolution had failed partly because of the abuses of the army. But the Revolution failed when Congress and Constitution had long ceased to function and power rested solely on [end of page 150] the military dictator and the military chiefs in whom Mabini had reposed his faith.

It’s curious, but in his campaign for an absolute military dictatorship, this frail invalid, this champion of law and republicanism, verged on Caesarism. (The story goes that on being appointed to the Supreme Court his first query was what division of the army he would have under him.) Had events been otherwise, he might have found a Bonaparte in Luna.

It has been said that the Philippine Revolution was “anti-history.” It broke out when imperialism was at its noontide - when Victoria had been proclaimed empress of India, when Hawaii was asking to be annexed as a territory, when Egypt, Borneo and the Sudan were begging for colonial masters. That was the current of history at the turn of the century, but the Philippine Revolution ran counter to this current - because it was following an older current, the one released by the French Revolution. Like a pebble thrown into a pool and creating ever widening circles, that revolution had spread first all over Europe, then all over Spanish America, and had finally reached the Philippines. In fact, one Mexican scholar, Don Rafael Bernal, calls the Philippine Revolution “the last of the Hispano- American wars of independence.” We belonged to that world then and were shaken by its tides.

Similarly, Malolos was “antihistory.” All previous democratic revolutions sought to bring the executive under the control of the legislative. The English revolution, for example, finally reduced the king to a figurehead; the American and French revolutions eliminated the king altogether; and revolutions patterned after these three models seek the predominance of a parliament or congress elected by and representing the people. But the struggle in Malolos was for the predominance of the executive over the legislative; and though the bourgeoisie seemed to have triumphed with the Malolos Congress (as in England, America and France) the actual victor was the President, who emerged a dictator, as Mabini had wanted. This was against the trend of history in those times, but not against the trend of history in our times, which has seen the emergence of the executive as the superior force (De Gaulle in France, Kennedy and Johnson in the U.S.) over the legislative.

In this respect, Mabini was our first modern man. He showed little faith in congress and leaned toward the era of the strongman, of the charismatic leader backed by the army and the masses.

One student of Philippine history sees Mabini as “the Robespierre of the Philippine Revolution”; and there do seem to be parallels between the two fervent Rousseauists.
“The government of the revolution is the despotism of freedom against tyranny,” said Robespierre.

And there’s an echo of this in Mabini’s “A revolution is always just, if it tries to destroy a government that is foreign and an usurper.” [end of page 151]
But did Mabini extend this ordenanza to mean any government with interests foreign to those of the masses and which usurps power that should belong only to the people? Was he in Malolos already fighting a counter-revolution against a possible tyranny of the “clase ilustrada y rica de Manila”? He seems to have believed that unless this was done, a second bloody revolu- [end of page 152] tion would have to be fought, this time of the poor against the rich. The rich men in Malolos certainly feared the power of the army and wanted it checked. From the modern viewpoint, they were right. Who today will argue that the army should ever be supreme over congress, even during a time of war? Washington had fought his revolution believing he was acting under the orders of congress, with powers it had given him and which he must return to it. But Mabini, invoking the exigencies of war, and apparently unafraid that the means might shape the end, wanted the army to be supreme, in the person of a military dictator uncontrolled by congress.

He thought this necessary, to intimidate the bourgeoisie, who were merely trying to “protect their own persons and interests.” But did he think those folk joined the Revolution to have their persons ravished and their property sacked? That they joined for selfish reasons should have been taken for granted by Mabini, who was always harping on “the instinct of self-preservation.” His concern should have been how to use the middle class and its selfish interests to advance the cause of the Revolution. Mabini said that it was the instinct of self-preservation that made a people abandon a cause that has failed to serve them and serves only a special group. He was thinking of the masses; didn’t he see that his rule applied equally to the middle class and that, by his own dictum, the middle class was justified in abandoning a cause that had failed to serve it and was serving only Mabini’s special group? For in Malolos, Mabini was fighting against Congress, against the government, against the law itself. His cabinet fell because of his machinations to prevent Congress from convening as ordered by the Constitution.

Nor is the imputation of bourgeois selfishness wholly just. Those folk must have been moved just as strongly by patriotic feelings and democratic impulses. In the particular episode that struck terror in the hearts of the middle class - the spectacle of poor Calderón fleeing for his life from a Malvar enraged by Calderón’s criticisms of the army - the irony is that Calderón was not a particularly rich man and had little to protect or lose. The assumption then is that Calderón and his colleagues did not want the army to be supreme in the quite disinterested belief that any despotism is necessarily evil, even the “despotism of freedom.” And the Calderón-Malvar episode presaged a possible Terror. The tragic thing about the fall of Malolos is not that the rich and learned abandoned it and went over to the American side but that they felt compelled to do so - by the „instinct of self-preservation.“

Mabini’s inability to keep the unity in Malolos sprang from the tactlessness that grows with power. When he proclaimed his moral code he was not content to call it a decalogue: it was the True Decalogue. This naturally antagonized the clergy, who [end of page 153] pointed out that Mabini was asserting that the decalogue handed down on Sinai was a false one. Though he sought to assuage the clergy - he did not, for example, want the question of state-church separation brought up because it might alienate certain groups supporting the Revolution - he was, in his own person, the most effective alienator of those groups. The clergy and the devout could hardly wish to continue supporting a cause increasingly identified with a freethinker and anti-clerical. So, the clergy, too, fell away from Malolos.

Mabini failed not only to keep the unity but to utilize the resources that were at hand. Washington used the Catholics, the Indians, the French - everything that could advance the cause of the American Revolution. But Mabini could not even improvise. The Republic badly needed trained soldiers; yet it had a trained army, unused, on its hands, for of its 9,000 Spanish prisoners some 6,000 were soldiers. To have attracted these soldiers to the revolutionary ranks, now that the Spaniards and Filipinos had a common enemy, the Gringo, would have been a stroke of genius. Nor is the idea fantastic. Numerous Spanish officers-Torres Bugallón, for instance - did pass from the Spanish to the Philippine side, to fight the Americans. A true leader in need of troops would instantly have thought of that captive army and devoted himself to capturing its sympathies. But Mabini used the prisoners merely as a pawn in the game to entrap the Americans into establishing relations with the Republic: a futile endeavor. And when he sought the recognition of the Republic by foreign nations he failed, partly because of foreign disapproval of his refusal to release those prisoners - prisoners who could have been useful to the Republic, instead of embarrassing it.

What Mabini in Malolos needed was, not a moral decalogue, but Amang Rodriguez’s very practical tip: „Politics is addition.“
In the end, with clergy, Creole, ilustrado and gentry fallen away from the Republic, only the people remained; and Mabini then declared, as Cesar Majul puts it, „that his decisions and values were those of the people.“ This was the apotheosis: Mabini as the People, Mabini as the Republic, Mabini as the Revolution. Alas, he would find that even the people had fallen away too. It seemed that their decisions and values were, after all, not his. The Revolution had ended completely paralyzed, having lost all use of its limbs.

And so we come to the juridical Mabini of the last days, sternly pronouncing judgment, as the paralysis crept up from limb to heart, on the tragedy of the Revolution.
The gentry was to blame, the clergy was to blame, the ilustrados were to blame, Congress was to blame, the Constitution was to blame, the generals were to blame, the troops were to blame - and most of all, Aguinaldo was to blame, for being such an idol of wax.
Everybody was to blame.
Except Mabini. [end of page 154]


Message List #4362 of 22704 < Previous Next >
New Bonifacio Blog Site
Posted By: Offline drrobertl_yoder

Sat Oct 8, 2005 11:58 am |

I am pleased to announce that Ari Ngaseo has put up a blog web site devoted to the life of Andres Bonifaco:

The site gathers together previously-published, but now either hard-to- find or out-of-print, materials on the purported life and works of
Andres Bonifacio as well as on the controversy stirred up by Glenn Anthony May's book, INVENTING A HERO: THE POSTHUMOUS RE-CREATOIN OF
ANDRES BONIFACIO. The materials are mostly in English translation to make the site more accessible to non-Tagalog speaking
or non-Filipino readers, although the plan is to include Spanish and Tagalog materials in the near future.


Message List #1239 of 22704 < Previous Next >
Posted By: Offline drrobertl_yoder

Sat Jun 26, 2004 12:10 pm |

For Mabini's reflections on the revolution when he was a prisoner of the United States on Guam go to the following source:


Mabini: Wounded Hero

by Dr. Robert L. Yoder, FAPC

His last years were his most painful. Apolinario Mabini was one of the foremost of the Philippine revolutionary heroes. He was the "brains" of the revolution. Crippled as a young man by polio, he realized that his physical limitations not only limited his personal life but the struggle his beloved homeland was undergoing to become a sovereign republic. He would also find his high ideals wounded by persons he sought to serve and by the cruelties caused by warfare.

His wounds were of the body and of the spirit. His physical problems were perhaps most painful in the way it seemed, even to his own eyes, to diminish his usefulness. The struggles in the fight for independence from Spain were hurtful as well. They involved cutting the ties with Spain that, despite its flaws, had emotional bonds that were hard to untangle. They involved an ugly and brutal war with the United States, a country with democratic ideals, but painfully flawed racism.

Now, however, in his last years, Mabini found himself as an exile from the land he held most dear. No one tortured or mistreated him. He taught his prison guards Spanish while they, in turn, returned the favor by teaching him English. As prison life goes, it was not a harsh life. It was here that he wrote his chief work, La Revolución Filipina. In it he sought to state for future generations his philosophy of life and the reasons he resisted the rule of both Spain and the United States.

Yet he longed for his homeland and the place he loved most dear, the place he was willing to live and die for was not his to enjoy. There were American sympathizers such as Senator George Hoar, who urged his release. However, the arguments of no less than Elihu Root, the Secretary of War and William Howard Taft, the Governor of the Philippines, and later President of the United States, opposed the action. Taft would write that Mabini was "the most prominent irreconcilable among the Filipinos." He feared that the civil war would break out anew were Mabini to return to the islands.

Mabini, therefore, remained in seclusion in Guam. Deported in 1901 he would remain there until a few months before his death in 1903. Today Filipinos deeply admire Mabini. In those years, however, his countrymen largely forgot him. When he returned to the Philippines people welcomed him as the nationalist he was. However, the Philippines was turning to the ways of its American tutors. It would not be for another fifty years that the dream of an independent nation would become a reality. In many ways Mabini's dreams of independence seemed irrelevant. He died in poverty.

While he was one of the ilustrado class, he had risen from the peasantry from Talaga, Tanauan, Batangas. His Father was a "cabeza de barangay" (headman and taxgather for fifty families) but uneducated. His mother had some formal education and from her Mabini gained some rudimentary education. Mabini dedicated his closing memoirs, La Revolución Filipina to his mother and indicated that she had aspired that he be a priest. "Realizing that you were too poor to meet the expenses of my education," wrote Mabini, "you worked as hard as you could, heedless of sun and rain, until you caught the illness that took you to your grave."

His grandfather, Juan Maranan, was a popular teacher. While tutoring Mabini's elder brother, his grandfather noticed that young Apolinario learned the lesson earlier. Although impoverished he was able to study in Manila. He began his studies at the Colegio de San Juan de Letrain in 1881 and later received a law degree in 1894 from the University of Santo Thomas.

During this time he supported himself in part by teaching Latin. His work as a copyist in the Court of First Instance, however, proved even more important. It was here that he came under the influence of Numeriano Adriano who was not only his superior but one with whom Mabini would develop a deep friendship. It was here that Mabini first began to sense the nationalistic feelings that were spreading among educated Filipinos. The social and political issues of the day developed a spirit to which Mabini would dedicate his entire life. It was also during this time, around 1896, that Mabini developed polio mellitus that was to deprive him of the use of his legs.

In 1896, when Andres Bonifacio began his revolt, authorities arrested Mabini as a member of his revolutionary movement, the Katipunan. In truth, Mabini was not a member of this movement but, rather, of the reform association of José Rizal, the La Liga Filipina. Bonifacio's movement sought military insurrection; Rizal's movement aimed at gradual reform. At first, Mabini opposed to Bonifacio and the insurrection.

Events, however, would transpire that would change Mabini's life forever. Spain would execute by strangulation three Filipino priests: Padres Burgos, Gomez, and Zamora. They would bring the man Mabini most idealized, José Rizal, to the Luneta, and would execute him by musketry.

The Filipino people, especially in areas such as Cavite which were most deeply controlled by Spanish friars, broke out in complete revolt. Mabini, convinced of the people's almost fanatical desire for freedom, turned from the ideals of Rizal's reforms to the zeal of Bonifacio's revolution. Joining the Katipunan, Mabini became a foremost propagandist, appealing to his countrymen to join the revolution against Spain.

In May of 1896, General Emilio Aguinaldo summoned Mabini to act as his advisor. Both Aguinaldo and Mabini were aware of the severe limitations that his lameness brought. Aguinaldo conveyed Mabini to his headquarters in Cavite by hammock. How could an invalid be of use to the revolution in the exigencies of a revolutionary atmosphere? However, Aguinaldo soon realized that Mabini's keen intellect, married to his devotion to independence, far outweighed this liability. He had a largeness of mind, soul, and vision that dispelled any doubts in Auginaldo's mind.

While devoted to democracy, Mabini first sought to make Aguinaldo a dictator of the Philippines as a temporary measure. His sentiments mitigated against this; the effect of war was the sole reason for this drastic compromise with his own philosophy. The decree, given on June 18, 1898, had a sentence that epitomized his true beliefs: "The first duty of the government is to interpret the popular will faithfully."

During the first moments of the Filipino experiment in self rule, Mabini served Aguinaldo faithfully. He supervised the administration of justice. He managed the election of delegates to the revolutionary congress. He established the first rudimentary mechanisms of the revolutionary government.

However, quite soon cracks began to develop in the revolutionary movement that would doom its cause. This was true especially as the revolution turned from a revolt against Spain to its more powerful "liberator," the United States.

Two factions composed the movement. Bonifacio's revolt was a popular uprising of the masses. The more educated illustrado class had a different agenda. These learned nationalists could not bring themselves to trust the uneducated common man. Perhaps the bloody lessons of the French revolution caused some concern in their minds.

As time would show, Aguinaldo would side with the illustrado class and abandon the aims of the revolt. His lieutenants would murder Bonifacio. Many believe that Aguinaldo was instrumental, also in the assassination of the revolution's most able general: Antonio Luna. Luna, despite his faults, was, like Mabini, an illustrado who sided with the common man. Mabini wrote, "Aguinaldo ... ruined himself, damned by his own deeds. Thus are great crimes punished by Providence." (La Revolución Filipina, Chapter X)

The revolutionary congress reconvened in Barasoain, Malolos, Bulacan, on September 15, 1898. At this time the sentiment of the majority of the representatives was to draft a complete constitution. Filipe G. Calderon wrote such a document. Mabini felt that the revolutionary nature of the times mitigated against anything but a temporary dictatorship. Mabini opposed it and wrote a different constitution that gave much more authority to the President (Aguinaldo). The delegates, however, adopted the Calderon document. As time passed, relations between Mabini and Aguinaldo became more strained. Mabini, however, continued to serve his commander in chief until his eventual capture.

There were several reasons why the Philippine Revolution failed in its struggle with the United States:

The United States had better weapons. However, the difference in armed power in the Filipino - American conflict was not nearly as great as would be the later Vietnamese - American conflict.
With the murder of Antonio Luna, the struggle lost its most effective military strategist. The Americans were, on the whole, more adept at military science. If the Filipinos had carried out a full scale guerrilla operation from the beginning of the struggle, the revolution might have lasted longer and (as in Viet Nam) the American public might have eventually tired of the effort. Even after the capture of Aguinaldo, General Miguel Malvar continued the desperate struggle with guerrilla tactics against America until 1902. In fact Macario Sakay continued with guerrilla activity against the United States until 1907 when he was captured in a ruse.

Time would determine that the illustrado class, joined with the wealthy hacienderos had a greater loyalty to their own interests than that of Filipino independence. Mabini exposed a vicious opportunism of such illustrados as Pedro Peterno and Felipe Buencamino who sought to gain control over and profit from the financial transactions of the revolutionary movement.
Even Aguinaldo would evidence this trait. He would submit to self-exile in Hong Kong under an agreement with the Spanish at Biak na Bato. When captured by Colonel Frederick Funston in Palanan, Isabela, he proclaimed submission to the Americans. At the end of his life, he would likewise embrace the occupying Japanese. Mabini could not contain the disappointment he felt in the man he served so faithfully. "To sum it up, the Revolution failed because it was badly led; because its leader [Aguinaldo] won his post by reprehensible rather than meritorious acts; because instead of supporting the men most useful to the people, he made them useless out of jealousy. Identifying the aggrandizement of the people with his own, he judged the worth of men not by their ability, character and patriotism but rather by their degree of friendship and kinship with him; and, anxious to secure the readiness of his favorites to sacrifice themselves for him, he was tolerant even of their transgressions. Because he thus neglected the people, the people forsook him; and forsaken by the people, he was bound to fall like a waxen idol melting in the heat of adversity. God grant we do not forget such a terrible lesson, learned at the cost of untold suffering." (La Revolución Filipina, chapter X) The Philippine society of a few rich and many poor plagues democracy to this day. While Filipinos control the Philippines, the unequal distribution of wealth continues to be a source of unrest and often results in armed conflict.
It also became apparent to the common Filipino that Americans were not the severe colonial masters as were most European conquerors. With the arrival of American schoolteachers, and the advent of universal education, the lowliest peasant realized his aspirations for education. Ingrained in Americans were the ideals of democracy. Despite many flaws, their goal was a democratically stable Philippine government. Spain subjected the Philippines to its control for three hundred years; the United States tutored the Philippines for fifty.

Mabini was a man who sought to live a principled life. The effects of war were troubling to his spirit. As the United States would learn many years later in Viet Nam, brutality, on both sides, brought out the worst of the human spirit. Especially troubling to Mabini were the abuses of Filipino soldier to Filipino citizen. His decree of June 18, 1898, included provisions (see Article 8) that would curb military abuses. He brought those abuses that came to his attention before Aguinaldo. The general, however, ignored most of these criminal actions. He would put in his closing remarks in La Revolución Filipina the "disgust I felt whenever I heard of the rape of Filipinas by Filipino soldiers..... I am sure that the first instances would not have been repeated if the commanders concerned had punished such outrages energetically and without hesitation. How shall we get foreigners to respect our women when we ourselves set the example of offending them?" (Chapter XI)

American forces captured Mabini on December 10, 1899. Soon thereafter, Aguinaldo met a similar fate. For awhile, Mabini lived under house arrest. Refusing to submit to American authority, Mabini continued to write inflammatory tracts against the occupying power. The American government exiled Mabini to Guam in 1901.

Mabini, like José Rizal, was a true Filipino nationalist and a devoted patriot. Fate would place his life as that of a mediator between the people's will and the decisions of the first leadership of the Philippines. His life, despite some flaws, was selfless and motivated by high ideals. He would state, "I have no other balm to sweeten the bitterness of a harsh and melancholy life [in exile] than the satisfaction given by the conviction of having always done what I believed to be my duty. God grant that I can say the same at the hour of my death." (from La Revolución Filipina, e Introductory Manifesto)

The End.

See also by the same author:
"Philippine Heroines of the Revolution: Maria Clara they were not" and "Graciano López Jaena".

E-mail to the author:

[Austrian-Philippine WebSite] [Culture and History]


Message List #6339 of 22786 < Previous Next > Start Topic
"News and gossip from Mabini
Posted By: cdvictory21

Thu Apr 13, 2006 4:21 am |

Otro articulo de Ambeth Ocampo. Él era un contemporáneo de Jose Rizal. Muy pocos de los trabajos de Mabini se han traducido de español. Algunas de sus letras a Marcelo Hilario del Pilar están en este artículo.

Another Ambeth Ocampo article. He was a contemporary of Rizal. Very few of Mabini's works have been translated from the original Spanish. Some of his letters to Marcelo del Pilar are in this article.

***News and gossip from Mabini

BROWSING through Apolinario Mabini's correspondence recently, I was drawn to a number of chatty letters to Marcelo H. del Pilar. My original impression, after going through all these letters twice several years ago, was that, compared to Jose Rizal's, they were devoid of human interest. Mabini probably turned serious and conscious of his letters when he was Emilio Aguinaldo's trusted adviser.

In the US Library of Congress are letters addressed to Aguinaldo, with marginal notes, usually a draft reply, written in Mabini's small almost feminine script (which is why some people make a big thing about his surname, maliciously linking it to "binibini" [miss]). Poor Mabini was the target of a demolition job that originated from the
Malolos Congress. The nasty rumors about his paralysis and venereal disease emanated from his enemies in Congress, and these were debunked only in the 1980s following an autopsy proving that the Sublime Paralytic lost the use of his legs due to polio, not syphilis.

Mabini had a human side and we get rare glimpses of this in his letters to Del Pilar. For example, in a letter dated November 28, 1894, he narrated:

"In the last town fiesta of Cavite, moments before the start of the bicycle race, which was one of the highlights of the celebration, the captain of the civil guards of one of the military posts of the said province pushed Don Jose Luna out of his way, insulting him at the same time. As it was to be expected, this resulted in a challenge to a duel, which the captain refused to accept. He is the kind of man who values his life as much as he despises the dignity of a fellow human being."

One would wish that Mabini's notes and comments made it to some small blind item or a column in La Solidaridad because some of the gossip is as interesting today as it was 110 years ago. In the same letter of November 28, 1894, he said:

"In Santa Isabel, Bulacan, an event took place lately, news of which was circulated here among our friends. The parish priest of that town visited the Municipal School for Girls and, because of his brazen and discourteous behavior, of which only our friars are capable, a fight ensued between him and two girls. The girls came out with bruised
heads, whereas the parish priest, his garments torn to shreds, ran down the streets, giving a show of nakedness never expected even by Christ himself. I am not in a position to guarantee this news."

Sometimes Mabini relates the social and political tension during those times. On January 22, 1895, he wrote Del Pilar: "Rumors of an approaching rebellion are starting again to circulate here and the government is trying to forestall it by giving secret orders to the police to raid any meeting of the Freemasons and arrest the people they come upon as if they were gamblers. For this reason, the workshops here, which will never be found guilty of audacity because they have learned enough prudence, have suspended their work to avoid criminal complaint for unlawful assembly. In truth, I do not know how Freemasonry, being a lawful association in Spain, could be
unlawful in the Philippines, where it is practiced exactly as Spanish Freemasonry."

In our history textbooks, the Philippine Revolution led by Andres Bonifacio seems to appear out of nowhere. Of course, the Revolution is supposed to have resulted from centuries of neglect and opposition, but to have rumors of a rebellion circulating over a year before August 1896 made me realize how paranoid Spanish Manila could be. In the same letter, Mabini related:

"The municipal captain of the town of Talisay, Batangas, is under court-martial because a letter, signed by him and addressed to the German Consul requesting that the accompanying letter be sent to Rizal, was found in the person of the drunkard. In this letter, Rizal was being informed that the people of Talisay and others were already
prepared and only waiting for his decision. It is clear that it is a coarse scheme, plotted by his enemies, which does not even deserve to be mentioned had the authorities not given it importance and, like Quixote, started persecuting what did not exist."

So rumors of a rebellion were not real? The alleged letter to Rizal from rebels in Talisay was a forgery planted on this poor innocent man? Didn't Bonifacio send an emissary to Dapitan to ask Rizal what he thought of the revolution and whether he was willing to support it?

This mixture of news and gossip deserves a second look if only to help us recreate the history of the late 19th century. In a letter dated April 29, 1895 Mabini related news that sounded like Basilio and Crispin in "Noli Me Tangere":

"In Manila nowadays the only topic of conversation is the theft of a ciborium in the church of Paco. The suspects, two sacristans, died in San Juan de Dios Hospital because of tortures inflicted on them with real inquisitorial fury. There are rumors circulating around, which appear as truth. What is worse is that it is also being heard around that one of the sacristans declared that the parish priest had knowledge of the theft, doubtless to implicate certain persons whom he does not trust. But this last rumor is still uncertain."

Mabini wrote only to Del Pilar, but now his letters are read by others who are curious about his life and times.***

Message List #6581 of 22786 < Previous Next > Start Topic
Soul of the Revolution - Ambeth Ocampo
Posted By: cdvictory21

Fri Jun 2, 2006 4:27 am |

For reflection:

CDV note: Take notice of this in Ambeth's article -

"Was it possible that Bonifacio framed Rizal so that: (a) he would be effectively neutralized, or (b) he would be pushed to the wall and join the revolution?"

In reading "The Cry of Balintawak, A Contrived Controversy" by Soledad-Buehler, I learned that it was a strategy of the Katipunan to implicate rich Filipinos as being part of the secret society even though they were not. Ambeth's suspicion may not be too farfetched.

***'Soul of the Revolution'

IT HAS been almost half a century since Claro M. Recto fought for the passage of a law making the study of Jose Rizal and his novels compulsory in all colleges in the Philippines. Thousands of students have taken the course since then, many are still taking it today, and more will take it in the future as long as this law is in place, but
as a teacher, I wonder whether young Filipinos actually learn love of country or, at the very least, appreciate Rizal after taking the course. Our problem is that the Rizal Law is vague on the following: the number of credited units the course should be, and what academic department should handle the course.

Often the Rizal course is placed in the history or social studies department, and is thus taught as history. In some universities, like the University of the Philippines, the course is in the Pilipino Department and is thus taught, understandably, as literature.

In the absence of a clear and prescribed curriculum, the Rizal course can be taught in so many ways. For example, should the course be exclusively on the life, times and works of Rizal? Or should it, as currently practiced in some institutions, be integrated with the general history course? Do you discuss other heroes? Or as some instructors do, use the whole semester to bash Rizal in contrast with Andres Bonifacio? In the last case, the course thus contravenes its aims.

Has the Commission on Higher Education looked into the training of teachers handling the Rizal course? Don't you need special training to teach integral calculus or human anatomy? Shouldn't teachers receive equivalent academic preparation to handle the Rizal course?

All the above thoughts and questions came to mind as I read Bambi Harper's column on Rizal being an American-made hero. I will not dare guess Ms Harper's age, but if her college professor taught her that Rizal was an American creation we can safely presume that she went to college long after 1968 when Renato Constantino wrote the landmark essay "Veneration Without Understanding." Constantino, among other things, asserted that Rizal opposed the Philippine Revolution and was an American-sponsored hero.

Like many students I was won over by Constantino's arguments, until I taught the Rizal course for the first time 19 years ago. Since then I have been doing my own reading on the life and times of Rizal.

While it is true that the Americans over-emphasized Rizal and thus pushed other national heroes like Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, and even Emilio Aguinaldo into relative obscurity as second- or even third-class heroes, we have to realize that Rizal was a hero long before the Americans occupied the Philippines in 1898. Rizal was
already a hero even before he was executed in Bagumbayan on Dec. 30, 1896.

If you would take the trouble to read the transcript of Rizal's trial, you would be surprised by many things. For example, he was asked questions like, "Did you have any part in the revolution?" or "Do you know Andres Bonifacio?"

The reason Rizal had to denounce the Revolution that began in August 1896 was that he was implicated in it. The password of the Katipunan was "Rizal." The honorary president of the Katipunan, without his knowledge and consent, was Rizal. During Katipunan meetings, Rizal's picture was prominently displayed in the hall. All these can be read two ways: first, that Bonifacio and the Katipunan revered Rizal so much he became part of the Katipunan ritual, or -- the wilder interpretation -- that Bonifacio used all of the above to frame Rizal.

You must remember that before Bonifacio started the Revolution, he sent Pio Valenzuela to Rizal's place of exile, in the southern town of Dapitan, to ask for Rizal's advice and, hopefully, his blessing. But Valenzuela returned with bad news: Rizal did not want the Revolution to start just yet. To complicate matters Valenzuela had two conflicting versions of the same story (which we will not go into today). Was it possible that Bonifacio framed Rizal so that: (a) he would be effectively neutralized, or (b) he would be pushed to the wall and join the revolution?

Whatever the reason, Rizal was executed for rebellion and the transcripts of his trial show very plainly that although he did not tear a "cedula" [residency tax certificate], fire a gun or wave a bolo, he was considered by the enemy as "the living soul of the Revolution." Rizal may not have been the leader of the Revolution, but the fact is that he inspired it and for this alone, all those who think otherwise should at least pause and rethink the "American-made hero" story.

Rizal Day was indeed encouraged by the Americans, but Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898 declared the very first Rizal Day. The Americans had vegetable and beauty contests on Rizal Day in contrast to the commemoration of 1898 when Dec. 30 was marked as a day of mourning rather than celebration.

If all the above historical facts fail to convince, perhaps we should realize that saying Rizal was American-made is practically saying that the Filipino is not critical or, worse, dumb. Heroes are not made by laws or government sponsorship. Their power comes from the respect and veneration of people. Rizal had this in life and death. The Americans sponsored Rizal because in the eyes of his people he was in life, and more so after death, a hero.***