On July 23*, the Philippines will commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of one of the leading intellectuals who played a vital role in the Philippine Revolution, notably for his role as president of the cabinet in the revolutionary government, and Philippine history. That man is Apolinario Mabini, also as the “sublime paralytic” (which sounds too awkward and politically incorrect today) and “brains of the revolution.” (which pertains more to him being one of the revolution’s leading intellectuals rather than the one who masterminded the revolution itself)
In honor of this esteemed, if somewhat overlooked, figure in our history on this particular milestone, the Urban Roamer is dedicating a series of stories related to the man whose ideals still resonate today. But before anything else, I suppose it would be apt by starting this off by finding out a bit more about his life and his legacy, shedding light behind the tagline of this commemoration as “talino at paninindigan.” (intelligence and integrity) Biography
He was not born in Manila but in the rural village of Tanauan in Batangas. While his parents were not intellectuals themselves, he displayed a keen sense of intellect at an early age. Despite his family’s poverty, he was able to finish his studies with exemplary grades to boot , having finished his Bachilles en Artes at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in 1887 before eventually getting a law degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1894.
It was during his law student years that he first became involved in the growing nationalist activities. He first joined La Liga Filipina in 1892 but when its founder Jose Rizal was deported to Dapitan a few days later, Mabini went on to join the conservative offshoot of La Liga, the Cuerpo de Compromisarios. The more radical members, led by a certain Andres Bonifacio, went on to found the secret society we know now as the Katipunan.
A couple of milestones happened in his life in 1896. First. he got struck with polio which left his legs paralyzed. Then came the execution of Rizal on December 30 which made Mabini decide to support the Philippine Revolution which broke out four months prior.He eventually found himself becoming part of the revolutionary government set up by Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898, becoming Aguinaldo’s chief adviser who helped draft the decrees of the government then becoming the President of the Cabinet and secretary of foreign affairs of the First Philippine Republic established in 1899.
Mabini was long suspicious of the entry of the United States in the Philippine Revolution, a fear which became real when the Treaty of Paris in 1898 sold the country to American rule. Thus, he became one of the first critics of US rule in the country, a privilege paid by the Americans in return by having jailed then exiled to faraway Guam in 1899.
Mabini eventually returned to the Philippines in 1903 but in a weakened state. So that he could fulfill his desire to spend his remaining days in his motherland, Mabini decided to take an oath of allegiance to America, just for show at least. He would continue to work for Philippine independence until he died on May 13, 1903 due to cholera.
Mabini was one of those individuals whose sense of integrity is so steadfast, he was not afraid to clash with anyone who he felt was losing their way, so to speak. Thus he came into conflicts not only with the Americans but with fellow Filipinos, especially those in Aguinaldo’s circle who were either becoming envious of the role he has or do not like Mabini’s ways. Heck, he even clashed with Aguinaldo on a number of occasions as Mabini felt Aguinaldo had accountability in the deaths of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna. In time, he gained enemies who managed to spread nasty rumors like about him having syphilis which was proven untrue.
But his legacy as a champion of Filipino liberty prevailed above all, something the country would never forget him for. Thus, Mabini’s image can be seen in our currency and his name has been immortalized in streets, most notably in Manila, the former Calle Real which ran from Ermita to Malate districts.
Mabini’s name has also been given to the main campus of Polytechnic University of the Philippines, the reason for which I have yet to discover. And it seemed apt that a piece of Mabini heritage would be relocated here. More on to that in a future installment.
There is also the Gawad Mabini, an award conferred on Filipinos who have rendered distinguished foreign service, or helped promote the interests and prestige of the Philippines abroad, named so in honor of Mabini who was after all the first secretary of foreign affairs.
In the realm of the arts, Mabini would also be immortalized as the name of a band formed by high schoolers in Ateneo de Manila University in the 1969 coined out of a sarcastic flair: the Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society. later shortened to the name we know now as the APO Hiking Society.
In addition, Mabini is also an inspiration for Filipino PWDs (persons with disabilities) as a shining example of an individual who has managed to make a significant contribution to society despite his condition.
Truly, Apolinario Mabini was “talino at paninindigan” personified.
To be continued
*it has been a matter of dispute as to when Mabini was exactly born. It was certain that he was baptized on July 23 but no records show the date of his birth other than what is stated on the baptismal records that he was one day old at the time of his baptism. Mabini himself believed his birthday is on the 23rd but historians contend he may have been born on the 22nd. That being said, the commemoration of Mabini’s 150th birthday is going to be on the 23rd so that is what is going to be followed, at least for the purposes of this event.