With Annotations from Apolinario Mabini’s Memorias de la Revolución Filipina
by Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan
(delivered via Zoom to an international plenary on the Malolos Constitution organized by Gil Ramos, on June 5, 2021.)
Part 1: Learnings from the Philippine Revolution
In Rizal’s two novels, he purposely gave us two pieces of advice which might serve as warnings not only to the Spaniards but also to the nativos.
On the first, he served notice on the Spaniards that, if the Spanish government in order to please the friar remained deaf to the demands of the Filipino people, the latter would have recourse in, desperation to violent means and seek for independence as “relief for its sorrows”.
On the second, he warned the Filipinos that, if they should take up their country’s cause motivated by personal hatred and ambition, they would, far from helping it, only make it suffer all the more.
Rizal wanted to say that only those actions that would benefit the Filipinos were those dictated by true patriotism, which not only demands the sacrifice of personal revenge and ambition for the common good, but also the lack of self-interest, in fact the abnegation and gratitude of Elias, symbolizing the love and devotion of Rizal to the motherland.
It is undeniable that the desire for improvement was widespread; it is not possible to explain otherwise that mistrust and hatred of the Filipinos, from the most ignorant to the most cultured, were beginning to turn towards the friars after realizing that the latter had tenaciously opposed all reform.
The love and respect that everyone professed for Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar and all the other patriots manifested clearly and openly the political aspirations of the Filipinos.
That La Solidaridad had faithfully interpreted those aspirations was likewise shown by the fact that its expenses were met by Filipinos residing in the islands, who were thus risking their personal safety and interests.
From the start of the periodical’s release, a number of Manila residents, calling themselves propagandists, distributed the issues that which were smuggled into the city, and collected the subscriptions and contributions given by patriots in Manila and neighboring provinces.
But when Rizal realized that these ill-coordinated efforts yielded little, he thought of organizing a society called Liga Filipina.
But inaugurating it a few days before his exile to Dapitan in Mindanao, in posthaste it did not define the objectives of the association.
The statute of this association was limited to the establishment by the votes of its members of people’s councils in the towns, a provincial council in every province, and a supreme council for the whole archipelago.
It was refueled later on the initiative of Don Domingo Franco, Andres Bonifacio, and others, giving the post of secretary of the supreme council to Mabini. They fix-ed the objectives of the society in a short program couched in the following language:
- to contribute to the support of La Solidaridad and the reforms it asked;
- to raise funds to meet the expenses not only of the periodical but also of the public meetings organized to support such reforms and of the (Spanish) parliamentarians who would advocate them;
- to have recourse to all peaceful and legal means, thus transforming the society into a political party (I assume this was for possible representation in the Spanish Cortes).
Mabini wrote that the Liga had promising beginnings: the majority of the members of the supreme council were persons known for their learning, patriotism and social status.
Thanks to the efforts of Andres Bonifacio and others, people’s councils were soon set up in Tondo and Trozo, while others were organized in Santa Cruz, Ermita, Malate, Sampaloc, Pandacan and more.
Subsequently a small monthly contribution was required from every member, the proceeds of which were applied to the expenses of La Solidaridad, which were the most urgently to be met.
The members paid their dues at first; but later got discouraged as because the Spanish government simply ignored the periodical. Upon investigation it was learned that those who organized the people’s councils had not properly appraised the signups of the society’s programs as well as their obligations as members.
The supreme council, which was more of an organizing committee as its members were not voted upon, saw clearly that, as soon as the rank and file elected their leaders, the emerging leadership would not waste time initiating changes.
The council also learned the hard way that the masses, whom the Spaniards believed to be brutish or at best indifferent, would dominate in redefining political aspirations and priorities.
Thus, the so-called supreme council, realizing that the work of conciliation and compromise could bring no results, declared the dissolution of the society so that the disagreements among its members should not lead to its discovery by the authorities.
Those who were in favor of keeping up the fortnightly publication formed one group, calling themselves the Compromisarios because each one engaged to pay a monthly contribution of five pesos to meet its expenses.
Soon enough Andres Bonifacio, who had tirelessly recruited more members for the society, became convinced of the uselessness of peaceful means. For his part, reorganized the society under the name of Katipunan ng manga Anak ng Bayan (Association of the Sons of the People), already with independence as its objective.
The Katipunan grew very rapidly because as said earlier, the masses were exasperated over the insolent and provocative way in which the friars carried out their campaigned against reforms.
In retrospect, however, if the organization of political associations had been permitted in the archipelago, and if the middle class, which was the most educated and influential, had been able to move freely, it could have undoubtedly calmed the people’s anger down and obstructed the growth of the Katipunan since that middle class was resolutely in favor of the Liga’s program, even after having endured most cruel sufferings, and even more after the Pact of Biak-na-Bato that exiled the Filipino leaders to Hongkong including Aguinaldo.
(To be continued)