Apolinario Mabini: a Short Biography Translated from “Mga Dakilaḡ Pilipino”
[In this article: Apolinario Mabini, Filipino Heroes, Batangas Province, Notable Batangueños, Tanauan Batangas, Talaga Tanauan]
Can you see dear reader the one peso paper bill2 the face of our countryman whose heroism has been so honored this way by the government?
That image is none other than Apolinario Mabini, the Admirable Cripple who was the brains behind the revolution. The fruits of the revolution that led to the downfall of the powers-that-be in our land had something to do with our countryman to whom we devote this short essay.
If you are fortunate, you may find a copy of the popular “Ordinances of the Revolution3,” which in July of the year 1898 General Emilio Aguinaldo decided should be printed and sold for a peso4 so that its contents may become known to the populace. That important publication, dear reader, was a product of the rich mind of our Mabini. Read it with all your heart and you will discern the sanctity of our revolution, the holy struggles of your countrymen to prepare your arrival into a nation worthy of your ancestry, one that is free, independent and full of greatness.
Apolinario is a son that his province and his ancestors can be proud of, and can be regarded as a hero of the Philippine nation, even though the place where he was born is but a small part of the historic province of Batangan.
Tanawan! A blessed town that gave Mother Philippines a great son, I greet you; you are blessed by the Good Star, because beneath the Heavens above you first saw the light of day one soldier of the people, Apolinario Mabini.
Mabini was the child of Inocencio and Dionisia Maranan and was born on in 1864. They were people who had no great wealth to boast of except the greater wealth of being able to live a life of dignity from the fruits of their own labor.
Although not wealthy, the family found a way to ensure that Mabini got a good education, and with the help of a father-figure named Juan Maranan, his mind was awoken, and after finishing basic education, he transferred (schools) ready to take on all challenges, and under the care of a holy priest named Valerio Malabanan who illuminated his mind against the walls of darkness. Mabini came to love his mentor because of his intelligence and admirably good ways.
He finished secondary education under the care of the said priest, but Mabini continued to thirst for knowledge, so in 1881, he went to Manila where he offered to teach in the school of Melchor Very, while at the same time studying at San Juan de Letran. He showed the ability to undertake great sacrifices, but the proof of this was in the “Bachiller en Artes” (Bachelor of Arts) degree that he received in accordance with his new life.
He wanted to continue his studies at the University of Santo Tomas, but his income from the school of Melchor Very was insufficient to meet the would-be financial requirements, so instead he applied to work for government and was accepted as clerk, whereby he became acquainted with a lawyer named Numeriano Adriano while he was still training for the job.
The silent movement of the oppressed started to become widespread in eight Tagalog provinces, and the carefully kept secret of the revolution of the “Sons of the Nation” was slowly becoming known to those in the (colonial) government. In Balintawak, the hero Bonifacio had no choice out loud the wishes of the oppressed, a cry accompanied by daggers and brotherhood, a holy struggle that greatly inflamed the heart of Mabini, who immediately heeded the call of the nation for help from its sons, so that it may be freed from bondage. Because of this, Mabini was arrested and imprisoned until 1897, but because by then he had already become a cripple, he was released in the belief that he would no longer participate in the revolution.
The first phase of the revolution concluded with the signing of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato. Mabini went to Los Baños to get healed from his ailment, but the government of Spain and the United States became embroiled in a conflict5, and before long the drama of war came to the Philippine Islands because of the conflict between the two nations, he (Mabini) wrote important articles about the possible involvement of the Tagalogs in the war between the two nations, and his writings reached Aguinaldo who decided that he would make a good adviser. Aguinaldo, therefore, invited Mabini to Kawit, and in accepting the invitation Mabini said, “I am not at peace because my countrymen are not at peace. Their cries for change have not been heeded.”
Mabini became Aguinaldo’s prime adviser and among his first acts was to change the revolutionary government to a dictatorial government.
Mabini set up the components of government, the provinces, the Judiciary, the armed forces, and he wrote the constitution of the revolutionary government, something for which he became famous.
When the revolutionary council was set up in Barasoain, Mabini was appointed Premier to Aguinaldo, and the constitution was not examined until January of the year 1898 so that the powers of the President (Aguinaldo) would not be diminished, as Mabini believed was needed at the time.
Because of a disagreement with Aguinaldo over a proposal that was not implemented, he resigned from government, and his position as taken over by Pedro Paterno on the 23rd of August in the year 1898.
Although he resigned his position sa Prime Minister, he did not cease in devoting his energy to efforts that would lead to Philippine nationhood. He wrote articles aimed at encouraging patriots in La Independencia6.
Mabini was taken prisoners by American soldiers in Kuyapo7, Nueva Ecija, in December of the year 1899, and he was brought to Manila where he was imprisoned until September of the year 1900.
In 1901, he published a work criticizing the governance of the United States in the Philippines in El Liberal, which became the reason for his arrest and subsequent exile to Guam, along with the patriot Pablo Ocampo.
When peace returned as a consequence of the conclusion of the (Philippine-American) war, all who were sent into exile were allowed to return on the condition that they all swore an oath of allegiance to the United States government in the Philippines, but Mabini refused, so he had to stay on in Guam for another six months, before he was allowed to travel, although he was not allowed to live in the Philippines until he took the oath of allegiance.
After spending time discerning, he realized that he could do more for the country by returning, instead of being a wanderer, and on February 1903, he signed the oath of allegiance. He was offered a high position in government but refused, saying, “My ailment prevents me from doing the things that I need to do, and I am being invited and forced to live in peace, so that I may take care of my shame, not shame from having done something shameful, but from my failure my obligations towards my homeland.
Death came to Mabini on 13 May of the year 1903. So passed one true son of the Philippines, and like other great men before him, he also left behind a legacy of greatness worthy of being studied by others.
Because of the greatness of this countryman (of ours), it was decided to honor him by printing his face on the one peso bill, and to the Province of Batangas was erected a memorial that would perpetuate his service to his homeland.
We end this short essay on the life of a person born to common parents, raised and died in poverty, not because he did not know how to make himself wealthy, but because all of his life’s work and knowledge, he have fully to the altar of the Motherland8.
The commandments according to Mabini were:
- Love God and your own honor above all else.
- Love God according to what your conscience regards as right and with honor.
- Nurture the gifts that God gave you.
- Love your country next to God, and your honor more than your own self.
- Prioritize the good of your nation to your own good.
- Do all you can for the freedom of your homeland.
- Never recognize authority in your homeland of anyone you or your countrymen have not chosen.
- Do all you can so that your homeland may become a republic and never allow it to become a monarchy.
- Love others as you love yourself.
- Always look upon your countrymen a little more than how you do your own neighbor.
In 1921, it was decided that his remains, which were buried in a Chinese cemetery, be transferred somewhere worthy of a hero, so his remains were exhumed. The earth respected and did not erode his holy body; and after all the honors were bestowed upon him by the government and an admiring nation, his remains were transferred to the Libingan ng mga Bayaning Pilipino, which was known as Pantheon of the Veterans of the Revolution.
If, one day, dear reader, you come to visit the cemetery in the north9, the Pantheon of the Veterans of the Revolution will show you names of personalities to whom you owe the changes to government that once they aspired for. In the middle of the pantheon can be found the place where rests the “Great Cripple” to whom this essay is dedicated.
Pray to God that your own freedom for which they gave their lives may become reality.
May the day come when we can all say that we are free10.
2 As all readers likely know, in the present day, there is no one-peso bill and the face on the one-peso coin is the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. “Coins of the Philippine peso,” Wikipedia.
3 In Spanish, Ordenanzas de la Revolución.
4 The Tagalog used was “mamiseta,” which probably meant “for a peseta” or peso.
5 the original Tagalog word used was “nagkatitigan” or stared at each other, a stare down.
6 La Independencia was a revolutionary newspaper. “La Independencia,” Wikipedia.
7 Present spelling Cuyapo.
8 The exact wording in Tagalog was “dambana ng Inang Bayan.”
9 The phrase used was “Libingan sa Hilaga.” In the present day, Mabini’s remains rest in his home barrio of Talaga in Tanauan, Batangas.
10 The biography was published in 1922, and Philippine Independence from the United States, as all Filipinos know, would not come until 1946.