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Alab ng Puso



The first stanzas of the Philippine National Anthem speak of the fervor and passion, “Alab ng Puso,” in the heart of the country to protect and hold its independence from invaders and aggressors: “Sa manlulupig, di ka pasisiil.”

Today, June 12, 2023, is Independence Day, one century and a quarter (125 years) after the self-proclaimed Philippine Independence from Spain by the fragmented Filipino revolutionists led by Emilio Aguinaldo of the Magdalo faction of the Katipunan revolutionary movement founded by Andres Bonifacio.

The Cavite Mutiny of Jan. 20, 1872 is believed by historians to have been the beginning of Filipino nationalism that would eventually lead to the Philippine Revolution of 1896 (Chandler, David P. In search of Southeast Asia: a modern history. University of Hawaii Press). Some 200 Filipino military personnel of the Fort San Felipe arsenal in Cavite were angered by the withdrawal of their special tax-free status on wages and exemption from forced-labor duty at various camps. Eleven Spanish officers were killed by the mutineers.

Three Filipino secular Catholic priests — Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (collectively called “Gomburza”) — were implicated by Francisco Zaldua, a traitor-mutineer, who testified that the priests urged Filipino parishioners to raise nationalist protests. The three priests were executed by garrote (strangulation by torniquet) at the Luneta field, also known in Tagalog as Bagumbayan, on Feb. 17, 1872. Zaldua, the traitor-false witness was executed with them. The military court also sentenced 41 mutineers to death and the rest to life imprisonment or to exile to the Marianas (now Guam). Finally, a decree was made stating there were to be no further ordinations/appointments of Filipinos as Roman Catholic parish priests.

Jose Rizal’s brother Paciano was a close friend of Fr. Burgos. When in March 1882, Rizal, then 21 years old, left the Philippines to continue his medical studies in Spain at the Universidad Central de Madrid, he was afire with the passionate determination to hoist his country, Bayang Magiliw, from the injustice and unfairness of the colonial hold. He poured out his angst in his first novel, Noli Me Tangere (“Touch Me Not”), published in 1884. It quickly caught the attention and following of the expat Filipino intelligentsia and even the locals in Europe — social and political rights were the focus in Europe at that time, and with floundering of the monarchic systems came the clamor for participative and democratic governments.

Filipino expatriates in Spain, among them Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar, Antonio Luna, and Mariano Ponce, established the organization La Solidaridad in December 1888, not really to push for Philippine independence, but to foster closer relationships between Spain and the Philippines. Through a newspaper of the same name, reforms and improvements were suggested, including the representation by direct participation of Filipinos in the new Spanish congress. Rizal might have become impatient for reactions to their cause, and so he wrote a more hard-hitting sequel to his NoliEl Filibusterismo (a.k.a. “Social Cancer” and “The Reign of Greed”) which chastised and parodied the abuses, corruption and manipulations of the establishment, juxtaposing the elitism and pretentions of some social-climbing nouveau-riche Filipinos who subserviently fed the colonial greed.

Rizal returned to his beloved country, “Lupang Hinirang,” in June 1892 and immediately established the reformist society, La Liga Filipina. Barely a month after his arrival, Spanish authorities arrested Rizal for subversion and inciting to rebellion, and exiled him to Dapitan where he languished for four years.

Revolutionary documents from Archivo General Militar de Madrid rediscovered in the 21st century suggest that the secret revolutionary society, Kataastaasang, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK or Katipunan), had been organized by Andres Bonfacio et al. as early as January 1892 but may not have become active until July 7 of the same year; that was the date Jose Rizal was to be banished to Dapitan (Tempo. Feb. 5, 2015). Rizal set the revolutionary fires ablaze.

When Cuba revolted against Spain in February 1895, dictatorial control tightened even more over the colonized Philippines. Movements and activities were closely monitored, focusing on the Katipunan. Perhaps to keep Rizal even more apart from the growing revolutionary fever, he was required by the Governor-General to serve as a physician for the Spanish army in Cuba. But just as Rizal returned to Manila to go to Cuba, the Katipunan, which was secretly stirring protests in the provinces, was discovered when whistle-blower Teodoro Patiño revealed it to Fr. Mariano Gil, an Augustinian priest.

The revolutionaries tore their cedulas (residence or tribute tax certificate) as a symbol of their determination and defiance at the Cry of Pugad Lawin on Aug. 23, 1886. Andres Bonifacio, Supremo of the Katipunan, issued a manifesto urging the Filipinos to take up arms against the Spaniards. Governor-General Blanco proclaimed a state of war in eight rebel provinces, placing the provinces of Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac, and Nueva Ecija under martial law (reference: Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines).

On Dec. 30, 1896, Rizal was executed by firing squad in Bagumbayan, Luneta, on the same field where the three Gomburza priests were executed by the garrote 24 years before.

Lupang hinirangduyan ka ng magiting!” (Land dear and holy, cradle of noble heroes.) Perhaps panicking from the loss of the figurative leader of the revolution, the competing and often disagreeing factions of the Magdalo group, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, and the Magdiwang group, led by Andres Bonifacio, met the day after Rizal’s execution to resolve disputes over leadership.

At the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897, Aguinaldo and Mariano Trias were elected as President and Vice-President of the revolutionary government. Bonifacio could not believe he lost to Aguinaldo and was not even given a Cabinet post. He declared the popular election null and void and insisted on continuing with his own independent operations under his re-organized Katipunan. Aguinaldo ordered Bonifacio arrested and charged with treason and sedition. He was tried and convicted by his enemies and executed on May 10, 1897 (from the Library of Congress,

Thousands of suspected revolutionists were executed, imprisoned, or exiled. On Dec. 15, 1897, the Pact of Biak-na-bato was signed between Spanish colonial Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera and the revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo to end the Philippine Revolution. Aguinaldo and his fellow revolutionaries were given amnesty and indemnity of 800,000 Mexican dollars in return for self-exile to Hong Kong (Mabini, A., 1969, The Philippine Revolution, Republic of the Philippines Department of Education, National Historical Commission).

Meantime, the Spanish-American War over Cuba in April-August 1898 led the US to attack Spain’s Pacific fleet in Manila Bay. Defeated, Spain had surrendered to the US in Cuba, and on Dec. 10, 1898, Spain and the US signed the Treaty of Paris wherein Spain renounced its claim to Cuba, ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States, and gave the United States sovereignty over the Philippines in exchange for $20 million.

Philippine revolutionaries revived the cry for independence. The Philippine-American War raged from 1899-1901, until Aguinaldo was captured by US forces led by General Frederick Funston. American rule over the Philippines started, and in 1916, the US Congress passed the Jones Law, which served as the new organic act, or constitution, for the Philippines. Its preamble stated that the eventual independence of the Philippines would be American policy, subject to the establishment of a stable government. In 1934, Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act to establish the process for the Philippines to become an independent country after a 10-year transition period (Zaide, Philippine History, 1994).

On July 4, 1946, representatives of the United States of America and of the Republic of the Philippines signed the Treaty of General Relations between the two governments. The treaty provided for the recognition of the independence of the Republic of the Philippines as of July 4, 1946, and the relinquishment of American sovereignty over the Philippine Islands.

It actually took 74 years from the awakening of the 1872 Cavite Mutiny for true independence to be benevolently given by a foreign dominator in 1946. But the ardor of our heroes — “Alab ng Puso” — to fight for elusive freedom must not be diminished or less appreciated for the painful tests of fate and circumstance that delayed independence.

Love of country can be best be shown by true concern for the integrity and honor of the country and its people — speaking up in fraternal correction against abuses and wrongdoing of leaders and followers, improving ways and rectifying wrongs within capabilities and reinforcing values for peace and justice by good example to inspire others.

Alab ng puso, sa dibdib mo’y buhay! 

Corporate Watch

Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.

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