Tag Archives: Apolinario Mabini

Column: What we (still) don’t know about Antonio Luna

Published on September 29, 2015.

In “Heneral Luna,” the actor Alvin Anson portrays Jose Alejandrino—the revolutionary general whose memoirs serve as a supplemental source for the acclaimed movie. Those memoirs, published in 1933 and translated into English in 1949, offer the fullest portrait of his good friend, the mercurial Antonio Luna. It gives us vivid impressions (to borrow Luna’s favorite literary style) of his student days in Europe, his tumultuous year with the Army of the Malolos Republic—and, in 1896, his hour of treason and cowardice.

A two-paragraph section in Alejandrino’s “The Price of Freedom” and titled “Antonio Luna in the year 1896” makes for necessary reading.

“It appears in official documents that in this period Luna committed the greatest error of his life in denouncing the existence of the Katipunan and in revealing, during his imprisonment after the first outbreak of the rebellion, the names of some of his friends affiliated with the Society. Later, he explained however to me his aforesaid acts by saying that with the physical and moral tortures which he suffered during his imprisonment, and upon being assured by the Spaniards that he had been squealed upon by his own friends, denouncing him as an accomplice in the rebellion, his violent character made him lose his better judgment. And having fallen for the scheme woven by the Spaniards, he declared that those who had denounced him were more guilty than he.

“The events of 1896 separated us from each other, he having been prosecuted and later on sentenced to suffer imprisonment in Spain, while I left the country for China and Japan [on official missions for Emilio Aguinaldo to procure arms for the revolution]. We were able to see each [other] again in Kabite toward the month of July, 1898. He was returning home after having served his sentence in the Model Prison of Madrid, and he brought with him in his baggage books on military strategy and tactics and treatises on field fortifications. Above all, he brought with him a desire to atone for his past mistakes.” Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in History, Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: Apolinario Mabini vs General Luna

The first of five columns provoked, or inspired, by two viewings of Jerrold Tarog’s “Heneral Luna.” Published on September 22, 2015. 

Jerrold Tarog’s “Heneral Luna” is a masterpiece of filmmaking; we should all see it. But it is, primarily, art; only, secondarily, history. Learning to distinguish one from the other is an exhilarating, necessary, education.

The “but” in the lead is a testament to the movie’s persuasive power. Much of this power lies in the astute casting, in the sweeping cinematography, in the compelling pace of the storytelling; some of it rests on the familiar structure of the narrative: of one against many, of country before self, of nation above class, of good versus evil.

The movie begins, and ends, with a disclaimer about creative license. Tarog’s reimagining of parts of Philippine history has inspired spirited discussion in the classroom or animated conversations over coffee or beer, about the shape of our history and about our own role in the shaping. (I overheard one conversation between early-twentysomethings; they were hoping that, perhaps, just perhaps, box-office results would lead to a trilogy of movies—a trilogy about Philippine revolutionary heroes, not comic-book or Young Adult characters!) Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in History, Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: Why Ninoy?

Published on November 25, 2014.

Let me begin with a basic question: Is Ninoy Aquino a role model of good governance? Millions of Filipinos see him as a modern-day martyr and (as a 2011 Social Weather Stations survey reminded us) a genuine hero. But is he the sort of political figure who represents the ideal that a school of government should aspire to form, to graduate?

When the Ateneo School of Government was renamed last August after Ninoy and his wife, the late ex-president Corazon Aquino, the reaction, or at least the response I was able to monitor, was generally positive. This reading may have been a result of the filter bubbles I am wittingly or unwittingly encased in, but as far as the Aquinos are concerned (in August 2009, for instance, I wrote a series of four columns on the legacy of this influential family), I think my opinion closely tracks that of a national majority.

As we prepare to mark Ninoy’s 82nd birth anniversary (it is to be held later this week), we can revisit the original question, and perhaps rephrase it: Was Ninoy a martyr in the mold of a Thomas More, who was by all accounts an excellent administrator before Henry VIII turned against him, or was he more like Jose Rizal, less a political personality than a heroic one, whose violent death sealed his fate as a national hero? Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Politics

Column: Mabini in America

Published on November 18, 2014.

Late in December 1899, an advertisement appeared in the pages of at least two New York newspapers. It was a notice that the January 1900 issue of the North American Review, a journal of letters and opinion pieces, was already on sale.

The format of the advertisement included a package of six essays on the Second Boer War, which had just broken out in South Africa. There was a “character study” by the influential critic Edmund Gosse, an account of the Anglican crisis by the controversial Protestant theologian Charles Augustus Briggs, and a book review of the letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, by the eminent novelist Henry James.

Between the essays on the Boer War, packaged under the rubric “The War for an Empire,” and the review by Henry James was “A Filipino Appeal to the American People,” by Apolinario Mabini. Of the 14 authors listed in the advertisement, only three were new or under-known enough to warrant an identifying label. Mabini’s is “Formerly Prime Minister in Aguinaldo’s Cabinet.” Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column

Column: Taking a swipe at the Cardinal?

Published on January 29, 2013. It seems Inquirer.net added videos to the story some time after my column came out.

A Jesuit friend I esteem cried foul recently over Karen Boncocan’s characterization of a major homily given by the new Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle. (The homily, on the occasion of the Feast of Jesus the Nazarene, was read, or rather extemporized, on Jan. 9, but I read my friend’s e-mail to me only the other day.)

My friend wrote: The “news report about Chito Tagle taking a ‘swipe’ against the RH Bill makes gratuitously speculative assertions that I think are inappropriate for a news report. If she [the reporter] were an opinion writer, one could let that pass. But she is supposed to be reporting news and what she does is make assertions here that cannot, in my view, be squared with the actual text of Chito’s homily. Would you know anything about whether this is just a lapse or according to some kind of editorial policy?”

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Media, Readings in Religion

Column: An eyewitness account of Mabini’s funeral

Katas ng Harvard. Published on January 22, 2013.

While rummaging through microfiche copies of newspaper clippings “relating to the Philippine question” at Harvard’s Widener Library last year, I came across the following excerpt from a diary recorded by an American woman visiting the Philippines in 1903. Several entries from the diary had been published in a newspaper sympathetic to Philippine aspirations, likely the Boston Evening Transcript, and this one, in particular, all but jumped out at me.

Not even Cesal Adib Majul’s standard biography of Apolinario Mabini contains a detailed account of his funeral—a massive outpouring of grief, prefiguring the 1983 funeral of Ninoy Aquino. Mabini died on May 13, 1903; he was buried on May 16, a Saturday. The diary entry is dated the following Tuesday; together with other excerpts, it was published on July 17, 1903.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Nieman Notes

My heart jumped …

when I saw who had collected (and donated?) a most useful set of newspaper clippings I found at Harvard’s magnificent Widener Library. And to top it all: Somewhere in the middle of the reel (the collection was in microfiche format), I read an unnamed American woman’s eyewitness account of Apolinario Mabini’s funeral, in 1903. I experienced several varieties of religious experience, right then and there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nieman Notes