Looking Back

Mabini by Mabini

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Vetsin in my lunch made me so sleepy I almost missed my Inquirer deadline. They say MSG isn’t good for you, but heck, why are most things that taste or feel good bad for me? Why can’t ampalaya taste as good as a chocolate bar so more people will eat and enjoy it? I remember my childhood, when adults presumed I would choke on a capsule; they opened it, poured the bitter powder on a spoon with water, and forced the vile mix into my mouth. Why can’t all medicine taste like antipolio drops or chewable Vitamin C that comes in many colors and shapes?

This reminded me of Apolinario Mabini, known as the “Sublime Paralytic,” who loved fresh carabao milk. Nobody thought of pasteurization or simply boiling the fresh milk in his Nagtahan home. Thus, tainted milk led to his death by cholera soon after his return from exile in Guam in 1903.

Mabini wrote a short telegram-like autobiography of eight simple Spanish sentences that I have earlier written about. I came across two more, in English, that are worth reproducing here.

The first was written on Feb. 17, 1900, while he was in exile in Guam. Written at the request of an American officer it reads:

“I was born in Tanawan town, province of Batangas, on July 23rd, 1864. My parents were peasantmen and my grandfather took care of my elementary instruction at my school age. When it was over, I said to my parents that I needed more ample instruction and they in spite of their poverty carried [me] out to an old clergyman manager of a college in my town with whom I learned the first three years of high instruction.

“In July 1881 I came to Manila and followed the fourth course of that high instruction at St. John de Letran College. The following year I returned to my town, because my poor parents were not able to defray my further instruction, and I spent two years with my old professor, then in the town of Bawan in the same province, as an auxiliary teacher, receiving a small salary. At this time my mother died.

“In 1884 I came again to Manila and followed the two courses of philosophy at the said college and the Saint Thomas University. During 1886-87 I was compelled to remain as an auxiliary teacher of a college of Lipa town in my province. In these years I took the academical degrees of bachelor of arts and professor of high instruction.

“In 1888 I studied the science of law divided into six courses or years at St. Thomas University of Manila and in March 1894 I took the academical degree of lawyer. During my studies I have practiced in court and financial offices and a notarial office in Manila, to get some money for my support and other trifling expenses.

“In January 1896 I got a paralysis, illness which I am still suffering. In August of the same year the first insurrection broke out, and in the following October Spanish authorities put me into Saint John hospital [San Juan de Dios] in kind of a prisoner, mistakenly believing I had some participation in the insurrection. In June of 1897 I was released and after a few days my father died at my native town.

“In the beginning of the year 1898 I went out from Manila to Mainit town in the province of Laguna to taste the curative qualities of that spring’s waters. Very soon I had to transport myself to Bay town of the same province, where I remained until a letter from Aguinaldo, who had recently arrived at Kabite and whom I did not personally know, calling me to his side, was received.”

The second autobiography was written 112 years ago on Nov. 19, 1900, for a Brooklyn woman named Luisita Blanchard. It reads:

“I am very much obliged to you for your deep sympathy and true friendship toward me as well as for your sorrow for my illness. Let me shake very friendly and warmly your hand across the seas, seeing that it is indiscreet to kiss it.

“To correspond your familiarity I tell you that about thirty-five years ago I was born in a town of Batangas province at the South of Manila between Kabite and Laguna provinces and between the lake of Bay and the lake of Bombon or Taal. By my father and mother I am of pure native origin. Although my parents were poor I got some instructions and became a lawyer, thanks to persistive efforts. Since January 1896, I cannot stand because of a weakness in my waist and legs. I do not suffer any other ache and I look as if I were not sick. The physicians say that I will never recover my health; but I do not despair because I am still able to do something good for my country. Fortunately I have neither wife nor children, for this reason is more tolerable the sadness of my life, for I do not suffer in my loves except in that of my country. My father and mother are dead.”

Mabini sent Luisita some sheet music, our national anthem, with the admission that he was “fond of reading, but ignorant of music.” Luisita shared her dreams with Mabini in a letter that is now lost, prompting him to write: “[Y]ou are a true Filipina by heart and feelings and so I love and admire you. Your dream is very strange indeed, but very explicable to the Spiritists or believers in the spirits.”

He closed by stating: “I appreciate the American women in their culture and independent habits which render them utterly helpful workers to the aggrandizement of womankind. You are a highest example. Your very thankful and affectionate friend, Ap. Mabini.”

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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