Getting to know Emilio Jacinto
At the special morning ceremony to mark the 117th death anniversary of the revolutionary hero Emilio Jacinto, former detained activist and now Laguna Rep. Benjamin C. Agarao Jr. lamented how little we know of our Philippine heritage. This holds true, he said, especially concerning our heroes like Jacinto, who we only remember from history classes by the epithet “Brains of the Katipunan.”
The municipality of Magdalena in Laguna has claimed Jacinto (Dec. 15, 1875-April 16, 1899) as one of its own because although he was born in Tondo, it was in Magdalena where he died of malaria.
Jacinto first came to Laguna as the commander in chief of the Katipunan revolutionary forces in the province, and even after the death of his close ally, Andres Bonifacio, he continued fighting the Spanish colonizers. In a battle in nearby Majayjay, Jacinto was wounded and sought refuge in St. Mary Magdalene Parish Church, the preserved stone-and-brick structure dating back to 1851-1871 in the town plaza. The corner of the church where he lay is covered by glass but the years have not preserved his bloodstains well. As National Artist Virgilio Almario says, “One must have faith to see ….”
“Peregrinasyong Jacinto” on April 17 was one of the literary events scheduled by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) chaired by Almario, who also chairs the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Both organizations are the proponents of April as Buwan ng Panitikan, which was signed into law in 2015 by then President Benigno Aquino III. The annual celebration is joined by the National Book Development Board. And indeed, it was a personal pilgrimage for me to get to know Jacinto, about whom there are conflicting stories, and the town where he died.
It was fitting that at the well-planned rites to unveil the prominently displayed, full-size sculpture of Jacinto in the plaza, Mayor David D. Aventurado Jr. required the attendance of public school heads, supervisors and teachers. Like the beautiful Julie Lluch sculpture of Francisco Balagtas in Bataan, this likeness of Jacinto made by the Antipolo-based sculptor Priscillano Vicaldo Jr., who won in the competition for it, is striking, highlighting the hero’s contributions to the Katipunan newspaper Kalayaan (Freedom) under the pen name “Dimasilaw”: He stands tall and courageous, holding a feathered quill. The document he is remembered for today is “Mga Aral ng Katipunan ng mga A.N.B.”
The installation of contemporary memorials of our heroes is commendable and happily continuing as the KWF-NCCA endeavors to visit other provinces.
A must-stop on this pilgrimage was the public library that Mayor Aventurado built also in the plaza, a most noteworthy project that we hope will survive changes in administration. It has no assigned librarian and is presently managed by a former teacher, Sheryl Sierra. It is still not the ideal library as there is no Philippine collection yet, but the latter is forthcoming, it is promised.
Speaking of reading and literacy, my optometrist Dr. Carmen Abesamis Dichoso reminds me that parents and teachers frequently overlook the common factor that discourages readers: the basic fact of not having clear vision and not having the facility to articulate this deficiency. She points out that this is especially critical for persons with intellectual disabilities, like those with Down Syndrome. This is one of the topics at the convention of the Optometric Association of the Philippines scheduled in Silliman University on May 1-3. The keynote speaker is Dr. Sandra Stein Block, a pediatric optometrist from the Illinois College of Optometry whose areas of interest include primary eye care for children and visual problems of persons with disabilities. For information, call 09178228870 or 09173456489 or e-mail [email protected]
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Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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