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Looking Back

Mabini by Mabini

Unlike Rizal, who left 25 volumes of writing to keep an academic industry alive, Apolinario Mabini left only two volumes that are not readily available to general readers in English or Filipino. There are also other writings scattered in the former “Philippine Insurgent Records” in the government papers, as well as correspondence that he worked on when he was prime minister and foreign minister of the First Philippine Republic.

Mabini was nominated to be chief justice, but was blocked by individuals and interests that could not bend his ethics. These dark forces hinted that his paralysis was due to syphilis. An autopsy in 1980 concluded that it was caused by polio. They were not comfortable with his having the ear of the president, and referred to him as the “camara negra”—literally “black chamber”—of the latter, and they successfully got him out of their way. He was in power for less than a year, and upon his retirement started to reflect on the revolution and why it failed.

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In Mabini’s writings, we find three autobiographical texts, the first composed of only eight lines in Spanish:

“I was born in 1864 in Tanawan, Batangas.

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“I went to school in Manila in 1881.

“I spent 1882-83 in Bawan.

“I returned to Manila to take a course in philosophy in 1884-85.

“I spent 1886-87 in Lipa. During this time I obtained the degrees of bachelor of arts and high school teacher.

“I studied law in 1888 and was graduated in 1894.

“I was paralyzed in January 1896. I was imprisoned by the Spaniards in October of that year, and released in June the following year.

“I was with Aguinaldo from June 1898 until May 1899. In December 1899 I was captured by the Americans, and deported to Guam in January 1901.”

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The next two texts were written in English while he was in exile in Guam. That written on Feb. 17, 1900, 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 have 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 third autobiography was written on Nov. 19, 1900, for a Brooklyn woman named Luisita Blanchard and 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 share 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.”

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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