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Looking Back

Not just Gomburza

02:51 AM February 18, 2015

If you take the trouble to explore the area around the Rizal monument in the Luneta, you will come across other bits and relics of Philippine history. If you are facing the monument, you will find on the right side: a memorial to Rizal’s Czech friend, Ferdinand Bumentritt; an old stone fountain, presented to the Philippines in 1961 as a gift from the obscure German town where Rizal lived and allegedly drank from it; and a statue of a Filipino woman, one of four sculptures that ornamented the prewar Jones Bridge (another two are in the Court of Appeals building in Ermita). On the left side of the monument you will find: a small enclosed area that marks the spot where Rizal was shot dead, and a squat whitewashed obelisk that marks the spot where three Filipino secular priests—Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez and Jacinto Zamora—were executed by garrote.

Textbook history makes it easier for us to remember the three priests as “Gomburza” (for Gomez, Burgos and Zamora). Who thought up this sequence? If we follow the alphabetical order, the acronym should be “Burgomza.” If we follow seniority at the time of death, then it should be Gomzabur—Gomez was 73 years old, Zamora 37, and Burgos 35—and the opposite if we start from the youngest—Burzagom. Textbook history instills Gomburza in young minds and forgets Francisco Zaldua, who was executed on the same date and place before Gomburza. And that’s not all: Aside from Gomburza and Zaldua, so many others, forgotten by history, were implicated in and punished for the Cavite Mutiny of 1872.

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Maybe they are not important enough, or maybe our teachers did not want to clutter our minds with more useless information, but the military court that tried the case punished more than Gomburza. On Jan. 26, 1872, the military court sentenced 41 mutineers to death. The next day, however, the governor pardoned 28 and confirmed the sentence of 13. Their names are not in our textbooks.

On Feb. 6, 1872, the military court sentenced another 11 mutineers to death, but the governor commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment. On Feb. 8, 1872, the military court sentenced Camerino, commander of the Guias de la Torre, to death and 11 of his men to 10 years in prison. The governor confirmed this decision without any changes. On Feb. 15, 1872, the military court sentenced Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora as well as Zaldua to death by garrote and imposed 10-year imprisonment on Enrique Paraiso, Maximo Innocencio and Crisanto de los Reyes. On Feb. 29, 1872, the military court sentenced eight Filipino soldiers to death by firing squad. Two were pardoned by the governor.

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I have to do more research to find out why and how some people were sentenced to death and others to imprisonment or exile, and why the three priests and Zaldua were sentenced to death by garrote while six soldiers were dispatched by a firing squad. From the sentences imposed, it is clear that what followed the Cavite Mutiny was a period best described by historian O.D. Corpuz as the “Terror of 1872”—a wave of arrest, execution, imprisonment and exile that silenced a whole generation but influenced young boys at the time, like Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini, Aguinaldo, etc. to become the heroes in our pantheon.

Last but not least were the people sentenced by the military court to exile in the Marianas (Guam): Fr. Pedro Dandan, Fr. Mariano Sevilla, Toribio H. del Pilar (brother of Marcelo H. del Pilar), Agustin Mendoza, Jose Guevara, Miguel Lasa, Justo Guazon, Fr. Aniceto Desiderio, Fr. Vicente del Rosario, Joaquin Pardo de Tavera, Antonio Ma. Regidor, Jose Basa y Enriquez, Mauricio de Leon, Pedro Carillo, Gervasio Sanchez, Jose Ma. Basa, Pio Basa, Balvino Mauricio, Maximo Paterno (father of Pedro Paterno), and Valentin Tosca. All these names are in some books but they are largely forgotten in a story that focuses only on Gomburza. Rizal dedicated his second novel, “El Filibusterismo” (Ghent, 1891), to Gomburza. In his doing so, the rest of the people implicated in the events of 1872 were lost to textbook history.

It is unfortunate that the late Gregorio F. Zaide’s two-volume textbook, “The Pageant of Philippine History” (Manila, 1979), is not in use in schools today because it is full of information left out in the textbooks of his competitors. Zaide may be old-fashioned to a generation that grew up with the works of nationalist historians Teodoro A. Agoncillo and Renato Constantino, but I have always appreciated his two-volume work. One may not find Zaide’s writing style or viewpoint to one’s taste, but in his footnotes he gives the interested reader the leads to follow up on in the primary sources. In contentious issues like the so-called Cry of Balintawak or Pugad Lawin, for example, Zaide gives his opinion, his stand in the main text, but provides in the footnotes all the other places and dates where and when the Philippine Revolution is supposed to have started.

I saw Zaide once in the National Library, and I now regret not speaking to him because my college teachers told me not to read his work. No historian is perfect, but if he provides the reader with the data and the tools to form conclusions different from his own, then he has made the reader a historian, too.

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Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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TAGS: Burgos, Cry of Balintawak, Ferdinand Blumentritt, Gomburza, Gomez, Gregorio F. Zaide, History, Luneta, Philippine history, Pugad Lawin, Rizal, Zamora
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