Remembering Apolinario Mabini

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By Leska Ang


Friday, July 25, 2014

JULY 23, 2014 marked the 150th birthday of Apolinario Mabini, considered as “The Brains of the Revolution.”

Known as one of the Philippines’ most prominent intellectuals, he had served our country as prime minister and adviser under the government of Emilio Aguinaldo after the Revolution had finally ended Spain’s rule.

Mabini is also known for his contributions while being part of the La Liga Filipina, an organization created by Dr. Jose Rizal with the sole purpose of uniting the country, fighting injustice, and fostering the reform movement.


Mabini is also known as “The Sublime Paralytic” – a moniker that history teachers always teach to their students. Unfortunately for most of us, that’s the only tidbit of Mabini’s life that seems to stick with us in the years after high school. I won’t lie, that was the case for me.

Ask 10 children you meet on the street today and perhaps only a few could provide facts about Mabini beyond his paralysis or that he shares a space on our 10-peso coin—and even less would have known that July 23rd, last Wednesday, was Mabini’s 150th birthday.

It would be such a shame if we continue to remember and define the great man by his disability.

In college, Philippine history is revisited and studied in a more sophisticated manner – no more memorizing of names and dates, but more of divulging the life of historical figures and seeing them as regular people who happened to leave great legacies behind.

Mabini was born on July 23, 1864 to a vendor and an illiterate peasant. He was homeschooled and mentored by Maestro Agustin Santiesteban III. But because of his intelligence and diligence in his studies, Mabini was able to transfer to a regular school in exchange for his services as a houseboy.

Financial problems never ceased to be a predicament to Mabini and his family – at one point, he even had to stop his education because of it – but because of his determination and deep desire to defend those who were poor like him, he triumphed over adversities and received his law degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

We always imagine Mabini to be this frail man sitting on a wheelchair though. In fact, when Mabini was summoned to meet Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite, he was carried on a hammock.

His paralysis was also often believed to have been caused by syphilis but that, too, have been struck down, as doctors, after performing an autopsy on his body in 1980, concluded that it was polio.

Historian Ambeth Ocampo, whom I have the honor of being his student, says that the rumors might have been started by Mabini’s detractors in government – which is highly likely as mudslinging in government is certainly not completely unheard of, am I right?

As a law student now, I, once again, came across the life of Mabini in my study of the law as he played an important role to the drafting of the Malolos Constitution, or the law of the First Philippine Republic.

Though Felipe Buencamino’s draft was chosen over Mabini’s and Pedro Paterno’s, Mabini has made revisions on the final draft that was presented to Emilio Aguinaldo. Furthermore, as adviser to the President, he had written many presidential decrees and letters in place of President Aguinaldo, some of which were substantial enough to enact major changes such as a shift in the form of government.

Mabini’s life, like most revolutionary heroes, was short as he died at the age of 38 due to cholera just a few weeks after returning from exile in Guam. But as short as his time here on Earth was, his legacy will be remembered a hundredfold as a brilliant lawyer, a dedicated student, a man who overcame poverty, and a defender of the rights of others.

On July 23, as a tribute to Mabini, Twitter users began a trend #BeMabini to spread the word about our Philippine hero. Here are a few of the tweets posted:

Mike Carganilla?@zlocam: The only disability is attitude. #BeMabini

Seisoufu?@Seisoufu: Look beyond your disabilities. Enhance your abilities. #BeMabini

Johaira ?@johairawahab: He voiced the loudest objections to the separation of Church & State clause in MalolosConsti. His reason: politics, not religion. #BeMabini

AndeePoliarco ?@andzpoliarco: Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. #BeMabini

J. Angelo lasPiñas? @josephangelolp: "I do not need your money. I want the Philippines to be a good one." #BeMabini

MichSantillan @michsantillan: Napag-aralan na ba ninyo ang kasaysayan? Alam na ba ninyo na 'di nagtatapos sa halalan ang laban? #BeMabini

MichSantillan @michsantillan: Ang tunay na lumpo ay yaong mga nagpapabigat sa mga pasanin ng taumbayan. Tumayo at manindigan. #BeMabini

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 25, 2014.


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