THE TWO FACES OF THE 1872 CAVITE MUTINY
By Chris Antonette Piedad-Pugay
The 12th of June of every year since 1898 is a very important event for all the Filipinos. In this particular day, the entire Filipino nation as well as Filipino communities all over the world gathers to celebrate the Philippines’ Independence Day. 1898 came to be a very significant year for all of us— it is as equally important as 1896—the year when the Philippine Revolution broke out owing to the Filipinos’ desire to be free from the abuses of the Spanish colonial regime. But we should be reminded that another year is as historic as the two—1872.
Two major events happened in 1872, first was the 1872 Cavite Mutiny and the other was the martyrdom of the three martyr priests in the persons of Fathers Mariano Gomes, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (GOMBURZA). However, not all of us knew that there were different accounts in reference to the said event. All Filipinos must know the different sides of the story—since this event led to another tragic yet meaningful part of our history—the execution of GOMBURZA which in effect a major factor in the awakening of nationalism among the Filipinos.
1872 Cavite Mutiny: Spanish Perspective
Jose Montero y Vidal, a prolific Spanish historian documented the event and highlighted it as an attempt of the Indios to overthrow the Spanish government in the Philippines. Meanwhile, Gov. Gen. Rafael Izquierdo’s official report magnified the event and made use of it to implicate the native clergy, which was then active in the call for secularization. The two accounts complimented and corroborated with one other, only that the general’s report was more spiteful. Initially, both Montero and Izquierdo scored out that the abolition of privileges enjoyed by the workers of Cavite arsenal such as non-payment of tributes and exemption from force labor were the main reasons of the “revolution” as how they called it, however, other causes were enumerated by them including the Spanish Revolution which overthrew the secular throne, dirty propagandas proliferated by unrestrained press, democratic, liberal and republican books and pamphlets reaching the Philippines, and most importantly, the presence of the native clergy who out of animosity against the Spanish friars, “conspired and supported” the rebels and enemies of Spain. In particular, Izquierdo blamed the unruly Spanish Press for “stockpiling” malicious propagandas grasped by the Filipinos. He reported to the King of Spain that the “rebels” wanted to overthrow the Spanish government to install a new “hari” in the likes of Fathers Burgos and Zamora. The general even added that the native clergy enticed other participants by giving them charismatic assurance that their fight will not fail because God is with them coupled with handsome promises of rewards such as employment, wealth, and ranks in the army. Izquierdo, in his report lambasted the Indios as gullible and possessed an innate propensity for stealing.
The two Spaniards deemed that the event of 1872 was planned earlier and was thought of it as a big conspiracy among educated leaders, mestizos, abogadillos or native lawyers, residents of Manila and Cavite and the native clergy. They insinuated that the conspirators of Manila and Cavite planned to liquidate high-ranking Spanish officers to be followed by the massacre of the friars. The alleged pre-concerted signal among the conspirators of Manila and Cavite was the firing of rockets from the walls of Intramuros.
According to the accounts of the two, on 20 January 1872, the district of Sampaloc celebrated the feast of the Virgin of Loreto, unfortunately participants to the feast celebrated the occasion with the usual fireworks displays. Allegedly, those in Cavite mistook the fireworks as the sign for the attack, and just like what was agreed upon, the 200-men contingent headed by Sergeant Lamadrid launched an attack targeting Spanish officers at sight and seized the arsenal.
When the news reached the iron-fisted Gov. Izquierdo, he readily ordered the reinforcement of the Spanish forces in Cavite to quell the revolt. The “revolution” was easily crushed when the expected reinforcement from Manila did not come ashore. Major instigators including Sergeant Lamadrid were killed in the skirmish, while the GOMBURZA were tried by a court-martial and were sentenced to die by strangulation. Patriots like Joaquin Pardo de Tavera, Antonio Ma. Regidor, Jose and Pio Basa and other abogadillos were suspended by the Audencia (High Court) from the practice of law, arrested and were sentenced with life imprisonment at the Marianas Island. Furthermore, Gov. Izquierdo dissolved the native regiments of artillery and ordered the creation of artillery force to be composed exclusively of the Peninsulares.
On 17 February 1872 in an attempt of the Spanish government and Frailocracia to instill fear among the Filipinos so that they may never commit such daring act again, the GOMBURZA were executed. This event was tragic but served as one of the moving forces that shaped Filipino nationalism.
A Response to Injustice: The Filipino Version of the Incident
Dr. Trinidad Hermenigildo Pardo de Tavera, a Filipino scholar and researcher, wrote the Filipino version of the bloody incident in Cavite. In his point of view, the incident was a mere mutiny by the native Filipino soldiers and laborers of the Cavite arsenal who turned out to be dissatisfied with the abolition of their privileges. Indirectly, Tavera blamed Gov. Izquierdo’s cold-blooded policies such as the abolition of privileges of the workers and native army members of the arsenal and the prohibition of the founding of school of arts and trades for the Filipinos, which the general believed as a cover-up for the organization of a political club.
On 20 January 1872, about 200 men comprised of soldiers, laborers of the arsenal, and residents of Cavite headed by Sergeant Lamadrid rose in arms and assassinated the commanding officer and Spanish officers in sight. The insurgents were expecting support from the bulk of the army unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The news about the mutiny reached authorities in Manila and Gen. Izquierdo immediately ordered the reinforcement of Spanish troops in Cavite. After two days, the mutiny was officially declared subdued.
Tavera believed that the Spanish friars and Izquierdo used the Cavite Mutiny as a powerful lever by magnifying it as a full-blown conspiracy involving not only the native army but also included residents of Cavite and Manila, and more importantly the native clergy to overthrow the Spanish government in the Philippines. It is noteworthy that during the time, the Central Government in Madrid announced its intention to deprive the friars of all the powers of intervention in matters of civil government and the direction and management of educational institutions. This turnout of events was believed by Tavera, prompted the friars to do something drastic in their dire sedire to maintain power in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, in the intention of installing reforms, the Central Government of Spain welcomed an educational decree authored by Segismundo Moret promoted the fusion of sectarian schools run by the friars into a school called Philippine Institute. The decree proposed to improve the standard of education in the Philippines by requiring teaching positions in such schools to be filled by competitive examinations. This improvement was warmly received by most Filipinos in spite of the native clergy’s zest for secularization.
The friars, fearing that their influence in the Philippines would be a thing of the past, took advantage of the incident and presented it to the Spanish Government as a vast conspiracy organized throughout the archipelago with the object of destroying Spanish sovereignty. Tavera sadly confirmed that the Madrid government came to believe that the scheme was true without any attempt to investigate the real facts or extent of the alleged “revolution” reported by Izquierdo and the friars.
Convicted educated men who participated in the mutiny were sentenced life imprisonment while members of the native clergy headed by the GOMBURZA were tried and executed by garrote. This episode leads to the awakening of nationalism and eventually to the outbreak of Philippine Revolution of 1896. The French writer Edmund Plauchut’s account complimented Tavera’s account by confirming that the event happened due to discontentment of the arsenal workers and soldiers in Cavite fort. The Frenchman, however, dwelt more on the execution of the three martyr priests which he actually witnessed.
Unraveling the Truth
Considering the four accounts of the 1872 Mutiny, there were some basic facts that remained to be unvarying: First, there was dissatisfaction among the workers of the arsenal as well as the members of the native army after their privileges were drawn back by Gen. Izquierdo; Second, Gen. Izquierdo introduced rigid and strict policies that made the Filipinos move and turn away from Spanish government out of disgust; Third, the Central Government failed to conduct an investigation on what truly transpired but relied on reports of Izquierdo and the friars and the opinion of the public; Fourth, the happy days of the friars were already numbered in 1872 when the Central Government in Spain decided to deprive them of the power to intervene in government affairs as well as in the direction and management of schools prompting them to commit frantic moves to extend their stay and power; Fifth, the Filipino clergy members actively participated in the secularization movement in order to allow Filipino priests to take hold of the parishes in the country making them prey to the rage of the friars; Sixth, Filipinos during the time were active participants, and responded to what they deemed as injustices; and Lastly, the execution of GOMBURZA was a blunder on the part of the Spanish government, for the action severed the ill-feelings of the Filipinos and the event inspired Filipino patriots to call for reforms and eventually independence. There may be different versions of the event, but one thing is certain, the 1872 Cavite Mutiny paved way for a momentous 1898.
The road to independence was rough and tough to toddle, many patriots named and unnamed shed their bloods to attain reforms and achieve independence. 12 June 1898 may be a glorious event for us, but we should not forget that before we came across to victory, our forefathers suffered enough. As weenjoy our freeedom, may we be more historically aware of our past to have a better future ahead of us. And just like what Elias said in Noli me Tangere, may we “not forget those who fell during the night.”