August is famous for the simultaneous commemoration of Ninoy’s heroism in EDSA chapel and in the other parts of our country bearing relation to the slain solon; his dedication towards bringing the nation back to democracy is truly inspiring. Even knowing well in advance that his life was in peril, he knew that his death would only fortify his fight and this in the end, would strengthen the nations resolve to move against the dictatorship.
Amidst the solemn dedications, televised mass offerings and media publicity, I was unsure why I kept on thinking about this other hero, this Mabini person – it could be because I have been reading books about him lately, his biography by Majul and his letters that were compiled by TM Kalaw, now published by NHI. This books were great resource if one is to understand what Mabini was like. I’m sure he was the serious kinda guy type unlike Rizal and his buddies. In Mabini’s letter you would feel his tone, his formality and his admirable courtesy.
I read that there were two events held in Manila in his honor, celebrating his birthday this year, one was in A. Mabini (Manila), where the former Mayor of Manila erected a handsome looking ‘Paralitico’ in bronze, I barely recognized the image, I thought at first it was the great Mayor Lacson! Mayor Lim led the commemoration with some students, government employees and bystanders. The other celebration was in PUP grounds, where his small house was moved from its former location in Nagtahan. I could not understand why it was transferred but there it is, in a school campus waiting to be harmed by vandalizing souls.
In all honesty, I never really admired Mabini with the same esteem I’ve had with the other giants of our history, I’ve read about him, for one it would be difficult to avoid his name, much his role. His presence is consistent in all of our history texts. I failed to recognize how this man, with his paralysis and loneliness conducted himself during the endless battles of the first government. How he, at some critical moments orchestrated the governments operation, leading the battered republic with Aguinaldo.
In a undated letter circa 1899, Mabini, with no military experience other than witnessing real battle and assisting in planning battle positions with the other commanders, provided a seasoned warrior in Aguinaldo how ‘to seize Manila’, his ‘pointers’ were that of a fighting general, minus the distinguished uniform. This only goes to show how this man, deserves his title as the ‘brains of the revolution’.
In all his letters to Aguinaldo, although always respectful, one could sense that he had always doubted the Generals capacity to lead the nation. His criticism were sharp, his objections, direct to the point. In one of his letter he acknowledged his being ‘troublesome’ to the presidents busy schedule but still insisted that he be heard. His observation that living the treasury in the hands of the ‘rich people of Manila’ would mean trouble for the people. How it was ‘set up’ would place the government ‘under its power’ according to him – how brilliant is this man that he understood even the minds of soon to be grafters.
Nick Joaquin, in his popular book, ‘Questions of Heroes’ noted that Mabinis character always wanted to be ‘blameless’ of all the missteps that the government commits. The great national artist has pointed out that Mabini was too critical of the government that he himself help designed. In Malolos, he objected to the point of alienating the rich and ilustrados, when substantial number of this faction retracted their support and went back to Manila accepting America’s rule, it made matters even more difficult for the revolutionary government. The ‘blameless’ Mabini has antagonized all, the story of his relation with with his old master ends up in a sour note, his allegation against Aguinaldo’s misled government and abuses was a show of a complete breakdown. Much to his credit, he swore allegiance to the American only after securing certain rights for the Filipino under the bill of rights of the Yankees, while everyone, all his contemporaries swore to the American flag without any guarantees.
It would be difficult to understand what Mabini desired the most, he was said to be against allowing the rich in power, he saw it as a class issue, that this few should not be allowed to reign – their rise in his mind must be averted, he insisted that the peasantry and the lowly soldiers must have a say and be represented, something that does not really sit well with the men of properties. In all of this, one could not help but think that Mabini led a campaign that disunited the most important elements (the mass, the soldiers and the rich, the ilustrados) that could’ve increased the chance of the government’s survival. The Mabini with the great revolutionary mind was a flawed statesman, unwell in compromising with his fellow Filipino, a luckless diplomat who end up fighting a crucial class, the group that Rizal wanted to be involved in order to win the battle.
I saw in Mabini the intellect that none of his contemporaries could match, he is a perfectionist – he always demands what is ‘right’ in his eyes. He always questions, clamoring for answers. He could be the most beautiful mind our revolution ever had, for his time was different one, he was fighting – not physically but mentally. War was in front of him most of the time; his battles were different in so many ways to that of the ‘propagandistas’ and the other political thinkers who wanted to liberate the country.
My view of this man is, yes, different from the usual Mabini we think of when we were younger – but reading how he lived made me ask more questions about who he really was. For me, he is a great Filipino – still but I long to know more, that in time, I’m certain would be answered by my lifelong study of our nation’s history. No one could deduct what he has already done for his country. In a biography I saw how this Tanauan native rose to prominence because of his intellectual mind, how he valued education and how passionate he was for his fellow Filipinos welfare, which should served as an example for all of us. In his letters and writings, I saw his mind and how accurate were some of his observations, some are still very relevant to our modern times. He was not perfect, but in the end, his story, his role in our history, his achievements, his heroism and yes, his failures deserve to be read and studied by all young Filipino historians.