The Philippine Revolution

by Apolinario Mabini


Copyright 1969
By Leon Ma.Guerrero


Permission to post this text on the Austrian-Philippine Website is provisionally granted by the estate of Leon Ma. Guerrero. It is intended for academic use. Commercial exploitation of this is explicitly prohibited. Copyright Estate of Leon Ma. Guerrero. All rights reserved.


Scanning and proofreeding of the text by Robert L. Yoder



I am sorry that the logic of events should take me to such painful conclusions, but I aspire to be a critic and I must tell the truth. Having written these memoirs only to seek in the past the most useful lessons for the present and the future, I have tried to be impartial. I have also tried to render judgment on events and not on particular individuals, but, in adjudging the Revolution, I could do no less than pass judgment on the man who did not recoil from crime in order to embody the Revolution in himself from beginning to end. I am sure that I have chronicled events as I saw them happen or heard about them, and that I have passed judgment on them as dispassionately as possible, but, if I have been mistaken or unjust by involuntary omission or because of wrong information, I am ready to correct my mistakes or make such amends as may be proper. If in the course of my narrative I have often made reference to myself, it has not been from a desire to single myself out to others' dis advantage but only to indicate my personal participation in the great drama of the Revolution, sometimes as a mere spectator, at other times as a member of the cast, and thus to provide a gauge for the trustworthiness of my account. I do not see anything wrong in examining our past in order to draw up a balance-sheet of our failures, mistakes and weaknesses; whoever voluntarily confesses his sins shows at least a praiseworthy and honourable purpose of amendment and correction. The evil would lie in concealing them, and in their discovery and exposure by a stranger, not to put us right but to sully our name. Their concealment, moreover, would encourage evildoers, while their exposure teaches us useful lessons. I should have liked to make this essay something of an exemplary history of the Philippines, displaying side by side the vices and the virtues of each individual, and the disadvantages and advantages of each institution, in the conviction that in this world the most perfect being has his imperfection s, and the most imperfect his perfections. But such a task is beyond my abilities. Also, the collection of the material necessary for this kind of work requires a long period of laborious study and research for which I lack the time. I am content, therefore, within the measure of my ability and means, to prepare the way for others better qualified.

Going back to Mr. Aguinaldo, I hope and pray that my observations, made without rancour and only in the performance of a painful duty, will not increase the bitterness in his heart but will rather awaken in him an ardent desire to make up for his past and recapture the general esteem with noteworthy acts of unselfishness and abnegation. When I was already a prisoner in Manila, in the bands or the American authorities, I hinted to Mr.. Aguinaldo, writing in El Comercio to correct an item in the Manila Times, that his only salvation was a glorious death on the battlefield. Shortly afterward, in another article published in La Fraternidad, I repeated this hint more explicitly and clearly, comparing him with Mr. Kruger. I knew that these articles would not please the American authorities, but I was convinced that, with Aguinaldo meeting death in a supreme effort to defend our national freedom, such an heroic act would restore his reputation and at the same time honour the Filipinos. However, my suggestions were not followed. I have no complaint because, even if Mr. Aguinaldo had proposed to act in accordance with them, I understand that it is not always possible to do what one wants. Moreover, it might be that his crimes were so grave that Providence would not judge him worthy of immortality, or that it would be for his own good to hear the judgment of public opinion so that repentance might touch the sensitive fibers of his heart. The frustrated Andres Bonifacio was wont to say when be was still alive that we should fear no one except History, and indeed History is implacable in doing justice, and its judgment is terrib le against the offender.

Be that as it may, Mr. Aguinaldo should not despair. As I have just indicated, he can still make up for his past and recapture the general esteem with worthy deeds. He is still young and has shown a natural sagacity in making the most of circumstances for his own ends, questionable as they were because he lacked the culture and virtue demanded by his office. Mr. Aguinaldo believed that one can serve his country with honour and glory only from high office, and this is an error which is very dangerous to the common welfare; it is the principal cause of the civil wars which impoverish and exhaust many states and contributed greatly to the failure of the Revolution. Only he is truly a patriot who, whatever his post, high or low, tries to do the greatest possible good to his countrymen. A little good done in an humble position is a title to honour and glory, while it is a sign of negligence or incompetence when done in high office. True honour can be discerned in the simple manifestatio ns of an upright and honest soul, not in brilliant pomp and ornament which scarcely serve to mask the deformities of the body. True honour is attained by teaching our minds to recognize truth, and training our hearts to love it. The recognition of truth shall lead us to the recognition of our duties and Of justice, and by Performing Our duties and doing justice we shall be respected and honoured, whatever our station in life. Let us never forget that we are on the first rung of our national life, and that we are called upon to rise, and can go upward only on the ladder of virtue and heroism. Above all let us not forget that, if we do not grow, we shall have died without ever having been great, unable to reach maturity, which is proper of a degenerate race.

I shall not end these remarks to my countrymen without putting on record the boundless disgust I felt whenever I heard of the rape of Filipinas by Filipino soldiers. I admit these were isolated cases, very difficult to prevent in times of general disorder and the uncontrolled outbreak of passions, but I am sure that the first instances would not have been repeated if the commanders concerned had punished such outrages energetically and without hesitation. How shall we get foreigners to respect our women when we ourselves set the example of offending them? Can we Filipino men expect to be respected when our women are not? In the chivalrous tradition of ancient times the principal virtue of the knight without fear and without reproach was respect for womanhood because the custom of protecting the honour and life of the weak and defenseless surely showed greatness of soul and nobility of heart. It should be realized that this virtue was not merely necessary in the legendary age of roma nce but one of the great imperatives in the life of peoples since, if woman finds simple respect and consideration within her customary ambit, she quickly acquires that sense of dignity which protects her from many frailties, a dignity which, passed on to her sons, instills in them courage and fortitude for great enterprises and heroic deeds.

Lastly, I hope that this succinct narrative will give a clearer and more correct appreciation of the political needs of the Filipinos and of their fitness for democratic government. The Spaniards as well as the Americans have looked upon the Filipinos as half-savages unfit for such a government because they have always confused lack of experience with personal aptitude. One who is unfit for civilized life does not want it because he does not need it, and for this reason the Igorots and Aetas and other really half-savage tribes in the archipelago are happier living in the mountains and forests than in the towns. The Spanish Government claimed that political aspirations were to be found only in the hearts of a few educated Filipinos but not among the masses of the country, yet the latter, unable to prove the Government wrong otherwise because they were forbidden to petition, rose in rebellion led by Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo, both men of little learning. The United States Go vernment shares the same belief, and I hope that this essay, by showing it the past, will help to lead it out of error and prevent the horrors of a new revolution.

Of the reforms previously sought from the Spanish Government, the United States Congress has to this date granted only that referring to certain individual rights, whose exercise is still restricted by the authority of the Insular Government, a government which continues to be absolute insofar as the members of the executive branch also make the laws and appoint at their discretion the members of the judiciary. Moreover, the irritating inequality in pay among those who hold the same positions is more general, an inequality which in Spanish times existed only in the armed forces, and which makes impossible an identity of interests among Americans and Filipinos. The constabulary, for its part, is following in the footsteps of its hated counterpart under the former regime. Before my deportation to Guam, when Governor Taft was still only Chairman of the Philippine Commission, I solicited an interview to ask him the extent and limits of the sovereignty which the United States sought to imp ose on the Philippines. Mr. Taft told me very frankly that the United States wanted to exercise the same sovereignty that Russia or Turkey would if they had acquired the islands with the same title, the only difference being that the Americans, having been reared under a regime of freedom, would try to exercise sovereignty more liberally. I allowed myself to remark that it was more prudent for a government not openly to oppose the wishes of the governed, but I could not continue because he gave me to understand that his explicit instructions did not allow him to discuss such matters with me.

The reason was obvious since, in the last analysis, Governor Taft's instructions were in accordance with the McEnery proposal and the plans of the Washington administration. For that reason I think it is useless to discuss them now. I shall allow myself only the observation that, if the Americans have not been reared under the governmental system which they are now introducing in the Philippines, they cannot consider themselves more experienced and capable than the Filipinos. If the Americans in general are relatively better schooled, the Filipinos, reared under an absolute government, during the Spanish regime, have more experience of it and, what is more, know their own needs better. I admit that the Americans have proved their competence and capacity for democratic government, but an absolutist regime is totally different and cannot be practiced in the United States because it is contrary to the character and customs of the American people. By temperament and education the citizens of the United States are the least competent and fit for absolute government because the two governmental systems are like two machines with different mechanisms that call for operators with different specialized training to make them work. If the Americans really want to teach the Filipinos the arts of civilization and good government they should establish in the Philippines the kind of government they know, under which they have been reared, and which the inhabitants want to learn. Otherwise, if the Americans persist in maintaining a governmental system which they have not practiced and which the islanders reject, they must place at its head men of extraordinary ability, and they are not common in the United States or elsewhere.

I shall end with a question. Would the grant of the reforms formerly sought from the Spanish Government satisfy the Filipinos now? I am very much afraid not, because the aspiration for independence, almost unknown before, now beats strongly at the bottom of all hearts. Its denial, and the threats and violent acts of the Government, only serve to affirm this feeling and to keep it alive; we did not fight and suffer for it for nothing. The denial of independence will doubtless content those who accommodate themselves to any situation in order to enjoy its advantages, but they are very few, and they are despised if not hated by the masses, because they claim the masses are not yet fit for independence when it is they who are giving evidence of unfitness by making it plain they have no political ideal other than their personal convenience. Before my deportation to Guam, those who had unconditionally taken the Government's side in order to win the official title of friends of peace trie d to organize a political party. Since the Government could not promise more than a future autonomy, which did not and does not satisfy the people, it did not suit them to adopt this objective since very few would join them. They therefore asked for annexation as a territory for the time being, and subsequently as a state. The truth is not only that such an objective found and finds no support in any political party in the United States, but also that no American statesman believes in the possibility that the islands may some day become a state of the Union. But this objective was less objectionable to the people, which they considered too ignorant to grow aware of any political game. I had the imprudence to remark that their aspiration was chimerical; that if they wanted something positive, they should work on the Government to give in a little and promise independence in the future; and that I would help them to convince the people that it should also compromise and give up immediate independence. Altho ugh I was counseling accommodation to both sides so as to arrive at a compromise, the only foundation of a true peace, I was pronounced intransigent and as such was deported to Guam, where I was held prisoner incommunicado for more than two years. I am ready to forget this personal injury, although injustices never beget peace but rather distrust and the perturbation of minds. Nonetheless in the belief that it is my duty, I shall be imprudent once more and recommend for the second time the mutual reconciliation of Americans and Filipinos.

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created: September 8, 1998
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