José Apolonio Burgos (b. February 9, 1837 - d. February 17, 1872) was a Filipino martyr, priest, and member of the Gomburza who were falsely accused of mutiny by the Spanish authorities in the Philippines in the 19th-century.
Life as a clergy
On December 17, 1864, he was ordained priest. He then served as the second curate of the Manila Cathedral, church magistrate, and fiscal of Ecclesiastical Court.
He opposed the removal of Filipino priests from their parishes when Jesuits friars took over in 1859. He believed that the parishes should be left in the hands of the native clergy.
Contributions of Fr. Burgos
Burgos' liberal and nationalist views - codified in editorial essays, championing political and ecclesiastic reforms in favor of empowering more native clergy - made him a target of opposition by Roman Catholic authorities.
In 1864, an anonymous pamphlet was published in Manila, criticizing the prejudice in the Church, and providing rebuttals against several canards against the native clergy. Although the document was unsigned, historians believe the author to be Burgos, based on its style and content. Burgos also penned several signed articles later in his life, in response to a series of anonymous written attacks on the Filipino clergy. Though Burgos offered few new ideas, his name caught the attention of Spanish authorities, who would report that the native clergy was becoming liberal and separatist.
In 1869, Felipe Buencamino, a young student and an acquaintance of Burgos, was charged with spreading nationalist propaganda in the form of leaflets scattered throughout his school's campus, demanding academic freedom. This accusation was given credence by a protest he staged several months before, against the requirement to speak in Latin in the classroom. Consequently, Buencamino and some of his associates were sent to jail. With the aid of Burgos, Buencamino was freed four months later, only to be told that having missed school for four months, he would have to find a tutor who would help him make up for the classes he missed. Buencamino chose Burgos.
By this time, Burgos had established a reputation as a defender of the native clergy. His debates over their rights had extended to include questions of race and nationalism. This reputation would eventually cause him to be implicated in a mutiny in Cavite.
Death of Burgos
After the Cavite Mutiny on January 20, 1872, the trial of mutineer Sergeant Bonifacio Octavo revealed that a man named Zaldua had been recruiting people for an uprising. Octavo testified that this man claimed to be under the orders of Burgos, but inconsistent details during Octavo's cross-examinations called into question the validity of his testimony. Nevertheless, Gov. Rafael Izquierdo reported to Madrid that the testimony had confirmed his suspicions, and pinned the blame on Burgos and two other priests, Fr. Jacinto Zamora and Fr. Mariano Gomez.
The three priests were dragged through a tribunal amid a list of drummed up charges and false witnesses, and where their own lawyers betrayed them to the court. On February 17, 1872, they were executed by means of garrot (strangulation) in the middle of Bagumbayan field (now Luneta Park). Burgos, at 35, was the youngest and the last to be excecuted. They were allowed to be in priestly robes during the execution because Archbishop Meliton Martinez believed in their innocence.
The Gomburza's execution inspired Dr. José Rizal in writing his second novel and compelled him to pursue the idea of Philippine independence. Filipino historians as well believe that the Gomburza's death spurred the separatist movement from Spain.
- Quirino, Carlos. Who's Who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1995.
- "Hero of the Philippine Revolution." MSC, 14 April 1998. http://www.msc.edu.ph/centennial/burgos.html (Accessed on September 11, 2007).