Marcelo H. del Pilar

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Marcelo H. del Pilar

Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaytan (August 30, 1850—July 4, 1896) was a celebrated figure in the Philippine Revolution and a leading propagandist for reforms in the Philippines. Popularly known as Plaridel, he was the editor and co-publisher of La Solidaridad. He tried to marshal the nationalist sentiment of the enlightened Filipino ilustrados, or bourgeoisie, against Spanish imperialism.

Contents

Biography

Marcelo Hilario was born in Kupang, Bulacan, on August 30, 1850, to cultured parents Julián del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaytan. He studied at the Colegio de San José and later at the University of Santo Tomas, where he finished his law course in 1880.

Fired by a sense of justice against the abuses of the clergy, del Pilar attacked bigotry and hypocrisy and defended in court the impoverished victims of racial discrimination. He preached the gospel of work, self-respect, and human dignity. His mastery of Tagalog, his native language, enabled him to arouse the consciousness of the masses to the need for unity and sustained resistance against the Spanish tyrants.

In 1882, del Pilar founded the newspaper Diariong Tagalog to propagate democratic liberal ideas among the farmers and peasants. In 1888, he defended José Rizal's polemical writings by issuing a pamphlet against a priest's attack, exhibiting his deadly wit and savage ridicule of clerical follies.

In 1888, fleeing from clerical persecution, del Pilar went to Spain, leaving his family behind. In December 1889, he succeeded Graciano López Jaena as editor of the Filipino reformist periodical La solidaridad in Madrid. He promoted the objectives of the paper by contacting liberal Spaniards who would side with the Filipino cause. Under Del Pilar, the aims of the newspaper were expanded to include removal of the friars and the secularization of the parishes; active Filipino participation in the affairs of the government; freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; wider social and political freedoms; equality before the law; assimilation; and representation in the Spanish Cortes, or Parliament.

Del Pilar's difficulties increased when the money to support the paper was exhausted and there still appeared no sign of any immediate response from the Spanish ruling class. Before he died of tuberculosis caused by hunger and enormous privation, del Pilar rejected the assimilationist stand and began planning an armed revolt. He vigorously affirmed this conviction: "Insurrection is the last remedy, especially when the people have acquired the belief that peaceful means to secure the remedies for evils prove futile." This idea inspired Andres Bonifacio's Katipunan, a secret revolutionary organization.

Del Pilar's militant and progressive outlook derived from the classic Enlightenment tradition of the French philosophes and the scientific empiricism of the European bourgeoisie. Part of this outlook was transmitted by Freemasonry, to which Del Pilar subscribed. "Plaridel’s writings in Tagalog were forceful. Rizal’s writings in Spanish were not understood by most Filipinos."

The unveiling ceremony of the larger-than-life statue will be led by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza and the officers and directors of Samahang Plaridel.

Plaridel was the pen name of Marcelo H. del Pilar, one of the great figures of the Philippine Propaganda Movement, the heroic group whose writings inspired the Philippine Revolution.

Plaridel is the chosen "patron saint" of today’s journalists, as his life and works prized freedom of thought and opinion most highly, loving independence above any material gain. He died of tuberculosis in abject poverty in Barcelona, Spain, 1896.

Organized in his memory, Samahang Plaridel is a fellowship of journalists and other communicators that aims to propagate Marcelo H. del Pilar’s ideals. This fellowship fosters within its capacity, mutual help, cooperation, and assistance among its members; dedicated to the journalistic standards of accuracy and truth, and in promoting these standards in the practice of journalism.

Plaridel’s ideology of truth, fairness and impartiality is anchored on democratic principles, as these are the bastions of a society acceptable to all Filipinos.

The return of Del Pilar's remains in 1920

The year is 1920 and the country, swept by the inevitable currents of the time and led by a new generation of young leaders, has forged a new system of governance patterned after the American style of democracy. There is a civil government, led by an American Governor-general occupying Malacañang with young Filipino pensionados with cabinet rank occupying the 2nd levels of administration. The Philippine Assembly of 1907 has been replaced by a bicameral Philippine Legislature with Manuel L. Quezon as President of the Senate, and Speaker Sergio Osmeña in the House of Representatives. Chief Justice Victorino Mapa is demonstrating that the country is on its way to self-government.

The last decades of the 19th century witnessed the decline of Spanish power brought about by friar misrule, the rise of Filipino nationalism sparked by the Propaganda Movement of Filipino expatriates in Spain led by Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. del Pilar. Del Pilar died in Spain on July 4, 1896 while Rizal was executed in Bagumbayan on December 30, 1896. Their followers in the Philippines tried to continue the struggle in a secret society known as the Katipunan; its discovery resulted in an open revolt led by Andres Bonifacio and ended with the dramatic death of young Gen. Gregorio del Pilar and the surrender of Emilio Aguinaldo. The year 1900 marked the destruction of all remnants of rebellion, hunted by American forces as bandits and outlaws in a cruel era of “might against right” ironically labelled as the “Pacification Campaign.”

By 1920, a year that comes to the observer of history as the climaxing era of “Peace Time”, all these seemed to have calmed down and Filipinos under American tutelage were making its way into the changing world. It seemed that the struggle of the Filipinos to establish the first independent republic in Asia, culminating in the formation of Constitutional Assembly for the Philippine Republic in Barasoain Church of Malolos, Bulacan, was a dismal failure. The Filipinos seemed to have already accepted the rule of America’s manifest destiny in the Orient.

Norberto Romualdez was then the Philippine delegate to the Universal Postal Convention in Spain when he received two identical telegrams from Secretary Jakosalem in Manila, saying that speaker Sergio Osmeña of the House of Representatives had asked the Filipino delegates to locate the remains of the hero, Marcelo H. del Pilar, and to bring them home to the Philippines. His acceptance of this order demonstrated that the spirit of nationalism still remained in the Filipino soul. In the following “Detailed account of the task accomplished by the late justice Norberto Romualdez in locating the remains of Marcelo H. del Pilar in Spain and in bringing them back to the Philippines as well as the honors accorded the great Bulakenyo and about his final burial”, we witness how in 1920 the dormant spirit of Philippine nationalism was re-awakened.

“Only one vessel, the mail boat Alicante, was scheduled to leave Barcelona on October 27 for Manila. As he (Judge Norberto Romualdez) was preparing to leave Madrid for Barcelona, the embarkation port on the Mediterranean 400 miles east of the Spanish capital, by train on October 19, the Philppine delegates (to the 7th Universal Postal Convention) received two identical telegrams from Secretary Jakosalem in Manila, saying that Speaker Sergio Osmeña of the House of Representatives had asked the Filipino delegates to locate the remains of the hero, Marcelo H. del Pilar, and to bring them home to the Philippines. Del Pilar or Plaridel, his nom de guerre, editor of the propaganda organ La Solidaridad, died in Barcelona on 4 July 1896.”

“It was a big order and there was no time to lose, It fell on Romualdez to execute the task. Before leaving for Barcelona, he dispatched the following telegram to Jakosalem: ‘.... Romualdez goes today Barcelona locate remains del Pilar negotiate Spoliarium stop will embark streamer Alicante 27th instant....“

“Fortunately, Romualdez had a good and resourceful ‘Man Friday’ in Barcelona in the person of Joaquin Pellicena y Camacho, Spanish journalist and chief of the Philippine section of La Casa de America in that city, who facilitated his contacts with the proper Spanish authorities. According to information furnished by Wenceslao E. Retana in Madrid, Del Pilar died in Barcelona on 4 July 1896 at 1:15 o’clock in the morning, and was buried the following day.”

“Del Pilar’s remains were in a tomb whose title was owned by Da. Teresa Casas de Battle. With Pellicena, Romualdez went to the Hospital de la Sta. Cruz (Hospital Civil) in Barcelona where they obtained a certification from Jose Boson y Font of the Comisaria de Entrados to the effect that Del Pilar died a natural death at 1:15 a.m. on 4 July 1896, after receiving the Last Sacraments, and was buried in the Cementerio del Sub-Oeste (Southwest Cemetery). From the hospital they got the following data:

‘Entering the hospital on 20 June 1896, Del Pilar gave as his address No. 30-1.0 San Pablo Street, Barcelona, He was taken to the surgeon’s sala (pro- bably to submit to a surgical operation). He occupied bed No. 11 in ward Sto. Tomas. This information is contained in Registry No. 2041 of the Registry Book for the year 1896.

“Romualdez and Pellicena then proceeded to the Ayuntamiento where they got definite data on Del Pilar’s grave number and section in the cemetery. By special arrangement with the funeral parlor Sociedad Union de Emprearios de Pompas Funebres, the body was exhumed and placed in an urn. In the presence of Pellicena, Angel Valera, representing the American consulate in Barcelona and officials of the funeral parlor, the urn was soldered and sealed. Then the father chaplain of the cemetery said a mass for the deceased.

“Romualdez sent a brief letter of thanks to Federico Carlos Bas, civil governor of Barcelona, for facilities extended in the exhumation of Del Pilar’s remains. He also thanked Mr. Rosales of Tabacalera for his help in making arrangements for the transportation of the remains on board the Alicante free of charge....

“Aboard the ship that was taking them home, together with Del Pilar’s remains, he (Romualdez) sent a radiogram to the Marques de Comillas of the Compania Trans-Atlantics, saying that: ‘En nombre de gobierno Filipino agradezco cordialmente transatlantica generosidad transporte gratuito restos Marcelo del Pilar” (in the name of the Philippine government, I thank you cordially for your ‘trans-atlantic’ generosity in providing free transporta- tion for the remains of Marcelo del Pilar). He asked Pellicena to dispatch a telegram to Jokasalem in Manila saying, ‘Restos Plaridel en urna adecuada embaracon hoy conmigo vapor Alicante. Romualdez’ (Plaridel’s remains in urn leaving with me on boat Alicante. Romualdez).

“Temporarily, popular sentiment over Del Pilar’s ‘homecoming’ eclipsed the significance of gains achieved by the Philippine mission (to the Postal Convention). Even Romualdez had to admit that he was ‘especially honored by the distinction conferred upon him in bringing the body of Del Pilar to the native land.’ Large crowds gathered at the Manila waterfront in the afternoon of December 3 as the coastguard cutter Basilan with Del Pilar’s widow, Marciana, his sister, two daughters, and in-laws aboard, fetched the hero’s remains from the Alicante. The body’s arrival at Pier 3 was announced by three long whistles from government ice-plant at Plaza Lawton.

“A long funeral procession starting from the pier conveyed the body to the Funeraria Nacional. Masonic lodges in the Philippines took part in the procession to pay their respects to a departed comrade. Del Pilar was one of the first Filipino masons in Barcelona and Madrid. On December 11, a popular program was held at the Grand Opera House, highlighted by speeches by Lope K. Santos, Dr. Dominador Gomez (del Pilar’s colleague in La Solidaridad), and poems in English by Fernando Maramag, in Spanish by Manuel Bernabe, and in Tagalog by Benigno Ramos.

“State necrological services were held at 2:30 p.m. on December 12 at the Salon de Marmol, Ayuntamiento, the same place where the first Philippine Assembly was opened in 1907. The speakers included Representative Manuel C. Briones of Cebu, Senator Rafael Palma, Secretary of Interior Teodoro M. Kalaw and Dr. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, representing the hero’s colleagues in Madrid and Barcelona. After the service, the body was taken to the mausoleum for national heroes at the North Cemetery. The pall bearers from the Ayuntamiento to the cemetery included the country’s elite: Senate President Quezon, Speaker Sergio Osmeña, Chief Justice Victorino Mapa, members of the Cabinet and Supreme Court, leaders of both House of the Philippine Legislature, labor leaders, journalists, lawyers, and many others.

“Del Pilar, lawyer and newspaperman, left the Philippines in 1888, fleeing from Spanish political persecution; his remains returned in a hermetically sealed urn 32 years later, amidst a hero’s welcome....”

When the Del Pilar shrine was completed at his birth site in Bulacan, Bulacan on the land donated by his family, his remains were finally brought back to his last resting place, now known as Dambana ni Plaridel under the National Historical Institute. To this shrine, students and patriotic groups flock throughout the year viewing his memorabilia in the small museum building erected after the first centennial of his death in 1996. Every year, his birthday on August 30 is a provincial holiday when Bulakenos march on the streets, bring flowers to the shrine and recall in speeches and presentations the life, ideals and sacrifices of Marcelo H. del Pilar, one of the country’s most respected national heroes, the beloved son and pride of Bulacan.

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References

  • Zaide, Gregorio F. (1984). Philippine History and Government. National Bookstore Printing Press.


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