Antonio M. Molina
Antonio Memije Molina (19 November 1918 in Manila – 15 November 2000 in Madrid, Spain) was a Filipino historian, educator, lawyer, linguist, and diplomat. He was the firstborn son of doctor Ricardo Molina and Consuelo Memije, and the third of their thirteen children, five of whom reached adulthood.
Early life and education
Antonio Molina was educated in Colegio de San Juan de Letrán, a Catholic boys school run by Dominican friars (Order of Preachers) in the Intramuros Manila, where he graduated with a high school diploma (valedictorian) in 1937. He received a degree in pre-law, with highest honors, from the same institution in 1939, and subsequently his law degree from the University of Santo Tomás (UST), also at the top of his class. In 1947, after a forced wartime hiatus, he passed the requisite examinations and was admitted to the bar.
Two years later, he traveled to Madrid, Spain as a doctoral student on a scholarship from the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica and later graduated from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid with a doctorate in law (Sobresaliente, summa cum laude) in the fall of 1950. Between the year he received his law degree from UST and his years as a student in Madrid, he taught in San Juan de Letrán and in Colegio de Santa Escolástica (presently named St. Scholastica's College), a Catholic girls school in Manila.
Dr. Molina is best known for his significant contributions in the field of Philippine history. His two-volume history of the Philippines, The Philippines Through the Centuries (Manila, 1961), was the first such book to rely exclusively on original sources, which he obtained during his extensive research in Spain from 1957 to 1960. Molina’s command of Spanish was that of a native speaker and this facilitated his unmediated access to documentation in the Archivo General de Indias and other primary sources in the cities of Valladolid, Segovia, Toledo, and Granada. A single-volume translation of The Philippines Through the Centuries into Filipino, Ang Pilipinas sa Nalolooban ng mga Dantaon, by T. Barcelón and V. Godoy, was published in 1980.
Years later, Molina would expand his history textbook, with a wider readership in mind, and publish Historia de Filipinas (Madrid, 1984), which was also in two volumes. For this publication, he was awarded in 1985 the Premio Literario Enrique Zobel, which recognizes outstanding contributions to Philippine letters in Spanish.
Molina’s research in the field of Philippine history focused on the 18th and 19th centuries and in particular, on José Rizal (1861-1896), the national hero of the Philippines. His books on Rizal include Memorias del Dr. José Rizal Mercado – Diario Inédito de 1882 (Manila, 1953); Rizal, Man and Hero (Manila, 1962), and his final work, Yo, José Rizal (Madrid, 1998). The latter, a simulated autobiography of Rizal, was drawn entirely from first-hand sources and may be considered the most extensive and significant of Molina’s works on the hero. It is of note that the author wrote Yo, José Rizal simultaneously in Spanish and in English. The publication of the English version, I, José Rizal, is forthcoming.
Antonio Molina was inducted into the Order of the Knights of Rizal, obtaining the rank of Commander. In 1973, he was granted a special award for his exceptional contributions in the field of Rizal studies, including the many lectures he gave and the numerous courses he taught on the hero.
Law, history, and ethics
In addition to his books on Rizal, Antonio Molina published extensively in academic journals and reviews both in the fields of Philippine history and in law. Among his other book publications are Elements of Law and the Natural Law, Philippine Political Growth, and America en Filipinas (Madrid, 1992). The latter was commissioned and published by the MAPFRE Foundation, as part of the Realidades Americanas series for the 5th Centennial Commemoration of the discovery of the New World. Molina was a contributing author as well to various publications, among them the volume Historia General de Filipinas (Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica, Madrid, 1999).
As a professor
From 1946 to 1970, Molina was a professor at the University of Santo Tomás, where he taught Philippine history, civil law, ethics, philosophy, and Rizal studies. He also held the administrative positions of vice-president of the University Research Council, dean of the Law School (1960-1967), director of the Institute of History (1967-1970), and vice-rector for External Affairs (1968-1970).
Beyond these academic roles, he served as technical advisor to the Ministry of Education and director of the Guild of Catholic Lawyers. He also founded the Board of Catholic Writers and Orators and the Aquinas Theater Guild of Manila, subsequently serving as its director. He was a member of the Philippine National Historical Society, the International Association of Historians, Cultura Hispánica, and the International Movement of Catholic Jurists, inter alia. He served, for a time, as director of the International Confederation of University Intellectuals and as secretary of the Philippine Court of Appeals.
As a diplomat
In 1970, Molina moved with his family, to Madrid, Spain, where he joined the law firm Bufete M. Vega Penichet. In 1971, he left the firm in order to serve his country as press attaché of the Philippine Embassy to Spain. He retired from the diplomatic corps in 1985, having fulfilled the role of consul.
In 1992, Molina was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit by then Philippine President Corazón Aquino. This honor would recognize his lifelong contributions in the fields of Philippine history, culture and letters, and his selfless efforts in fostering Philippine-Spanish relations.
Molina was a prolific writer throughout his lifetime, penning numerous articles well into his retirement. He was also a highly sought-after speaker in academic circles, conferences, cultural events, churches, and civic clubs. His interests went beyond history and law.
In addition to being fluent in Spanish and English, he spoke Filipino with equal facility and was proficient in French, Portuguese, Italian, and Japanese. He held a diploma in Japanese from the Institute of Japanese in the Philippines.
He was also an amateur, but highly accomplished, landscape watercolorist, whose work was admired by Spanish painter Vicente Pastor Calpenaand and hangs today in various homes11.
Molina’s lifelong interest in languages, specifically the Spanish language, led to his co-authoring, with Adolfo Cuadrado Muñiz and Rodolfo Barón Castro, Hispanismos en el Tagalo (Madrid, 1972). This dictionary, which was commissioned by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization during the International Year of the Book reflects the rich and ongoing linguistic presence of Spanish in the Philippines.
Molina also was a permanent delegate of the Philippine Academy of the Spanish Language in Manila (inducted in 1965), and a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language in Madrid (inducted in 1966), representing the Philippines in that capacity. He was selected to serve as jury member for the Premio Cervantes, the highest literary award in Spain. In 1965, Molina was inducted into the Order of Isabella the Catholic Monarch (Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Católica), an honor that would recognize his selfless contributions toward a deeper understanding of Spain’s role in the Philippines and his efforts in strengthening the ties between the two countries.
Throughout his life, he received various outstanding alumnus awards from his alma maters, San Juan de Letrán and UST. In one of the awards given to him by the UST Law Alumni Foundation, he was cited as an “exemplary Thomasian lawyer”.
Personal life and writings
On a more personal note, Molina, a faithful chronicler, kept detailed journals of his personal and professional activities throughout much of his life. He published a family memoir of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II titled Dusk and Dawn in the Philippines: Memoirs of a Living Witness of World War II (Manila, 1995). He also authored a biography of his brother Danding, who died in Manila as a young priest in the aftermath of that war. The book, Fr. Eduardo Molina, as seen by his brother, was published in Manila in 1992.
A devout Catholic, Antonio Molina was involved in numerous Catholic endeavors throughout his life, including the Christian Family Movement and the Cursillos de Cristiandad. He was a member of the Teresian Association, an organization of lay men and women committed to sustaining Christian values in the fields of science and culture. In the year 2000, he was named Knight Protector of the charitable organization Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena, in Madrid.
Antonio Molina died in Madrid, on 15 November 2000, four days shy of his 82nd birthday. On the 19th of that month, he would also have celebrated the 50th anniversary of his marriage to Maria del Carmen Gómez-Arnau, whom he met in 1949 when he was a student in Madrid. The couple married in 1950 and had six children: Carmen Molina, Sofia Molina Starnes, Pilar Molina Lalana, Antonio Molina, Jr., Chaco Molina, and Teresa Molina Lamata. Antonio, remembered among his siblings as Antoñito, died in infancy.
A complete bibliography of Antonio M. Molina’s works is in preparation.
- "Yo José Rizal." Madrid: AECI, 1998
- "Dusk and Dawn in the Philippines : Memoirs of a Living Witness of World War II." Manila: New Day Publishers, 1996.
- "Historia de Filipinas." (2 volumes). Madrid: Ediciones Cultura Hispanica del Instituto de Cooperacion Iberoamericana , 1984.
- "America en Filipinas." Madrid : MAPFRE, 1992.
- "The Philippines through the centuries". Manila: UST Cooperative, 1960.
- Brillantes, Lourdes. 81 Years of Premio Zobel: A Legacy of Philippine Literature in Spanish. Philippines: Filipinas Heritage Library, 2006.
- Short eulogy by José R. Perdigon Accessed 1 May 2009
- Short essay authored by Molina on the Spanish presence in the Philippines ¿Qué queda de España en Filipinas] presented at SEECI (Sociedad Española de Comunicación Iberoamericana) 2000, Nº 2 - Abril 1998 (Págs. 1-6)