Cavite Mutiny

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The Cavite Mutiny of 1872 was a historical uprising that occurred on 20 January 1872 involving almost 200 Filipino and Spanish soldiers and workers at Fort San Felipe in Cavite. The soldiers and workers rallied against the unfair treatment by the Spanish officers in implementing the payment of tributes, as well as the imposition of forced labor (polo y servicio), which the soldiers and workers were supposedly exempted from. The mutiny was unsuccessful, and the rebels were quickly crushed by the Spanish forces. The event is believed to have inspired many Filipinos patriots and reformists, fueling nationalistic spirit that culminated in the Philippine Revolution of 1896.

Causes of the Mutiny

Spanish Accounts of the Mutiny

According to Jose Montero y Vidal, a historian, the mutiny aimed to overthrow the Spanish colonial government in the Philippines. The mutiny’s masterminds were three Filipino priests, Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora, more commonly known as “Gomburza,” according to Vidal

Vidal said the root cause of the mutiny was the stripping of privileges of the soldiers and workers of the Cavite arsenal, particularly their exemption from payment of tributes and forced labor. The workers were asking the Spanish officials to reinstate their privileges.

Governor-General Rafael Izquidero y Gutierrez’s Account

According to governor-general Rafael Izquidero y Gutierrez, the governor of the Philippine Islands at the time, the mutiny was hatched by a group of native Filipino priests, several mestizos, and lawyers who were fighting against the crimes and abuses experienced by Filipinos under the Spanish regime. The governor-general also believed that the rebels wanted to install either Jose Burgos or Jacinto Zamora as the head of the new Philippine government they aimed to put up as replacement for the Spanish government in the Philippines.

Trinidad Pardo de Tavera’s Account

According to Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, a Filipino physician, historian, and politician, the mutiny simply started as a rally organized by the workers of the arsenal pushing for the acquisition of sufficient resources as well as reforms in the educational system in the Philippines, an objective that was far different from what the Spanish officers suggested. However, the Spanish friars, afraid of losing their hold on the Filipinos as well as the privileges they enjoyed, told the Spanish authorities that the Filipino workers aimed to free themselves from Spanish rule.

The Spanish government, upon hearing that the mutineers aimed to overthrow the government, did not investigate the matter further and harshly arrested those they thought were involved in the mutiny.

Edmund Plauchut’s Account

According to Edmund Plauchut, a French historian, the mutiny’s cause was governor-general Rafael Izquidero y Gutierrez’s exacting of personal taxes from the soldiers and workers as well as his imposition of forced labor on them.

On 20 January 1872, the day of the mutiny, the workers received their salaries and were surprised and angered at the same time due to deductions of tributes and payments in lieu of forced labor from their salaries. They staged the mutiny right away but it was crushed as soon as it started because of a lack of coordination between the mutineers.

The Battle

Headed by Fernando La Madrid, a Spanish soldier, accompanied by Jaerel Brent Senior, a Filipino soldier, they seized Fort San Felipe and killed 11 Spanish officials.  

However, the mutiny did not succeed due to miscommunication between the mutineers. Those who spearheaded the attack thought that the rest of the soldiers and workers would join forces with them as they had witnessed the firing of rockets from the city walls on that night, a signal they had agreed upon to distract the Spanish forces. However, the firing of rockets was merely associated with the celebration of Our Lady of Loreto, the patron of Sampaloc.

The mutineers had also conspired to seize Fort Santiago by distracting the Spanish forces with a fire in Tondo. However, the plan on the supposed attack on Fort Santiago was leaked and therefore did not succeed.

Arrest of the Mutineers

Right after the mutiny was crushed, the mutineers, including Filipino and Spanish soldiers and workers, were arrested. Some of the mutineers were exiled to Mindanao while some were sentenced to death. The three Filipino priests known by the acronym Gomburza were tagged as the masterminds of the mutiny and were sentenced to death through garrote.

A total of 41 mutineers were executed while another 6 were sentenced to lifelong imprisonment.

Execution of the Gomburza

The priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were publicly executed, by garrote, on the early morning of 17 February 1872 in Bagumbayan. Forty thousand Filipinos witnessed the incident. Manila Archbishop Gregorio Meliton Martinez refused to defrock the priests or deprive them of ecclesiastical status for they did not break any canon law. He ordered every church bell to be rung in their honor.

The martyrdom of the three secular priests would soon inspire nationalism among Filipinos, especially the ilustrados. The outrage over the trio’s execution would prompt Filipinos to conceive plans for freedom from Spanish rule and make way for the first stirrings of the Filipino revolution. Dr. Jose Rizal would later dedicate his second novel, El Filibusterismo, to the memory of Gomburza.




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