Clemente Jose Zulueta

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Clemente Jose Zulueta (1876-1904) was a lawyer, revolutionary journalist, bibliographer and pioneer librarian, whose multifarious career was cut short by sudden illness.

Early Life

Zulueta was born in Paco, Manila on 23 November 1876. His mother died five days after his birth and his father died when he was still a young child. The orphaned boy was adopted by Agustin de la Rosa and Juliana Estrada who raised and treated him as their own. He was affectionately called Peping.

He started his studies at Colegio San Antonio de Padua. He later transferred to Colegio San Juan de Letran. He later shifted to Ateneo Municipal where he obtained a bachiller en artes, the equivalent of a high school diploma. His early studies were marked by a precocious involvement in culture and the arts, and he participated in tertulias with his friends Rafael Palma, Cecilio Apostol, Fernando Ma. Guerrero, Jaime De Veyra and Jose C. Abreu.

He took up law at the University of Santo Tomas, where he cultivated his love for the literary arts and poetry, writing primarily in Spanish. His peers were Fernando Maria Guerrero, Jose Abreu, Rafael Palma, Cecilio Apostol, Epifanio de los Santos and Honorio Valenzuela. His poem “Afectos A La Virgen” was awarded third prize in 1895 with a “lirio de plata” (silver lily) by the Academia Bibliografica Mariana of Lerida, Spain. It was published in Revista Catolica de Filipinas, VII, No.5, March 1, 1896. One of his theatrical plays was awarded a prize by the Academia de San Franciso de Borja of Manila. His early writings were much influenced his studies on Latin America, including the biography of Jose Marti, hero of the Cuban Revoltion. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution.

It is said that Zulueta wrote anonymously for La Solidaridad, the reformist organ of the Propaganda Movement, under the pseudonym Juan Totoo.

The Revolutionary Phase

Appearing before Governor-General Camilo Polavieja as an independent observer and journalist, he obtained a special pass to cross both frontlines. While in the revolutionary camp, he developed strong sympathy with its cause and undertook a new career as a revolutionary journalist.

His first venture was La Libertad, together with friend Epifanio de los Santos, published in Malabon. Its first issue was dedicated to a certain Colonel Pacheco. The newspaper was later seized by the Revolutionary government and Zulueta transferred to the newspaper La Independencia, where he joined its editor General Antonio Luna. M. Kaun was his pseudonym. Other fellow writers and friends were Mariano V. del Rosario, Cecilio Apostol, Fernando Ma. Guerrero, Felipe R. Calderon, and Jose C. Abreu. Its other illustrious contributors were Apolinario Mabini, Rosa Sevilla Alvero and Jose Palma.

He married Paz Natividad, the sister of the revolutionary General Mamerto Natividad.

Library Pioneer

After the American occupation of Manila in 1899, he resumed his studies and took the bar examination in 1902, as part of an illustrious batch including Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña.

He established another newspaper, La Union, with Don Modesto Reyes in Manila. It was promptly suppressed by General Elwell S. Otis, who believed it was anti-American.

He became a professor at the Liceo de Manila and a librarian at the Centro Artistico and Club International. In 1903 he began a new career as a curator for the Exposition Board, charged with collecting art and literary artifacts for the Philippine Exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. This was followed by his appointment as collecting librarian for the Insular Government under William H. Taft under Philippine Commission Act 688 on 17 march 1903.

Leaving on 29 April he visited Marseilles, Barcelona, Madrid, London and Paris in search of rare Philippine books and documents that would form the core collection of the planned Philippine Library.

He came into contact with the great Filipiniana collector and bibliographer Wenceslao Retana, whom he later gifted with Jose Rizal's original diary from 1 January to November 1884. In return Retana gave him a bibliographical listing of Filipiniana in the Spanish national archives. Retana would later eulogize him upon his early death.

Zulueta also advised the American scholar James Alexander Robertson as to reliable sources. Robertson was then at work in Seville as the co-editor of The Philippine Islands, 1493 to 1898, together with Emma Helen Blair. For example, he correctly urged Robertson to use the C. Amoretti transcription of Pigafetta’s account of Magellan’s voyage, which was published in Milan in 1800.

In Spain he visited the Biblioteca Nacional and the Museo Biblioteca de Ultramar, which had in its core collection the artifacts of the 1887 Exposicion General de Filipinas. Among his many discoveries of rare manuscripts were Governor General Fernando Valdes Tamon’s Plazas, Fuerzas Castillos y, Presidios en Filipinas, published in 1839 and Fray Ignatio Francisco Alzina’s History of the Bisayan Islands, published in 1668.

At King’s College, University of Cambridge, Zulueta studied the original Vocabulario Tagalo manuscript compiled by Fr. Domingo de los Santos and published in Tayabas in 1703.

Back in Manila in mid-1904, Zulueta submitted his collection report titled Fuentes Historicos de Filipinas. He championed the publication of a "general compilation of historical sources" as an aid to writing the country’s history", urging not only more work in foreign archives but the collection of local materials, including literary works.

Furthermore Zulueta, a true pioneer in Philippine historiography, advocated the indigenous element (elemento indígena) in Philippine history and favored its rewriting to give primacy to native agency.

His life was cut short by an illness, dying in Manila on 10 September 1904, at the young age of 28, though his ideas were further championed by his friend Felipe R. Calderon and further supported by Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, Pedro Paterno, and Epifanio de los Santos.

His fabled collection was purchased by the Philippine government from his widow Doña Paz Natividad by Manuel Artigas, director of the Filipiniana section of the Philippine Library. Together it would form the richest assembly of Philippine books in existence, together with the Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, Tabacalera, James LeRoy and Manuel Artigas collections. The Filipiniana section was tragically destroyed in the Battle of Manila in 1945, as it was housed in the basement of the Legislative Building, which was blown to bits.

The great Philippine bibliographer and scholar Wenceslao Retana memorialized his short but full life in an eulogy published in "Archivo del Bibliofilo Filipino", vol 5:

"Sa napakabatang gulang na dalawampu at walo, yumao sa Maynila noong ika-9 ng Setyembre 1904 si G. Clemente Jose Zulueta, isang katutubo sa bansang iyon. Nagtungo siya sa Europa noong 1903 para saliksikin ang mga archivo at aklatan. At sa Madrid, Sevilla at Londres nagsagawa siya ng isang kampanyang kapuri-puri. Nang bumalik siya sa Maynila, noong Hunyo ng 1904, my dala-dala siyang napakaraming mahalagang mga datos, libro at dokumento ng mahahalagang pag-aaral na may uring pangkasaysayan at pangbibliograpiya. Nabasa namin ang ilang mga papeles niya at hinangaan namin sa batang Zulueta ang katangian ng isang bibliograpong may hindi pangkaraniwang katangian. Binigla siya ng kamatayan, dalwang buwan pagkablik niya sa kanyang inang bayan. Nawalan ng isang napakahalagang elemnto ang Kasaysayan at ang Bibliograpiya."

In His Own Words

  • "Sang-ayon sa mga namamayaning kuru-kuro tungkol sa paksa ng kasaysayan, malaon na ang panahon na naroon sa kanyang luklukan ang mga salik hinggil sa katutubo. Laging ipinalalagay na hindi lamang siya ang nagpasimula ng maraming malalaking bagay kundi, siya rin ang nagsagawa noon."


  • Manuel, E. Arsenio. 1970. “Zulueta, Clemente Jose.” In Dictionary of Philippine Biography. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications 2.
  • _______________. 1995. “On the Need for Compiling Documentary Sources for Historical Writing and Study.” In Dictionary of Philippine Biography. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications. 4: 99-103.

Mojares, Resil. 2006. Brains of the Nation: Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, Isabelo de los Reyes and the Production of Modern Knowledge. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

  • Ponce, Mariano and Jaime C. De Veyra. "Sino si Peping Zulueta?" in "Efemerides Filipinas". Translated into Filipino by Edgardo Tiamson, Teresita Alcantara and Erwin Bautista. Office of Research Coordination, University of the Philippines, Quezon City: 1998, pp. 600-607.

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