“Gomburza” is an acronym or syllabic abbreviation for three martyred Filipino priests Mariano Gomes, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora who were executed by garrote on the 17th of February 1872 at Bagumbayan (Luneta) by the Spanish colonial government for treason and sedition charges following the Cavite Munity of 1871. The event was said to have inspired nationalism among Filipinos, especially the ilustrados, in the latter part of the 19th century, leading to the Philippine Revolution and the country’s declaration of independence.
Mariano Gomez de los Angeles was a well-known Filipino priest during the Spanish colonial period. He was the head priest of Bacoor, Cavite and was famous for advocating for equal rights of native Filipino priests. Moreover, he was also active in fighting against the abuses of Spanish friars.
Jose Burgos, originally from Vigan, Ilocos Sur, was educated at the University of Santo Tomas and Colegio de San Juan De Letran, where he became a prolific writer. His written articles, which advocated for reforms in the Catholic church—such as the call for the increased roles of native Filipino priest in the country’s Church affairs—made him a target of the Spanish clergy.
Jacinto Zamora was born in Pandacan, Manila. During his time as a clergyman, he was able to put up parishes in Marikina, Pasig, and Batangas. He was also able to oversee the Manila Cathedral in 1864. Like Gomez and Burgos, Zamora also advocated for the rights of the native Filipino priests and fought against the abuses of the Spanish clergymen.
The Cavite Mutiny
The three priests were tagged as the mastermind of the “Cavite Mutiny,” a brief uprising of 200 Filipino troops and workers (mostly mestizos) at the Spanish arsenal in Cavite who were angered by the removal of their privileges such as exemption from the tribute and forced labor (polo y servicio). The uprising took place on 20 January 1872 and was quickly crushed by the reactionary governor general Rafael de Izquierdo. The governor used the case as an excuse to clamp down on native Filipinos aiming to push governmental and secular reforms.
During a short trial, the captured mutineers implicated Father Burgos to a supposed plot to overthrow the Spanish colonial government. With convincing from the Spanish friars who were infuriated by the Filipino priests’ secularization movement, the colonial government arrested the trio on 15 February 1872, a month after the Cavite mutiny incident. They found them guilty of masterminding the uprising and were subsequently thrown into jail along with other Filipino liberals such as Joaquin Pardo de Tavera and Maximo Paterno. The priests were charged with treason and sedition by the Spanish military tribunal.
The Martyrdom of the Gomburza
The Spanish government passed the sentence to the trio the same day they were arrested. They were publicly executed, by garrote, on the early morning of 17 February 1872 at 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 Effect of the Gomburza’s Martyrdom to the Filipinos
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 the Filipinos to conceive plans for freedom from Spanish rule and make way for the first stirrings of the Filipino revolution. In fact, Dr. Jose Rizal would dedicate his second novel, El Filibusterismo, to the memory of Gomburza.
The martyrdom of GomBurZa | Presidential Museum and Library. Retrieved 4 January 2021
Umali, Justin. 2020. How the Death of Gomburza Led to a Wholly Filipino Church. Retrieved 4 January 2021
Cavite Mutiny. Britannica Encyclopedia. Retrieved 4 January 2021.