Pedro Paterno

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Pedro Alejandro Paterno (February 27, 1858 - March 11, 1911) was a negotiator, historian, composer and author of the "Pact of Biak-na-Bato" first published in 1910.

Early life

As the son of Maximo Molo Paterno and Carmen de Vera Ignacio, he belonged to a wealthy family. His first education was under Florentino Flores, and he later enrolled at Ateneo Municipal de Manila where he graduated in 1871. He went to Spain and studied at the University of Salamanca, then transferred to the Central University of Madrid where he took his law doctorate in 1880.


Paterno helped in the negotiations of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato on December 15, 1897 and later wrote a book about it. While in Spain, he joined the Propaganda Movement. He wrote one of the first Filipino novels, entitled Ninay, which was published before Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere. He also wrote Sampaguita y Poesias, a collection of Filipino poems in Spanish that was published in Madrid in 1880. In the 1890s, Paterno became the Prime Minister of the first Philippine Republic, a cabinet member and an assemblyman.

During the American invasion of the Philippines, he was one of the Filipinos who favored the coming of the Americans and advocated the incorporation of both countries.

Balimbing Reputation

The reputation has its origins in Pedro Paterno’s role in the negotiation of the 1897 Pact of Biyak-na-Bato between the Philippine revolutionaries and the Spanish. Paterno agreed to abandon his fellow revolutionaries struggle and collaborate with the colonial administration. Then when the USA in 1898 declared war on Spain, Paterno urged the revolutionaries to defend Spanish rule against the Americans, and he continued to urge resistance to the USA during the Philippine-American war. When captured, he swore allegiance to the USA, and was subsequently appointed President of the Consultative Assembly.

He has long been an easy target for nationalist historians. Perhaps because as an author of a considerable number of works of history, historians place him as an ilustrado who compromised with both colonialism and nationalism, with loyalties split between Spain and the Philippines. For historians Paterno’s “The Pact of Biyak-na-Bato” is a primary source on the topic, but some historians (particularly Ambeth Ocampo) interpret this supposed historical writing as fiction.

Here are some passages that draw the question of whether Paterno’s writings are fact or fiction: “A lady, a beautiful lass of seventeen years came to me one night panting, trembling, with her long hair spread out on her shoulders down to her back like a dark night. Her sweet lips were rosy and quivering, with her eyes filled with tears and her chest palpitating. I asked her, ‘What do you want?’ And I came to learn that all she wanted was for me to take her along. She told me between sobs and tears that she was very unfortunate, having fallen prey to a revolutionary chief whom she hated. My soul was tearing me to pieces because of this enchanting lady. But what could I do?”

Another describes his wife on her deathbed. He wants to be with his wife, but then duty calls and he must forge peace in the Philippines between the revolutionists led by Emilio Aguinaldo and the enemy led by the Spanish governor-general. This is how Paterno resolves this delicate problem: “I reflected. Finally, I hit the nail on its head. With money everything could be done. I gave her a respectable sum of money so she could run away. The poor girl made her escape and left nothing but a great longing and a rosary of sampaguita flowers that she gave me in return. I kept it among my unredeemed receipts and old documents which were being eaten by years of disillusion.”

Paterno died of cholera at the age of 53.




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