Teodoro M. Kalaw

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Teodoro M. Kalaw (March 31, 1884 – December 4, 1940) was one of the most outstanding trilingual writers and historians of the Philippines. He was born on March 31, 1884 in the town of Lipa, Batangas

He was first and foremost a bibliophile and he specialized in the collection of original documents, which became the basis for much of his historical research. He was a true Renaissance man, at various times he was a journalist, publisher, government bureacrat and elected public official.

Early Life

As a teen he collected revolutionary leaflets and newspapers and built a small collection of papers centered on the revolution. Among those papers were those of Apolinario Mabini and the most valuable was the record of the Andres Bonifacio trial.

He finished his law degree in Manila and became the youngest editor of El Renacimiento, an extreme nationalist newspaper. At that time the nationalist struggle moved underground to the free press and he was its prime exponent. His editorials staunchly defended the national interest and he became an arch-critic of the the American colonial regime In 1908 he was sued for libel by the then Secretary of Interior Dean Conant Worcester for having published a blind editorial called "Aves de Rapiña" or "Birds of Prey."

The Infamous "Bird of Prey" Case

The October 30, 1908 editorial thundered:" The Eagle, symbolizing liberty and strength, had found the most admirers--and men oollectively and individually, have desired to copy and imitate this most rapacious of birds in order to triumph in the plundering of their fellowmen. But there is a man who, besides being like the eagle, also has the characteristics of a vulture, the owl and the vampire. He ascends the mountains of Benguet ostensible to classify and measure Igorot skulls, to study and to civilize the Igorots but at the same time he also espies during his flight, with the keen eye of the bird of prey, were the large deposits of gold are, the real prey...and then he appropriates these all to himself afterwards, thanks to the legal facilities he can make and unmake at will, always however redounding to his benefit."

Dean Worcester felt quite certain that the editorial alluded to him, as he was not only Secretary of Interior, he was the Chief of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes which he had set up for the express purpose of surveying tribal lands and studying their indigenous peoples. The editorial although written in Spanish was so daring because it accused the "Eagle" of corruption and using public office for personal gain.

Worcester sued both the publisher Martin Ocampo and the young editor. The case dragged before the courts for two years when finally the judge found the Filipinos guilty and ordered them to pay damages of P60,000. The newspaper was forced to close down, but immediately the duo of Ocampo and Kalaw started another nationalist newspaper La Vanguardia. Years later Teodoro Kalaw would reveal that he had never even written the editorial. It was his fellow journalist Fidel Reyes.


Notwithstanding his notoriety, Kalaw was still able to run for and win a seat at the Philippine Assembly. Such was his popularity among Filipinos that he even ssumed Worcester's position as Secretary of Interior in 1920. Subsequently, Kalaw became director of the National Library, writing in his spare time historical essays. Most of his writings have been compiled into pamphlets and books. Don Teodoro wrote in Tagalog, Spanish, and English.

Historical writings 1900s to 1940 were so dominated by him, that the Philippines' leading historian Teodoro Agoncillo considered this period as the "Age of Kalaw." Teodoro M. Kalaw's literary output was so prolific that later generations of Filipinos considered him the father of Philippine libraries. He died in 1940.



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