Primary sources on Gomburza have long eluded Filipino historians, leaving the full story of their martyrdom and involvement in the 1872 Cavite Mutiny unwritten. Teodoro Agoncillo maintained that the documents on their military trial will never be found because they do not exist. Agoncillo was of the opinion that the kangaroo court that sentenced Gomburza to death by tourniquet fabricated both the charges and the evidence, thus leaving no paper trail. In August 1972, the Spanish government sent a note to then Foreign Minister Carlos P. Romulo, who had formally requested copies of the documents from the Gomburza trial, stating that the documents could not be found after a extensive research in Spanish archives, and that these may have been lost during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. I have not given up hope that these will ever turn up because documents relating to the Katipunan were found in the Spanish military archives a few years ago and are now available to historians.
Jesuit historian P. John Schumacher, the authority on Burgos, recommends five reliable published sources on the Cavite mutiny: “The Philippine Archipelago” (Paris, 1877) by Edmond Plauchut; “Historia general de Filipinas” (Madrid, 1887-1895) and “A los martires de la Patria, Burgos, Gomez y Zamora” by Jose Montero y Vidal, the latter appeared anonymously in the Madrid newspaper “Filipinas ante Europa” in 1900 which was attributed to Antonio Ma. Regidor; “Reseña historica de Filipinas desde su descubrimiento hasta 1903” (Manila, 1906) by TH Pardo de Tavera; and “Los sucesos de 1872. Reseña bio-bibliografia” (Manila, 1911) by Manuel Artigas y Cuerva. So far only Plauchut and Artigas have been translated from the original French and Spanish. Too bad that the current generation of Filipinos is cut off from historical sources by a language barrier.
Gomburza took on a life of her own in many ways. In the 1960s, Agoncillo said that “there is no history of the Philippines before 1872”, pointing out that all events before Gomburza’s execution in 1872 were irrelevant to Filipinos, because they were simply “the history of Spain in the Philippines”.
Jose Rizal in a letter to Mariano Ponce in April 1889 said: “Without 1872 there would also be no Plaridel [M.H. Del Pilar]Where [Graciano López-]Jaena, or [Gregorio] Sanciangco, there would also not exist brave and generous Filipinos [expatriate] settlements in Europe; without 1872 Rizal would now be a Jesuit and instead of writing Noli me tangere he would have written the opposite. At the sight of these injustices and these cruelties, when I was still a child, my imagination was awakened and I swore to dedicate myself to avenging so many victims one day, and it is with this idea in mind that I have studied and it can be read in all my works and writings. God will one day give me the opportunity to fulfill my promise.
Gomburza inspired the Katipunan. Documents from the Spanish military archives have revealed that Andres Bonifacio and his men commemorated Gomburza in 1894, 1895 and 1896. A text attributed to Emilio Jacinto on Gomburza is also on file. Gomburza appears in Katipunan documents and was even used as a code name. A contemporary source reports that Bonifacio distributed small pieces of black cloth to the Katipuneros who took them as “anting-anting” or second-class relics carved from the cassocks of Gomburza. During the second phase of the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War, Gomburza continued to inspire. An entire chapter of Apolinario Mabini’s posthumously published memoir “La Revolucion Filipina” (Manila, 1906) is titled “Cause and Effect of the Execution of Fathers Burgos, Gomez and Zamora”.
During the dark days of martial law, a group of priests and seminarians formed in Gomburza to fight against the Marcos dictatorship. The group was founded at the Ateneo de Manila Loyola School of Theology on February 17, 1977 to commemorate Gomburza’s execution. In 2017, activist P. Robert Reyes, better known as the “running priest”, revived the dormant Gomburza, assumed the position of spokesperson and declared the group against the excesses of the Duterte administration. One hundred and fifty years after their execution, Gomburza continues to inspire.
Comments are welcome on [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and over 70 titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.