Mabini's 105th birthday is today

I LIKE history and how it mirrors many of our country's woes. I follow Ambeth Ocampo's Looking Back column with the interest of a showbusiness fanatic. I have a few friends who are history buffs, as well—for instance, Joseph Brazal who took me to the National Museum when we had nothing else to do in med school; and JP Asong, who, despite being a lawyer now, still has history as his first love.

Today we celebrate Apolinario Mabini's 105th birthday. But what do we know about Mabini? Apart from my history classes in elementary and high school, I don't know much about him. He is called the “Sublime Paralytic,” a title that elicits pity rather than respect, and I agree with the writer Jessica Zafra who says:

In the first place, how does one become a sublime paralytic, by levitating? This is like calling Kris Aquino 'The Massacre Queen' or Gretchen Barretto the 'ST Queen'. They probably would not like it. It reduces everything they have ever done to the movies they made in the 1990s.”

She calls Mabini “the Professor Charles Xavier of the Philippines.” Now that's a better title. I couldn't agree more.

Ambeth Ocampo, in his column today, offers an interesting historical intrigue:

Mabini was nominated to be chief justice, but was blocked by individuals and interests that could not bend his ethics. These dark forces hinted that his paralysis was due to syphilis. An autopsy in 1980 concluded that it was caused by polio. They were not comfortable with his having the ear of the president, and referred to him as the “camara negra”—literally “black chamber”—of the latter, and they successfully got him out of their way. He was in power for less than a year, and upon his retirement started to reflect on the revolution and why it failed.

Prof. Amado Mendoza also writes about Mabini. Prof. Mendoza tells us that Mabini has offered an important insight as to why the Philippine revolution against Spain failed. Mabini's commentary showed his deep disappointment towards then-President Aguinaldo:

To sum it up, the Revolution failed because it was badly led; because its leader won his post by reprehensible rather than meritorious acts; because instead of supporting the men most useful to the people, he made them useless out of jealousy. Identifying the aggrandizement of the people with his own, he judged the worth of men not by their ability, character, and patriotism but rather by their degree of friendship and kinship with him; and, anxious to secure the readiness of his favorites to sacrifice themselves for him, he was tolerant even of their transgressions. Because he thus neglected the people, the people forsook him; and forsaken by the people, he was bound to fall like a waxen idol melting in the heat of adversity. God grant we do not forget such a terrible lesson, learned at the cost of untold suffering. (La Revolución Filipina, Chapter X)

It is a shame then that we haven't learned our lessons at all.

Do we have heroes like Mabini in our midst? Do our leaders even measure up to his standards?

I invite you to read the National Historical Commission's website and the free online text of The Philippine Revolution, translated by Leon Ma. Guerrero. Mabini was a brilliant thinker who loved God and country supremely. He makes me proud to be Pinoy.

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