Apolinario Mabini is unfairly called “Dakilang Lumpo.” If Filipinos only knew that even without polio his greatness in history’s eyes would still be the same, we wouldn’t make such a fuss out of his disability. He never wanted to be treated with special treatment. In fact, none of his works explicitly make any excuse out of this physical limitation of his, other than a simple word at the end of his letters, his sign that says “The Paralytic.”
It has been 150 years since he was born in a humble hut of peasants in Talaga, Tanauan, Batangas. Mabini’s mother, Dionisia Maranan, a simple vendor, wanted his son to become a priest. Records do not say what caused his parents’ passing but we could only guess it was out of life’s hardships.
Mabini was there when Jose Rizal organized a special organization, the La Liga Filipina, “to unite the whole archipelago into a homogenous society.” He then fades into obscurity again in history until he was arrested by the Spanish authorities because of his involvement with the defunct organization. He would shortly be released because of his disability.
Never a cause not to move in the service of his countrymen, Mabini despite his disability, eventually saw the Philippine Revolution as a valid cause, but seeing it so disorganized, he felt burdened to guide the movement by writing articles advising the Filipinos on their next move.
Much to his pamphleteering, Mabini’s well-known Ordenanzas reached Aguinaldo, with recommendation from Felipe Agoncillo, saying that the man would be most useful in the Republica Filipina. As such, as if handpicked by Divine Providence, Aguinaldo who just got back in Cavite from exile, sent for Mabini, who by then was staying in Los Baños, Laguna.
From town to town, amidst scorching heat, the long trek of Aguinaldo’s men began, carrying this unknown invalid in a hammock. There were even accounts that say there was one moment when the men forgot Mabini in his hammock, leaving him there in the heat of the sun as the men were resting. And yet Mabini never complained. When he arrived, on June 12, 1898 at Kawit, Cavite, Mabini arrived late for the Independence Proclamation ceremonies.
Historian Teodoro Agoncillo writes:
"General Aguinaldo, now face to face with the invalid, was assailed by misgivings as to the advisability of employing the services of such a one. What immense trouble was needed to bear this invalid from town to town at a pace which military necessity would certainly require, and require often, considering the rebel situation! Aguinaldo felt that he must have made a hasty decision in sending for the paralytic who was then recuperating at Los Baños. To all appearances, Mabini was useless.
Doubts criss-crossed his mind. He was a bit embarrassed. For a few moments, the General and the Paralytic measured each other without uttering a word. There was tense silence verging on the ominous. Then Mabini spoke.
There was firmness in his words; there was a ring of deep conviction in his voice; there was, so Aguinaldo sensed, a largeness of soul and of vision encased within a weak body of this man for whom hundreds of men labored hard to bring nearer to the General.
As Mabini spoke, the General’s doubts were dispelled.”
(Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic)
Indeed, never judge a book by its cover.
To the man who became the Philippines’ first Prime Minister, and its foremost great political philosopher, who never fought with arms, but fought with conviction by the use of the mind and pen, this is your day.
Happy birthday, Apolinario Mabini!
More posts on Mabini HERE.
The Philippine government has launched a commemorative page on Mabini on his sesquicentennial. Visit gov.ph/mabini150 for awesome history maps, articles and more historical goodness.
*PHOTO ABOVE: A photo of Mabini, imprisoned by the Americans in Anda Street Prison Intramuros, digitally colorized by the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.
PAINTING ABOVE: “Sublime Paralytic Crosses a River” by Rudy Herrera