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The Two Faces of the 1872

Cavite Mutiny
Posted on September 5, 2012


By Chris Antonette Piedad-Pugay

The 12th of June of every year since 1898 is a very important event for all the
Filipinos. In this particular day, the entire Filipino nation as well as Filipino communities
all over the world gathers to celebrate the Philippines’ Independence Day. 1898 came
to be a very significant year for all of us— it is as equally important as 1896—the year
when the Philippine Revolution broke out owing to the Filipinos’ desire to be free from
the abuses of the Spanish colonial regime. But we should be reminded that another
year is as historic as the two—1872.

Two major events happened in 1872, first was the 1872 Cavite Mutiny and the
other was the martyrdom of the three martyr priests in the persons of Fathers Mariano
Gomes, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (GOMBURZA). However, not all of us knew
that there were different accounts in reference to the said event. All Filipinos must know
the different sides of the story—since this event led to another tragic yet meaningful part
of our history—the execution of GOMBURZA which in effect a major factor in the
awakening of nationalism among the Filipinos.

1872 Cavite Mutiny: Spanish Perspective

Jose Montero y Vidal, a prolific Spanish historian documented the event and
highlighted it as an attempt of the Indios to overthrow the Spanish government in the
Philippines. Meanwhile, Gov. Gen. Rafael Izquierdo’s official report magnified the event
and made use of it to implicate the native clergy, which was then active in the call for
secularization. The two accounts complimented and corroborated with one other, only
that the general’s report was more spiteful. Initially, both Montero and Izquierdo scored
out that the abolition of privileges enjoyed by the workers of Cavite arsenal such as non-
payment of tributes and exemption from force labor were the main reasons of the
“revolution” as how they called it, however, other causes were enumerated by them
including the Spanish Revolution which overthrew the secular throne, dirty propagandas
proliferated by unrestrained press, democratic, liberal and republican books and
pamphlets reaching the Philippines, and most importantly, the presence of the native
clergy who out of animosity against the Spanish friars, “conspired and supported” the
rebels and enemies of Spain. In particular, Izquierdo blamed the unruly Spanish Press
for “stockpiling” malicious propagandas grasped by the Filipinos. He reported to the
King of Spain that the “rebels” wanted to overthrow the Spanish government to install a
new “hari” in the likes of Fathers Burgos and Zamora. The general even added that the
native clergy enticed other participants by giving them charismatic assurance that their
fight will not fail because God is with them coupled with handsome promises of rewards
such as employment, wealth, and ranks in the army. Izquierdo, in his report lambasted
the Indios as gullible and possessed an innate propensity for stealing.

The two Spaniards deemed that the event of 1872 was planned earlier and was
thought of it as a big conspiracy among educated leaders, mestizos, abogadillos or
native lawyers, residents of Manila and Cavite and the native clergy. They insinuated
that the conspirators of Manila and Cavite planned to liquidate high-ranking Spanish
officers to be followed by the massacre of the friars. The alleged pre-concerted signal
among the conspirators of Manila and Cavite was the firing of rockets from the walls of

According to the accounts of the two, on 20 January 1872, the district of Sampaloc
celebrated the feast of the Virgin of Loreto, unfortunately participants to the feast
celebrated the occasion with the usual fireworks displays. Allegedly, those in Cavite
mistook the fireworks as the sign for the attack, and just like what was agreed upon, the
200-men contingent headed by Sergeant Lamadrid launched an attack targeting
Spanish officers at sight and seized the arsenal.

When the news reached the iron-fisted Gov. Izquierdo, he readily ordered the
reinforcement of the Spanish forces in Cavite to quell the revolt. The “revolution” was
easily crushed when the expected reinforcement from Manila did not come
ashore. Major instigators including Sergeant Lamadrid were killed in the skirmish, while
the GOMBURZA were tried by a court-martial and were sentenced to die by
strangulation. Patriots like Joaquin Pardo de Tavera, Antonio Ma. Regidor, Jose and
Pio Basa and other abogadillos were suspended by the Audencia (High Court) from the
practice of law, arrested and were sentenced with life imprisonment at the Marianas
Island. Furthermore, Gov. Izquierdo dissolved the native regiments of artillery and
ordered the creation of artillery force to be composed exclusively of the Peninsulares.

On 17 February 1872 in an attempt of the Spanish government and Frailocracia to

instill fear among the Filipinos so that they may never commit such daring act again, the
GOMBURZA were executed. This event was tragic but served as one of the moving
forces that shaped Filipino nationalism.

A Response to Injustice: The Filipino Version of the Incident

Dr. Trinidad Hermenigildo Pardo de Tavera, a Filipino scholar and researcher,

wrote the Filipino version of the bloody incident in Cavite. In his point of view, the
incident was a mere mutiny by the native Filipino soldiers and laborers of the Cavite
arsenal who turned out to be dissatisfied with the abolition of their privileges. Indirectly,
Tavera blamed Gov. Izquierdo’s cold-blooded policies such as the abolition of privileges
of the workers and native army members of the arsenal and the prohibition of the
founding of school of arts and trades for the Filipinos, which the general believed as a
cover-up for the organization of a political club.
On 20 January 1872, about 200 men comprised of soldiers, laborers of the arsenal,
and residents of Cavite headed by Sergeant Lamadrid rose in arms and assassinated
the commanding officer and Spanish officers in sight. The insurgents were expecting
support from the bulk of the army unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The news about the
mutiny reached authorities in Manila and Gen. Izquierdo immediately ordered the
reinforcement of Spanish troops in Cavite. After two days, the mutiny was officially
declared subdued.

Tavera believed that the Spanish friars and Izquierdo used the Cavite Mutiny as a
powerful lever by magnifying it as a full-blown conspiracy involving not only the native
army but also included residents of Cavite and Manila, and more importantly the native
clergy to overthrow the Spanish government in the Philippines. It is noteworthy that
during the time, the Central Government in Madrid announced its intention to deprive
the friars of all the powers of intervention in matters of civil government and the direction
and management of educational institutions. This turnout of events was believed by
Tavera, prompted the friars to do something drastic in their dire sedire to maintain
power in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, in the intention of installing reforms, the Central Government of Spain

welcomed an educational decree authored by Segismundo Moret promoted the fusion
of sectarian schools run by the friars into a school called Philippine Institute. The
decree proposed to improve the standard of education in the Philippines by requiring
teaching positions in such schools to be filled by competitive examinations. This
improvement was warmly received by most Filipinos in spite of the native clergy’s zest
for secularization.

The friars, fearing that their influence in the Philippines would be a thing of the past,
took advantage of the incident and presented it to the Spanish Government as a vast
conspiracy organized throughout the archipelago with the object of destroying Spanish
sovereignty. Tavera sadly confirmed that the Madrid government came to believe that
the scheme was true without any attempt to investigate the real facts or extent of the
alleged “revolution” reported by Izquierdo and the friars.

Convicted educated men who participated in the mutiny were sentenced life
imprisonment while members of the native clergy headed by the GOMBURZA were
tried and executed by garrote. This episode leads to the awakening of nationalism and
eventually to the outbreak of Philippine Revolution of 1896. The French writer Edmund
Plauchut’s account complimented Tavera’s account by confirming that the event
happened due to discontentment of the arsenal workers and soldiers in Cavite fort. The
Frenchman, however, dwelt more on the execution of the three martyr priests which he
actually witnessed.

Unraveling the Truth

Considering the four accounts of the 1872 Mutiny, there were some basic facts that
remained to be unvarying: First, there was dissatisfaction among the workers of the
arsenal as well as the members of the native army after their privileges were drawn
back by Gen. Izquierdo; Second, Gen. Izquierdo introduced rigid and strict policies that
made the Filipinos move and turn away from Spanish government out of disgust; Third,
the Central Government failed to conduct an investigation on what truly transpired but
relied on reports of Izquierdo and the friars and the opinion of the public; Fourth, the
happy days of the friars were already numbered in 1872 when the Central Government
in Spain decided to deprive them of the power to intervene in government affairs as well
as in the direction and management of schools prompting them to commit frantic moves
to extend their stay and power; Fifth, the Filipino clergy members actively participated
in the secularization movement in order to allow Filipino priests to take hold of the
parishes in the country making them prey to the rage of the friars; Sixth, Filipinos during
the time were active participants, and responded to what they deemed as injustices;
and Lastly, the execution of GOMBURZA was a blunder on the part of the Spanish
government, for the action severed the ill-feelings of the Filipinos and the event inspired
Filipino patriots to call for reforms and eventually independence. There may be different
versions of the event, but one thing is certain, the 1872 Cavite Mutiny paved way for a
momentous 1898.

The road to independence was rough and tough to toddle, many patriots named
and unnamed shed their bloods to attain reforms and achieve independence. 12 June
1898 may be a glorious event for us, but we should not forget that before we came
across to victory, our forefathers suffered enough. As weenjoy our freeedom, may we
be more historically aware of our past to have a better future ahead of us. And just like
what Elias said in Noli me Tangere, may we “not forget those who fell during the night.”


The 1872 Cavite Mutiny

ISSUE » Vol. 26 No. 0

One hundred and forty years ago, on January 20, 1872, about 200 Filipino military personnel of Fort San
Felipe Arsenal in Cavite, Philippines, staged a mutiny which in a way led to the Philippine Revolution in
1896. The 1872 Cavite Mutiny was precipitated by the removal of long-standing personal benefits to the
workers such as tax (tribute) and forced labor exemptions on order from the Governor General Rafael
de Izquierdo.

Izquierdo replaced Governor General Carlos Maria de la Torre some months before in 1871 and
immediately rescinded Torre’s liberal measures and imposed his iron-fist rule. He was opposed to any
hint of reformist or nationalistic movements in the Philippines. He was in office for less than two years,
but he will be remembered for his cruelty to the Filipinos and the barbaric execution of the three
martyr-priests blamed for the mutiny: Fathers Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora, later
collectively called “Gomburza.”
The mutineers were led by Sgt. Fernando La Madrid; they seized the Fort and killed the Spanish officers.
Fearing a general uprising, the Spanish government in Manila sent a regiment under General Felipe
Ginoves to recover the Fort. The besieged mutiny was quelled, and many mutineers including Sgt. La
Madrid were killed. Later, others were sentenced to death or hard labor.

Izquierdo used the mutiny to implicate Gomburza and other notable Filipinos known for their liberal
leanings. Prominent Filipinos such as priests, professionals, and businessmen were arrested on flimsy
and trumped-up charges and sentenced to prison, death, or exile. These include Joaquin Pardo de
Tavera, Jose Basa, and Antonio M. Regidor. It was said that the Cavite mutineers got their cue from
Manila when they saw and heard fireworks across the Manila Bay which was really a celebration of the
feast of the Lady of Loreto in Sampaloc.

When the Archbishop of Manila, Rev. Meliton Martinez, refused to cooperate and defrock the priests,
the Spanish court-martial on February 15 went ahead and maliciously found Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and
Zamora guilty of treason for instigating the Cavite mutiny. Two days later, the three priests were put to
death by garrotte in Bagumbayan, now known as Luneta. (Garrote was a barbaric Spanish method of
execution in which an iron collar was tightened around the prisoner’s neck until death occurred.)

Father Burgos was of Spanish descent, born in the Philippines. He was a parish priest of the Manila
Cathedral and had been known to be close to the liberal Governor General de la Torre. He was 35 years
old at the time and was active and outspoken in advocating the Filipinization of the clergy. He was
quoted as saying, “Why shall a young man strive to rise in the profession of law or theology when he can
vision no future for himself but obscurity?”

Father Zamora, 37, was also Spanish, born in the Philippines. He was the parish priest of Marikina and
was known to be unfriendly to and would not countenance any arrogance or authoritative behavior
from Spaniards coming from Spain. He once snubbed a Spanish governor who came to visit Marikina.

Father Gomez was an old man in his mid-’70, Chinese-Filipino, born in Cavite. He held the most senior
position of the three as Archbishop’s Vicar in Cavite. He was truly nationalistic and accepted the death
penalty calmly as though it were his penance for being pro-Filipinos.
The three priests were stripped of their albs, and with chained hands and feet were brought to their
cells after their sentence. They received numerous visits from folks coming from Cavite, Bulacan, and
elsewhere. Forty thousand Filipinos came to Luneta to witness and quietly condemn the execution, and
Gomburza became a rallying catchword for the down-trodden Filipinos seeking justice and freedom
from Spain.

In the dedication page of his second book, El Filibusterismo, published in 1891, Dr. Jose Rizal wrote, “I
dedicate my work to you as victims of the evil which I undertake to combat…”

It is well to remember that the seeds of nationalism that was sown in Cavite blossomed to the Philippine
Revolution and later to the Declaration of Independence by Emilio Aguinaldo which took place also in
Cavite. As for me, the 1872 Cavite Mutiny bolstered the stereotypical belief that Caviteños were the
most courageous of my fellow Filipino