The infamous 1872 mutiny in Cavite was the result of three events: the secularization movement within the Catholic Church, a cold war between two groups of Spaniards, and Masonic meddling. But let us begin with the Spaniard vs Spaniard rivalry.
Insular vs peninsular
For 256 years, Filipinas was ruled by the Spanish crown indirectly via a viceroyalty system called the Virreinato de Nueva España or the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The capital of this viceroyalty was in México. When México gained her independence in 1821, Spain began ruling our archipelago directly.
It is said that this direct rule was the start of real Spanish oppression, i.e., discrimination. But this discrimination was more racial than racist, and it was directed not toward the indios or natives (Tagálog, Cebuano, Ilocano, etc.) but toward fellow Spaniards. It was in fact the start of a conflict between two groups of Spaniards in Filipinas: the español peninsular and the español insular. To wit, the peninsular was a Spaniard born in Spain. On the other hand, an insular was a Spaniard born and bred in our country. Another term for the insular was Filipino, a demonym popularized by Luis Rodríguez Varela from Tondo, himself an insular (creole was another term used for the insular/Filipino, though rarely, as it was also used to refer to a Spanish half breed — half Spaniard, half indigenous).
When Filipinas was still under the Viceroyalty of New Spain, the insulares/Filipinos, since they are still technically Spaniards, enjoyed certain privileges such as exemption from tribute and the polo y servicios. They are also given choice positions in Church, government, and the military. However, all these privileges were taken away from them beginning in 1822, just a year after Mexican independence. Case in point: on 30 October 1822, Juan Antonio Martínez arrived as our country’s 54th Governor-General, and the first under direct Spanish rule (the king during that time was Ferdinand VII). Martínez brought with him a slew of peninsular military officers to replace their insular counterparts. This, of course, didn’t sit well with the latter who naturally protested. But instead of listening, the new governor-general had all protesters (including Rodríguez) arrested and exiled.
A series of unfortunate occurrences since then have beset the español insular who had felt betrayed and oppressed by the mother country. Many of them have lost key government positions (such as the coveted alcalde mayor post, equivalent to today’s provincial governor) to peninsulares. Even Spanish friars were not spared from the oppression.
Secularization was a movement within the Church seeking for the transfer of parishes from the regulars to the secular priests. It was a crisis brewing since the 1770s.
There are two types of priests: the regulars, commonly known as the friars, and the seculars. The friars belonged to various orders (Augustinians, Dominicans, Recollects, etc.) while the seculars were under the authority of a bishop. During the Spanish times, the friars were mostly peninsulares while the few seculars were composes of natives and a few creoles.
The conflict between the regulars and the secular priests began when bishops insisted on visiting friar-run parishes. The bishops thought that it was their duty to check how such parishes were being handled. The friars refused their parishes to be visited by bishops, saying that they were not under the latter’s jurisdiction. But to make matters worse for the regulars, King Ferdinand VI issued two royal decrees —one in 1752 and another one in 1757— ordering the gradual takeover of the parishes by the seculars. A similar decree was issued by his successor (and half-brother), King Charles III in 1774.
In the ensuing years, the friars, most especially the peninsular friars, held on to their resolve not to budge from their parishes upon learning that various independence movements in Spanish-held South América were led by insulares and creoles, most of whom were members of Freemasonry, the ancient enemy of the Catholic Church. But two well-known pro-seculars in Manila would have none of this observation. These two were Fr. Pedro Peláez and Fr. José Burgos, both of whom were creoles. Of the two, Fr. Burgos was the most disdained for his adamant clamor for secularization.
El motín de ’72
1872 was the breaking point, when insular patience was filled to the brim and friar wariness could no longer be reined in. The insulares felt that that not only were they being oppressed by the peninsulares; they were also being driven away by them bit by bit. As for the friars, Burgos and the secularization movement had to be stopped if only to preserve the integrity and security of the Church from the onslaught of liberalism that was starting to plague both Europe and South América.
Exactly 150 years ago, during the chilly night of 20 January 1872, troops stationed at the Fortaleza de San Felipe in Cavite Nuevo (now Cavite City) mutinied against their peninsular officers, killing eleven of them. It was not a spontaneous mutiny — it had been a well-planned one. Well, almost…
The mutiny, as it turned out, was to start in Manila. Days before, the conspirators at the capital informed their Caviteño accomplices to start the mutiny in San Felipe as soon they see cannon shots fired in the air; the plan was to set the arrabal (district) of Tondo in fire to distract the authorities while the artillery regiment and infantry in Manila could take control of Fuerte de Santiago in Intramuros and use cannon shots as a signal for the San Felipe troops to start attacking their peninsular officers. But before this could happen, the mutiny in Manila was discovered. Leaders were promptly arrested.
The arrests in Manila were not yet known to those in Cavite. They stood vigilant by the bay, waiting for the signal. Finally, they saw what they thought was the signal — rockets firing through the air! That is when they commenced the attack. But unbeknownst to them, those were not cannon shots from their allies but fireworks coming from Plaza del Carmen in Quiapò, for it was the feast day of San Sebastián de Milán, the titular patron of the famous steel church in front of plaza del Carmen which bears the same saintly name.
That is why the mutineers in Cavite were caught in surprise when the soldiers who arrived there were not their allies but government troops. They were easily overwhelmed. Several more were apprehended the following day, and those included Fr. Burgos as well as two more priests: Fr. Mariano Gomes and Fr. Jacinto Zamora. Following a hurried trial, the three priests, including a state witness who testified against them, were sentenced to death garrote. Manila Archbishop Gregorio Melitón Martínez, nevertheless, refused to unfrock the three for he believed in their innocence.
At the time of his death, Fr. Burgos was at the height of his career as a priest. He was, therefore, a dangerous adversary among anti-secularists. This led to suspicions that Fr. Burgos was framed. Another suspicion is that there could have been an “unholy alliance” between insular reactionaries and Spanish friars to get rid of both peninsular infraction and the secularization of parishes. Be that as it may, one might find it strange that others who were implicated in the mutiny —Máximo Inocencio, Crisanto de los Reyes, and Enrique Paraíso— were not executed but merely exiled. Inocencio, de los Reyes, and Paraíso were all Freemasons. This leads to another suspicion: were they spared because of their affiliation to Freemasonry? It should be noted that the governor-general who signed the death sentence of the three priests was Rafael de Izquierdo, a high-ranking Freemason.
Nevertheless, the execution of the three priests brought forth a new force — the culmination of the process of the forging of our national identity, a process which began in 1565. On the day of their public execution in Bagumbayan, on 17 February 1872, the masses gathered to show their sympathy. On that day, the racial classifications that labeled them as indios, insulares, chinos cristianos, etc. no longer mattered to them. Together, they have become Filipinos, a term that they appropriated from the “oppressors”.
Today is the feast day of San Sebastián de Milán, the patron saint of soldiers. So here’s a query from a Catholic perspective: did he somehow prevent a disastrous civil war from happening 150 years ago? 🤔
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