We often say that we should always remember the deeds of our heroes, that we should cherish their memories and emulate their passion. One way we can remind ourselves of these "notes to self" are commemorative rituals.
I was therefore thankful to be able to participate in the commemoration of the 180th anniversary of the Tayabas Regiment's uprising last Friday, January 20, 2023, at Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila. A sizeable delegation from Quezon province itself and the Quezonins in Metro Manila converged to offer flowers at the historical marker unveiled by the NHCP in 2018. We also listened to messages that situated the uprising in the larger context of national history.
There is one word that the mutineering soldiers shouted as they penetrated Fort Santiago's heavily guarded walls: Independencia. Freedom. It was uttered for the first time in the context of resisting foreign rule, and its spirit connects Tayabas to Cavite, to Spain, to Malolos and even EDSA.
It was for freedom from the flesh and the worries of a colonial world that Apolinario de la Cruz (commonly known as Hermano Pule) established the Cofradia de San Jose in his homeland in Tayabas.
It was for freedom that this group was transformed to resist the soldiers that would not let them worship in peace. It was for freedom that Hermano Pule's men died and that he himself suffered a gruesome execution.
It was for freedom that the soldiers of the Tayabas regiment acted on their feelings of sorrow and anger and avenged their fellow Tayabasin.
It was for freedom that another set of soldiers revolted against Spanish rule 29 years later to the day — this time in Cavite. Their grievances were buried in falsehoods, leading to the martyrdom of three priests whose tiny commonality with them was a desire for a better Philippines. The injustice they suffered inspired another breed of fighters, this time through words and art.
It was for freedom from corruption and racism that bright minds brought the fight closer to the center of imperial power. They endured poverty, being cut off from support back home. By the time they realized the fight had to happen at home, it was too late. Graciano Lopez Jaena, known for his speeches and newspaper articles, died 53 years after the Tayabas Regiment rose and 24 years after Filipinos mutinied in Cavite.
It was for freedom that Filipinos sparked a nationwide revolt that would lead to the inauguration of a republic in Malolos 55 years and three days after the Tayabas regiment uprising and 26 years and three days after Cavite mutiny.
Yet the struggle for freedom is still ongoing. We were still fighting against corruption when a president was ousted 22 years ago last Friday. We are still fighting it now, and we can add the pandemic, rising inflation, and widespread poverty to the things we need to be free from.
Fighting for freedom was never easy, yet our forebears still did it. Let the flowers we lay on markers and monuments be a reminder for us to be worthy of their sacrifices. We continue the struggle not just in their memory but for the improvement of our lives and of those who will come after us.