When Birthdays [Could] Get Changed

Apr 27, 2023, 12:22 AM
Eufemio Agbayani III

Eufemio Agbayani III


In recent days, there had been a flurry of discussions over the actual dates of birth of some of our heroes.

Firstly, it was Mariano Ponce. His birth date had always been recognized as March 22 1863 based on the recollection of the family and extant biographies. However, doubts were raised when a copy of his passport application was located in the files uploaded by the United States National Archives. In the form, he stated his birthday as "the 24th day of May, 1863."

Was it a mistake of a secretary? Perhaps--but biographies which place Ponce's birthdate on March 22 were published after his death. Meanwhile, the passport application was signed by Ponce himself and corroborated by Rafael Palma and Julio Llorente who repeated the birthdate in their affidavits.

Then it was Juan Luna. His birth date had been pegged on October 23 due to a biography written by no less than Jose Rizal which had been published on February 28, 1886 when Luna was still alive. The transcript of his trial for the alleged murder of his wife Paz Pardo de Tavera also states his birthdate as October 23. This date is affirmed by his tomb in San Agustin Church, Manila.

However, his marriage certificate found by historian Jean-Paul Potet on the digitized files of the Archives de Paris states his birth date as October 24. To complicate matters, his baptismal certificate dated October 27, 1857 which was shared by the National Archives of the Philippines say he was a child of three days--implying he was born on October 25 based on the old custom of counting the day of his birth as day one.

Thirdly, a facsimile of Emilio Aguinaldo's baptismal certificate has brought to question the commonly accepted date of March 22 , 1869. In the entry made on March 29, 1869, he was a child of three days. Again following the old custom, his birth would have happened on March 27. (Many thanks to Renz Marion Katigbak for sharing a clear copy and transcription of this entry).

People questioning prominent persons' birthdays is not new. Among those whose birthdate had been questioned is Apolinario Mabini. It had been conventionally accepted that he was born on July 23, 1864. However, Jose Villa Panganiban raised the possibility that the actual date might be July 22 . After looking into other sources, the Philippine Historical Committee (with the exception of Teodoro Agoncillo) voted to maintain the current date.

Does this mean official history favors the status quo? Not necessarily. A review of the birth date of Baldomero Aguinaldo, a leading revolutionary and cousin to President Emilio Aguinaldo, showed that when he was baptized on February 28he was already a child of two days. Following the old custom and checking when the feast of his namesake saint falls led to the conclusion that he was actually born on February 27, not 28 as had been conventionally thought of before.

These recent discussions show that while history is not fixed, it should only be revised for two reasons: the availability of new sources and the honest and earnest reexamination of those that have been available for a long time. This is what historians call historical revision (now it is preferred to be used for propagating lies about the past aptly called as historical distortion or denialism).

The challenge not just for us is to welcome new information and be calm in introducing new ideas. In addition, while there is value to knowing clearly when a historical figure was born, what they did afterwards and the lessons their life and deeds could impart to us in the present matters more.

We take a stand
OpinYon News logo

Designed and developed by Simmer Studios.

© 2024 OpinYon News. All rights reserved.