Today in Philippine History, February 9, 1837, Father Jose Burgos was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Wednesday February 08, 2012 ()

   Father Jose Apolonio Burgos
   (Father Jose Apolonio Burgos)
On February 9, 1837 Father Jose Apolonio Burgos, one of the three Filipino Martyr Priests collectively called GOMBURZA, was born in the town of Vigan, Ilocos Sur. His father was Jose Burgos, a Spanish lieutenant in the Spanish militia of the Ilocos, and his mother was Florencia Garcia, a native of Vigan. He was baptized on the 12th of the same month. He received his first education from his mother, herself a woman of education and fine qualities.

Father Jose Apolonio Burgos may not have made contribution in the most outstanding way to the establishment of Philippine freedom, but he did make the first important contribution, both in his life and in his death, toward the achievement of independence for the Philippines.

Today in Philippine History, February 9, 1837,  Father Jose Burgos was born in  Vigan, Ilocos Sur

In his early teens he was sent to Manila to study in the San Juan de Letran College. Later he went to the University of Santo Tomas, where with his unusually brilliant intellect, he made a good impression on his professors. He received the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy in 1855, Bachelor of Theology in 1859, Licentiate in Philosophy in 1860, Licentiate in Theology in 1862, and Doctor of Theology and Doctor of Canon Law in 1868.

His studies finished, and having passed a competitive examination to secure an office in the Manila Cathedral, he was ordained second priest of the Cathedral, Fiscal of the Ecclesiastical Court, and Professor and Master of Ceremonies of the University of Santo Tomas.

The general demand for reform at the time had its religious as well as its political aspects, and under the leadership of Father Burgos, the native clergy began to insist on their just rights and to demand that duly trained secular priests (priests who do not belong to the religious orders), most of whom were natives and who were discriminated against by the religious authorities, be again permitted to hold parishes, a right they had once enjoyed but which had been withdrawn. Father Burgos hereby made powerful enemies among the friars, and the cause made very little if any headway.

As a result of the Spanish Revolution of 1868, however, a liberal Governor in the person of Carlos Maria de la Torre was sent to rule the Islands. Filipino reformists rejoiced over the victory of liberalism in Spain which also meant the triumph of their cause, and when the Governor gave a great reception in celebration of the Revolution, Father Burgos, with his leave, organized a procession in honor of the occasion. The liberalism and democratic spirit of the new Governor were manifest throughout his incumbency, although he met with rabid opposition from most of the Philippine Spaniards. Unfortunately, de la Torre's administration lasted only a year or two, for the anti-liberals again came into control in Spain and Rafael de Izquierdo, a blood-thirsty despot, succeeded him. On the night of January 20, 1872, a mutiny among the native soldiers at the Cavite Arsenal broke out, led by one Lamadrid, a Filipino sergeant. They killed some of their officers, but the unrising was soon suppressed by a force of Spanish soldiers from Manila and their leader killed.

The arrest of a large number of Filipinos who has been conspicuous during the previous regime followed, foremost among them Father Burgos and two other priests, Mariano Gomez and Jacinto Zamora. It was charged that they had urged the people of Cavite to rise against Spain. A council of war condemned some of these men to death and others to imprisonment and exile. Among the former were the three priests. Gomez was parish priest of Bacoor and Zamora, like Burgos, was one of the curates of the Cathedral. All three were hated because of their advocacy of reforms and their ability and influence.

On February 15, after a secret trial, during which the three clerics steadily maintained their entire innocence, they were, together with one Francisco Saldua, condemned to die by the inhuman garrote, and the sentence was carried out two days later on Bagumbayan Field. The people believed them innocent, and the Spanish Archbishop of Manila, also doubting their guilt, refused to unfrock them before execution.

Father Gomez, a venerable old man in his eighties, was the first to be garroted. He was followed by Father Zamora, not yet in his forties. Then came Father Burgos, the youngest, only thirty-five, and most distinguished of the three. As his guilt was considered the gravest, he was executed last.

Seated on the fatal bench, he again protested that he was innocent. One of the friars present is reported to have answered him, "Jesus Christ was also innocent". The executioner said, "Father, forgive me for I am going to kill you". Father Burgos replied, "I forgive you, my son. I want you to comply with your duty".

In his prison cell in Fort Santiago, shortly before his execution, he wrote the following message (translated from Spanish) to the youth of the land:

"Get educated. Use the schools of our country for as much as they can give. Learn from our older men what they know. Then go abroad. If you can do no better, study in Spain, but preferably study in freer countries. Read what foreigners have written about the Philippines for their writings have not been censored. See in the museums of other lands what the ancient Filipinos really were. Be a Filipino always, but an educated Filipino. Heretofore we have had thinkers among us but their thoughts have died with them. Such progress as has been made has been individual and not of the country. I have tried to pass on to you what I received from my teachers. Do you now do the same for those who come after you."


  1. Philippine News Agency archives
  2. Padre Burgos, The Philippine Magazine, Volumne 34, Number 2, January 1937


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