A history lesson missed by Poe, Gordon, Angara, Lacson, and a whole lot of other smart people

(2) Mabini. Source: Gat Apolinario Mabini Shrine, via filipiknow.net

By Joe America

Apolinario Mabini, the architect of the hatchling Philippine Republic’s ways and means, wrote over a century ago:

The Revolution failed because it was badly led; because its leader won his post by reprehensible rather than meritorious acts; because instead of supporting the men most useful to the people, he made them useless out of jealousy. Identifying the aggrandizement of the people with his own, he judged the worth of men not by their ability, character, and patriotism but rather by their degree of friendship and kinship with him; and, anxious to secure the readiness of his favourites to sacrifice themselves for him, he was tolerant even of their transgressions. Because he thus neglected the people, the people forsook him; and forsaken by the people, he was bound to fall like a waxen idol melting in the heat of adversity. God grant that we not forget such a terrible lesson, learnt at the cost of untold suffering. (1)


(1) Apolinario Mabini, The Philippine Revolution, Translated from the Spanish by Leon Ma. Guerrero, Excerpt from Heroism, Heritage, & Nationhood, Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines

(2) 8 Reasons Why Apolinario Mabini Was More Badass Than You Think

56 Responses to “A history lesson missed by Poe, Gordon, Angara, Lacson, and a whole lot of other smart people”
  1. andrewlim8 says:


    “… he judged the worth of men not by their ability, character, and patriotism but rather by their degree of friendship and kinship with him (fraternity brothers, school mates, fellow provincemates); and, anxious to secure the readiness of his favourites to sacrifice themselves for him, he was tolerant even of their transgressions (Supt.Marcos, Bongbong Marcos, Mocha Uson, etc) . “

    • Miela says:

      So true. Caviteño vs Manileño (Bonifacio). Still resonates now. I’d say it’s even stronger. Many people in the Visayas and Mindanao voted for Duterte not because of merit because of regionalism. Unlike other key cities and provinces in the Philippines, Davao never had an LGU funded public hospital or college. His only merit is for the NPA to stop killing police by allowing them to do the EJK in Davao.

      Same with the Ilocano vote on Marcos. Kahit magnanakaw at may human rights violation, basta kapwa Ilocano.

      The Philippines is not functioning as a nation but as a collection of small chiefdoms pretending to be a republic. I think the only reason why the Philippines hasn’t broken up yet is the constitution and that the provinces are benefiting from “imperial Manila’s” subsidies (IRA allotment) to the provinces.

      Duterte’s compadre system is worse than Erap’s compadre system.

  2. NHerrera says:

    Mabini indeed wrote that as if writing today! That is what makes reading history such a fascinating and instructive activity. Thanks for that gem of a quote, Joe. (Hahaha — the oldies like reading history. 🙂 )

    • Haha, not me. I avoid history like the plague. I can’t remember dates. But occasionally something sneaks across my desk. 🙂 🙂

    • edgar lores says:

      NHerrera, that means we have not changed for the better in more than a century.

      • NHerrera says:

        Human evolution has not kept pace with the speed of knowledge acquired the last handful of decades, it seems.

        Let us keep it between us, but methinks, Joe — in his subtle post above — is distancing himself from oldies like me. 🙂

        • Haha, not at all. I’m distancing myself from the historically inclined.

          • Bill In Oz says:

            Joe, I read & agreed with this Mabini quote immediately. I did so because I have been reading around Philippines history.. And this is exactly what turns up time & time again.

            As for the 82% popularity for the ‘God Emperor from Davao ? Seriously what else could any body expect. Of course he is popular. He has conclusively demonstrated his imperial power. It’s a rare Filipino/a who would disagree.

  3. The so far worst President after former barangay captain and mayor Aguinaldo when it comes to this personalism and favoritism is of course Duterte. The least personalistic might have been Ramos, who put together a rainbow coalition, which is hard to do with Filipinos because:

    1) Filipinos don’t work well with those outside their usual groups – too much suspicion and intrigue. “Not my barkada”, “not my frat” is a factor that plays a role in so many contexts.

    2) Filipino leaders prefer to trust those whom they know well – trust in the Philippines is about as scarce as water in Saudi Arabia. Witness Aquino III with Purisima, Abaya and the NAIA chief.

    At least now the Philippines has a few impersonal institutions not coterminous with the Presidency – like the Ombudsman, the Anti-Competition Commission etc. – even if the President dislikes them.

    Add to that the Filipino penchant for wanting to heavily punish outsiders for their infractions, but overlooking the log in the eyes of their own group. Just look at VACC still worrying that Morales might acquit Aquino for Mamasapano, “hang him high”. Would another have been as impartial?

    • Wonderful insights, Irineo. So the genetic predisposition to hang with one’s mates exists even amongst the most well educated. Trust, or the release of control done through corporate-style delegation, is hard to come by. That’s in part because mistakes represent an opportunity for someone to take vengeance. So one must get rid of both the vengeance and lack of trust to develop a forthright government focused on deeds and results and transparency. There is a loooooooonnnnnnnnngggggggg way to go yet.

      • Miela says:

        It could be a hangover from the caste system. It just evolved in some ways but the core conceptnis still there.

        Pensisulares vs Insulares/mestizos vs Indios vs Infieles.

    • karlgarcia says:

      I think this kkk, innercircles, and the like can be packaged in to a single word, can parochial be that word?

      • Edgar Lores says:


      • popoy says:

        karl, if I may, go GOOGLE and ogle Talcott Parsons and cogitate his variables.

        • karlgarcia says:

          Thanks Popoy,
          Done reading his wiki article.
          He translated Weber, NH and Edgar had a brief discussion about it.

          His theories is having a resurgence according to the article.

          He is the proponent of the Social action theory.

          • popoy says:

            I came cross Parsons’ “PATTERN VARIABLES” way back in 1969. Earlier than that my baptismal Godfather who knew his recent history told me of Apolinario Mabini’s advice to Emilio Aguinaldo before he retreated to Tirad Pass: “If you want to become a national hero greater than Jose Rizal, you must die fighting the Americans in Tirad Pass.” Regardless, It is so Filipino that Aguinaldo had been hailed a hero of the Revolution. I remember My Ninong faulted at the time Ramon Magsaysay for his Carabao Ban, saying it was anti-mechanization of farms and not progressive at all.

            • karlgarcia says:

              Look at the anti jeepney modernization nowadays.

              Tirad Pass, I have a painting here at my home, got me to ask questions early as a kid.
              Before, both Aguinaldo, Bonifacio were considered as heroes then, just recently, thsnks to that Antonio Luna movie, people began to have more questions.
              When will Del Pilar’s biopic show?

            • karlgarcia says:

              Thanks for making me read more on Parsons, I must have slept during my Sociology class, I am thankful for the internet, that you could still learn what you “missed” before.

              I thank all my betters here for the lifelong learning.

              • NHerrera says:


                Speaking of Weber and Parsons, if I have another full life to lead — and if Bill Gates throws crumbs to me from his USD 50+ Billions so I do not have to worry about my daily living — I would like to take up as my life’s passion, in parallel, the subjects of history, philosophy, sociology, and the fast growing science of how the brain works. (With some bit of math on the side.) And perhaps at the end understand the Filipino mind.

              • karlgarcia says:

                In archive.org, where you got your Weber text, you already have a rich source,Our guru Edgar reads about everything we can emulate that. Very large shoes to attempt to fit our feet, at least for me.

              • edgar lores says:

                Karl, fantastic librarian that you are!

                I started exploring archive.org and discovered that some, but not all, of our posts are captured and archived.


                Will future generations hear these echoes from history that evades ignorant minds?

              • NHerrera says:

                Right about the big shoes to fit our feet — mine included, but we can all dream, karl. 🙂

              • karlgarcia says:


              • karlgarcia says:

                @ Edgar,Thanks again, hey,that article from you is another treasure.

  4. Sup says:

    In USA Trump gets record low ratings…In the Philippines Duterte gets record high………today Pulse Asia 82%…
    Would this be the difference between first and third world thinking?

    • NHerrera says:

      Sup, that is a 64-peso or 1.27-USD puzzle of the day.

      But seriously, Kellyanne Conway no match with Mocha Uson?

      • popoy says:

        Beg to differ there when asked which survey results can be bought and which surveys are more reliable? But don’t asked politicians who fund such surveys. If both surveys are reflective of the truth then the search is on for the good hidden behind the accuracy of the surveys.

    • More that institutions are more effective in the US, I think: media, women’s rights, human rights, legitimate democratic opposition, independent FBI, etc. Plus a higher level of expectation among the general population for decency . . . although significant deterioration seems to be occurring.

      • NHerrera says:

        Agree!!! (My note above, tongue in cheek.)

      • popoy says:

        LESS effective institutions in Ph? May be Eh! . Forty or Fifty years ago, persons in need of police or NBI Clearance for whatever reason NEED TO KNOW how to play the piano with ten fingers oiled by indelible black ink. TODAY is the NBI still with its piano with the messy black ink likely to soil one’s shirt? What is the annual take from these Clearances considering allegations that more than two thousand Filipinos are leaving for other climes EVERYDAY?

        How computerize is the NBI and the Intelligence Agencies of the PNP and the AFP.? Are these institutions still using daily time record machines that a drop of coke can easily immobilized?

        • The NBI is still processing paperwork rather than solving crimes, and automation there and elsewhere is about a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being highly sophisticated. One can process the paper and pay the fees, but LTO cannot produce license plates or driver’s license plastic. It’s bad.

          • Sup says:

            Reverse thinking… You never show up in congress and promoted to senate (Pac). Steal halve Makati and anak will be Senator. Buy 3000 pair shoes etc. and anak will be senator/ congreswoman. Etc etc etc…. Makes a lot of sense?

      • NHerrera says:

        Here is an example of the institution working, not as THE MAN says so to gain political points:

        Latest health care bill collapses following Moran, Lee defections


    • sonny says:

      I would attribute this difference to a greater legal savvy of would-be gamers of American bureaucracies and the checks and balances provided by Federal and State and Local jurisdictions of the respective law and order enforcement agencies, and the meticulous databases maintained by forensics arms at those jurisdictions.

  5. madlanglupa says:

    Welp, there goes the Inquirer, soon to become Ramon Ang property.

    Just like old times with the old Marcos cronies.

  6. HannahYanu says:

    In my past life when I taught college English (late eighties), this passage was my favorite example of the types of sentences (i.e., loose, periodic, balanced and parallel). And because, right, such knowledge as sentence types is indispensable to daily living as you get on in years, 😉 I made sure my students understood the subject matter perfectly in preparation for the time Facebook would be invented and people would try to express themselves with… the elegance of memes.
    After pointing out an example of each type in this Apolinario Mabini passage, I enjoined the class to deconstruct these sentences, dismember each idea/turn of the phrase forwarded by Mabini, and apply it to the times then (Marcos dictatorship). We had engaging, spirited discussions on what’s good from bad leadership, personal vis-a-vis public interest, meritocracy vs. cronyism. And why Marcos was, all in all, a bad leader. That was how I tried to teach English–and more.
    I want to think my students learned a thing or two from my class.
    Thank you for reviving a distinctly satisfying memory.

    • Haha, elegance of memes . . . I think I would have enjoyed your class. Please don’t deconstruct any of my articles, or I’ll switch to memes!11 🙂

      • NHerrera says:

        Oh oh, many of my posts here not only are wanting on those guides of composition, described by HannahYanu, but more. I am guilty if charged. If the editor here is strict, I am out. Fortunately — I hope — we are able to communicate here notwithstanding those faults. Can old age be an extenuating factor? 🙂

        • chemrock says:


          That all of us write differently is a thing of beauty itself. I think HannahYanu’s ‘elegance of memes’ just reminds us to put in a little bit more effort when commenting because whilst the substance is important, the prose is bonus. If we care, as the French do, to put in some effort, language can be beautiful. There are some here in TSH that has the quality of effortless and crystal clarity in their expression which I really admire. I don’t consider you far off from this group.

          Having said that, this is a blog not a literary appreciation forum, so all meaningful comments are appreciated, however poor our level of expression is. As long as the message is meaningful, we don’t fault the delivery.

        • Poor structure here is considered literary license, and grammar police are considered wholly off topic. Most of us type on the fly and if we have i-pads, find too late that it has converted our words to gibberish that passes their peculiar AI check.

          • NHerrera says:

            In my case, my gibberish is converted to rational prose. In the sense that if something is at the bottom, there is no way but up. Even AI has that thing programmed into its algorithm. 🙂

          • karlgarcia says:

            When I first mentioned my typos to Joe, Joe told me to blame on the chinese keyboard. Bert took it to heart, but Mary Grace chose to keep blaming herself with matching aaargh!

        • NHerrera says:

          Chemrock, Joe,

          Those are reassuring. Thanks additionally, chem, for those extra words — they make my day.

  7. chemrock says:

    I marvel at how you could dig up such an appropriate quote that is as relevant today as it was when Mabini painfully penned it.

    It seems to me Mabini is calling out from his grave “Filipinos, history is repeating itself”.

    Nobody’s listening, cos POE, GORDON, ANGARA, LACSON, AND A WHOLE LOT OF OTHER SMART PEOPLE probably don’t even know who is Mabini.

    • NHerrera says:

      Meaning, even the ex-teacher, Poe? I thought teachers, considering that they are molders of receptive minds, are those more prone to read history. But, dabbling in politics — the Filipino kind — is most probably more rewarding.

      • Bill In Oz says:

        Mabini’s word were written in Spanish in the 1890’s..Later they were translated by Leon Guerrero..

        Now Mabini was/is national hero. But nobody I here I think can read his words in the original. And neither can Poe, Gordon etc. That is a huge barrier N’hererra.

        And then who really thinks that the Spanish culture & civilisation of the 1890’s is worthy of respect ? Remember these were the folk who shot Rizal.

        These are major ‘dis- juncts’ in the Philippines history and story about itself

  8. madlanglupa says:

    Going back to the subject at hand, yes, it is infuriating that many of these politicians tend to focus on current issues for advantage to their own personal goals, while forgetting history whether by intention or their complete ignorance, and surrounded by like-minded minions and hangers-on.

    I have yet to know of a statesman who is well-versed on history, and learn from it. But it is easier to run for office with money than to be appreciated for knowledge.

  9. Talking about History lessons, I learned a lot about PH History watching Professor Leloy Claudio’s “Basagan ng Trip” video series on Rappler. So far, he has 4 videos and all of them are informative and outstanding. He speaks in Taglish so for those who need the transcripts of the videos translated, let me know. Here are the subjects he discussed so far:

    1. On using the term ‘Filipino’
    2. Is Human Rights relevant to Filipinos?
    3. Whom to trust – journalists or social media stars?
    4. What does liberalism, LP, and yellow really mean?


  10. Sup says:

    Ahaaaaaa..now i know why Duterte likes martial law and dictatorship….

    ”Fidel Castro slept with 35,000 women” 🙂


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