Mabini’s house


For what seems like the nth time, the house of Apolinario Mabini, is up for relocation.

It used to be perched precariously on a sliver of land beneath the old Nagtahan Bridge on the banks of the Pasig River but when the old metal and wood bridge was replaced with a concrete one, in the name of progress many decades ago, Apolinario Mabini’s house was unceremoniously removed and transferred to a rather obscure corner of Malacañang Park. There may have been subsequent relocations because now the MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority), invoking a flood-control program, has asked the National Historical Institute (NHI) to move the hero’s house out of its way. As the buck never stops at the NHI, its chairman forwarded the MMDA dictum to the Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

How shameful that we have become so indifferent and disrespectful! Apolinario Mabini, the ideologue and staunch defender of the First Philippine Republic deserves a park as big as the Luneta. Very little is known about Mabini; we refer to him as the "brains of the Revolution’’ but are unaware of his political philosophy and strategies. He is called the "sublime paralytic’’ but very few have bothered to explain why he became disabled or how he coped with the terrible affliction. Although there are many important streets that bear his name, A. Mabini has always been relegated to the most obscure crevice of our national memory. Could it be due to his bitter clashes with the United States of America and the handful of influential ilustrados who took the invader’s side?

When I heard about the impending relocation of Mabini’s house, I thought I owed it to the hero to learn more about his ideas and how he tried to guide Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo during the formation of the First Republic. As I am in no position to place his house somewhere at the Luneta (where fastfood chains, motorcycle shops, parking lots and other alien structures continue to encroach) the best way I can pay him tribute is by learning how he painstakingly gave focus and form to a fledgling nation. His letters from 1893 to 1903 where compiled by historian Teodoro M. Kalaw in 1930, and an English translation of "Las Cartas Politicas de Apolinario Mabini’’ was published in 1965 by the National Heroes Commission. T.M. Kalaw wrote scholarly footnotes to Mabini’s letters, which help connect historical dots and get an insight on what happened to us more than a century ago.