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Revolt of the  Tayabas regiment




Gemma Cruz Araneta

Gemma Cruz Araneta

I learned nothing about them in school; not even in passing was the Tayabas regiment mentioned in the Philippine history book we were using. In fact, it was only last year, 2018, that I heard about this group of valiant Tayabasin indios. In those days, the term “Filipino” did not include the native indios, it was reserved for the offspring of full-blooded Spaniards who were born in these islands because their parents happened to be living and working here. Most of them were transients. Their counterparts in Mexico (then the Virreinato de la Nueva España) were called Americanos, which had nothing to do with the USA; the Spanish colonies across the Ocean were called las Americas. Like natives of our archipelago, native Mexicans were also called indios.

Last year, I heard about the Tayabas regiment during a conference highlighting Apolinario de la Cruz, better known as Hermano Pule or Puli, and the Cofradia de San Jose he established in 1832. According to Tayabasin historians who have been promoting Hermano Pule as a folk hero, the latter wanted to become a priest but was discriminated upon so he formed a Cofradia exclusively for native indios. Spaniards, creoles, mestizos of whatever type were not welcome. To make a long and tragic story short, the Spanish authorities attacked Hermano Pule’s headquarters at Mt. Banahaw, massacred his followers, killed him, put his severed head on a stake, tore and quartered his lifeless body, and displayed its parts to as far away as Majayjay.

As it turned out, many of those who were killed had relatives in the Tayabas regiment which was stationed in Malate, then an arrabal of Manila (Intramuros). Inconsolably enraged by the cruel death of more than 800 provincemates, many of whom were blood relatives, the entire regiment rose up in arms on the night of 20 January 1843 and occupied Fort Santiago.

The French consul in Manila, a silent witness to the unexpected uprising, dispatched a telegram (the dernier cri in communication) to his minister in Paris: “At the height of the conflict, they [the Tayabas regiment] were heard to cry out to their countrymen to rise in arms and fight for independence. This is the first time that word, independence, has been uttered in the Philippines… as a rallying cry, it is a milestone on the road to freedom….” (I hope nothing was lost in that translation.)

Lamentably, the rebellion was short-lived, Spanish soldiers recaptured Fort Santiago and portions of Intramuros occupied by the rebellious Tayabas regiment. Those who survived were executed in Bagumbayan two days later, on 22 January.

Apparently, in 2018, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the Intramuros administration unveiled a marker on the 175th anniversary of the Tayabas Regiment Revolt. There was hardly any publicity. I have not seen the marker and do not even know where to find it.

This year on the 176th anniversary, the NHCP convened a two-day conference (19-20 January) titled: “Independencia 1843, Ang Rehimentong Tayabas sa Daloy ng Kasaysayan ng mga Kilusang Mapagpalaya.” Mr. Ryan V. Palad, conference coordinator, defined the objective, which is to continue expounding on the narrative of Hermano Pule and the valiant Tayabas Regiment, placing them in the context of our anti-colonial, national struggle for independence. It was obvious during the conference that Mr. Palad’s approach was considered deeply polemical.

I find it intellectually stimulating to attend conferences about Philippine history especially when the audience are teachers from all over the Philippines concerned about the way Philippine history is being diluted and tucked into the curriculum any which way.  The speakers themselves were young professors, fresh from postgraduate studies, familiar with primary sources, meticulous in their methodology and analysis. Dr. PalmoIya’s “Bagsik ng mga creoles: ang laban ng mga hijos del pai sa pagbabago at Kalayaan, 1820-1840” brought to mind similar events in Mexico’s anti-colonial revolution against Spain. Dr. Vicente Villan’s “Ang Rehimentong Tayabas sa Konteksstong entradang kolonyal ng mga Espanyol sa Mindanao “ illustrated the “divide and rule” policy of Spain. The Tayabas regiment and others like them were used to fight the Muslims in “Morolandia.”

Congratulations to the NHCP, GSIS, Intramuros Administration, and the Province of Quezon, I learned a lot during that conference.


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