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Apolinario Mabini – Strength and genius of the Filipino

BY RADO GATCHALIAN – (Introspection on the life of Philippine hero Apolinario Mabini)

Apolinario Mabini was born on 23 July 1864 in Tanauan, Batangas. From my history class two things I remember about him: “The Sublime Paralytic” and “The Brains of the Revolution.”

Mabini came from a poor family. His father was an illiterate farmer and his mother, a market vendor. It is said that he was not able to receive the Bachiller en Artes degree in UST because he was not able to pay the required examination fee of 29 pesos.

And sadly, became paralysed in 1896 due to polio.

——- FIRST APPEARED – This article first appeared in FB site of the author

But as we look for lessons in history: we realise that man excels despite difficulties and limitations in life. Great leaders experience failure but they never quit. They rise above from the dungeons of struggles.

Innocently, when I was just a curious silly boy, I always asked “How did a disabled person become the brilliant mind of revolution and uprising?” Then, I learned in life that great things usually spark from one dream, one idea.

For us Filipinos – as fragile as we are – the image of Mabini on his wheelchair should remind us to be resilient, strong, hopeful, and brilliant. Ironically, although paralysed, Mabini had eloquently managed in taking a crucial role as the “Mind of the Philippine Revolution.” This clearly proves that a warrior doesn’t need a gun (or bolo) but eloquence, knowledge, and heart – the genuine love for country.

Filipinos for many years and decades have suffered economically – but more so, morally.

This is the Poverty of Who We Are as Filipinos.

We have lost this sense of meaning as Filipinos. We are wandering like a lost soul in the fields. We are searching for our identity, for our Filipino Soul.

We easily surrender to life’s challenges. We complain so much about our poverty yet we do not want to work hard. We want an easy life. We discriminate people based on their social status. We judge people for what they look like. We become so obsessed with the material glitters of life that we forget that important things are invisible.

On a serious matter, we fail to fight for what is right. We succumb to the social pressure of conformity. We follow our emotions rather than reasons. We become blind followers.

Yet we can learn from this great man Mabini.

As Emilio Aguinaldo’s unofficial adviser, he opposed the declaration of Philippine independence. Mabini also condemned the assassination of Bonifacio. He was vehement to take allegiance to US while exiled in Guam until for health reason he had to take the oath so that he could return and die in his land of birth. But this didn’t stop him to voice out his opinions against US occupation.

As we reflect on the image of Mabini – may it encourage us to achieve greatness in life in spite of our physical and economic limitations. Mabini has proven that poverty in not a hindrance to education. He has shown that physical handicap is not an excuse to contribute to society.

He is a man of modern times!

In our generation today – we advocate for the rights of the disabled people. This is noble.

More than 100 years ago, Mabini showed to the world that a disabled man like him can still become a man of influence.

He was the first Prime Minister of the Philippines.

He prepared the way for the Revolution. Andres Bonifacio may be the Father of the Revolution but Mabini provided the substance to Katipunan’s fight for independence.

But more than anything else:

I see and feel in Mabini – a simple yet pure heart of a true Filipino. Dedicated. Selfless. Only to serve. Tireless effort to find a meaningful cause. Love for our country.

He died an at an early age of 38 in 13 May 1903.

So young yet so great!

This is my prayer: may his life and teachings continue to live in our memories as Filipinos. As we search for our soul – let the words of Mabini remind us for who we are as a Filipino: 

“Only he is truly a patriot who, whatever his post, high or low, tries to do the greatest possible good to his countrymen. 

True honor is attained by teaching our minds to recognize truth, and training our hearts to love it.  

Develop the special talents that God has given you, working and studying according to your capabilities, never straying from the path of good and justice, in order to achieve your own perfection, and by this means you will contribute to the progress of humanity.”