We were on our way to Club Balai Isabel in Talisay, Batangas and took the SLEX/Star Toll Route. We passed the Mabini Shrine in Barrio Talaga, Tanauan and took the chance to visit this historical site. Frankly, we weren’t expecting that the Shrine would be situated in this huge property along the main road in the birthplace of this nearly unheralded hero of the Revolution.

Apolinario Mabini Shrine in Tanauan, Batangas

A Few History Lessons

For someone who took on odd jobs, even worked as a houseboy, just to get through school, Mabini’s intellect certainly shone through in academics. Shabbily dressed as any poor student could be, shunning ridicule, he earned a scholarship and taught children to earn money for his board and lodging. Unlike Dr. Rizal, the Luna brothers, and many revolutionaries learned in the ways of the world outside of his own country, Mabini stayed to earn a local education but in no way any less than his generation’s erudite patriots. Unlike Padre Burgos who gave in to his mother’s wish for him to be a priest, Mabini refused to pay heed to his mother’s wishes. He passed college with the highest honors and went on to earn his law degree from the oldest university, University of Santo Tomas, in 1894. All that time, while laboring, working his way through school.

Many remember Mabini as the “Sublime Paralytic” who served as the very first Prime Minister cum chief advisor to then President Emilio F. Aguinaldo. He crafted the very first Constitution of the Philippines, the very first also in Asia, thus earning him the unofficial title of “Brains of the Revolution”.

When America defeated Spain, he refused to swear his allegiance to the new set of colonizers leading to his arrest in Nueva Ecija. After having been exiled to Guam along with other revolutionary leaders, Mabini returned in February 1903 and resumed his patriotic work, much to the chagrin of the American colonial officials.  He didn’t live long enough as he fell ill and died of cholera in Sta. Mesa, Manila  in May 1903 . Not many know that Mabini died single at the age of 38.   His remains were transferred to his town of birth where a Shrine now stands on his simple grave. A replica of the house where Mabini was born was constructed in the Shrine site which also houses some of his memorabilia.  A distant relative is one of the caretakers in the Mabini Shrine.  Failed to get his name, but look him up, for more  Mabini trivia.

Trivia:  A Most Unfortunate, Undeserved Controversy

The life of Mabini was hounded by controversy, especially regarding the cause of his paralysis.  During his lifetime, it was rumoured that Mabini suffered from syphilis which resulted in his paralysis. A subsequent exhumation  and autopsy of his bones disproved this rumour and confirmed that the paralysis was caused by Polio.  Unfortunately, the malicious rumour has done its rounds and was debunked much too late in 1980. No less than National Artist F. Sionil Jose erred in his book Po-on, for which the novelist offered the following apology, which reads in part:

I committed a horrible blunder in the first edition of Po-On. No apology to the august memory of Mabini no matter how deeply felt will ever suffice to undo the damage that I did…. According to historian Ambeth Ocampo who told me this too late, this calumny against Mabini was spread by the wealthy mestizos around Aguinaldo who wanted Mabini’s ethical and ideological influence cut off. They succeeded. So, what else in our country has changed?