Today, February 17, 2020 is the 148th anniversary of the Execution of Fathers Mariano Gomez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora (February 17, 1872).
January 20, 1872, two hundred Filipino employees of the Cavite arsenal staged a revolt against the Spanish colonial government’s abolition of their exemption from payment of tributes. This revolt was known as the Cavite Mutiny. It led to the persecution of three prominent secular priests Mariano Gomez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora. They were tagged as the masterminds of the revolt. Late in the night of February 15, 1872, the Spanish court-martial found the three secular priests guilty of treason and sentenced to death.
La Nacion, a Spanish newspaper, described Fr. Jose Burgos as “a Spaniard born in the Philippines, the parish priest of the Manila Cathedral. Zamora, according to the same newspaper, like Burgos, was a Spaniard born in the Philippines also and parish priest of Marikina. Zamora has a troublesome character, he was not very friendly to Spaniards, and had serious offence to the authorities. Mariano Gomez, was the parish priest of Bacoor. He was a native of Cavite, a Chinese half-breed and very old, perhaps more than 70. He earned the suspicions of the Spanish authorities several times but because of his age and his service to the church and the people his archbishop made him vicar of a number of Dominican and Recollect.
The sentence was read to the Priests collectively known as GOMBURZA, in Fort Santiago early morning of February 16, 1872, they were told that the court-martial would be execute them the following day. Upon hearing the sentence, Burgos broke into sobs, Zamora lost his mind and never recovered it, and only Gomez listened impassively, an old man accustomed to the thought of death.
The three priests were executed on February 17, 1872 in Bagumbayan (now Luneta Park). Gomez, head held high, blessing the Filipinos who knelt at his feet, heads bared and praying. Zamora, with vacant eyes, silently went up the scaffold and delivered his body to the executioner; his mind had already left it. Burgos was the last to die, he resisted for a while saying that he was innocent. A friar said that Jesus Christ was innocent too. Upon hearing it he told the executioner to do his duty.
A monument known as the 1972 Gomburza Monument was erected in front of the Manila Cathedral in 1972. It was transferred in front of the National Museum of Fine Arts across Padre Burgos Street corner Finance Road.
The placement of the Gomburza Monument in front of the National Museum dramatizes the fulfillment of Padre Burgos’ death wish to his students who visited him in his cell at Fort Santiago on the eve of his execution. “Get educated…Learn from our older men what they know…See in the museums of other land* what the ancient Filipinos really were. Be a Filipino always but an educated Filipino.”
*Padre Burgos never thought the Philippines would have its own National Museum taking care of “what ancient Filipinos really were.” We should see our National Museum a fulfillment of his death wish for his people, too. (National Museum of the Philippines)
Guerrero, Leon Ma. The First Filipino. A Biography of José Rizal. Manila: National Historical Commission, 1974.
National Historical Commission of the Philippines
National Museum of the Philippines