Mabini was born in 1864 in Tanauan, some 60km south of Manila, into a large, poor family, his father being a market seller. He was taught by his mother and a grandfather, a local teacher, and then was taken on at a private school to work as a houseboy. In 1881, he received a scholarship to go to the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Manila. He supported himself through teaching and working as a copyist, and excelled academically. He moved on to study law at the University of Santo Tomas, where he received his degree in 1894. In 1896, he suffered a severe attack of polio which left him paralysed.
For some years, an armed nationalist revolution against the Spanish colonists had been growing in strength, and, though Mabini had worked for reform rather than revolution, he accepted a summons to join the revolutionary leader General Emilio Aguinaldo. He soon became one of the general’s chief advisers. When the Spanish-American war broke out in 1898, Mabini urged cooperation with the US as a means to gain freedom from Spain. That same year, he drew up Asia’s first democratic constitution, based on the US constitution, for an independent republic; and, from January 1899, Aguinaldo was its first president, and Mabini its first prime minister. When the US decided, however, to annex the Philippines, Mabini joined Aguinaldo in a renewed struggle for independence.
Mabini was captured by US troops at the end of 1899, and then again a year or two later. He was exiled to Guam because he refused to swear allegiance to the US, and only returned home in 1903, a few months before his death. According to Wikipedia, he is often referred to in Philippine history texts as ‘the Sublime Paralytic’ or ‘the Brains of the Revolution’. Further information is also available from the online guide to Philippine history, the Philippine National Council on Disability Affairs, and the University of Vienna website (an article by Dr Robert Yoder).
While in Guam, Mabina kept a diary in the form of notes. This was published as Memoirs of Guam within (I think) the second volume of a larger work called The Philippine Revolution by Teodoro Manguiat Kalaw (Manila Book Co., 1925). Some of the diary entries - which date from January 1901 to September 1902 - have been made available online thanks to the excellent Philippine Diary Project, which (like The Diary Review) has just celebrated its fifth birthday. (Back in 2009, a Diary Review article about the assassination of Aurora Quezon, wife of the president, drew on the Philippine Diary Project’s fund of diary texts - see Aurora Quezon’s bomb fuse.)
Here then, with thanks again to the Philippine Diary Project, are several extracts from Mabina’s diary.
31 December 1901
‘This month predicts a sad future for the prisoners in the prison house.
Ever since we arrved in the island, we have been fed with canned goods and it was very seldom that we were given fresh meat during the time of Commander Orwig. We had canned meat, canned salmon and bacon, potatoes, etc. Although in the last few days we were already satiated, we did not mind it too much since we were still able to buy from the Commissary sardines, shrimps in cans, ham and other things.
During the time of Captain Shaw, who manifested great concern for us, we were served salmon and given a supply of fresh meat twice a week. Besides, during this time, we could ask either though the guy with a shaven head or through our cook who also had a shaven head to buy for us vegetables, chicken and other goods.
Shaw finally left and Captain McKelvy assumed command. This time, we no longer had potatoes but beans; we could not buy from the Commissary other than cigarettes and they stopped giving us fresh meat. Besides, our head-shaven cook had left and was replaced by Agramon, another companion of ours, who was paid a salary of 30 pesos; however, we were still able to ask the milkman and the servants of those who transferred to Agaña, and who came to visit us often, to do this favor for us, since they were allowed to ride in a car-ambulance that plies through Agaña and Piti (round trip) three times a day.
Then the prisoners ran out of money and the milkman stopped coming, because only a few were able to buy milk. Later, our companions’ servants in Agaña were prohibited from riding in the ambulance, which was solely intended for the Americans and the government service. First we appealed to Captain McKelvy and then to Mr. Pressey, Judge of the Court of First Instance and Assistant to the Governor, that we be supplied fresh meat, as it used to be during the time of Captain Shaw. They promised to do so, but this was never fulfilled.
Lastly, at the start of this month, the prisoners could no longer eat canned meat, no matter how they forced themselves, because they felt nauseated and wanted to vomit. I found out later that the cook, in agreement with the prisoners, did not want to get the ration of canned meat from the Commissary, which supply was to last for ten days. Thinking Captain McKelvy would be offended, I talked to Mr. Llanero, who, being the President, represented the prisoners, so that he could write the captain telling him that the canned goods have not been claimed and that he was advising him about this so that the goods would not be wasted, since the prisoners would not take them.
Captain McKelvy got mad, saying that the prisoners have no right to refuse what is given them; nevertheless, he gave us a supply of fresh meat for a period of three weeks. Then, the cook was ordered to receive the usual supply of canned meat, and we were forbidden to ask the head-shaven guys to buy for us anything, since the Commissary takes care of buying what we need. Our companions ordered the purchase of twenty pounds of meat. It cost them a lot of money but the meat already smelled rotten when delivered to them. On the other hand, those who wish to live in Agaña were not granted a permit. We spent Christmas of 1901 with these painful thoughts. This is not surprising to me, because we were brought here precisely to make us suffer. Much as I am willing to suffer everything, I’m afraid my sick and weak body cannot withstand a prolonged self-deprivation. Be that as it may, I am convinced I will die all by myself, when my country shall no longer need my services.
Mr. Pressey invited me twice to live in Agaña, saying I must not worry about the money, since I would have enough. I have refused these offers, thinking it improper to leave our companions during these critical times.
Besides, I must add that in the past few days, when our companions had just transferred to Agaña, several times the community received from them gifts in kind, such as meat, fish and other things. I remember Mr. Dimayuga in particular, who has often sent me meat and vegetables, etc.
Lastly, I remember Captains Shaw and McKelvy, who took the trouble of teaching us (me and some companions) English, whenever their work allowed them to. Some weeks ago, I had given up studying the language, on account of my poor nourishment, which has deprived me of my high spirits, thinking it would be futile to continue, if, in the end I should die here or return to the Philippines, very sick and incapable of doing something good.
Goodbye to you, 1901! You are leaving us with a sad memory, yet a painful mark in my heart. I welcome you, 1902! Let this year be less severe, not with me anymore, but with my companions and friends.’
30 August 1902
‘I have been notified by the Captain about a letter from the Governor, saying that the latter had no authority to send us to Manila, without having taken our oath. He says he must transmit my wishes to the Commander General of the Philippine Division through the next ship and most likely, the response will be received here by the end of December. If the reply is favorable, we could embark in January. Be patient, this could be “a blessing in disguise” as the saying goes. It is worth knowing that a proclamation of the President of the United States, endorsed by the branch Secretary, cannot be interpreted nor implemented to the letter.
21 September 1902
‘At about nine o’clock this morning, all my companions in exile boarded the ship Warren from San Francisco to Manila. It was a sad farewell and there were many who wept. We all wished them a happy trip and we hoped everyone would find the happiness that their hearts were longing for. Only Mr. Ricarte, Aquilino Randeza, my brother and I remained.’
23 September 1902
‘Yesterday, at past eleven in the morning, there was a very strong earthquake, the strongest and longest that I have felt in my life. This was followed by others of lesser intensity, occurring at intervals of 15 to 20 until this morning.
They say the tremor destroyed the following:
The two stone houses of the Filipino proprietor, Don Eulogio de la Cruz, which were completely destroyed; the house occupied by Messrs. Gerona and Dimayuga; another one occupied by Messrs. Trías and Simón Tecson; the new civil hospital; two stone houses occupied by the club; and the tribunal-house presently occupied by the Court.
Also destroyed were a portion of the house occupied by the owner, Mr. Dungca; the walls of the stone house which served as a government-house; the house of the Fiscal (roofing and the garden fence); the big college and the public school which had cracks; one side of the house that was occupied by Don Pablo Ocampo and Mauricio; the roofing and walls of the convent; and the tower which was split from top to bottom.
It is said that of the total houses in the whole town, only three or four remain habitable.
Big holes were formed in front of the Protestant church and in various areas. A long crack on the ground, starting from the sea cuts through the different parts of the town. Water gushed forth from some of these holes, inundating a street. Fortunately, there were no personal casualties.’