From the Rizal Day 2013 essay on the centenary of the Rizal Monument, and the history of Bagumbayan:
On January 20, 1872, two hundred Filipinos employed at the Cavite arsenal staged a revolt against the Spanish government’s voiding of their exemption from the payment of tributes. The Cavite Mutiny led to the persecution of prominent Filipinos; secular priests Mariano Gómez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora—who would then be collectively named GomBurZa—were tagged as the masterminds of the uprising. The priests were charged with treason and sedition by the Spanish military tribunal—a ruling believed to be part of a conspiracy to stifle the growing popularity of Filipino secular priests and the threat they posed to the Spanish clergy. The GomBurZa were publicly executed, by garrote, on the early morning of February 17, 1872 at Bagumbayan.
The Archbishop of Manila refused to defrock them, and ordered the bells of every church to toll in honor of their deaths; the Sword, in this instance, denied the moral justification of the Cross. The martyrdom of the three secular priests would resonate among Filipinos; grief and outrage over their execution would make way for the first stirrings of the Filipino revolution, thus making the first secular martyrs of a nascent national identity. Jose Rizal would dedicate his second novel, El Filibusterismo, to the memory of GomBurZa, to what they stood for, and to the symbolic weight their deaths would henceforth hold:
The Government, by enshrouding your trial in mystery and pardoning your co-accused, has suggested that some mistake was committed when your fate was decided; and the whole of the Philippines, in paying homage to your memory and calling you martyrs, totally rejects your guilt. The Church, by refusing to degrade you, has put in doubt the crime charged against you.
To mark the 142nd anniversary of the martyrdom of the priests Mariano Gómez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora, we have put together resources that detail the effect of their martyrdom upon the Philippine revolution. Below you will find an infographic on prominent Filipinos executed in Bagumbayan from 1843 to 1897 and writings by personalities of the Philippine revolution on GomBurZa, including a retelling of their execution.
Martyrdom at Bagumbayan: Highlights from the roster of heroes and patriots executed in Bagumbayan, 1843-1897
The Revolutionary Generation on GomBurZa
• Jose Rizal’s letter to Mariano Ponce, 18 April 1889—
“Without 1872 there would not now be a Plaridel, a Jaena, a Sanciangco, nor would the brave and generous Filipino colonies exist in Europe. Without 1872 Rizal would now be a Jesuit and instead of writing the Noli Me Tangere, would have written the contrary. At the sight of those injustices and cruelties, though still a child, my imagination awoke, and I swore to dedicate myself to avenge one day so many victims. With this idea I have gone on studying, and this can be read in all my works and writings. God will grant me one day to fulfill my promise.” [via]
• Jose Rizal’s letter to Mariano Ponce, 18 April 1889—
“If at his death Burgos had shown the courage of Gomez, the Filipinos of today would be other than they are. However, nobody knows how he will behave at that culminating moment, and perhaps, I myself, who preach and boast so much, may show more fear and less resolution than Burgos in that crisis. Life is so pleasant, and it is so repugnant to die on the scaffold, still young and with ideas in one’s head…” [via]
• “Ritual for the Initiation of a Bayani,” 1894—
Document, via Jim Richardson, details the ritual to be followed when a Katipunan member with the rank of Soldier (Kawal) is to be elevated to the rank of Patriot (Bayani): “Presiding over the ritual, the Most Respected President (presumably Bonifacio himself) reflects on the martyrdom of the priests Burgos, Gomez and Zamora—a great wrong, he says, that tore aside the veil that had covered the eyes of the Tagalogs. Tracing the Katipunan’s political lineage a little further back, he also alludes to the movement for reforms that preceded the Cavite mutiny, mentioning specifically the newspaper El Eco Filipino, which was founded by Manuel Regidor (the brother of Antonio Ma. Regidor), Federico de Lerena (the brother-in-law of José Ma. Basa) and other liberal Filipinos in Madrid in 1871. Copies were sent to Manila but soon began to be intercepted, and people found in possession of the paper were liable to be arrested.” [via]
• Emilio Jacinto, “Gomez, Burgos at Zamora!” April 30, 1896—
Jim Richardson: “The day that Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were executed, writes Jacinto, was a day of degradation and wretchedness. Twenty-four years had since passed, but the excruciating wound inflicted that day on Tagalog hearts had never healed; the bleeding had never been staunched. Though the lives of the three priests had been extinguished that day, their legacy would endure forever. Their compatriots would honor their memory, and would seek to emulate their pursuit of truth and justice. As yet, Jacinto acknowledges, some were not fully ready to embrace those ideals, either because they failed to appreciate the need for solidarity and unity or because their minds were still clouded by the smoke of a mendacious Church. But those who could no longer tolerate oppression were now looking forward to a different way of life, to a splendid new dawn.” [via]
Recalling the GomBurZa
• Edmond Plauchut, as quoted by Jaime Veneracion—
The Execution of GomBurZa [via]
Late in the night of the 15th of February 1872, a Spanish court martial found three secular priests, Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez and Jacinto Zamora, guilty of treason as the instigators of a mutiny in the Kabite navy-yard a month before, and sentenced them to death. The judgement of the court martial was read to the priests in Fort Santiago early in the next morning and they were told it would be executed 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.
When dawn broke on the 17th of February there were almost forty thousand of Filipinos (who came from as far as Bulakan, Pampanga, Kabite and Laguna) surrounding the four platforms where the three priests and the man whose testimony had convicted them, a former artilleryman called Saldua, would die.
The three priests followed Saldua: Burgos ‘weeping like a child’, Zamora with vacant eyes, and Gomez head held high, blessing the Filipinos who knelt at his feet, heads bared and praying. He was next to die. When his confessor, a Recollect friar , exhorted him loudly to accept his fate, he replied: “Father, I know that not a leaf falls to the ground but by the will of God. Since He wills that I should die here, His holy will be done.”
Zamora went up the scaffold without a word and delivered his body to the executioner; his mind had already left it.
Burgos was the last, a refinement of cruelty that compelled him to watch the death of his companions. He seated himself on the iron rest and then sprang up crying: “But what crime have I committed? Is it possible that I should die like this. My God, is there no justice on earth?”
A dozen friars surrounded him and pressed him down again upon the seat of the garrote, pleading with him to die a Christian death. He obeyed but, feeling his arms tied round the fatal post, protested once again: “But I am innocent!”
“So was Jesus Christ,’ said one of the friars.” At this Burgos resigned himself. The executioner knelt at his feet and asked his forgiveness. “I forgive you, my son. Do your duty.” And it was done.
(Veneracion quotes Leon Ma. Guerrero’s The First Filipino: “We are told that the crowd, seeing the executioner fall to his knees, suddenly did the same, saying the prayers to the dying. Many Spaniards thought it was the beginning of an attack and fled panic-stricken to the Walled City.”)
• Leon Ma. Guerrero, in The First Filipino, aside from citing Edmond Plauchut, Revye des Deux Mondes, May 15, 1877, wrote:
“Montero deserves a hearing because he had access to the official records. His account, in brief, is that the condemned men, in civilian clothes, were taken to the headquarters of the corps of engineers outside the city walls, where a death-cell had been improvised. Members of their families were allowed to visit them. The night before the execution, Gómez went to confession with an Augustinian Recollect (leaving a fortune of 200,000 to a natural son whom he had had before taking orders); Burgos to a Jesuit; Zamora, to a Vicentian. At the execution itself, Burgos is described ax “intensamente pálido;” Zamora, as “afligidísmo;” and Gómez as “revelando en su faz sombría la ira y la desesperacíon.” The judgment was once more read to them, on their knees. Burgos and Zamora “lloraban amargamanete,” while Gòmez listened “con tranquilidad imperturbable. Ni un solo músculo de su cara se contrajó.” The order of execution, according to Montero, was Gómez, Zamora, Burgos and Saldúa last of all. He explains the panice saying it was the natives when a horse bolted: Burgos, thinking rescue was on the way, rose to his feet and had to be held down by the executioner. Monero denies both the anecdotes concerning Gómez and Burgos. It is fair to add that Montero seems to lose his composure in refuting Plauchut.” [via]
- “The incredible Father Burgos,” by Ambeth R. Ocampo.
- “Execution of Gomburza,” by Ambeth R. Ocampo.
- “Cause and Effect of the Execution of Fathers Burgos, Gomez, and Zamora,” by Apolinario Mabini.
- Ang tunay na búhay ni P. Dr. José Burgos : at nang mang̃a nacasama niya na sina P. Jacinto Zamora, P. Mariano Gómez, at ang nadayang Miguel Zaldua, by Honorio López.