By Jason B. Neola
NAGA CITY --- Residents of this city and the Bicolanos, in general, will be commemorating today, January 4, the 121st anniversary of the martyrdom of the Quince Martires del Bicol (15 Martyrs of Bicol) with a brief program to be led by Naga City Mayor John G. Bongat, other city officials, students, representatives of various civic organizations, and the general public.
Flag Raising and wreath laying
at the plaza named in their honor (Plaza Quince Martires) will usher in the commemoration at 7:30 a.m., to be followed shortly with a tribute to the 15 Bicol martyrs.
A response from among the martyr’s descendants will follow after the messages from a representative of a civic organization and the city mayor.
The 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army Band will render the recessional. Photo opportunity and simple breakfast at the plaza and in nearby restaurant will follow.
Three years ago, on June 12, 2014, Plaza Quince Martires became the center of national attention when then President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ S. Aquino III led in that hallowed ground the flag-raising and wreath laying rites during the 116th Philippine Independence Day commemoration.
The plaza, situated in downtown Naga and near Plaza Rizal, was chosen by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), with the President’s approval, as the venue for that year’s Independence Day “to honor the 15 Martyrs of Bicol whose travails helped ignite the revolution in 1896.”
The Fifteen Martyrs of Bicol were Filipino patriots in Bicol who were executed by firing squad on January 4, 1897, for cooperating with the Katipunan during the Philippine Revolution against Spain.
Eleven of the 15 were executed at the Luneta in Manila. They were:
• Rev. Inocencio Herrera - a native of Pateros, Rizal, he grew up in the Bicol Region and enrolled in the seminary of Nueva Caceres (now Naga City). He was a brilliant young man and had always topped his class. Gifted with a good voice, he became the choir master of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Nueva Caceres. He was only 30 years old when the Spaniards executed him.
• Rev. Gabriel Prieto - He demonstrated unusual wit and intelligence. He was a consistent scholar at the seminary of Nueva Caceres, where he studied for the priesthood. After his ordination, he was appointed by Msgr. Herrera as his adviser and confidential secretary. Father Prieto was denounced by the Spanish friars for his liberal and independent ideas.
• Rev. Severino Diaz - He was born in Bulan, Sorsogon of poor but hardworking parents. He was a model student at the seminary and later as parish priest of Nueva Caceres. He attended to his flock with extraordinary zeal. People remember him as the man who rebuilt and improved the Naga Cathedral. The Spanish friars were jealous of him for becoming the first Filipino Cura Paroco of Nueva Caceres. He was 45 years old when he was executed at the Luneta.
• Manuel Abella - A native of Catanauan, Quezon, he was better known for his philanthropic activities among the poor and underprivileged. He was 60 years old when he faced the firing squad in Bagumbayan.
• Domingo Abella - A son of Manuel Abella. Frank and outspoken, he took every opportunity to denounce the abuses and arrogance of the Spaniards. He was only 25 when he was executed at the Luneta.
• Camilo Jacob - A commercial photographer and native of Polangui, Albay. Like Domingo Abella, he was open-hearted. Suspected of conniving with the revolutionists, Jacob was tortured and starved to death in prison.
• Tomas Prieto - A brother of Rev. Gabriel Prieto. A pharmacist, he was popular with the common people for his liberal and progressive ideas. He was executed at the age of 30.
• Florendo Lerma - A theater owner and playwright from Quiapo, Manila, he went to Bicol at the age of 15 and established the first movie house in Naga.
• Macario Valentin - He was chief of the night patrol in Naga. He took advantage of his position by siding with the revolutionists, whom he supplied with valuable information about the activities of the Spanish militia.
• Mariano Melgarejo - A native son of Naga. In his diary, he wrote: “I look forward to the day when Filipinas takes her place among the free nations of the world.”
• Cornelio Mercado - An employee in the public works department of Nueva Caceres.
The four Bicolano freedom fighters who were either exiled or died in prison were:
• Leon Hernandez - A resident of Libmanan, Camarines Sur, who was well-to-do and highly influential. He was thrown into the municipal jail in Nueva Caceres, where he was tortured to death for denying participation in the revolutionary movement.
• Ramon Abella - Also a son of Manuel Abella, who was executed at the Luneta. He was a strong advocate of the progressive and independent aspiration of his father.
• Mariano Arana - A government surveyor who died in exile on Bioko Island (then Fernando Po).
• Mariano Ordenanza - A clerk in the Bureau of Public Works. He died in jail in Manila shortly after he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by the Spanish Council of War.
While the heroic deeds and martyrdom of secular priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora are known all over the land and familiar to history students, the memory of the 15 martyrs of Bicolandia is confined to Naga City, the heart of Bicol.
For many years now, the people of Naga (then known as Nueva Caceres) and nearby municipalities have been paying tribute to these martyrs every fourth day of January.
During the incumbency of the late Camarines Sur Gov. Julian Ocampo, a monument was erected in memory of the Quince Martires del Bicolandia. The monument, located in the heart of the city, was formally dedicated on November 30, 1923.
Official recognition of the 15 martyrs of Bicolandia came only on February 20, 1950 when the director of the Department of Education added to the list of significant dates in Philippine history January 4, 1897, the day when Filipino freedom fighters from the Bicol region were executed. With data culled from Wikipedia.