AFTER the martyrdom of the Filipino priests -Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora -- in 1872, conditions in Islas Filipinas went from bad to worse. But inspired by a common cause, a group of Filipino students abroad banded together and by means of the pen and tongue, crusaded to rectify the evils of the Spanish colonial system in the islands. To this group of young Filipinos belonged Graciano Lopez Jaena, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Jose Rizal, Antonio Luna, and the pride of Bicolanos, Tomas Arejola and Jose Maria Panganiban.
Let’s deal with Nagueno Arejola sometime later and accord this small space to Panganiban whose birthday falls tomorrow, February 1.
The great Bicolano propagandist, also known in history books as “Jomapa” or as the “Avenger of Filipino Honor”, was born in Mabulao, Camarines Norte on February 1, 1863. His fellow Bicolanos, particularly the Naguenos, on Friday will commemorate his 156th birth anniversary with simple ceremonies at his monument built years ago inside the campus of the Naga Central School here, one of the few erected in his honor.
Pepe, as he was called by his parents and friends, was a lad of four when his mother recognized his genius. Oftentimes Pepe was found ransacking his father’s books for additional reading materials.
At his tender age, Pepe was already aware of the plight of his fellow Filipinos. At one time he saw a Spaniard maltreating a native. He immediately rushed to the Spaniard and begged him to stop the cruelty. Whereupon, the Spaniard chased him but as he was a fast runner, he escaped the wrath of the Spaniard.
In 1873, Panganiban went to Naga, then known as Nueva Caceres, the capital of then single huge province known as Ambos Camarines, and enrolled at the seminario, today’s Holy Rosary Minor Seminary. At the seminary, he surpassed all his classmates, Spaniards and talented wealthy natives and mestizos, by always getting “sobresaliente,” or “excellent” in his grades aside from showing his great ability as an orator. The original copies of his report cards are still displayed at the seminary museum here in Naga City.
In 1882, he enrolled in the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila where he completed his preparatory medicine with honors. Two years later, he took the course in medicine. In May 1888, Panganiban sailed to Spain to continue his studies in Barcelona but abandoned them after he joined the La Solidaridad and became its essayist and translator. In his sickbed he wrote Rizal, his friend and colleague: “I regret I cannot be with you in your patriotic labor for the redemption of our fatherland... If only I have the strength I had before, I will work with you unto the bitter end.” He had contracted a pulmonary ailment while in Spain and died on August 1890, at the young age of 27.
To his fellow Bicolanos in Camarines Norte, his native town was renamed Jose Maria Panganiban. In Naga, a major street was named in his honor. His fellow Bicolanos and fellow Filipinos who love their country and those with a deep sense of patriotism and history are invited to join the simple celebration at the Naga Central School 1 campus tomorrow, February 1, where a statue was built by the proud Parents and Teachers Association of the Naga Central School sometime in the early 1950s. The commemoration of his noble birth is being spearheaded by the City Government of Naga, through Mayor John Bongat and fellow city officials and those from the NCS and the City Division Office of the Department of Education.
Let his life and death that we shall be remembering continue to shine through especially in these times that our country is being threatened by terrorists who want to blow our archipelago apart and part of our territory being helped to be usurped by a foreign neighbor with our very own President not lifting a whimper a protest at such invasion.