Plaridel, a journalist-lawyer, is our true National Hero

Marcelo Hilario Del Pilar Photo ©
Marcelo Hilario Del Pilar Photo ©

“Plaridel: Ang kaluluwa ng paghihiwalay ng Pilipinas sa bansang Espanya ay mas matalino at superior kay Rizal” –Governor General Ramon Blanco

MARCELO HILARIO DEL PILAR, known also by his nom de guerre “Plaridel”, was the greatest journalist who ever took flesh this side of the Orient.

Filipinos commemorate Plaridel’s 120th death anniversary on July 4, He died in 1896 (the same year his fellow writer-propagandists, Graciano Lopez-Jaena and Jose Rizal — who were also connected with La Solidaridad — died!).

Plaridel is considered as the Philippine “revolutionary propagandist and satirist” but only few know that he could have been the Philippine’s greatest national hero.

Had not US colonial Gov. William Howard Taft, then the most influential and the most powerful American in the country intervened and turned down the decision of a local commission tasked to choose who among the Filipino heroes should become the national hero, Plaridel could have been our “National Hero.”.

Taft, to the surprise of the commission members, would pick Jose Rizal to become our National Hero!

The commission had as its members the prominent Filipinos then – Dr. Trinidad H Pardo de Tavera, Benito Legarda and Jose Luzurriaga – and they, along with other Americans, were handpicked by Taft himself.

This bitter part of Plaridel’s legacy was featured in Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas, a periodical written in Tagalog with limited circulation. It was virtually ignored by many, including Filipino writers and intellectuals.

Only a few took notice of the said article on Del Pilar’s misfortune even in his death, so to say. Two of them were the late multi-awarded writer-poet Federico Licsi Espino Jr., who wrote a book on Del Pilar; and also the late writer-businessman Efren N. Gaddi, who published Marikit and People’s Variety magazines.

In an issue of Marikit, a journalist, Juan Santos, wrote about Plaridel’s chance to become the foremost national hero after he was chosen to be as such by a prestigious group of Filipinos and Americans, who thoroughly scrutinized the lives of many of the country’s  illustrious men and women worthy of being called heroes/heroines by their kababayans.

The defunct Republika News-Mag, published by Columnist and book writer Carmen Navarro Pedrosa and edited by Bayani N. Santos Jr., also published a similar item about Plaridel. Many others articles had been written about the greatness of Del Pilar. But still a lot are surprised to know that a significant part of the story of this hero’s life was intentionally omitted by some historians and writers to accommodate a colonialist’s whim. And this is that hidden history…

After the Filipino-Spanish war, the Americans, who came to the Philippines in 1898, had thought it wise to colonize this country of Indios. Still “tired” of their triumphant revolt against the Spanish forces in the country, the Filipinos could not help but go to war once more, this time against new colonizers.

Beset by betrayals and the demonic “magic” of American culture, the Filipinos found themselves subdued by these “white enemies” and “corrupted and turned traitors favoring these western Imperialists.”

On September 01, 1901, [William Howard] Taft formed this Commission to make a thorough study of the lives of Filipino leaders and heroes who became candidates to the selection of the Philippine national hero.

Based on the studies made by the Commission, its members unanimously picked Del Pilar as being the most qualified to become the national hero, because of his superior mind (even “more superior than Jose Rizal’s” according to one-time Governor General of the Philippines, Ramon Blanco) and of his supreme sacrifices, even foregoing some creature’s comforts in favor of difficulties and pressures to fight for his country’s freedom.

But Taft reversed the Commission’s decision and himself picked Rizal as the Filipinos’ national hero, because, as far as he is concerned, Plaridel was “very revolutionary.”

Surprised, the Commission was helpless against Taft’s insistence that Rizal, not Del Pilar – who deserved the veneration of both Americans and Filipinos as the country’s national hero.

Recently, a discussion of the launching of a new and controversial book about Plaridel – written by a young Filipino historian, Crisanto “King” Cortez — was held at the Bulacan State University (BSU) in Malolos City.

The title of the book written in Tagalog is: “DUNGAN NG KATIPUNAN: ANG TULAY SA GITNA NG REPORMA AT REBOLUSYON”. [In English — “Plaridel: Mastermind of the Katipunan”.]

In the said BSU discussion, which, among others, was participated by historians Isagani Giron and Alex Balagtas and writers Jun “Amang” Reyes and Joey Munsayac; Cortez documented his thesis showing that it was Plaridel, not Andres Bonifacio, “who is the Real Mastermind“ of the Katipunan.

The participants in the conference (that also included the author) were convinced by Cortez, in the light of his authentic documents, that Plaridel, indeed, was the “Mastermind” of the Katipunan!

Joseph Burkholder Smith, an American CIA agent who was mentioned in the book “Alpha Dogs” that says he was assigned in the Philippines to handle the presidential candidacy in 1961 of Diosdado Macapagal, also wrote the book, Portrait of a Cold Warrior,in which (on page 283) he exposed Taft’s “dirty tactics” and why he did not respect the Commission’s decision to make Plaridel the “National Hero” of the Philippines.

Furthermore, information gathered by this writer shows that Taft did not act on his own in overruling the Commission decision. Higher American authorities opposed the commission’s choice of Plaridel after learnig that he was a 33rd degree mason and was the real man behind the founding of the Katipunan, “secret revolutionary society” which moved the spirit of the heroic generation of the 1896 Philippine revolution.

Our American masters then – who in modern times still meddle with Filipino the affairs by way of VFA/Balikatan, EDCA and TPP, among others — does not want us to venerate a national hero who was actually an “extremely revolutionary leader.”

Arturo Sampana
Art C. Sampana is a former correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He is a writing fellow at the Likhaan: University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing. His works were published in the Wall Street Journal (Hong Kong and New York Editions), Philippine Daily Express, Inquirer, and Republika among others. He is currently a correspondent of The Manila Times, the country's oldest newspaper.

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