BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Not all Filipinos are aware of the historical importance of May 14.
On May 14, 1903, Aurelio Tolentino (October 13, 1867-July 3, 1915), a Pampango playwright, poet, essayist, educator, novelist and public servant was arrested because of his play, Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas (Larawan ng Inang Bayan).
Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas: a play of struggle vs. imperialist powers
It is an anti-imperialist play attacking the new colonizers (at that time), the Americans, while not forgiving the old ones – Mother Spain and Old China, who want to feast on the Philippines’ wealth.
The play was shown at Teatro Libertad in Manila on May 14, 1903 and its focus is the triumph of Inang Bayan (Motherland) over her tormentors, Haring Bata (Child King) who is the symbol of the Old China; Halimaw (Monster), the symbol of the Spanish friars who continued dominating the church and influencing local politics despite the mock battle in Manila Bay; Dilat-na-Bulag (Eyes Open, yet Blind), the ever ‘royal’ Spain; and Bagong Sibol (The Budding One), which is the new superpower of the capitalist world, the United States of America.
Its main scene is the liberation of Taga-Ilog or Juan de la Cruz who is, at the play’s beginning, shackled and in prison.
In that particular scene, he throws the American flag to the ground and tramples upon it until it is torn, then he breaks the shackles and forces the jail open. At this point the rest of the characters shout: “Long live Freedom! Long live the Motherland!”
According to Pampango blogger Alex R. Castro, who dabbles in history, when the actor was about to do the act, “he froze for he saw a number of Americans in the audience.” Because of this, Castro wrote in his blog (viewsfromthepampang.blogspot.com), “Tolentino ascended the stage and did the act himself, to the horror of the Americans who saw it as an act of sacrilege against their Stars and Stripes.”
Castro wrote that because of this, he was arrested. When the authorities turned to arrest the other actors as well as those in the audience, Tolentino saved them by declaring sole responsibility for the play as its writer and director.
Upon his admission of the crimes he was accused of, he was convicted of sedition, rebellion, insurrection and conspiracy and was imprisoned. In 1912 he was pardoned by then Governor-General W. Cameron Forbes and a US$7,000 fine was meted.
This was his second time in prison. The first was when Spanish authorities launched a witch-hunt against suspected Katipuneros in 1898 and Tolentino failed to elude authorities. He was imprisoned for nine months.
Still relevant today
Though the play was written and shown 106 years ago, Tolentino’s Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukasis still relevant to Philippine conditions.
Our politics are still under the influence of Washington, D.C. The Philippine economy still suffers from backwardness. The poor are getting poorer while the rich are getting richer because of the anti-poor policies being crafted by politicians, many of whom are educated in foreign schools, particularly, in the US. The basic freedoms of the people are still being suppressed.
In other words, the Philippines is still under colonization, albeit in its new form.
But these realities are being veiled by anti-nationalist propaganda channeled through the mass media and the educational system by the foreign dominating power and its collaborators in the executive, legislative and judicial departments.
Because of all these, the voice of Juan de la Cruz retains its urgency. (Bulatlat.com)
The Life of Aurelio Valenzuela Tolentino
(1865 – 1915)
The youngest among three children of Leonardo Tolentino and Patrona Valenzuela, Aurelio Tolentino was born on October 13,1867 in Barrio (sub-village) Santo Cristo, Guagua, Pampanga.
Aurelio and his brother both obtained their primera enzeñanza (primary lessons) under the school master Pedro Serrano Laktaw. He then transferred to the Colegio de Latinidad, under the baton of Angel Jimenez.
After finishing the third year of the segunda enseñanza (second lesson), he was already well-grounded in rhetoric, poetics and philosophy.
He transferred to Manila and completed the requirements for his Bachelor of Arts degree at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. Later, he enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) to study law, but had to stop schooling when his father died.
Returning to his hometown, he taught in his old college, Colegio de Latinidad. At that time the college’s director was Tomas Gamboa.
He was forced to leave Pampanga after an altercation with a Spanish pharmacist. The pharmacist called him a barbaro (barbarian), which led to Tolentino striking him in the face.
To escape from possible arrest because of his action, he went to Tondo and lived there.
After a few years, Tolentino secured the position of oficial de mesa (desk official) at Tondo’s Court of First Instance.
While living in Tondo, he became acquainted with Andres Bonifacio, who would later become the Supremo of the Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) and other patriots who engaged his help in the printing and distribution of the censored La Solidaridad and other propaganda literature. He eventually joined the Katipunan.
Like other Katipuneros, Tolentino became a Freemason. He became an orator at the Monditia Lodge, which was presided over by Vicente Lukban.
From Holy Tuesday to Holy Thursday of 1895, he and Bonifacio explored the terrains of Montalban and San Mateo in what is now the province of Rizal in search for an appropriate place from which to direct military operations in case the secret society was discovered.
On April 12, Good Friday, with torches, their group visited Makarok and Pamitinan.
Inside the cave where the folkloric hero Bernardo Carpio supposedly lived, they deliberated on their plans about the revolution, as well as the gathering of arms and funds. On the cave walls, Bonifacio wrote, “Viva la Independencia Filipina!” (Long-live Philippine Independence!)
When the 1896 Revolution broke out, Tolentino was the escribano (scribe) in the provincial court of Morong. When the Spanish authorities launched a crackdown on the Katipunan, Tolentino failed to escape, and was incarcerated for nine months.
Upon his release, he took part in the Bicol campaigns of Gen. Vicente Lukban.
Tolentino is one of the signatories of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s declaration of Philippine independence in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898.
Despite the declaration of freedom, however, Tolentino gathered his former comrades in Katipunan who were residents of Manila and organized the secret society Junta de Amigos in August 1900. Under his leadership, they formed guerilla units and carried on the resistance against America.
His group burned American military stores in Tondo, Sampaloc, and Pandacan, captured blacklisted collaborators, and killed American sentries. Eventually, however, the Americans would discover and dismantle the secret society.
In 1903, Tolentino and Artemio Ricarte attempted to organize a new revolutionary army.
Using his genius in letters, he wrote two unsigned editorials for the newspaper La Independencia, both of which were openly critical of the United States.
The two other newspapers which he edited, La Patria and El Liberal were suppressed by the US government. Filipinas, a newspaper which he published, was also forcibly closed down by the authorities.
Still, however, his journalistic career, was not stymied.
He edited El Pueblo and El Imperial, two Spanish-language newspapers, and their Pampango counterparts, Ing Belen and Ing Emangabiran.
A playwright and true-blooded propagandist, he used the theater as his main medium in attacking the imperialist power.
He wrote the famous Tagalog verse drama, Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas, which was played to a packed audience at Teatro Libertad in Manila on May 14, 1903.
A part of the script called for the actor playing Taga-Ilog or Juan de la Cruz, who was shackled and imprisoned, to tear down American flags, break his shackles and force the jail open.
At this time the rest of the audience shouted: “Long live Freedom! Long live the Mother-land!”
This was witnessed by some Americans among the audience, who were shocked.
After the show, the authorities went up the stage and arrested everybody, but Tolentino told them that it was he alone who was responsible, for he was the writer and director of the drama. He was convicted of sedition, rebellion, insurrection and conspiracy. Finally in 1912 he was pardoned by the then Governor General W. Cameron Forbes and the US$7,000 fine was meted.
Imprisonment did not cow his patriotic soul. Tolentino continued to engage in nationalistic activities after his release.
One of his principal concerns was the plight of the Filipino working people. Because of his admiration for labor leader Dr. Dominador Gomez’s works, he wrote Bagong Cristo (New Christ), a play which dealt with the antagonistic relations between capital and labor.
He also founded the Katimawan, identified as a “Samahang Hanapbuhay ng Mahihirap” (Livelihood Association), which is said to be the first workers’ cooperative in the Philippines.
Though a Pampango, he became an early advocate of the adoption of Tagalog as the national language, believing that a common language would help ensure national unity.
Later, he founded El Parnaso Filipino, a school for the promotion of Tagalog literature, to advance his advocacy.
He married Natividad Hilario in 1908. They had four children: Cesar, Corazon, Raquel and Leonor. Only Corazon and Raquel survived early deaths among the four siblings.
He and his family lived in Manila until his death in July 1915. He was buried at the Manila North Cemetery. In 1921, his bones were transferred to Guagua, Pampanga where they were buried at the base of a monument erected by the townspeople to honor him.
http://www.geocities.com/sinupan/tolentinoaurel.htm; accessed May 16, 2009
http://viewsfromthepampang.blogspot.com/2008/01/66aurelio-tolentino-and-his-literature.html; accessed May 16, 2009
http://www.geocities.com/pampgen/tolentino.htm; accessed, May 16, 2009