Don Manuel Abella was one of the Bikol
martyrs executed by a firing squad in Bagumbayan shortly after the outbreak of
the Philippine Revolution of 1896. His honesty, patriotism, and progressive
ideas prevented any reconciliation with the colonial administration. He was
known to be 69 years old when he was martyred. A shrine in Naga honors him and
the other Bikol martyrs.
was a native of Catanauan, Tayabas (now Quezon). He must have come from a
financially stable family as his parents were able to send him and his brother
Leocadio to study for the priesthood in Naga. The fact that the Abella brothers
were sent there to study indicates that their family must have migrated to
Bikol earlier. On or before 1875, obviously no longer a seminarian, Manuel
Abella was appointed an "escribano" (clerk of court) in the same town
he had been sent to study. He held this job until his retirement from the
government service sometime before 1896. He then engaged in farmmg of rice and abaca. It was during these years
that he came to be acclaimed one of the richest men and one of the most
generous philanthropists in the Bikol region.
son, Domingo, met the same fate he suffered. His other sons, however, had
better luck. Ramon became a rich landlord and Mariano became governor of Ambos
Camarines in 1898.
the Revolution broke out in 1896, most of those who Occupied respectable and
influential social positions in the community were suspected to be members of
the Katipunan. Don Manuel was one of those who fell under suspicion and arrest.
Those apprehended in Camarines Sur were:
Father Inocencio Herrera, parish priest of Naga Cathedral, Father Gabriel
Prieto, parish priest of Malinao, Albay. Don Domingo Abella, wealthy proprietor
and surveyor; Don Manuel Abella, father of Don Domingo; Camilo Jacob, a
photographer; Tomas Prieto, a pharmacist; Macario Valentin, chief of the night
guards in Naga; Corneio Mercado; Mariano Melgarejo, an employee of the
Department of Public Works, and Mariano Ordenanza.
were arrested on September 16, 1896 and indicted for rebellion. It was alleged
that Tomas Prieto had voluntarily affirmed the statement of the civil
governorthat some fifty firearms had been landed in a boat from Bate some time
in the middle of August, 1896 and that the shipment had been sent by Victoriano
Luciano of Cavite and distributed accordingly: 10 to Don Manuel Abella; 20 to
Don Florencio Lerma; 10 to Comelio Mercado and the rest to Father Severino Diaz,
a priest of the Naga Cathedral. From there, the arms were supposed to have been
turned over to Don Camilo Jacob who, in turn, was supposed to have delivered
them to the insurgents based in Mount Isarog. Prieto's confession was allegedly
made before Manuel Ayala in the presence of about half a dozen witnesses.
September 20, 1896, Don Manuel and the other Bicol patriots were shipped to Manila aboard the vessel
Isarog and imprisoned in Bilibid. The
priests among them were held in the convent of San Agustin.
December 29, 1896, they were tried for rebellion by a military court presided
over by Lt. Col. Moreno Estellez with Lt. Ramon Despujol acting as secretary.
As a matter of formality, Don Manuel and the Bikol patriots were defended by
Captain Diaz of the Engineer Corps and by Souza, Jose Taviel de Andrade,
Salgado, Rivadulla and Lopez Blanco, all of them lieutenants of the artillery,
infantry and cavalry.
forms of deceit were reportedly employed by those who sat as'Tudges." By torturing the accused,
the military authorities succeed ed in making them confess against their will.
From such forced confessions, Fiscal Vallespinosa concluded that Don Manuel and
his comrades committed rebellion. The
fiscal asked for the maximum penalty under the
Spanish Penal Code - death by firing squad.
January 4, 1897, the court order was carried out on the following Don Manuel
Abella, Don Domingo Abella, Father Inocencio Herrera, Father Gabriel Prieto,
Father Severino Diaz, Camilo Jacob Tomas Prieto, Florencio Lerma, Macario
Valentin, CornelioMercado , and Mariano Melgarejo.
The other Bikol
indictees included Leon Hernandez (father of Jaime Hernandez, Secretary of
Finance in President Quezon's cabinet) who died in October 1897 in a Naga
prison. Others who were spared the death penalty were: Mariano Ordenanza, who
was sentenced to 20 years and who died in Bilibid Prison; and Ramon Abella and
Mariano Arena who died in exile in Fernando Po island, the Spanish penal colony
on the western coast of Africa.
In a newspaper
expose on the death of the Bikol martyrs, Tomas Arejola wrote:
... the calumny which smears the name of
anyone under certain circumstances
fell upon Father Herrera with such ill fortune inspite of his innocence, he was
hot with others ... even the insistent petitions of his Bishop. (The Most
Reverend and Most Illustrious Bishop Arsenio Campos-ERM) ... to overcome the
perfidy of the calumniators who possessed all the means to which malignity had
inspired them to consumate the horrible crime ...we do not hesitate to exhibit
to public execration ... the names of the authors of the hetacomb of Nueva
Caceres which was one of the causes which pulled down the Spanish rule in the
It came to be known later that Don Manuel
and the other Bikol martyrs were innocent of the crime imputed to them. This
was revealed in their last wills and testaments, written shortly before their
execution. Their case was truly a miscarriage of justice.
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