A patriot by sentiment, a lawyer by
profession, and a man of letters by avocation, Cecilio Apostol was a colossus
in Spanish-Filipino poetry. He was recognized not only in the Philippines but
also throughout the Hispanic world as "the greatest Filipino epic poet
writing in Spanish." According to Claro M. Recto, Apostol was "the
greatest writer of both prose and
He was born in Sta. Cruz Manila on November 22, 1877, to Jose P.
Apostol and Marcelina de los Reyes. He began writing poems as early as when he
was in the third grade. In school programs, he used to declaim verses that he
himself wrote. Aside from poetry, he loved art.
At home and in school, he used to paint
landscapes, flowers, birds and people. His first published poem was El
Terror de los Mares Indicos in El
After his elementary education, he
enrolled at the Ateneo Municipal where he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree
in 1894. He later took up law at the University of Santo Tomas.
However, he joined the Revolution in
1896 before finishing his law course.
He also joined the editorial staff of
the newspaper, La Independencia, and used either Catulo or Isagani as
his pen names.
When peace was restored, he continued
his journalistic carrer and worked in various newspapers, such as La
Fraternidad, La Democrecia, La Patria, and El Renocimiento.
Finishing his law studies after the Revolution, he passed the bar and was
appointed assistant fiscal of Manila
During his spare time, he dedicated
himself to poetry, painting and linguistics. He learned several foreign
languages, translated Bonifacio's Decalogue into French and the Ilocano epic Lam-ang into Spanish.
Apostol's patriotic poem, Mi Raza,
won first prize in the national literary contest sponsored by the Club
International in 1902. In it he demonstrated evidence of his supremacy over all
Filipino poets in Spanish. His poetical masterpiece A Rizal (To Rizal),
is still unsurpassed in epic sweep and patriotic fire.
The poems of Apostol have been compiled
by Professor Jaime C. de Veyra and published under the title Pentelicas
(Manila, 1941). Included in this collection are: Al Heroe Nacional, Mi
Raza, A La Bandera, La Siesta,
Sobre El Plinto (dedicated to Mabini), Paisaie Filipino, A Emilio
Jacinto, Los Martires Anonimos de la Pairia, and El Solo de la Independencia.
Apostol's fame was acclaimed in
practically all Spanish-speaking countries of the world. His poems, together
with his biography, appeared in the World Anthology of Spanish Poetry and in
the world-famous Enciplopedia Espaņa, and in many other books. In recognition
of his poetical genius, Apostol was made a corresponding member of the Royal
Academy of the Spanish Literature. Some of
his poems have been translated into
Upon the establishment of the
Commonwealth in 1935, this great poet-lawyer was asked to become one of
President Quezon's legal advisers. He refused the lucrative offer, and a few
months later he retired from his position as Manila's assistant fiscal without
claiming the customary retirement privileges. He joined the law office of Don Vicente
Francisco and distinguished himself there as a brief writer and legal
On September 17, 1938, Apostol died of
cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Caloocan at the age of 61. He was survived
by his wife Margarita San Jose and six children.