HIGINIO O. BENITEZ
Higinio Benitez, a lawyer, judge and
delegate to the Malolos Congress, was born in Intramuros, Manila on january 11,
1851, to Francisco Benitez, an expert organ builder and Antonia Ortega, both of
Unexpected adversity was no stranger to
Higinio Benitez. When his father was summoned by Father Ramon Rodriguez to be
with him in Cagayan, his mother died. Fate seemed to smile on the Benitez
family, however, when Father Rodriguez was transferred to Manila as Rector of
the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. Benitez was employed by Father Rodriguez and
given work as reader to the school interns at mealtime and to do odd jobs for
the Rector. He was so trusted by Father Rodriguez that his schoolmates called
him Rector Chiquito or "Little Rector." During this period, he
dedicated more time to his studies and learned and read Latin so proficiently
that his father was very much elated by his performance.
When his father died, Benitez was taken
in by Father Rodriguez who, however, also died soon after. With the loss of his
benefactor, Benitez and the other boys of Spanish blood were kept in the
orphanage section of the school. There he met another boy, Cayetano Arellano,
who later became his life long friend. In this asylum for orphans, he learned
to take care of himself. He and the other boys would fetch water from the well
and bathe in pairs.
Undaunted by these circumstances, he finished his lementary and secondary education and received a Bachelor of Arts degree. He enrolled later at the University of Santo Tomas where he obtained his Licentiate in Jurisprudence in 1881. He practised law until 1886 when he was appointed registrcidor mercantil for the province of Laguna.
Although Benitez did not
join the revolutionary forces in 1896, he contributed valuable services to the
cause of the Revolution by giving advice to General Severino Taiño, the leader
of the Katipuneros in Pagsanjan: to Santiago Crisostomo, the president of the
local Katipunan council; and, also, to Colonel Pedro Caballes. In many
instances he interceded for the release of Pagsanjeños who were arrested and
jailed by the civil authorities or by the friars.
In 1898, he and Don Graciano
Cordero were named delegates to the Malolos Congress as representatives of the
province of Laguna. Before the end of 1898, Benitez was back in Manila.
At the advent of American
rule, his legal services were availed of by the Insular government on January
7, 1899 when he was appointed secretary of the Supreme Court then presided over
by Justice Cayetano Arellano. On June 7
of the same year, he filled the position of Associate Judge of the Court of
Land Registration headed by Charles H. Smith. Shortly thereafter, he was named
clerk of Court of the Supreme Court. He, however, gave this up to become fiscal
of Laguna from July 20, 1901 to July 18, 1907.
On November 20, 1907 he
accepted appointment as fiscal of Rizal. Two years later, on December 10, 1909,
he was again Associated Judge of the Court of Land Registration which was then
presided over by Judge Simplicio del Rosario.
Benitez's last positions in the
government were Judge-at-Large of the Court of First Instance from September
30, 1911 to July i, 1914 and as Judge of the 17th judicial district until his
retirement on October 1, 1916. As provided for by Act No. 2589, he was awarded
a gratuity amounting to P16,000.00 which he collected under Act. No. 3304.
As a private citizen,
Benitez resided in Pagsanjan, Laguna, where, in no time at all, he became one
of its most respected and most prestigious citizens. There he reared his
family. Two of his sons, Francisco and Conrado, later became foremost educators
and professors in the University of the Philippines.
The impact of adversity on
the formative years of Benitez must have affected his deep love for his family
many years later. In his memories, he wrote:
" I was then a very young child possibly three or four... When
my father was gone and my
mother died ...
My father was summon ed
but of course, he could not
get back until after many days.
I expect quietly the hour that
God calls me to his bosom.
My older children are my glorious
crown, they will know how to educate and guide their younger brothers and
sisters along the path of righteousness which they have trodden and are still
following, being the great satisfaction
I have experienced in this world.
They are good children as much as they
will be good parents”.
Nobility of his character,
invaluable services to the country and the memories of his children of their
loving father are monuments to Judge Benitez as one of the eminent Filipinos in
On May 8, 1928, Benitez
passed away at the age of 77.