JOSE A. BURGOS
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Jose Bugos, one of the "Martyrs of 1872" was born in Vigan,
Ilocos Sur on February 9, 1837. His Father, Don Jose Tiburcio Burgos, a Spaniard, was an officer of the army (First Lieutenant of the Batallon Milicias de Ilocos 5 de Linea, His mother, Florencia Garcia, was a Spanish-Filipina mestiza noted for her beauty and intelligence.
Burgos' Christian name was Jose Apolonio, but when he grew up he usually signed his name as plain Jose Burgos. Nicknamed Pepe, he was the youngest in the family with two sisters, Antonia and Maria.
Jose learned his first letters front his mother. Since early boyhood, he wanted to become a priest. This was contrary to his mother's wish because she wanted him to become a lawyer.
At age ten and an orphan Jose enrolled at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran on August 1 i, 1847. A brilliant student, he excelled in academic works and in extra curricular activities. He took up physical education seriously and became an adept swordsman and pugilist. On February 11, 1855 at age 18, Burgos obtained his Bachiller en Filosofia sobresaliente. He immediately started his theology course and obtained the Bachiller en Teologia degree, his second, on January 21, 1859, graduating at the top of the class.
After finishing his course for the Priesthood he sang his first Mass in Intramuros. He eventually became a parish priest of the Sagrario de Intramuros, and soon found himself in trouble with his superiors as a result of his liberal ideas. On August 11, 1860 more than a year after his ordination, the young cleric enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas to pursue his studies. Because of his experience with the Spanish students who looked down on the Filipino whom they called Indios and creollos, it was only natural for Burgos to prove that the Filipinos were as good as the white men, if the Spaniards, he thought, could see that a creole could excel in advanced studies, they would begin to respect the Filipinos.
Burgos finished his master's degree, Licenciado en Teologia on February 21, 1862 and his Bachliller en Canones on February 8. 1866. He continued his studies and obtained a Doctor en Teologia on April 14, 1868, and a Licenciado en Canones on Oct. 29, 1868. He went on studying until he obtained the Doctor en Canones degree in April, 1871. This was the highest academic degree he could obtain as a priest. He received these last four degrees while acting as a curate of the Parish of St. Peter which comprised the Walled City. Having taken all these courses he became a member of the examining board for priests.
At the Sagrario de Intramuros, he became an ecclesiastical fiscal, a canonical magistrate of the Cathedral of Manila and finally the master of the claustral ceremony in the University of Santo Tomas.
Despite these enviable positions, Burgos was neither content nor happy. As an eyewitness to the ill-treatment and apathy shown by the Spanish ecclesiastical officials to his countrymen, he felt aggrieved. To fight the injustice, he became a staunch and vigorous advocate for reforms in the country and a strong crusader for the rights and welfare of the secular clergy. In a manifesto he wrote in La Verdad on Jury 27, 1864, Burgos expounded his views and liberal ideas and extolled the ability of the Filipinos.
During the height of the secularization controversy when Burgos had become widely known as the vigorous champion of the cause of the Filipino clergy, the Cavite Mutiny broke out on January 20, 1872. The outbreak of the mutiny afforded the Spanish authorities and the ecclesiastical authorities a very good opportunity to get rid of him. Thus, through the influence and machination of the friars, Burgos, together with Father Mariano Comes and Father Jacinto Zamora were implicated in the mutiny. They were arrested and charged with conspiring against the state and organizing the mutiny in Cavite on the night of January 20.
On February 15, 1872, the three priests were formally tried by the military court headed by Col. Francisco Moscoso. As the members of the court were all their enemies, the three priests were denied a fair trial.
After the prosecutors had presented the charges and their evidences, Jose Arrieta, counsel for Burgos, offered no defense for his client. Instead he stated that Burgos had confessed his guilt. Protesting the action of his lawyer, Burgos stood up to face the Council of War, and said, "I have not confessed any guilt and I am not guilty; that is not my defense; that gentleman (pointing to Arrieta) had changed it. I deny all the charges against me. They have no foundation in fact or in law."
Between 5 and 6 o'clock a.m., February 16, 187? the priests were gathered at the guardroom at Fort Santiago and there Major Boscasa read their sentence: death by garrote.
At sunrise of that fateful day, February 17, the three priests met their death at Bagumbayan. Prior to their execution, Governor-General Rafael de Izquierdo requested the Archbishop of Manila to degrade the three priests by removing their priestly habits. His Grace, Gregorio Meliton Martinet, who was then the Archbishop of Manila, stubbornly refused this unholy request, for he was inclined to believe that the three condemned priests were innocent. They were therefore allowed to wear their habits.
Of the three priests, Burgos was the last to be executed. As he ascended the stairs, his glance met that of Major Boscasa. Fr. Burgos stopped a while and said:
"I forgive you, and may God forgive you as I have forgiven you," He proceeded and sat down on the execution bench. Suddenly he got up and spoke in a loud voice:
"But what wrong have I done? Shall I die without reason? My God, is there no justice at all on earth?"
Before doing his work, the executioner approached Burgos.
"Father", said he, "forgive me for what I am about to do." "I forgive you my son," was the quiet reply. "Do what is your duty."
Then he turned to the people who were present and who were down on their knees. Father Burgos then extended his hands and gave them his blessings.
As he was being strangulated, Father Burgos prayed: "My Lord Father of mine, receive into Your Bosom, the soul of an inno..."
Death cut short his last prayer. Burgos died at 8:00 a.m. as a patriot and martyr for the cause of the Filipinos.