APOLINARIO DELA CRUZ

(1815-1841)

 

 

          Religious and rebel leader, and founder of the Cofrada de San Jose, Apolinario de la Cruz was born on July 22, 1815 in Lukban, Tayabas (now Quezon). His parents were Pablo de la Cruz and Juana Andres, both of them of` wealthy families and zealous Catholics.

 

          About his early education nothing is known;but following what appears to be an Inclination to the religious Life, he went to Manila. Once in the city, he trietf to enter one of the religious orders, but was disappointed to find out that none was open to native Filipinos, instead, he was accepted as a donado in the San Juan de Dios Hospital. In time he was admitted to the Cofrad'ia de San Juan de Dios, a religious brotherhood open to the native-born. This organization which was an affiliate of the hospital opened De la Cruz's interest in public speaking. He forced himself to listen to sermons andl learned Spanish with some proficiency. Frorn the brotherhood, he also learned elements of group organization.

 

          It appears that De la Cruz dill not stay long at San Juan de Dios Hospital. According to Matta, he was expelled from the hospital, though for what reason, it is not known. Following his own declaration, he went back to his native town, Lukban, and there founded the Cofradia de San Jose sometime in 1832. He was still a young man of eighteen years.

 

          The aims of the cofradia were never clear in the accounts, but one of them was to honor Saint Joseph and Virgin Mary by having a mass celebrated on the 19th of every month. This gave historian David P. Barrows reason to describe the cofradia as a "special cult." The brotherhood started with 19 members with the founder given the title hermano mayor. De la Cruz, however, was better known as Hermano Pule. For many years he tried in secret to attract members to form a big organization . It was only in 1840 that he made public the aims of the brotherhood in the house of Francisco de los Santos, where he usually held meetings. By this time it had members not only in Tayabas province, but also in Batangas, Laguna and Tondo. There were male and female members, some of them people of means. After the monthly mass celebrated for them, new members were introduced by thehermano mayor. All were encouraged to bring in new members. A member who could initiate 12 new members became a cabecilla or headman. By 1841 there were more than S00 members in Lukban alone, more than 240 in Tayabas town, 120 in Pagbilao, 20 in Tiaong, more than 40 in Batangas (Lipa and San Pablo), 130 in Maiayjay. It had scattered members in Laguna (Nagcarlan, Liliw, Magdalena). As estimated by Hermano Pule himself, based on padrones (registry) the total was from 4,500 to 5,000 members.

 

          The cofradia must have convened general assemblies. This may be inferred from the fact that a cabecilla had one vote, and if he could initiate 12 new members he increased his voting power to two. The monthly dues consisted of one real and rice, which went into the society's coffers which were kept by a mayordomo. The society held meetings every 19th of the month. After the mass, Hermano Pule usually gave a talk.

 

          J.A. Robertson stated that "no one except pureblooded natives were allowed to become members of the organization from which circumstance the Spaniards have always professed to believe that the confraternity was political in nature and that religious motives merely a blind." Some asserted that the confraternity was a sort of a "Katipunan."

 

          Hermano Pule wanted to legalize the existence of the brotherhood and so he petitioned the bishop of Camarines for recognition and authorization to enable it to hold meetings and to practice its rites. However, the petition was denied. Another application was sent to the Audiencia in Manila. This time, Don Domingo Rojas was approached to prepare the papers but the Audiencia tabled the petition. It appeared that the society was advised by some lawyers or officials in the metropolis such as Don Jose Florentino, Don Felipe Vidal de Marifosque, and Don Toribio Pantoja.

 

          The brotherhood aroused the suspicions of the Franciscan friars in the province who sensed its heretical aims. They believed that the cofradia's activities were schismatic in nature and had to be suppressed. And so, on October 19, 1840. the gobernadorcillo of Lukban, upon the request of the friars,ordered the arrest of the members of the brotherhood who were assembled in the house of Francisco delos Santos. Some 243 persons of the 500 to 600 present were seized and thrown into prison. This wholesale arrest was immediately reported to the provincial governor, Don Joaquin Ortega who immediately ordered the release of the prisoners.

 

          Despite the order of the governor to release the prisoners, the vicar, Fr. Antonio Mateo of Tayabas and Fr. Manuel Sancho of Lukban kept the members prisoners. Hermano I'ule did not waste any time. He sent a report posthaste to Archbishop Segui in Manila denouncing the unwarranted and unChristian acts of the friars in Tayabas. In a public announcement posted at the door of the church of Lukban, he also accused the Franciscans of inhuman acts against the prisoners, stating that flogging was committed on one or two members; that his effigy was burned and that members were being threatened with excommunication. Hermano Pule questioned the authority of the vicar and of the parish priest to do such acts because the aims of the society were never against the Catholic faith. He sent another letter on January 29, 1841, to the Bishop of Nueva Caceres reiterating his position that the cofradia was not against canon law. This was endorsed to the iuez provisor of the bishopric, who, in turn, endorsed it to the vicar, Fr. Antonio Mateo of Tayabas and to Fr. Manuel Sancho, the parish priest of Lukban. Naturally, the petition was disregarded, and instead, the two friars declared that Hermano Pulewas not fit to wear the robe of the cofradia.

 

          Hermano Pule was not discouraged. Believing that there was justice in the brotherhood's cause, he filed, for the third time, an appeal with the Audiencia in Manila through Don Domingo Rojas and others. Again, the petition was not heeded.

 

          The fact that Hermano Pule attempted to legalize the organization through both ecclesiastical and governmental authorities, indicates that an insurrection was not on the cofradia's agenda. it is highly unlikely that the organization had at the beginning any political motive. Thus, its suppression was a mistake.

 

          At this time the cofradia continued its normal activities - re-

cruiting new members and holding meetings. Upon learning of the organization and thinking that it was a seditious group, the Governor General, Don Marcelino de Oraa y Lecumberri ordered the arrest of its members and the brotherhood's disbandment.

 

          From that time on, HermanoPule and his followers lived a fugitive life. He first gathered his men in Bay, Laguna and then went to San Pablo, then to Tiaong and to Sariaya. He then moved to Isabang, a sitio between Sariaya and Tayabas, where he was joined by other members from Batangas and Laguna and other towns of Tayabas.

 

          Meanwhile the government was preparing its troops to engage them in battle. A military force of 300 men under Alcalde Mayor Joaquin Ortega was formed on October 11, 1841 to attack the encampment of Hermano Pule. An order was given to the group to surrender but the rebels instead burned the communication. The camp was reinforced by Negrito bowmen who became very useful in defending the camp. In fact, the first assault was tragic for the government side because Ortega and some of his men were killed. The government forces went into retreat and the rebels seized the abondoned falconetes, arms, and ammunition.

 

          The tragedy was reported to Manila and immediately Captain General Oraa appointed Don Isidro Vital interim alcalde mayor on October 29, 1841. The captain general ordered Lt. Col. Joaquin. Huet to proceed right away to Tayabas province with more than 300 troops. The alcalde mayor of Laguna had earlier sent 25 cuadrilleros and 6 soldiers under Captain Clemente Gonzales. This provincial contingent augmented the force coming from Manila.

 

          It was not certain whether Hermano Pule was aware of another forthcoming attack. At any rate, he moved his camp to Alitao, a place near the Tayabas capital, which he forthwith fortified. Its defensive feature was enhanced by two streams called Iyam and ipilan which bordered the place. A palisade was constructed. He built a chapel made of bamboo and nipa, and a house right beside it for himself. He now thought to break all relationships with the established Church. He himself assumed the title of supreme pontiff while his followers crowned him and started calling him "King of the Tagalogs."

 

          On October 30, Alcalde Mayor Vital offered pardon to all who would surrender. This offer was communicated to Hermano Pule's Camp at Alitao. He burned the communication and served notice that they would engage in battle the government forces. In the morning of November i, the government forces started their assault on De la Cruz's position and after four hours of fighting, a thousand rebels were killed in the encounter.

 

Hermano Pule was able to escape to Sariaya, but was tracked and caught by a small force dispatched by Col. Huet. After a summary trial, he was sentenced to death by musketry. Fr. Manuel Sancho, who witnessed the proceeding reported that Hermano Pule died serenely and showed unusual greatness of spirit. His body was cut into pieces. His head was put in a cage which was displayed on top of a pole stuck along the roadside leading to Majayjay town.

 

          Two days later on November 6, 1841, Dionisio de los Reyes and Miguel de Jesus, both of tayabas Town, and Francisco Espinosa of Sariaya, were executed by a firing squad. Captain General Oraa stated in his noticia that they were also leaders of the revolt. This was the aftermath of the Spanish hatred as expressed by the spokesman of the Spanish supreme authority in the Islands, Don Marcelino Oraa, in his bando on November 11, 1841.

 

          By the same bando, a general amnesty was granted to all members who took part in the uprising provided they presented themselves to the local authorities within 20 days and to all members who did not take part if they presented themselves within 30 days. Those who had arms had to surrender them within 15 days.

 

          There a small mutiny in Manila precipitated by the upsiring in Tayabas, A regiment of native soldiers quartered in malate rose up in arms, joined in by comarades in Fort santiago. They had been aroused on learning of the slaughter of the members of the cofradia in Tayabas, This happened on January 20, 1843, but they were decimated by a government force. The following day those who survived were shot. The leader of the insurgents, Sgt. Samaniego, and others were shot at Bagumbayan field on January 22.

 

 

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