AURELIO TOLENTINO

 (1865 - 1915)

 

 

  Aurelio Tolentino was born on October 13,1867 in Barrio Santo Cristo Guagua Pampanga. He was the youngest of three children of Leonardo Tolentino and Patrona Valenzuela. He and his brother obtained their primera enzeñanza under the school master Pedro Serrano Laktaw. Aurelio transferred to the Colegio de Latinidad under angel Jimenez. Upon finishing the third year of the segunda enseñanza, he was already well grounded on the rhetoric, poetics and philosophy. He obtained his Bachiller en Artes, then enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas to study law, but stopped schooling when his father died.

 

He returned to his hometown and took a teaching job in the Colegio de Latinidad directed by Tomas Gamboa. An altercation with a Spanish pharmacist whom he struck on the face for calling him barbaro, forced him to leave town immediately and hide in Tondo.

 

A few years later, he secured the position of oficial de mesa in the Court of First Instance of Tondo. He became acquainted with Andres Bonifacio and other patriots who engaged his help in the printing and distribution of the censored La Solidaridad and other propaganda literature. Inevitably, he joined the Katipunan.

 

He affiliated with Freemansonry, becoming an orador in the Monditia Lodge presided by Vicente Lukban. He explored with Supremo Bonifacio the mountainous terrai of Montalban and San Mateo from Holy Tuesday to Holy Thursday in 1895 in search for an appropriate place from which to direct military operations in case the secret society  was discovered.

 

With torches, the party visited Makarok and Pamitinan on Good Friday, April 12. Inside the caves supposedly fo Bernardo Carpio, They deliberated on their plans about the revolt, the gathering of arms and funds. On the walls, Bonifacio wrote, “Viva la Independencia Filipina!

  

He was escribano in the provincial court of Morong, at the outbreak of the revolution of 1896. He failed to escape the mass arrest and was incarcerated for nine months. After his release he took part in the Bicol campaigns of Gen. Vicente Lukban.

 

It was with justifiable pride that he affixed his signature to the list of those who witnessed and signed the Declaration of Philippine Independence in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898.

Tolentino gathered his former Katipunan comrades residing in Manila and organized the secret society, Junta de Amigos, in August 1900. Under his presidency, the members formed guerilla units and carried on the resistance against America. Until the American  police dismantled their society, they had been burning the American military stores in Tondo, Sampaloc, and Pandacan, kidnapping blacklisted colaborators, and even killing American sentries.

 

When Artemio Ricarte attempted to organize a new revolutionary army in 1903, he was among the first to join him.

 

He wrote to unsigned editorials for La Independencia, both of which were openly critical of the Unite States. Two newspapaers which he edited, La Patria nad El Liberal were suppressed by the government. His newspaper, Filipinas, was forcibly closed down. Still, his journalistic career, was not stymied. He edited the Spanish newspapers, El Pueblo and El Imperial, and their Pampango counterparts, Ing Belen and Ing Emangabiran.

 

Aware of the effectivity of the theater as a public forum, he turned his talents to the writing of dramas. The most justly of these is  the Tagalog verse drama, Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas, played to a packed audience at Teatro Liberad in manila on May 14, 1903. At a certain point of the play th escript called for the actor playing taga-ilog or Juana de la Cruz. He was shackled and imprisoned, but at the point when the flags were torn down, he stood up, broke the shckles and forced open the bars. At this time the rest of the partakers shouted: “Long live Freedom! Long live the Mother-land!” The authorities went up the stage and arrested everybody, but he told them that it was he alone who was responsible, for he was the writer and director of the drama. He was convicted of sedition, rebellion, insurrection and conspiracy. Finally in 1912 he was pardoned by the then Governor General W. Cameron Forbes and the $7,000 fine was remitted.

 

He continued to engage in nationalistic activities. One of his principal concerns was the plight of Filipino activities. His admiration for the work of Dr. Dominador Gomez, a contemporary crusader for working men’s rights inspired him to write Bagong Cristo, a Tagalog prose play, which dealt with the polemical relations between capital and labor. He founded the Katimawan, identified as a “samahang hanapbuhay ng mahihirap.” It was in effect a working men’s co-operative, among the first of its kind in the Philippines.

 

Tolentino’ belief that a common language would help ensure national unity made him an early advocate of the adoption of Tagalog as the national language. To this end he founded El Parnaso Filipino, a school for the promotion of Tagalog literature.

 

In 1908, he married Natividad Hilario. They had four children, Cesar, Corazon, Rafael and Leonor (of the four, only Corazon and Rafael survived.) The family lived in Manila until his death in July 1915. He was buried at North Cemetery. In 1921, his bones were transferred to Guagua where they were deposited at the base of a monument erected by the townspeople to honor him.

 

 

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