ON MAY 13, 1903, Apolinario Mabini, often referred to as “the Sublime Paralytic”, died of cholera in Manila at the age of 38.
Mabini was most active in the Revolution in 1898, when he served as the chief adviser for General Emilio Aguinaldo. He became the president of the Cabinet and secretary of Foreign Affairs. He wrote most of the decrees of the revolutionary government and prepared a constitutional program wherein he proposed a Constitution for the Philippines.
On December 10, 1899, during the Philippine-American war, he was captured by Americans at Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, but was later set free. In 1901, he was exiled to Guam, along with scores of revolutionists the Americans referred to as “insurrectos” and who refused to swear fealty to imperialist America.
He returned to the Philippines in 1903 at the height of a cholera epidemic in Manila and died of it on May 13, 1903 in Pandacan, Manila.
Apolinario Mabini was born on July 23, 1864 in Barangay Talaga in Tanauan, Batangas. He was the second of eight children of Dionisia Maranan, a vendor in the Tanauan market, and Inocencio Mabini, an unlettered peasant.
He began informal studies under his maternal grandfather, who was the village teacher and his mother. Because he demonstrated uncommon intelligence, he was transferred to a regular school owned by Simplicio Avelino, where he worked as a houseboy, and also took odd jobs from a local tailor – all in exchange for free board and lodging. He later transferred to a school conducted by the Fray Valerio Malabanan, whose fame as an educator merited a mention in José Rizal’s novel El Filibusterismo.
In 1881 Mabini received a scholarship to go to the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Manila. An anecdote about his stay there says that a professor there decided to pick on him because his shabby clothing clearly showed he was poor. Mabini amazed the professor by answering a series of very difficult questions with ease. His studies at Letran were periodically interrupted by a chronic lack of funds, and he earned money for his board and lodging by teaching children.
Mabini’s mother had wanted him to take up the priesthood, but his desire to defend the poor made him decide to take up Law instead.
A year after receiving his Bachilles en Artes with highest honors and the title Professor of Latin from Letran, he moved on to the University of Santo Tomas, where he received his law degree in 1894.