It was January 21, 1872. The Spanish government ordered the arrest those who were involved in an uprising in Cavite’s Fort San Felipe.
Mutineers in Cavite were told by their fellow conspirators in Manila to be ready for a coup on the night of January 20. Rockets would be fired in the air as a signal to the Caviteños to seize Fort San Felipe. Reinforcement would be rushed from Manila to help the Caviteño plotters.
Coincidentally, Manila is celebrating a nine-day feast beginning on January 20 in honor of San Sebastian till January 29 as the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in San Sebastian Church .
According to Nick Joaquin, it was on the feast day of the Lady of Mount Carmel that the old Manila saying originated: “the cold season will last until after the Del Carmen.” Manilenos had noticed how the fiesta begins to become warmer after the feast of Mount Carmel.
The Cavite mutineers mistook the fireworks during the opening day of the fiesta in Manila as the rockets to start the coup. The Caviteños killed 11 Spanish officers in Fort San Felipe and waited for reinforcement from Manila. Spanish troops arrived in Cavite to quash the mutineers.
Those who were accused to be involved in the mutiny were taken to Fort Santiago including priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora collectively known as GOMBURZA. Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were found guilty and were executed in Bagumbayan (presently known as Luneta) on February 17, 1872.
Today, the execution site is marked by a fat obelisk to remember the martyrdom of the three priests who were choked to death by garrote ( a metal collar vise that snaps the spine at the neck).
The martyrdom of the three Filipino priests left an indelible imprint on the generation of youth who were entering manhood in the next decade.
Apolinario Mabini, who was eight in 1872, reflected in later years that the sorrow felt by the Filipinos over the priests’ execution made them realize their condition for the first time.
Jose Rizal who was eleven then, grew up vowing vengeance on the injustice and dedicated his novel El Filibusterismo to the three heroic priests.
Andres Bonifacio was nine and Emilio Aguinaldo three in 1872, and both drew inspiration from the priests’ heroism as they became primary movers in the struggle for nationhood.