Heritage in Remembrance: Hermano Pule

Originally authored on July 22, 2015

One hundred forty-three years hence, we give honor to a forgotten hero whose martyrdom came three decades ahead of the execution of the Filipino priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora who sparked the revolutionary ideals of Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. Apolinario de la Cruz, known as Hermano Pule, hailed from Lucban, Tayabas (now Quezon Province). He was born in July 22, 1814, exactly two-hundred one years ago.

Growing up from a deeply religious family, it had been his childhood dream to be a priest. However, at that time, all religious orders did not welcome Indios or Filipino natives. He organized a confraternity called Confradia de San Jose, a struggle for religious freedom and independence. At the age of 22, while working in San Juan de Dios as an orderly, he became a lay brother of the Dominicans in San Juan de Letran. The secret organization under his passionate leadership attracted members not only in the towns of Quezon but also as far as Laguna and Batangas.

Confradia prohibited Spaniards and mestizos from joining without de la Cruz’s permission. The Spanish authorities regarded the brotherhood as heresy and abomination of universal Christian values and immediately ordered its dissolution. Adamant, de la Cruz, did not waver and pushed through with the open attack when Spaniards annihilated the Confradia militia and massacring old men, women, and children suspected of defying leaders of the church. He was captured in November 4, 1841.

After a brief trial in Casa Comunidad in Tayabas, at the early age of 27, he was executed by firing squad. His dead body was cut into pieces and his head was hung on a pole, as a warning to those who are similarly inclined. His monument now stands in Tayabas and his death anniversary November 4 is a holiday in the entire province. As we ponder on our history, Hermano Pule may have influenced another secular priest, Jose Burgos, who demanded racial equality in the clergy.

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