Apolinario Mabini
1st Prime Minister of the Philippines
In office
January 23, 1899 – May 7, 1899
PresidentEmilio Aguinaldo
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byPedro Paterno
1st Secretary of Foreign Relations
In office
January 23, 1899 – May 7, 1899
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byFelipe Buencamino
Personal details
Apolinario Mabini y Maranan

July 23, 1864[1]
Barrio Talaga, Tanauan, Batangas, Captaincy General of the Philippines, Spanish Empire
DiedMay 13, 1903(1903-05-13) (aged 38)
Manila, Philippine Islands
Cause of deathCholera
Alma materColegio de San Juan de Letran
University of Santo Tomas
ProfessionPolitician, lawyer

Apolinario Mabini y Maranan (Tagalog: [apolɪˈnaɾ.jo maˈbinɪ]; July 23, 1864 – May 13, 1903) was a Filipino revolutionary leader, educator, lawyer, and statesman who served first as a legal and constitutional adviser to the Revolutionary Government, and then as the first Prime Minister of the Philippines upon the establishment of the First Philippine Republic. He is regarded as the "utak ng himagsikan" or "brain of the revolution" and is also considered as a national hero in the Philippines. Mabini's work and thoughts on the government shaped the Philippines' fight for independence over the next century.[2]

Two of his works, El Verdadero Decálogo (The True Decalogue, June 24, 1898) and Programa Constitucional de la República Filipina (The Constitutional Program of the Philippine Republic, 1898), became instrumental in the drafting of what would eventually be known as the Malolos Constitution.[3]

Mabini performed all his revolutionary and governmental activities despite having lost the use of both his legs to polio[4] shortly before the Philippine Revolution of 1896.

Mabini's role in Philippine history saw him confronting first Spanish colonial rule in the opening days of the Philippine Revolution, and then American colonial rule in the days of the Philippine–American War. The latter saw Mabini captured and exiled to Guam by American colonial authorities, allowed to return only two months before his eventual death in May 1903.


Early life and education

Replica of the house where Mabini was born and grew up, located at Apolinario Mabini Shrine in Tanauan, Batangas.

Apolinario Mabini was born on July 23, 1864,[1] in Barrio Talaga in Tanauan, Batangas.[5] He was the second of eight children of Dionisia Maranan y Magpantay, a vendor in the Tanauan market, and Inocencio Leon Mabini y Lira, an illiterate peasant.[6]

Apolinario Mabini attended the historical school of Father Valerio Malabanan located in Lipa.[7] Being poor, Apolinario Mabini was able to get educated due to the Malabanan school's matriculation of students based on their academic merit rather than ability of the parents to pay. He would meet future leader Miguel Malvar while studying in Lipa.

Valerio Malabanan took students into his school with academic merit regardless of ability to pay.

In 1881, Mabini received a scholarship from 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.[6]

Law Studies

Mabini's mother had wanted him to enter the priesthood, but his desire to defend the poor made him decide to study law instead.[5] A year after receiving his Bachiller en Artes with highest honors and the title Professor of Latin from Letran, he moved on to University of Santo Tomas in 1888,[8] where he received his law degree in 1894.[5][6]

Comparing Mabini's generation of Filipino intellectuals to the previous one of Jose Rizal and the other members of the propagandists movement, journalist and National Artist of the Philippines for Literature Nick Joaquin describes Mabini's generation as the next iteration in the evolution of Filipino intellectual development:[9]

Europe had been a necessary catalyst for the generation of Rizal. By the time of Mabini, the Filipino intellectual had advanced beyond the need for enlightenment abroad[....] The very point of Mabini's accomplishment is that all his schooling, all his training, was done right here in his own country. The argument of Rizal's generation was that Filipinos were not yet ready for self-government because they had too little education and could not aspire for more in their own country. The evidence of Mabini's generation was that it could handle the affairs of government with only the education it had acquired locally. It no longer needed Europe; it had imbibed all it needed of Europe.[9]

Mabini joined the Guild of Lawyers after graduation, but he did not choose to practice law in a professional capacity. He did not set up his own law office, and instead continued to work in the office of a notary public.[9]

Instead, Mabini put his knowledge of law to much use during the days of the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American war. Joaquin notes that all his contributions to Philippine history somehow involved the law:

"His was a legal mind. He was interested in law as an idea, as an ideal[...] whenever he appears in our history he is arguing a question of legality."[9]

Masonry and La Liga Filipina

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Mabini joined the fraternity of Freemasonry in September 1892, affiliating with lodge Balagtas, and taking on the name "Katabay". The following year, Mabini became a member of La Liga Filipina, which was being resuscitated after the arrest of its founder José Rizal in 1892. Mabini was made secretary of its new Supreme Council.[10] This was Mabini's first time to join an explicitly patriotic organization.

Mabini, whose advocacies favored the reformist movement, pushed for the organization to continue its goals of supporting La Solidaridad and the reforms it advocated.

When more revolutionary members of the Liga indicated that they did not think the reform movement was getting results and wanted to more openly support revolution, La Liga Filipina split into two factions: the moderate Cuerpo de Compromisarios, which wanted simply to continue to support the revolution, and the explicitly revolutionary Katipunan. Mabini joined the Cuerpo de Compromisarios.

When José Rizal, part of the "La Liga Filipina", was executed in December that year, however, he changed his mind and gave the revolution his wholehearted support.

Polio and eventual paralysis

Mabini was struck by polio in 1895, and the disease gradually incapacitated him until January 1896, when he finally lost the use of both his legs.[citation needed]

1896 Revolution and Arrest

When the plans of the Katipunan were discovered by Spanish authorities, and the first active phase of the 1896 Philippine Revolution began in earnest, Mabini, still ill, was arrested along with numerous other members of La Liga Filipina.

Thirteen patriots, later known as the "Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite", were arrested in Cavite, tried and eventually executed. José Rizal himself was accused of being party to the revolution, and would eventually be executed in December that year. When the Spanish authorities saw that Mabini was paralyzed, however, they decided to release him.

Adviser to the Revolutionary Government

Sent to the hospital after his arrest, Mabini remained in ill health for a considerable time. He was seeking the curative properties of the hot springs in Los Baños, Laguna in 1898 when Emilio Aguinaldo sent for him, asking him to serve as advisor to the revolution.

During this convalescent period, Mabini wrote the pamphlets "El Verdadero Decálogo" and "Ordenanzas de la Revolución". Aguinaldo was impressed by these works and by Mabini's role as a leading figure in La Liga Filipina, and made arrangements for Mabini to be brought from Los Baños to Kawit, Cavite. It took hundreds of men taking turns carrying his hammock to portage Mabini to Kawit.

He continued to serve as the chief adviser for General Aguinaldo after the Philippine Declaration of Independence on June 12. He drafted decrees and edited the constitution for the First Philippine Republic, including the framework of the revolutionary government which was implemented in Malolos in 1899.

Prime Minister of the Philippines

Shortly after Aguinaldo's return to the Philippines from exile in Hong Kong in May 1898, he tasked Mabini with helping him establish a government. Mabini authored the June 18, 1898, decree which established the Dictatorial Government of the Philippines. After the Malolos Constitution, the basic law of the First Philippine Republic, was promulgated on January 21, 1899, Mabini was appointed Prime Minister and also Foreign Minister. He then led the first cabinet of the republic.

Mabini found himself in the center of the most critical period in the new country's history, grappling with problems until then unimagined. Most notable of these were his negotiations with Americans, which began on March 6, 1899. The United States and the Philippine Republic were embroiled in extremely contentious and eventually violent confrontations. During the negotiations for peace, Americans proffered Mabini autonomy for Aguinaldo's new government, but the talks failed because Mabini's conditions included a ceasefire, which was rejected. Mabini negotiated once again, seeking for an armistice instead, but the talks failed yet again. Eventually, feeling that the Americans were not negotiating 'bona fide,' he forswore the Americans and supported war. He resigned from government on May 7, 1899.[citation needed]

Philippine American War, exile, and return

The Philippine–American War saw Mabini taken more seriously as a threat by the Americans than he was under the Spanish: Says National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose:

"The Spaniards underestimated Mabini primarily because he was a cripple. Had they known of his intellectual perspicacity, they would have killed him earlier. The Americans did not. They were aware of his superior intelligence, his tenacity when he faced them in negotiations for autonomy and ceasefire.
Apolinario Mabini sits outside his tent in Guam -- 1902

On December 10, 1899, he was captured by Americans at Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija.[11] He was captured by troopers of the 4th Cavalry Regiment.[12] He was imprisoned after his capture,[13] though he was in bad health, and was exiled to the island of Guam for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States[14] along with other revolutionists Americans referred to as insurrectos (rebels) or Irreconcilables.

Mabini returned to the Philippines after agreeing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States[15]: 547  on February 26, 1903, before the Collector of Customs. On the day he sailed, he issued this statement to the press:[16]

After two long years I am returning, so to speak, completely disoriented and, what is worse, almost overcome by disease and sufferings. Nevertheless, I hope, after some time of rest and study, still to be of some use, unless I have returned to the Islands for the sole purpose of dying.

Mabini resumed his work of agitating for independence for the Philippines soon after his return from exile.[citation needed]


The marker of Mabini's death inside the antesala room of Mabini Shrine in Manila where he died.

Not long after his return, Mabini died of cholera at home along Nagtahan, Manila on May 13, 1903,[17] at the age of 38, after consuming an unpasteurized and contaminated carabao milk. His funeral at the Binondo Church was attended by around 8,000 people, mostly Filipinos, including members of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente who took over and occupied the Binondo Church at the time.[18][19][20][21]

Historical Remembrance

Mabini's complex contributions to Philippine History are often distilled into two historical monikers - "Brains of the Revolution," and "Sublime Paralytic". Contemporary historians such as Ambeth Ocampo point out, though, that these two monikers are reductionist and simplistic, and "do not do justice to the hero's life and legacy."[22][23]

"Brains of the Revolution"

Because of his role as advisor during the formation of the revolutionary government, and his contributions as statesman thereafter, Mabini is often referred to as the "Brains of the Revolution", a historical moniker he sometimes shares with Emilio Jacinto, who served in a similar capacity for the earlier revolutionary movement, the Katipunan.[24]

"Sublime Paralytic"

Mabini is also famous for having achieved all this despite having lost the use of his legs to polio just prior to the Philippine revolution.[25] This has made Mabini one of the Philippines' most visually iconic national heroes, such that he is often referred to as "The Sublime Paralytic" (Tagalog: Dakilang Lumpo).

Controversy about Mabini's paralysis

Even during his lifetime, there were controversial rumors regarding the cause of Mabini's paralysis. Infighting among members of the Malolos congress led to the spread of rumors that Mabini's paralysis had been caused by venereal disease - specifically, syphilis. This was finally debunked in 1980, when Mabini's bones were exhumed and the autopsy proved conclusively that the cause of his paralysis was polio.[26]

This information reached National Artist F. Sionil José too late, however. By the time the historian Ambeth Ocampo told him about the autopsy results, he had already published Po-on, the first novel of his Rosales Saga. That novel contained plot points based on the premise that Mabini had indeed become a paralytic due to syphilis.[27]

In later editions of the book,[28] the novelist corrected the error and issued an apology, which reads in part:

I committed a horrible blunder in the first edition of Po-on. No apology to the august memory of Mabini no matter how deeply felt will ever suffice to undo the damage that I did.... According to historian Ambeth Ocampo who told me this too late, this calumny against Mabini was spread by the wealthy mestizos around Aguinaldo who wanted Mabini's ethical and ideological influence cut off. They succeeded. So, what else in our country has changed?

In the later editions, Mabini's disease - an important plot point - was changed to an undefined liver ailment. The ailing Mabini takes pride in the fact that his symptoms are definitely not those of syphilis, despite the rumors spread by his detractors in the Philippine Revolutionary government.[citation needed]


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The Mabini Shrine, now located in the PUP campus in Santa Mesa, Manila
The BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36).
2014 Philippine stamp showing Mabini

Place names

Naval Vessels

Philippine Peso

Government Awards and Citations

Media portrayals

Po-on has since been described by famed essayist, poet and playwright Ricaredo Demetillo as "the first great Filipino novels written in English". It is mentioned by American book reviews as

"The foremost Filipino novelist in English, his novels deserve a much wider readership than the Philippines can offer."

--Ian Buruma, New York Review of Books[42] and

"Tolstoy himself, not to mention Italo Svevo, would envy the author of this story."

--Chicago Tribune[37][38][39][43]

in addition to being described by Random House as

a work of fiction which is "more than" the character of a "historical novel", a book with "extraordinary scope and passion" that is "meaningful to Philippine literature." a book as meaningful to Philippine literature as One Hundred Years of Solitude is to Latin American literature.[43]

Selected works


From Mabini

...it belongs to no party, nor does it desire to form one; it stands for nothing save the interest of the fatherland.[45]

The Revolution failed because it was badly directed, because its leader won his post not with praiseworthy but with blameworthy acts, because instead of employing the most useful men of the nation he jealously discarded them. Believing that the advance of the people was no more than his own personal advance, he did not rate men according to their ability, character and patriotism but according to the degree of friendship or kinship binding him to them; and wanting to have favorites willing to sacrifice themselves for him, he showed himself lenient to their faults. Because he disdained the people, he could not but fall like an idol of wax melting in the heat of adversity. May we never forget such a terrible lesson learned at the cost of unspeakable sufferings![46][47]

About Mabini

Mabini is a highly educated young man who, unfortunately, is paralyzed. He has a classical education, a very flexible, imaginative mind, and Mabini's views were more comprehensive than any of the Filipinos that I have met. His idea was a dream of a Malay confederacy. Not the Luzon or the Philippine Archipelago, but I mean of that blood. He is a dreamy man, but a very firm character and of very high accomplishments. As said, unfortunately, he is paralyzed. He is a young man, and would undoubtedly be of great use in the future of those islands if it were not for his affliction.[48]

We cannot question the depth and breadth of the contribution to our country of the man we call the Sublime Paralytic and the Brains of the Revolution. He represented the intelligence and convictions of the Filipino people. His sharp mind was his weapon to strengthen the foundation of our democratic institution."[34]


  1. ^ a b "FAQs". Mabini@150. Archived from the original on March 24, 2014. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
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  3. ^ Malcolm, George A. (November 26, 2017). "The Malolos Constitution". Political Science Quarterly. 36 (1): 91–103. doi:10.2307/2142663. JSTOR 2142663.
  4. ^ Pasion, Kristoffer (February 17, 2017). "The great Philippine experiment". opinion.inquirer.net. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
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  7. ^ "Who is Valerio Malabanan?". thephilippinestoday.com. The Philippines Today. July 8, 2020. Retrieved March 29, 2021. Among his stellar pupils were General Miguel Malvar, one of the last Filipino leaders to surrender in the Philippine-American War; Melchor Virrey, a known educator in Manila; & Apolinario Mabini, 1st head of the Aguinaldo cabinet and Prime Minister of the 1st Philippine Republic.
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  12. ^ O'Conner, Lopaka (May 13, 2020). ""America's St. Helena": Filipino Exiles and U.S. Empire on Guam, 1901–03". Center of Humanities. Washington University in St. Louis. Retrieved October 13, 2023.
  13. ^ "Facts Abut the Filipinos". Progress in Pacification. Vol. 1, no. 10. 1901. p. 44.
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  17. ^ "The life of Apolinario Mabini". National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Archived from the original on June 6, 2014.
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  19. ^ "On this day, 117 years ago, Apolinario Mabini, the brains of the Philippine Revolution, died of cholera pandemic". Facebook. National Quincentennial Committee, Republic of the Philippines (verified page). May 12, 2020. Archived from the original on November 25, 2022. Retrieved November 25, 2022.
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  21. ^ Roxas-Lim, Aurora (1999). "Apolinario Mabini and the Establishment of the National Church" (PDF). Asian Studies Journal. 35: 115–128. Retrieved November 7, 2022.
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  30. ^ "Asan Beach Unit - War In The Pacific National Historical Park". U.S. National Park Service. April 18, 2013. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
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  32. ^ "Foundation sets Mabini Awards for the Disabled". Philippine Information Agency. January 25, 2008.{\
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  34. ^ a b "Aquino can't believe question asked why Mabini was seated throughout Luna movie".
  35. ^ Jose, F. Sionil (2006). "Spirit and Literature". Manoa. 18 (1): 51–57. doi:10.1353/man.2006.0030. S2CID 144709210. Project MUSE 201354.
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Further reading

Political offices New office Prime Minister of the Philippines 1899 Succeeded byPedro Paterno Minister of Foreign Relations 1899 Succeeded byFelipe Buencamino New title — TITULAR — Minister of Foreign Affairs 1899-1901 VacantPosition abolishedTitle next held byElpidio Quirino