Wednesday, January 23, 2013
JOSE CLEMENTE ZULUETA
Historian of the Revolution
On November 23, 1876, Jose Clemente Zulueta, a distinguished Filipino bibliographer, was
born in Paco, Manila. He grew up in the care of kindhearted couple, Agustin de la Rosa and Juliana
Estrada, because he was orphaned at a very young age. His parents were not known because his
mother died five days after his birth ad his father, when he was still a child. He was adopted by a.
Zulueta studied in the old College of San Antonio de Padua and in Ateneo Municipal,
where he obtained his Bachiller en Artes, and proceeded to study law at the University of Santo
Tomas. In the university, he achieved literary celebrity as a weaver of exquisite Spanish verses. His
poem “Afectos a la Virgen,” which Don Epifanio de los Santos highly commended for its poetical
race, was awarded third prize in 1895 with a “lirio de plata” (silver lily) by the Academia
Bibliografico Mariana, of Lerida, Spain. It was published in Revista Catolica de Filipina, VII, no. 5,
March 1, 1896.
Intellectually motivated, he organized a study group among his friends with whom he
expounded on philosophy, arithmetic and algebra, ethics, rhetoric and poetry. He frequented the
entresuelo meetings of young students like Cecilio Apostol, Fernando Ma. Guerrero, Rafael Palma,
Jose Abreau among others to explorer literature and social issues.
In 1896, Zulueta’s studies was interrupted by the revolution that broke out and to which he
responded with a unique mission, to record all the military activities. He presented his purpose to
Governor-General Camilio de Polavieja, who gave him a permit to cross Spanish battle lines. His
friendship with Filipino revolutionary leaders allowed him also to cross the Filipino lines. He was
beside the deathbed of his friend, General Flaviano Yengko, who succumbed to gunshot wound on
March 3, 1897.
He worked with Pedro A. Paterno in negotiating the peace treaty between the Spanish
government and the Filipinos, which was eventually signed in December 1897, thereby,
temporarily ending the war. Zulueta eventually left his impartiality when the revolution continued
in May 1898 by joining the troops of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. He witnessed the declaration of
Philippine Independence on June 12 that same year, and continued to records succeeding events of
With Epifanio de los Santos, he established the newspaper La Libertad, on June 20, 1898,
dedicating its initial issue to Colonel Pacheco, the secretary of war of the Departmental
Government in Central Luzon. As the newspaper was short lived, he joined another newspaper, La
Independencia, founded by General Antonio Luna on September 3, 1898. In his writings, he used
M. Kaun as penname. He was elected member of the constitutional convention that drafted the
Constitution of the First Philippine Republic.
In 1899, he returned to Manila and resumed his studies and took the bar examinations in
1902. Others who took the bar exams that same year were Manuel Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, and
Juan Sumulong. His love for writing never left him so that he collaborated with Don Modesto
Reyes in putting up the newspaper, La Union, which the General Elwell S. Otis, later banned
because of its anti-American contents. His passion in writing history was greatly rewarded when
the Philippine Commission tasked him to collect the art and literary materials for exhibition in the
Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Further, he was chosen to do historical research abroad under Act
668 of the Philippine Commission.
Act 688 passed by the Philippine Commission on March 17, 1903 authorized the
appointment of a collecting librarian for the insular government. As provided by Law, his duty as
collecting librarian was stated as follows:
Whose duty it shall be, under the supervision and direction of the civil governor,
to visit the countries of Europe, Mexico, and elsewhere for the purpose of
purchasing books and manuscripts relating to the history of the Philippine Islands,
making historical researches into said history, procuring copies of official documents
relating thereto, with the view to the foundation in Manila of a public historical library upon
the subject of the Philippine Islands.
He left on April 29, 1903 for Marseilles, went to Barcelona and Madrid where he presented
his credentials to the American minister in the capital. He worked in the Biblioteca Nacional and in
the Museo Biblioteca de Ultramar, which had its origin from the materials exhibited during the
Exposicion General de Filipinas. He discovered a rich collection of papers and documents among
which gave importance to Governor Valdes y Tamon’s work on Plazas, Fuerzas, Castillos y
Presidios in the Philippines in 1839. He found in the Biblioteca de la Real Academia de la Historia
the unpublished work of Father Francisco Ignacio Alcina’s Relacion. At the King’s College, he saw
the Vocabulario Tagalo, dated 1585, in manuscript compiled by Fr. Domingo de los Santos,
printed in Tayabas town in 1703.
Zulueta came back to Manila on July 30, 1904. As required by law, he wrote a report
entitled Fuentes Historicos de Filipinas in June 1904. He was one of the early Filipino historians
who advocated the interpretation of the Philippines from the Filipino point of view.
All these important historical documents he obtained from foreign archives became known
as “Zulueta papers” and were deposited in the National Library after the Philippine Government
purchased them for P17,000, a large sum during that time, from his widow Doña Paz Natividad, a
younger sister of General Mamerto Natividad, and kept it at the National Library. This priceless
collection vanished in smoke during the liberation of Manila in February 1945.
Zulueta’s research works and academic involvement took him away from practicing his law
profession. He joined the faculty of Liceo de Manila and taught subjects on Philippine and World
History. He served as librarian at the Centro Artistico and Club Internacional, which sent members
on fellowship grants to the United States. The first to receive such grant was the city engineer,
Zulueta did not live long to realize his dream to write what he considered genuine history
of the Philippines. Looking at his advocacy, this genuine Philippine history would be a history
taken from the Filipino point of view and one that bears the “characteristics of the indigenous
elements in the history of the Philippines.”
He died in Manila on September 10, 1904, at the young age of 28. \
Eminent Filipinos. Manila: National Historical Commission, 1970.
Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume 2. Quezon City:
Filipiniana publications, 1970.
Quirino, Carlos. Who’s Who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1995.
Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History. Manila: Verde Bookstore, 1970.