Friday, January 18, 2013

Filipino Martyr: AGAPITO H. CONCHU

Printer, Lithographer, Musician, Photographer and one of the “Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite” 
Agapito Conchu was the first son of Saturnino Conchu and Nemesia Hocson. He was born on August 18, 1860, in Guagua, Pampanga. His parents met when his father was about to become a priest. His mother was from a rich family in Guagua, Pampanga. Of Chinese lineage, his grandfather, Apolonio Conchu, was reportedly a Binondo gobernadorcillo for Chinese mestizos. 
His parents died while he was still young. Together with his brothers, he was taken to Manila by an aunt, Leonicia Conchu. He acquired his bachiller en artes at the Ateneo de Manila. While there, he also learned music. Occasionally, he played the organ at the Binondo Church or directed an orchestra. He played the violin as well as the organ and the piano. His brother, Deogracias, the second son, became a naviero and a successful merchant. His other brother, Candido, the youngest, became a tailor. 
He first worked in the printing shop of Salvador Chofre. There he learned the printing craft and became skilled in lithographic work. He worked hard into the evening when everyone else had gone, and came to the shop early every morning. This went on for several years until his employer greeted him one morning with a bad joke: “The friar is coming.” He resented the allusion very much, so he left his job. Chofre regretted the uncalled-for remark, but no amount of apology could bring the young man back. He lost one of the most competent workers in his shop. 
In 1890, Conchu set up a photographic studio on Calle Real (now Trece Martires Street) in Cavite, close to the drugstore of Victorino Luciano. He named it Foto-Litografia Moderna de A. Conchu. His wife, Isabel Basa, by whom he had nine children, joined him. To augment his income, he taught children, including the daughter of the governor. When the maestro of the primary school, Agapito Escacio, died, Conchu succeeded him as teacher. 
He put more stress on teaching music than the curriculum requirement, and organized an orchestra of young people, who entertained the town on special occasions. He also organized another musical group composed of adults who came to be known as “La Compania del Trueno.” The members of this group were Francisco Osorio, who played the drum; Victorino Luciano, who handled the pandereta, bass or violon-cello; Dr. Hugo Perez, who played the fife or triangle; Basilia Borromeo, who sang or played the violin and piano, and Conchu himself – he played the violin. This orchestra was directed by Julian Felipe, who later composed the National Anthem. 
Conchu loved merrymaking and the fine arts in all their manifestations. He participated in the misa de gallo or aguinaldo. Sometimes he played the violin or sang in the choir of the Porta Vaga Church. He helped in painting the reredos of the San Pedro Church and decorated the belen and made floats during the celebrations. He also composed songs, one of which was dedicated to his daughter, a pianist. In his time, he was one of the most interesting and loved figures in the provincial capital. 
To devote his full time to the more lucrative business of photography, he resigned from his teaching job. Occasionally, he accepted painting jobs-drop curtains for theaters or dramatic companies. During the Exposicion Regional de Cavite in 1892, he received a silver medal and a diploma of honor for his pictures and paintings on exhibit. He also kept a small lithographic and printing shop, using a Minerva press, where Victorino Luciano’s drug labels, packets of cigarettes, etc., were made in color. 
On September 3, 1896, the Spanish authorities arrested Alfonso de Ocampo, a member of the Katipunan. Conchu was named as one of the cabecillas of the local revolutionary group, but it is not definitely known that he was a member of the Katipunan. He was arrested and found guilty of rebellion, together with 12 others. All 13 of them were executed by musketry. After confessing, each one was blindfolded and ordered to kneel with his back to the firing squad and shot. This was on September 12, 1896. His wife, extremely affected by his death, died while delivering a premature child (who also later died) on October 20, 1896. His remains are now interred with those of the rest of the Cavite martyrs under the monument erected to their memory. 

Manuel, E. Arsenio Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume I. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publication, 1955. 
Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History, Manila: Garotech, 1970. 

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