Saturday, January 19, 2013

Filipino Martyr: BENEDICTO P. NIJAGA

(ca. 1856-1897)
Bagumbayan Martyr
In the waves of arrest that followed the discovery of the Katipunan in August 1896, 41-
year-old Benedicto Nijaga y Polonio was among those picked up and thrown into jail by the
Spanish authorities. After several months of incarceration he was executed with 12 of his
companions on January 11, 1897. These 13 patriots, some of whom were also Masons, would later
be known as the martyrs of Bagumbayan, after the name of the field where Dr. Jose Rizal met the
same fate less than two weeks earlier.
The initial raid on the printing shop of Diario de Manila triggered the arrest of suspected
Katipuneros. The workers in that shop, except one- Teodoro Patiño – were all Katipunan
members. An internal intrigue over an expected promotion led to bad blood between Patiño and
his fellow workers. This drove Patiño to reveal the existence of the Katipunan to his sister who, in
turn, urged him to inform a Spanish priest, Fr. Mariano Gil, about it.
Nijaga must have been arrested because his name appeared in the list of Katipunan
members kept by one of the Diario de Manila workers. Or, a prisoner who had been tortured to
inform on his compatriots could have incriminated him. Either way, the authorities must have
been shocked to learn that Nijaga belonged to the heretofore-clandestine radical organization out
to foment a bloody revolution, for he was supposed to work for the preservation of the state and
the Spanish crown on the islands.
Born to Andres Nijaga and Maria Polonio in Calbayog, Samar, Nijaga was actually a soldier
– a second lieutenant in the Spanish army, a position rarely achieved at the time by Filipinos (This,
according to Isabelo de los Reyes, when the latter recommended a street to be named after him).
He was officially assigned to an infantry regiment of the Visayas command; Agoncillo cites him as a
“lieutenant of carabineers”. According to Mariano Ponce, he was a good soldier of commendable
character, and was well liked by his comrades. He, too, was a friend of Emilio Aguinaldo.
He took an active part in the organization of the Katipunan and was once tasked to solicit
support from the millionaire Francisco L. Roxas, who refused.
In June 1913, to memorialize his martyrdom, the Manila municipal board named a street
after him.

Agoncillo, Teodoro A. Revolt of the Masses, The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan
Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1996.
Bauer, Charles A. “More Street Names of Manila and their Origins”, Historical Bulletin.
Volume XVI, Nos. 1-4 (January-December 1971) p. 376.
Memoirs of General Artemio Ricarte. Manila: National Heroes Commission, 1963
Appendix K.
Minutes of the Katipunan. Manila: National Historical Institute, 1978
Retana, Wenceslao O. Archivo del Bibliofilo Filipino, Recopilacion de Documentos.
Tomo Tercero. Madrid: 1897.

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