DOMINGO T. FRANCO
Born on August 4, 1856 in Mambusao, Capiz, Domingo Franco was the third among the six
children of Juan Franco and Ciriaca Tuason. His father worked as procurador judicial, or
solicitor, in the local justice of the peace court. His mother was born to a family of successful
realtors residing in Quiapo, Manila.
Franco spent most of his growing years in Manila. He studied at the Ateneo Municipal in
Intramuros where he obtained a perito mercantil diploma. He studied to become a notary public
at the University of Santo Tomas, where he struck close friendships with Numeriano Adriano,
Apolinario Mabini, and Jose Rizal. Later, Rizal -whom he admired deeply - was to task him with
the organization of La Liga Filipina.
In 1881, Franco married Concepcion Gonzales, a daughter of a captain of the Spanish
Guardia Civil. They first resided on Ylaya Street and then settled down in a house on Nagtahan
Street, close to the Pasig River. There, the Francos had as neighbors other notable Filipino
reformists, like Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, Moises Salvador, and Benedicto Nijaga. Apolinario
Mabini lived just across the street from them.
To support his family, Franco engaged in the purchase and cutting of tobacco leaves for the
making of cigars and cigarettes. He later became one of the main suppliers of such large tobacco
companies as La Flor de Isabela, La Yebana, and La Insular. With his keen business sense, he
soon earned the business community’s respect.
The outbreak of the French Revolution greatly influenced some liberal Spaniards, who
organized Masonic societies in the Philippines with “liberty, equality and fraternity” as a rallying
cry. These attracted many young men. Domingo Franco was initiated in the Nilad Lodge.
Afterwards, he transferred to the Balagtas Lodge, a branch of El Gran Oriente Español, and the
mother organization in Madrid. He became “venerable master,” and was conferred the 18th degree,
then the highest rank attained by Filipino Masons in the Philippines during those times. Most of
the Filipino propagandists who were seeking reforms from Spain during that time were Masons.
Franco and Rizal wrote each other regularly while the latter was taking his licentiate in
medicine in Spain. Whenever Rizal was in the country, the two of them would meet to discuss the
current affairs of Philippine society. When Rizal formulated the guiding principles of La Liga
Filipina in Hongkong, he entrusted Franco with the document containing these for safekeeping
and dissemination in Manila.
On July 3,1896, La Liga Filipina was formally organized in the house of Doroteo Onjungco
on Calle Ylaya in Tondo. In that gathering, its Supreme Council, headed by Franco, was created.
The other members were Numeriano Adriano, Apolinario Mabini, and Moises Salvador.
Franco chose “Felipe Leal” as his alias in the Liga – the name that fellow Liga member
Apolinario Mabini used when referring to him in his letters to Marcelo H. del Pilar.
Franco lived up to his assumed name. He remained loyal to the reformist cause until his
death on January 11, 1897 at Bagumbayan Field where, together with 12 others, a squad of Filipino
soldiers shot him. These patriots were to be remembered only as “Los trece martires de
Guerrero, Leon Ma. The First Filipino. Manila: National Historical Institute, 1979
Kalaw, Teodoro M. Philippine Masonry. Translated into English by Frederick H. Stevens
and Antonio Amechazurra Manila: McCullough Printing, 1956.
Laurel, Celia Diaz. Domingo Franco (1856-1897) Patriot and Martyr Commemorative
Booklet, September 1992.
Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume II. Q.C.: Filipiniana
Publications, Inc. 1970.
Photo: Domingo Franco (commemorative booklet, NHI library)