Revolutionary Martyr from Bicol
Gabriel Prieto was one of the 13 martyrs from the Bicol region who were executed during
the Philippine Revolution. At the time of his execution he was the parish priest of the town of
Malinao, Albay. Together with two other members of the clergy who were executed with him,
Fathers Inocencio Herrera and Severino Diaz, he had been implicated as being among the leaders
of the revolution in Bicol.
Prieto showed remarkable intelligence as a youth. This won the admiration not only of the
town curate but also of Bishop Francisco Gainza, who helped him acquire a scholarship at the
seminary of Nueva Caceres, one of the oldest and most prestigious in the country. After he was
ordained as an Augustinian priest, he became the parish priest of Malinao, Albay, as well as the
secretary and spiritual adviser of Bishop Casimiro Herrero.
The rapid spread of the revolution to the eight Tagalog-speaking provinces of Luzon
following its outbreak in August 1896 fuelled speculations that the conflict would engulf the Bicol
region as well. These were confirmed by the authorities with the arrest of Vicente Lukban, who
later rose to prominence as one of the generals of the revolution. Lukban was not only a member
of the Masonic lodge La Luz Oriente but was the president as well of its chapter, called Triangulo
Bicol. Residents from Bicol region, including rich businessmen, professionals, and members of the
clergy, were members of this chapter.
Upon interrogation, Lukban implicated several persons, among whom was the pharmacist
Tomas Prieto, Fr. Prieto’s brother. After his arrest in Nueva Caceres, Tomas Prieto then implicated
Fr. Prieto and others as plotters of the projected revolution in Bicol. According to him, his brother
would receive the arms coming from Cavite.
During the first week of October, the authorities arrested Fr. Prieto along with several
prominent residents of Malinao. On October 9, he and other prisoners were brought to Manila on
board the mail steamer Aeolus. Upon arrival in Manila, he was imprisoned in the convent of San
Agustin together with other priests from Albay who were also accused of rebellion against Spain.
They were locked in filthy cells and subjected to insults by the guards and Spanish friars. Their
condition somewhat improved when Bishop Arsenio Campo came to visit them.
On December 29, the eve of Rizal’s execution, Prieto stood trial for committing acts of
rebellion, sedition, and conspiracy to commit rebellion under Articles 229 to 230 of the Spanish
penal code. The only evidence against him was his brother’s testimony which was obtained under
duress. The trial was over in one day and the verdict, guilty, was pronounced by the court. Fr.
Prieto was sentenced to die by musketry along with his brother Tomas and two other priests, Frs.
Inocencio Herrera and Severino Diaz, and Manuel Alba, his son Domingo, Camilo Jacob, Macario
Valentin, Camilo Mercado, Mariano Melgarejo, and Florencio Lerma. They were to share a
common fate, for their enlightened liberalism and expressed desire to see the emancipation of their
country from tyranny.
Their death sentence was carried out in Bagumbayan on January 4, 1897, exactly five days
after Rizal’s execution.
Galang, Zoilo M. Encyclopedia of the Philippines. Manila: 1935.
Reyes, Jose Calleja. Bikol Maharlika. Quezon City: 1992.
Schumacher, John S.J. Revolutionary Clergy and the Nationalist Movement 1850-1903. Quezon
City: Ateneo University Press, 1981.