Revolutionary Martyr from Bicol
The choirmaster of the Cathedral of Nueva Caceres, now the city of Naga, in Camarines
Sur, Fr. Inocencio Herrera was one of the three priests among the 11 martyrs of Bicol who were
executed during the Philippine Revolution.
Herrera hailed from Pateros, Morong, now the province of Rizal. He was born to poor
family, but possessing wit, intelligence, and a good singing voice, he was awarded a scholarship,
which culminated in his ordination as a Franciscan priest. Due to his fondness for music, he was
later appointed as choirmaster of the Cathedral of Nueva Caceres.
During the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution in August 1896, the Spanish authorities
launched a campaign against all liberal-minded Filipinos, including those in Bicol. They suspected
that the Bicolanos somehow also had a role in the outbreak of hostilities in Manila. Masons were a
particular object of their suspicion, many of whom they ordered arrested. Among them was
Vicente Lukban, a native of Labo, Camarines Norte.
Lukban, who later became one of the generals of the revolution, was a member of the
“Triangulo Bicolano,” a secret Masonic organization. He had been traveling between Manila and
the Bicol region ostensively for business purposes. However, in a confession allegedly obtained
from him, it was revealed that he was a courier between some Katipuneros in Cavite and Bicol.
Several persons, including members of the clergy, were implicated in his confession. It was
obvious that the names were extracted from him under torture, and that the persons he had
implicated were merely suggested by his captors. Nevertheless, the Lukban dossier became the
basis of the arrest of many other Bicolanos, among them Father Herrera, who was arrested on
September 19, 1896 along with Fathers Severino Diaz, a parish priest, Severo Estrada, the
coadjutor of the Cathedral of Nueva Caceres, and Manuel Subarbano, the master of ceremonies.
The Spanish soldiers, to extract confessions from them, subjected the priests to severe
beatings. Only the arrival of Msgr. Arsenio Campo, the bishop of Nueva Caceres who had taken an
interest in his priests, caused an improvement in their oppressive conditions.
On December 29, 1896, a military tribunal was convened to try Father Herrera and 10
others from Bicol. One of the defense lawyers was Lt. Jose Taviel Andrade, Rizal’s former counsel.
However, the trial, which lasted only for that day, was merely a formality. The 11 prisoners had
been adjudged guilty from the very start. The loyalist Spaniards who attended the trial applauded
every time the prosecutors made a point against the indictees. Herrera vehemently denied the
charges against him. However, all his protestations of innocence were in vain. At the end of the
trial, he and the others were sentenced to die by musketry.
On January 4, 1897, his blood, mixed with that of his fellow martyrs, drenched the ground
of Bagumbayan amidst the fading echoes of gunfire and the shouts of frenzied Spaniards who
celebrated their deaths. Shot with Father Herrera were Fr. Severino Diaz, Fr. Gabriel Prieto, his
brother Tomas, Manuel Abella, his son Domingo, Camilo Jacob, Macario Valentin, Camilo
Mercado, Mariano Melgarejo, and Florencio Lerma. The other priests who were arrested with
Herrera, Fathers Subarbano and Estrada, were later cleared and released by the authorities. They
were fortunate to live to tell what happened to Herrera and the other priests during their
At the time of his execution, Father Herrera was only 30-years-old.
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City: Ateneo University Press, 1981.