JOSE MARIA E. PANGANIBAN
On December 1, 1934, Act No. 4155 renamed the mining town of Mambulao, Camarines
Norte to Maria Panganiban in honor of the great propagandist who died in Spain while in pursuit
of reforms in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. Jose Maria Panganiban was born
in Mambulao, Camarines on February 1, 1863. He was the eldest of the three sons of Vicente
Panganiban, a native of Hagonoy, Bulacan and Juana Enverga, a native of Mauban, Tayabas (now
Panganiban developed his interest in reading at an early age from reading the cartilla,
caton and catecismo taught by his mother. Once, his mother found him under a tree, sleeping
obviously from reading Don Quixote, the book of Cervantes, found beside him.
Since his mother died when he was a little boy, Panganiban grew up in the care of his
father, the clerk of court in Daet, the capital town of the province. His father sent him to the
seminary of Nueva Caceres (now Naga) and became the protégé of the seminary rector Fr.
Santonja. He earned the praises of his teachers because of his aptitude to easily absorb his lessons.
He was good at writing and was articulate in expressing his ideas. Because of this, the Spanish
Governor-General Domingo Moriones who happened to be visiting the province and heard him
speak during a school program commended him. In April 1878, he wrote A Nuestro Obispo in
honor of Bishop Francisco Gainza who was on a visit to Mambulao.
Father Santoja became instrumental for Panganiban’s studies in Manila. The priest
recommended him to the College of San Juan de Letran where he obtained his degree of Bachelor
of Arts in 1883. Wanting to become a medical practitioner, he took up medical courses at the
University of Santo Tomas and at the same time taking vocational courses in agriculture at Letran
so that in 1885, he received the title of Agricultural Expert.
Panganiban participated in literary scientific contests at the UST and earned prizes. The
first was in 1885 when he won second place. In 1887, he won first prized for each of his three
papers on General Pathology, Therapeutics and Surgical Anatomy. Fr. Gregorio Echevarria, the
rector of the University, had his works printed and exhibited in the Exposition of 1887 in Madrid.
In May 1888, Panganiban sailed for Spain and continued his medical studies at the
University of Barcelona, where he met other Filipino students. Drawn to the propaganda
movement, Panganiban quit his dream of becoming a doctor. He joined liberal organizations like
the Asociacion Hispano-Filipino and the La Solidaridad that both of which aimed for reforms in
the Philippines. On April 25, 1889, Panganiban was one of the signers of the petition to the Spanish
Minister of Colonies, requesting for Filipino representation in the Spanish Cortes. While in Spain,
he learned other languages like German, Italian, and French, adding to the Spanish and Latin he
learned during his student days in the seminary of Nueva Caceres. He was able to translate into
Spanish the book of German author Carl Julius Weber entitled: Die Religio und Die Religionen
(Religion and Other Religions).
Using pseudo names like JMP or Jomapa, he wrote the following articles El Pensamiento,
La Universidad de Manila: Su Plan de Estudio, and Los Nuevos Ayuntamientos de Filipinas came
out in different editions of the propaganda newspaper La Solidaridad. In El Pensamiento, he
advocated freedom of the press while in La Universidad, he criticized the educational system
exercised by the Spanish authorities in the Philippines. A versatile writer, he composed poems and
wrote short stories. Among his poems were: Ang Lupang Tinubuan, Noches en Mambulao, Sa
Aking buhay, Bahia de Mambulao, La Mejerde Oro, and Amor mio. His two short stories Clarita
Perez and Kandeng were published in the La Solidaridad after his death.
Panganiban worked hard in the Propaganda Movement even after contracting
tuberculosis. With his meager allowance, he worked in the midst of hunger and sickness. On July
5, 1899, he wrote to Jose Rizal urging the latter to carry on the work they started saying: “Whatever
we have already started should be pushed through even at the sacrifice of our lives, our honor, and
fortunes.” He wished that he had the same strength as before so that he could work with his
compatriots to the end.
On August 19, 1890, death came to him in his boarding house at No. 2 Rambla de
Canaletas, Barcelona. He was buried in grave No. 2043 of the Southwest Cemetery of Barcelona.
Dr. Domingo Abella, a historian, did a great service to this nation by locating the remains of his
province mate in Spain and in bringing them back to the Philippines.
The Filipino propagandists in Europe mourned Panganiban’s death. Rizal saluted him as
an “excellent companion of labor and difficulty…endowed with uncommon talent, with privileged
intelligence, and with indefatigable industry, was one of the sacred, legitimate hopes of his
Manuel, E. Arsenio. Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume 1. QC. Filipinos, 1955.
Quirino, Carlos. Who’s who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1995.
Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History. Manila: Verde Bookstore, 1970.