LEON C. APACIBLE
(1861 - 1901)
Patriot and Revolutionary
Leon Apacible was born on October 25, 1861 in Balayan, Batangas, a town famous for its fish paste, better known as "Bagoong Balayan." He was the second child of Vicente Apacible, a businessman, and Catalina Castillo, who belonged to a rich family.
Apacible had his first schooling in his hometown under his mother's close supervision. For his secondary studies, his mother sent him to Manila, and was enrolled at the Jesuit - run Ateneo Municipal de Manila. There he met Jose Rizal as a fellow student. They, too, were distant relatives through the Castillo family.
He and Rizal lodged at the house of the parents of Leonor Rivera, on Anda Street in Intramuros. Apacible's brother Galicano had also stayed with the Riveras during his studies in Manila. His mother asked Rizal to be her second son's adviser and guide.
Apacible proved to be an exceptionally bright student. Like Rizal, he also obtained the highest grade, sobresaliente, in all his subjects at the Ateneo. After finishing his secondary course, he moved to the University of Santo Tomas to take up law. As a law student, Apacible enjoyed certain privileges for being an estudiante de facultad, or a student of a professional course.
He was always well – dressed, sporting a walking stick which was the fashion at the time. Handsome, jovial in nature, and full of self – confidence, he was frequently seen at social gatherings where the ladies belonging to the elite, including the married ones, fought for Leon’s attention. He was often mistaken for his brother Galicano, who was three years younger. Galicano later became one of the political figures in the revolutionary government as well as in the early American period, during which he co – founded the Nacionalista Party.
Despite his active social life, Apacible excelled in his studies at the university and completed his law course with distinction. He was 23 when he earned his licentiate in jurisprudence on August 25, 1886.
His academic achievement did his town mates proud, for while at the time many ambitious young men like him left their homes to pursue professional studies in Manila, very few returned with diplomas owing to the vigorous academic requirements.
Apacible practiced law in Batangas, with his colleagues looking up to him as a legal luminary. He also founded Masonry in the province. Later, he was appointed judge of the Court of First Instance of Batangas City.
Apacible married Matilde Martinez, of Taal, by whom he had three sons.
In 1892, the Spanish authorities suspected him of being the leader of Filibusteros, or subversives, out to overthrow the colonial regime. His house in Taal had been the meeting place of Rizal, Mariano Ponce, and other Filipino reformers. He was arrested and deported by Governor General Eulogio Despujol, who had also deported Rizal to Dapitan. His place of exile was Lepanto, in what is now Bontoc in the Cordilleras, where he spent a lonely life among the Igorots. As a precautionary measure, the colonial government had issued orders for the arrest of anyone suspected of sympathizing with the revolutionists or harboring others with liberal ideas. Apacible’s brother Galicano was also closely watched because of his reformist activities while in Spain. However, there was no stopping the revolution against Spain, which broke out in 1896.
Released from exile after the signing of the Pact of Biak – na – Bato, Apacible returned to Batangas. He joined the revolutionists, serving as an aide to General Miguel Malvar. With Filipino nationalism gaining remarkable strength, Spanish power in Batangas as well as in the rest of the country rapidly crumbled. Whole units of the Spanish Army often surrendered after just a skirmish or without struggle at all. Apacible led a force of Filipino soldiers armed with only 20 old rifles but with plenty of bolos in capturing Batangas City in 1898.
That year, Emilio Aguinaldo, as President of the revolutionary republic, appointed him finance officer of Batangas. When the Malolos Congress was convened, he was appointed delegate-representing Lepanto, Bontoc. He was one of the signers of the Constitution of the First Philippine Republic.
Apacible kept in close contact with his brother Galicano, who had been appointed secretary of natural resources and, later, as diplomat connected with the Hong Kong Junta, which was involved in securing international recognition for the struggling republic. Their correspondence became an important source of his biography. In one letter, Galicano wrote of his disillusionment with the way the republic was being run, describing the majority of its officials as “incompetent, laggard, very slow in resolving important matters,” and stressed: “The fate of the country depended very much on the kind of government she had… If this confusion continues and the government does not provide me with sufficient means, I am going to resign immediately in order not to be held responsible for failures due to the negligence of others.” He urged his brother to take his family and all his funds abroad, adding that he would get him a post in the diplomatic corps if he wished. However, Leon chose to remain in the country.
After the Filipino – American War, Apacible spent the rest of his life in Taal, engaging in trading. He died in 1901, the year of Aguinaldo’s capture by the Americans, at the age of 40.
As a fitting tribute to this great man, a historical marker was installed in his house in Taal, Batangas by the National Historical Institute on October 25, 1970. Six years later, on December 6, 1976, his granddaughter, Mayor Corazon Caniza, donated Apacible’s house in Taal, together with artifacts and documents, to the government. The house was restored by the National Historical Institute to serve as a memorial to Apacible.
Corpuz, Onofre. Saga and Triumph : The Filipino Revolution against Spain. Manila: Philippine Centennial Commission, 1999.
Kalaw, Teodoro. The Philippine Revolution. Mandaluyong: Filipiniana Foundation, 1969.
Reyes, Jose B. Galicano Apacible: Profile of a Filipino Patriot. Manila: National Historical Institute, 1971.
Sta. Maria, Felice Prudente. Visions of the Possible: Legacies of Philippine Freedom. Hong Kong: Studio 5 Publishing Inc., 1995.