Friday, January 18, 2013

Filipino Martyr: SEVERINO DIAZ

(d. 1897)
Revolutionary Martyr from Bicol
A native of Bulan, Sorsogon, Severino Diaz was the third priest among the 11 martyrs of
Bicol during the Philippine Revolution. The other two were Fr. Gabriel Prieto, parish priest of
Malinao, Albay, and Fr. Inocencio Herrera, choirmaster of the cathedral of Nueva Caceres.
Fr. Diaz was born to a poor family. However, he did not allow poverty to deter him from
pursuing his religious vocation. He embarked on a professional career as a student, earning a
scholarship that eventually secured his ordination as an Augustinian priest.
As a person, Fr. Diaz possessed a large degree of self-initiative and leadership. His fervent
wish was to bring the church closed to the people. His enlightened leadership earned him the
appointment to the position of parish priest of Nueva Caceres. As chief curate, he resided and said
masses at the city’s cathedral, whose renovation was one of his major achievements.
The rapid progress in his career and his liberal attitude drew the jealousy of friars and
conservative Spaniards, who felt that their dominance in the community was being challenged.
The outbreak of the revolution in 1896 provided them a pretext for persecuting Fr. Diaz. Using the
1872 experience, they accused the native clergy, along with Masons and ilustrados, or educated
Filipinos, of being agitators against Spanish rule. An arrested Mason, Vicente Lukban, supposedly
implicated in his confession Filipino members of the clergy as sympathizers of the revolution.
On September 19, 1896, Fr, Diaz, along with Fr. Inocencio Herrera, cathedral choirmaster,
Fr. Manuel Subarbano, the master of ceremonies, and Fr. Severo Estrada, the coadjutor, was
arrested by the guardia civil veterana. Of the four priests, only Father Subarbano was eventually
freed. They were bound and sent to Manila aboard the mail steamer Isarog. Upon arrival in the
city, they were detained at the convent of San Agustin, which had been converted into a prison. Fr.
Gabriel Prieto, the parish priest of Malinao, Albay, later joined them.
While in detention, they were beaten by the guards with hard sticks and whips. Fr.
Estrada, who was released in May 1897, related how he and his fellow priests were treated by the
soldiers and the friars who were supposed to show compassion to them:
“In the convent of San Agustin in the City of Manila which served as a prison for priests,
the friars received them with insults and injuries calling them riff-raff, beasts, monkeys, etc.
Locked up in filthy cells, they are taken from these places every morning, not for a breath of fresh
air, but to sweep the floor of the spacious convent with whippings, insults and buffetings. For
meals they were given fermenting rice not more than twice a day, a fare which even dogs would not
On December 29, 1896, Fr. Diaz and 14 other prisoners were tried by a military court for
rebellion and sedition against Spain. The defense panel, composed of military officers headed by a
certain Captain Diaz, was not given a fair chance to defend the prisoners. The courtroom was
packed with Spanish loyalists who cheered every time the prosecutors made a point against them.
The prosecution was not able to prove that any of the 14 prisoners were members or even
sympathizers of the revolutionary movement. All of them denied that they were members of the
Katipunan during their interrogation and trial. The confession allegedly extracted from Lukban
mentioned only Mariano and Domingo Abella, Tomas Prieto, Camilo Jacob, and Fr. Inocencio
Herrera as sympathizers, not bonafide members of the Katipunan. Furthermore, this alleged
dossier was obtained under duress. The other prisoners were implicated by torture and false
promises by the Spaniards. The only evidence of the prosecution was that the prisoners desired
the emancipation of the country from Spanish oppression. It was a political belief which all of the
14 had professed. That alone, according to the prosecution, was sufficient to warrant the death
The farcical trial was over in one day, Fr. Diaz, along with 10 others --- Fr. Gabriel Prieto,
Fr. Inocencio Herrera, Manuel Abella, Domingo Abella, Camilo Jacob, Tomas Prieto, Macario
Valentin, Camilo Mercado, Mariano Melgarejo and Florencio Lerma --- were condemned to die by
musketry. Two of the indictees, Ramon Abella and Mariano Araña, were ordered deported to
Fernando Po Island off Africa, while another indictee, Mariano Ordenanza, was sentenced to 20
years in prison.
On January 4, 1897, Fr. Diaz and 10 of his co-defendants were executed at the
Bagumbayan Field. He was 45-years-old at the time of his death. His execution, along with that of
the others, helped fan the flames of revolution, which culminated in the attainment of Philippine
independence against Spain.

Galang, Zoilo M. Encyclopedia of the Philippines. Manila: 1935.
Quirino, Carlos. Eminent Filipinos. Manila: National Heroes Commission, 1963.
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.

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