Friday, January 18, 2013

Filipino Martyr: SOTERO R. LAUREL

Revolutionary Leader of Batangas
Sotero Laurel y Remoquillo, son of Mariano Laurel y Pimentel, and Gaspara Remoquillo y
Panganiban, both of Tanauan, Batangas, was born on April 22, 1849. He was the most prominent
member of the Laurel clan at the turn of the 20th century. He was a gentleman of solemn dignity.
A lawyer and justice of the peace of Tanauan, he participated in the Philippine Revolution as a
rebel under Generals Emilio Aguinaldo and Miguel Malvar.
Laurel was said to have studied first, under a teacher called Maestro Mateo Villa, and later,
under Maestro Felipe Torralba in the town of san Pedro Tanauan. Later, he studied at the primary
school of the well-known teacher Father Valerio Malabanan, where most of the children of
prominent families in Batangas were enrolled because it was superior to the local parochial
schools. Valerio was different as an educator. Although he believed in corporal punishment, he
never wielded the cane on recalcitrant students, but settled for fatherly admonitions, according to
Justice Ignacio Villamor. One of Laurel’s classmates was Miguel Malvar, whom he would join in
the revolution against Spain in 1896-1897 and the war against the United States in 1898-1902.
Laurel had his secondary education at the school of one Don Sinforoso Apacible in Santa Cruz,
Manila. For his higher education he attended the Colegio de San Juan de Letran and, later, the
University of Santo Tomas (UST), where he took up law. This was around 1870. In 1872, the
repercussions of the Cavite Mutiny interrupted his studies, which he is believed to have resumed in
1874. In 1881, he obtained his licentiate in jurisprudence.
At the UST, he met Filipino reformists like Felipe Buencamino Sr., and Mariano Ponce.
He also came to know Marcelo del Pilar e Hilario who wrote articles critical of the colonial
administration for Diariong Tagalog.
When Del Pilar and four other Manila lawyers founded the secret society known as El
Cinco, he enlisted himself. The organization, which favored the freedom of the islands, limited its
membership to five for each group to avoid alerting the government, particularly the Guardia Civil,
to its existence. Not long afterwards, however, in October 1888, Del Pilar made a mortal enemy of
his own parish priest, and decided to flee to Spain to elude arrest. Meanwhile, to throw off the
authorities’ suspicion on him as active member of the society, Laurel had himself appointed justice
of the peace.
Laurel wanted to study further in Madrid after his graduation at Santo Tomas, but the
untimely death of his father thwarted his plan. As the new head of the family, he had to take care
of its affairs.
He was in his early twenties when he fell in love with Jacoba Garcia, nicknamed “Ubay,”
whom he married. They had five children: Paz, Rosario, Nieves, Jose Paciano, and Alberto.
His reputation as a nationalist reached the Caviteño rebels, led by General Aguinaldo, who
named him undersecretary of the interior probably because of his popularity in Batangas. In 1897,
when Cavite fell to the Spanish forces, Aguinaldo joined Malvar and Laurel in the defense of
Talisay, just east of Tanauan bordering the lake. They were defeated. Aguinaldo then fled to
Mount Puray in Bulacan, while Malvar and Laurel hid in the uninhabited mountains northeast of
After Commodore Dewey’s victory in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, Laurel and his followers
returned to the province.
As president of the revolutionary government, Aguinaldo called for a constitutional
convention in Malolos, Bulacan, where he had transferred his capital from Bacoor in Cavite since it
could not be shelled from the bay by American warships. However, it lay between two American
armies bivouacked in Cavite and Parañaque in Manila. Laurel became a delegate to that congress,
representing Batangas. He also served as secretary of the interior of the revolutionary cabinet.
When Laurel returned to Tanauan, war broke out between the United States and the
Philippines. He supported Aguinaldo’s decision to solicit Japan’s aid, but it was too late. Betterarmed
and trained in warfare, the Americans prevailed over the Filipinos, forcing them to resort to
guerilla warfare. In turn, the Americans put into effect the policy of “reconcentration” to blunt it.
The people of Batangas suffered from such policy. It meant herding them into guarded
areas, which were no different from concentration camps, where epidemics broke out.
Laurel participated in numerous skirmishes with the Americans until after the capture of
Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela and when Malvar had already assumed command of all armed
resistance against them. He was eventually captured and, with his sister Marcela, was imprisoned
in a concentration camp.
Laurel contracted dysentery, and died in 1902. He was buried at the municipal cemetery
of Tanauan.

The Malolos Congress. Manila: National Historical Institute, 1999.
NHI Files

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