One of the Martyrs of Aklan
Tomas Briones was one of the natives of Capiz who were inducted into the Katipunan by the group led by Francisco del Castillo, Candido Iban and Valeriano Dalida.
Del Castillo and Iban established the Katipunan in Panay on the Christmas of 1896, on instructions of Andres Bonifacio while they were still in Manila. Del Castillo and Iban were the ones who provided the secret revolutionary society a much-needed printing press. Bonifacio also instructed them to initiate hostilities against the Spaniards on the island at the auspicious time.
Briones must have been recruited in Kalibo or in the neighboring town of Balete, Banga, or Malinao, Iban’s birthplace. The Katipunan on the island had a force of about a thousand men when hostilities suddenly erupted following its unexpected discovery on March 19, 1897. In the initial battle, the revolutionaries suffered a serious setback when Del Castillo, who designated himself a general, was shot and killed while leading his men in the attack on the headquarters of the civil guards. Meanwhile, Iban, his second-in-command, was captured in Malinao with the help of the friars’ native spies. However, the Katipuneros, although poorly armed and bereft of their top leaders, were able to put up a fierce fight in Ibajay. They would have captured the town were it not for the arrival of Spanish reinforcements.
Additional enemy troops, under Col. Ricardo Monet, landed in Dumaguit. Not knowing the true strength of the rebels, Monet heeded the advice of local friars to adopt a less bloody measure in quelling the uprising. He offered an amnesty, promising to forgive those who would voluntarily surrender to him.
From March 19-22, 50 rebels, including Briones, surrendered in Kalibo to the Spanish authorities. However, instead of being set free, they were treacherously arrested and tortured.
Briones and 19 others were identified as the leaders of the Katipunan in Capiz. Among them was Iban. The 20 were reduced to 19 after Fructuosa Meren, the mestiza wife of one of them, Nicanor Gonzales, pleaded to Monet on her bended knees to spare her husband, who was subsequently released.
Briones and the rest were taken to a warehouse on Amadeo Street in Kalibo on the night of March 23. There, they were tortured further so they would reveal more about the Katipunan. At around midnight, they were shot to death.
The following morning, their bodies were paraded around Kalibo as a warning to those who would also defy Spanish authority, and then dumped elsewhere in a common, unmarked grave.
Gwekoh, Sol H. “19 Martyrs of Aklan.” Hall of Fame. Manila Times. March 14, 1966.
Sonza, Demetrio. Illustrious Ilonggos Volume 1. Iloilo City: Iloilo Provincial Historical Committee, 1972.