Trece Martires of Cavite
by FHL Research Team
On September 12, 1896, under the blistering heat of the noonday sun, 13 men, tied side by side, were shot by firing squad at the Plaza de Armas of Fort San Felipe in Cavite. It was 12:45 p.m. A band played Viva España as their bodies were loaded into a carabao-drawn cart that would take their remains to the town’s cemetery.
They are the Trece Martires, Cavite’s Thirteen Martyrs of the 1896 Philippine revolution.
Cavite was one of the first provinces declared under a state of war by Governer General Ramon Blanco after the Katipunan, led by Andres Bonifacio, launched a series of offensive attacks on August 29-30, to capture Intramuros, the seat of Spain’s colonial government.
In Cavite, Emilio Aguinaldo and his group of Katipuneros routed a contingent of the constabulary that was on its way to Bacoor on September 3. On the very same day, local authorities arrested three men who, they suspected, took part in the Cavite uprising: Alfonso de Ocampo, an assistant prison warden; Severino Lapidario, main warden of the Cavite Provincial Jail; and Luis Aguado, a keeper of supplies for the Cavite Arsenal. All three were tortured—scourged by a whiplash, about half an inch thick—beaten, and bloodied until they could no longer stand. All three signed declarations of their participation, admitting to the crimes they were accused of.
De Ocampo’s was the most damaging for he implicated others: Victoriano Luciano, the town’s pharmacist; Hugo Perez, the town’s physician; Agapito Conchu, a photographer; Fransisco Osorio a businessman; Maximo Inocencio, a contractor; Feliciano Cabuco, a clerk in the Cañacao Hospital; and Maximo Gregorio, an encargado in the Spanish army commissary. After they were rounded up and tortured, more were arrested: Eugenio Cabezas, a watchmaker, and Jose Lallana, a tailor, who were recruits of the Katipunan cells of Maximo Gregorio. Luciano’s friend Antonio San Agustin, who owned a bazaar that was near Luciano’s pharmacy, was also arrested.
Driven by humiliation, guilt, and despair, De Ocampo attempted to kill himself by slashing his stomach with a broken bottle. He survived his self-inflicted wound, but was unable to walk to the plaza that fatal day of September 12,and had to be carried so that he could face the firing squad.
All thirteen were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death by a military court on September 11. Their sentence was carried out the very next day.
It will perhaps be difficult now to precisely ascertain their involvement in the Cavite uprising. Their admission of guilt was made under duress. But from records of interviews of their families, all knew each other well as co-workers, neighbors, and friends of friends. All were members of either the Mason or the Katipunan—the colonial government’s most detested organizations. Membership to either organization was punishable by death.
Trece Martires count among Cavite’s many heroes. As a tribute to them, Quintana, the barrio where most of the 13 were from, was renamed to Trece Martires. It has 13 barangays, named after each of the martyrs.
Guerrero, Milagros C. “Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan.” Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People. 5th ed. 1998.
Nava, Jose. The Trial of the Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite. Trans. Erwin T.L. Bautista. Quezon City: The Toyota Foundation, UP Press, 2002.
Silva, John. “The Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite.” Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People. 5th ed. 1998.
“The Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite.” Student’s Philippine Almanac. 1991.