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Marcelo H. del Pilar

Leading Propagandist
Born August 30, 1850
Cupang, Bulacan, Bulacan, Philippines
Died July 4, 1896 (aged 46)
Barcelona, Spain
Nationality Philippines Filipino
Other names Plaridel, Dolores Manapat, Carmelo, Puhdoh, Piping Dilat, L.O Crame
Occupation Writer, Journalist, Lawyer, Newspaperman, Poet, Political Analyst and Revolutionary Leader

Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitan (August 30, 1850 – July 4, 1896), was a Filipino writer, revolutionary leader of the Philippine Revolution and one of the leading Ilustrado (Knowledgeable) propagandist of the Philippine War of Independence.[1]

Del Pilar was one of the co-publisher and founder of La Solidaridad (The Solidarity), which helped crystallize nationalist sentiments and ignite libertarian ideas. He tried to marshal the nationalist sentiment of the enlightened Filipino ilustrados, against the Spanish imperialism.[2] He wrote articles and pamphlets against the excesses of Spanish friars in the Philippines.

José Rizal's Spanish biographer Wenceslao Retana and Filipino biographer Juan Raymundo Lumawag saw the formation of the Katipunan as Del Pilar's victory over Rizal: "La Liga dies, and the Katipunan rises in its place. Del Pilar's plan wins over that of Rizal. Del Pilar and Rizal had the same end, even if each took a different road to it."




Early life and education

Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitan was born in sitio Cupang, Bulacan, Bulacan, on August 30, 1850, to Don Julián Hilario del Pilar, a three time gobernadorcillo and a poet-grammarian, and Doña Blasa Gatmaitan. He was the last child and the fifth son among the ten children and was baptized Marcelo Hilario. Because there were many children in the family, Marcelo gave up his share of his inheritance for his other brothers and sisters. His elder brother, Fr. Toribio del Pilar, was exiled to Guam for his involvement in the 1872 Cavite Mutiny. The family adapted the surname Del Pilar in 1849 pursuant on the decree issued by Governor-General Narciso Claveria. Del Pilar was descended from the illustrious lineage of Gatmaitan, one of the sons of the pre-colonial ruling families of Bulacan and Pampanga.

He learned his first letters from his paternal uncle Alejo. Because his family was highly cultured, it was not long before he played the piano, violin, and flute. In Manila he took a Latin course in the school of José A. Flores in 1872 and then transferred at the Colegio de San José, where he finished his Bachelor of Arts degree. He also studied at the University of Santo Tomas, where he obtained his law degree. Reliable information on his years as a student is incomplete, though he clearly dropped out of law school a couple times, finishing degree only in 1881. This was due to a dispute with a parish priest of San Miguel, Manila in 1869 who was charging an exorbitant baptismal fee.

As a student, he favored overthrowing the Spanish government. Often, he met with his classmates like Mariano Ponce, Numeriano Adriano, and Apolinario Mabini in his Binondo house, and expounded on the need to peacefully fight Spanish tyranny. His mastery of Spanish language would help hasten development led him to teach Spanish to children in his neighborhood while he was a boarder of Mariano Sevilla, a Filipino secular priest. Then about the time of Cavite Mutiny, he used to meet regularly in a goods store in Manila with liberal Spanish creoles, mestizos, and Filipino intellectuals by whom he was politically indoctrinated about the affairs of the country. Fortunately, suspicion was not turned on him and he escaped prosecution in 1872.

He worked as oficial de mesa in Pampanga and Quiapo in January 1878. He worked for the Manila Royal Audiencia and at the same time he spread nationalist and anti-friar ideas in Manila and in towns and barrios of Bulacan. He married his second cousin Marciana (Tsanay) in February 1878. They had seven children and five died of infancy. Already a family man, he finally obtained his licentiate in jurisprudence in 1880.

Publications assailing the friars

A copy of Diariong Tagalog

Driven by his sense of justice and his own bad experiences with the clergy, denounced del Pilar in his publications on the violations of the clergy, the narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy. He made speeches in an open crowd, whether a cockpit, tienda, and town plaza. He delivered his tirades against the friars during fiestas, parties and funeral wakes. He wrote poems and essays defending Filipino interests and fought for the equality of Filipinos and Spaniards in his book "La Soberania Monacal en Filipinas" (Monastic Sovereignty in the Philippines).

On August 1, 1882, Del Pilar founded the newspaper Diariong Tagalog (Tagalog Diary), with the help of Francisco Calvo y Muñoz, a wealthy Spanish liberal. This newspaper was the first to publish ideas for reforms in the Philippines. Editing its Tagalog section, he published among others, his nationalist and reformist articles, like the Tagalog translation of Rizal's El amor patrio.[3] It lasted for five months and later ceased publication on October 31, 1882 due to lack of funds. Among his major publications were Dasalan at Tocsohan (Prayerbook and Teasing Game), Pasyóng Dapat Ipag-alab nang Puso nang Tauong Babasa (Passion That Should Inflame the Heart of the Reader), Caiingat Cayo (Be Careful), Kadakilaan ng Dios (God's Goodness), Sagot ng España sa Hibik ng Pilipinas (Spain's Reply to the Complains of Filipinos), Dudas (Doubts) and La Frailocracia Filipina (Frailocracy in the Philippines).[4][5][6][7] All were published in 1889.

His parodies of the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Apostle's Creed, the Ten Commandments and the catechism published in pamphlets which simulated the format and size of the novenas were highly effective propaganda. Unlike Rizal, who wrote his novels in Spanish, a fact which cut him off from most Filipinos who did not know the language, del Pilar wrote his propaganda pamphlets in simple Tagalog - lucid, direct and forceful.

Del Pilar also printed inflammatory pamphlets disguised as prayerbooks. They contained satirical verses and were distributed inside churches or sold openly in churchyards - right under the friars' noses.

Escape from clerical prosecution

He organized with Doroteo Cortes, José Ramos, and Juan Zulueta various anti-friar demonstrations. In March 1888, he joined a demonstration in Manila and sought audience with the governor-general, demanding the expulsion of friars from the Philippines and the exile of the archbishop. When José Rizal's Noli Me Tangere was attacked by church-paid hacks, del Pilar assumed various pseudonyms and wrote pamphlets denouncing the clergymen. Del Pilar became a wanted man; the friars wielded their influence to secure an order of banishment against him. When the order was finally released, del Pilar had already fled to Spain. Before his departure, he organized Caja de Jesus, María y José intended to provide scholarship grants to poor but intelligent children and the Junta de Programa, which functioned to collect funds to support the propaganda work and constitute liaison between the propagandists in Spain and those in the Philippines.

On October 28, 1888, del Pilar left Manila for Spain, and spent his time with the Filipinos in Hong Kong led by José María Basa, a propagandist and a bitter enemy of the clergy. Basa - whom Rizal had already established contact on his way back to Europe - became the agent for smuggling Rizal's novels into the Philippines.

Leaders of the reform movement in Spain: L-R: Rizal, del Pilar, and Ponce

Life in Spain

La Solidaridad, the official organ of the Propaganda Movement

In the same year, on the flight from the pursuit through the clergy, del Pilar went to Spain arriving in Barcelona on January 1, 1889. Del Pilar succeeded Graciano López Jaena as the editor of the newspaper La Solidaridad on December 15, 1889.[2][8] Even before del Pilar had chief burden of the editorship, and when he assumed the post, he transferred the editorial office from Barcelona to Madrid.

The newspaper busied itself with the moderated goals of the representative of the Philippines in the Spanish parliament. It entered for the legal comparison of Spaniards and Filipinos and the lifting of the polo (community service) and the bandala (the compulsion sale of local products at the government). The newspaper demanded moreover a guarantee of the basic rights of speech freedom and society freedom as well as same for Filipinos and Spaniards, who wanted to enter into the civil service.

Del Pilar succeeded the goals of the leaf to promote, in that it contacted liberal Spaniards, that were sympathetic to Filipinos. Under it expanded themselves the demands of the newspaper, active cooperation of Filipino in matters of the government, speech freedom, press freedom and meeting freedom, would extend social and political independences, equivalence before the court, reception of a representation in that Spanish Cortes or the parliament.

Del Pilar came however soon in difficulties and these reached its highpoint when the money means were exhausted for the support of its newspaper. Simultaneously there was no sign at all of a direct reaction that would place a support of sides of the Spanish ruler class in outlook.[2] Before its death, that was favored by hunger and large need, del Pilar abandoned its bearing to the assimilation and began with the planning of an armed revolt.

It strengthened this conviction through following lines:

Insurrection is the last remedy, especially when the people have acquired the belief that peaceful means to secure the remedies for evils prove futile.

This idea was an inspiration for Andrés Bonifacio of Katipunan, a secret revolutionary organization which aimed to gained independence from Spain.[2]

Later years and death

Del Pilar left his wife and two daughters in the Philippines when he went to Spain in 1888. Marciana, his wife, worked hard to support Sofia and Anita. Del Pilar could not afford to send any money to his family since he himself was penniless.[9] After years of publication from 1889 to 1895, La Solidaridad had begun to run out of funds without accomplishing concrete changes in the Philippines. Its last issue appeared on November 15, 1895.

In the early months of 1896, however del Pilar and Ponce decided to return in Hongkong. In Barcelona, del Pilar was overtaken by increasing bad health of past year or more. After several months of illness, del Pilar died of tuberculosis in a public hospital in Barcelona on July 4, 1896 at the age of 46. The following day, he was buried in unmarked grave at the Cementerio del Sud-Oeste. He left with his friend Fernando Canon a message for his daughter, saying that he had received the sacraments of the church before he died. López Jaena had died six months earlier in Barcelona in a similar hospital run by the Sisters of Charity, and is said to have retracted masonry and received the sacraments as Del Pilar did. A few months after his death, the revolution broke out.[2]

His remains were brought back in 1920 to his final resting place, now known as Dambana ni Plaridel under the National Historical Institute.

Father of Philippine Masonry

Considered the Father of Philippine Masonry, del Pilar spearheaded the secret organization of Masonic lodges in the Philippines as a means of strengthening the Propaganda Movement. He was made a freemason in Spain in 1889, one of the first Filipinos initiated into the mysteries of freemasonry in Europe. He co-founded Logia Revoluccion in Barcelona and revived Logia Solidaridad 53 when it floundered into stormy seas where he became its Worshipful Master and with Rizal as the Orator. He was crowned 33° by the Gran Oriente Español.[10]


Organized in his memory, Samahang Plaridel is a fellowship of journalists and other communicators that aims to propagate Marcelo H. del Pilar’s ideals. This fellowship fosters within its capacity, mutual help, cooperation, and assistance among its members; dedicated to the journalistic standards of accuracy and truth, and in promoting these standards in the practice of journalism. Plaridel’s ideology of truth, fairness and impartiality is anchored on democratic principles, as these are the bastions of a society acceptable to all Filipinos.

See also


  1. ^ De Guzman, Maria O. (1967). The Filipino Heroes. National Bookstore, Inc.. ISBN 971-08-2987-4.  
  2. ^ a b c d e Schumacher, John N. (1973). The Propaganda Movement, 1880-1895: the creation of a Filipino consciousness (1997 ed.). Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press. pp. 333. ISBN 9789715502092.  
  3. ^ Filipinos in History Volume II National Historical Institute (Manila, 1989) pp. 99-102
  4. ^ La Frailocracia Filipina (Barcelona: Imprenta Iberica de Francisco Fossas, 1889) was published under del Pilar's pen name Plaridel.[1]
  5. ^ Dolores Manapat, Caiingat Cayó (Manila, 1888), reproduced in Santos, Philippine Review, 3:961-63 [2]
  6. ^ Originally published anonymously in Barcelona, it is reprinted in De los Santos, Philippine Review 3 (Nov 1918): 869-73.
  7. ^ As the word frailocracia cannot be found in most Spanish dictionaries nor the word “frailocracy” in the English, the term must have been coined by succeeding Filipino writers to refer to this 'unique' system of government
  8. ^ Ganzon, Guadalupe Fores (1997). La Solidaridad. Makati City. ISBN 971-91655-6-1.  
  9. ^ Rene O. Villanueva (Filway's Philippine Almanac Second Edition): The Penniless Propagandist, Campaigning for reforms from cockpits to banquet halls. (p. 374)
  10. ^ Famous Filipino Mason - Marcelo H. Del Pilar


  • Zaide, Gregorio F. (1984). Philippine History and Government. National Bookstore Printing Press. ISBN 9789716421927.  
  • Gatmaitan, Magno S. (1987). The life and writings of Marcelo Hilario del Pilar. Manila: Historical Conservation Society; Los Angeles, California; Philippine Expressions Corporation. ISBN 1000022415.  
  • Carlos, Quirino (1995). Who's who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books. ISBN 9716300468.  
  • Villarroel, Fidel, (1997). Marcelo H. del Pilar, his religious conversions. Manila : University of Santo Tomas Pub. House. ISBN 9715060714.  

External links

Simple English

Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitan (August 30, 1850July 4, 1896), was a Filipino revolutionary leader of the Philippine Revolution and one of the leading Ilustrado (Knowledgeable) propagandist of the Philippine War of Independence.

Marcelo H. del Pilar was born in Cupang (now Barangay San Nicolas, Bulacan, Bulacan, on August 30, 1850, to cultured parents Julián del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaytan. He studied at the Colegio de San José and later at the University of Santo Tomas, where he finished his law course in 1880. In 1882, del Pilar founded the newspaper Diariong Tagalog to propagate democratic liberal ideas among the farmers and peasants. In 1888, he defended Jose Rizal's polemical writings by issuing a pamphlet against a priest's attack, exhibiting his deadly wit and savage ridicule of clerical follies. In 1888, fleeing from clerical persecution, del Pilar went to Spain, leaving his family behind. In December 1889, he succeeded Graciano López Jaena as editor of the Filipino reformist periodical La Solidaridad in Madrid. He promoted the objectives of the paper by contacting liberal Spaniards who would side with the Filipino cause.

Del Pilar's militant and progressive outlook derived from the classic Enlightenment tradition of the French philosophes and the scientific empiricism of the European bourgeoisie. He died of tuberculosis in abject poverty in Barcelona, Spain, on July 4, 1896 at the age of 46.


  • Zaide, Gregorio F. (1984). Philippine History and Government. National Bookstore Printing Press. 
  • Villarroel, Fidel, (1997). Marcelo H. del Pilar, his religious conversions. Manila : University of Santo Tomas Pub. House.


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