At dawn on February 17, 1872,
three secular priests are publicly executed at Manila’s Bagumbayan
Plaza. One of the martyrs is Father José Burgos, the beloved
friend and mentor of a tall, serious young man standing among
the crowd of thousands of Indios. A seminarian and scion of
a wealthy family, Placido Mendoza watches in disbelief.
This is a pivotal moment in the history of the Philippines,
and in the life of Placido. It shocks the native Filipinos,
called “Indios” by the Spaniards, into putting their cultural
differences aside and coming together to free themselves from
their greedy and corrupt colonial masters.
From this turning point,
The Indios traces the history of the Philippine Revolution
through the life of Placido, whose faith in the church is
eroded by events that affect him and the people he loves.
Two groups of patriots emerge:
the wealthy and educated Indios, known as ilustrados, who
want reforms to curb the abuses of the friars and administrators
and to become a province of Spain, and the lower-class Indios,
who want independence by any means.
Although an ilustrado, Placido joins the revolution to save
the one person closest to his heart from abuse by a friar.
FROM "THE INDIOS"
In the early morning hours
of February 17, 1872, the Spaniards’ exuberant shouts of "Viva
la España!" occasionally rose above the Indios’ murmured
prayers and muffled screams as the procession of the three
black-robed native priests slowly emerged from the dawn’s
shadows. As the guardia civil escorted the priests toward
the makeshift stage where their executioner awaited them,
a chorus of male voices announcing the arrival of the doomed
priests suddenly erupted from lush branches of centuries-old
acacia trees that, until then, had been silent witnesses to
the unfolding drama. Like echoes, the words quickly spread
through the multitude of Indios that filled the plaza, which
extended from the banks of Manila Bay and several hectares
of grass and dirt into the unevenly paved streets. Men, women,
and children made the sign of the cross and dropped to their
knees as the news reached them.
The Indios’ recitations of the Holy Rosary, punctuated with
exclamations of "Sus-Mari-osep," Jesus, Mary, and
Joseph, the festive Spanish voices and the military band’s
animated rendition of a martial tune accompanied eighty-five-year-old
Father Mariano Gomez, parish priest of Bacoor, Cavite and
publisher of La Verdad, as he advanced with slow but measured
steps toward the gallows. The padre blessed the crowd of Spaniards
and natives just before the executioner wrapped a black shroud
over his head. The music and the shroud masked the cracking
sound as the elderly padre’s neck broke, but soon his body
dropped in a heap on the floor. Then the guardia civil escorted
Father Jacinto Zamora, who was next in line, to the gallows.
The youthful priest glanced blankly at the sea of white and
brown faces that filled the grounds around the stage, and
meekly walked to his death.
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