Mabini Letters: A Bill for Puto Seco

May 26, 2013

Last time I wrote something about Mabini was two years ago–I’ve read, and are now re-reading the letters of this phenomenal man. Writing helps my memory. So this is the continuation of that Mabini project. (By the way, thanks for NHI for compiling all the noteworthy letters from our heroes. I hope the succeeding reprints would contain the original Spanish text).

Unlike books, letters are extremely personal. Sometimes it reveals character flaws, sometimes strengths and sometimes, humor too–but Mabini doesn’t seem to possess this– even in letters you could sense his serious character. One thing I really like about these ‘letters’ is that they reveal the human side, after all, national heroes are humans too, like us–the only difference is that they stepped up to plate when their country needed them.

I believe that politicians, and people in public offices, must read Mabini. His sincerity and uprightness was unparalleled in a time when it was alright to abuse power. He was too bright, too honest and a cripple, the shadowy characters around Aguinaldo ¬†felt uncomfortable having him around. He was the most capable man during the first president’s time in power. Too bad, he was sidelined, later forced out by the conspiring elites who wanted to secure for themselves the power and influence their families had during the Spanish administration.

Mabini saw a government, composed of egoistic men with selfish agendas, ready to surrender to the Americans. Leaders that would rather wait to be handed autonomy than fight for it. He found this unacceptable and this drove him away from the government he helped established. He saw that the people around him were not really interested in real independence but assurances of wealth and positions. He would later say to a friend that those who easily gives up after just a few months of fighting deserves to be slaves.

The road Mabini took was not easy, he was impractical, an idealist in an age of corrupted politics. More than a hundred years has passed and we only manage to go lower than the level of venality that existed during his days–it would be harder, if not impossible, to pull a Mabini today.

Here’s a portion of a letter he wrote to Aguinaldo about ‘poto seco’ (dried rice cakes):

“I would like you to know also that yesterday I received a bill of lading for you certifying that the Chief in Dagupan has sent here a quantity of poto seco. I forwarded the bill to the military administrator but he has not sent word whether he has got it from the train”

Now, I don’t know how Aguinaldo felt about all of these–are those ‘poto secos’ cost that important to reach his desk! Maybe not, but every penny in Mabini’s eyes must be accounted for. Anyway, these puto seco must have been provisions for the soldiers, so it could be as important as the rifles they carry.

Still on the same ‘puto seco’ letter, an important note (but not as important news as the rice cakes delivery because Mabini placed this note in the postscript!) was about Paterno insisting that he be named president of the Supreme Court. Mabini conveniently closed the meeting, probably not ¬†liking the idea but told Aguinaldo that he gets to decide whether he wants to reconvene a session for the matter to be resolved.

One thing noticeable about Mabini is how disciplined he was when it comes to laws–it rules every part of him. Nothing ticks him off more than lawlessness and abuse of power. I could only imagine if he had his legs and had been awarded with his own army–I wonder what kind of general he would make.

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