The 15 Bicolano martyrs

This day in Bikol history, on January 4, 1897, eleven patriots from the Bicol Region were executed in Luneta after having been accused of cooperating with the Katipunan during the Philippine Revolution against Spain. They are among the “Quince Martires del Bicolandia”. 

The other four of the fifteen either died in exile and a fourth one, Leon Hernandez, expired inside the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres (now Naga City) prison even before any of all those arrested in 1896 could face trial in court.

The fifteen Bicol martyrs, include:

  • Fr. Inocencio Herrera, Fr. Gabriel Prieto, and Fr. Severino Diaz, who were secular priests
  • Florendo Lerma, a music professor, organist, essayist and playwright
  • Manuel Abella and Domingo Abella, who were father and son
  • Ramon Abella, who was exiled to Bioko Island
  • Mariano Melgarejo and Cornelio Mercado, who were public works employees
  • Tomas Prieto, a pharmacist
  • Camilo Jacob, a photographer
  • Macario Valentin, a night watchman,
  • Leon Hernandez, a teacher who died under torture,
  • Mariano Arana, a government surveyor who was exiled to Bioko Island,
  • Mariano Ordenanza. a clerk who was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment.

One of the martyrs, Camilo Jacob, was eventually declared as an “Albayano Hero” having been born and raised in Polangui, Albay.

Only eleven of these martyrs were executed while the rest died in jail or in exile in Spain or in Africa. The four who were not executed are: Mariano Ordenanza, Leon Hernandez, Ramon Abella, and Mariano Arana.

The 15 Bicol martyrs lived and died in the same period in history as the famous GOMBURZA — the three priests composed of Fathers Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora. Even then, the popularity of these Bicolano martyrs pales in comparison with the three priests — not even among their fellow Bicolanos. Those who were executed were even shot on the same spot that Jose Rizal died of musketry five days earlier. Despite these, their names were buried in the shelves of history.

Attempts to immortalize their heroic acts started when a monument was dedicated for them on November 30, 1923 in Naga City. The spot where the monument stands is now known as Plaza Quince Martires. On Feb. 20, 1940, the former director of the Department of Education, Celedonio Salvador, also gave an official recognition to these martyrs through Circular No. 15, s. 1940 which advised all division superintendents on the inclusion of significant events in Philippine history and the observance and study of “The Execution of the Filipino Martyrs from the Bicol Region.” On June 12, 2014, President Benigno S. Aquino III also led the flag-raising and wreath-laying rites for the Independence Day celebration in commemoration not only of the Bicolano martyrs but also of all those who sacrificed their lives for the country.

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