Marcelo Hilario Del Pilar

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Marcelo Hilario Del Pilar

Marcelo H. Del Pilar (1850-1896) was a Philippine revolutionary propagandist and satirist. He tried to marshal the nationalist sentiment of the enlightened Filipino ilustrados, or bourgeoisie, against Spanish imperialism.

Marcelo Del Pilar was born in Kupang, Bulacan, on Aug. 30, 1850, to cultured parents. He studied at the Colegio de San José and later at the University of Santo Tomas, where he finished his law course in 1880. Fired by a sense of justice against the abuses of the clergy, Del Pilar attacked bigotry and hypocrisy and defended in court the impoverished victims of racial discrimination. He preached the gospel of work, self-respect, and human dignity. His mastery of Tagalog, his native language, enabled him to arouse the consciousness of the masses to the need for unity and sustained resistance against the Spanish tyrants.

In 1882 Del Pilar founded the newspaper Diariong Tagalog to propagate democratic liberal ideas among the farmers and peasants. In 1888 he defended José 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 Lopez Jaena as editor of the Filipino reformist periodical La solidaridadin Madrid. He promoted the objectives of the paper by contacting liberal Spaniards who would side with the Filipino cause. Under Del Pilar, the aims of the newspaper were expanded to include removal of the friars and the secularization of the parishes; active Filipino participation in the affairs of the government; freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; wider social and political freedoms; equality before the law; assimilation; and representation in the Spanish Cortes, or Parliament.

Del Pilar's difficulties increased when the money to support the paper was exhausted and there still appeared no sign of any immediate response from the Spanish ruling class. Before he died of tuberculosis caused by hunger and enormous privation, Del Pilar rejected the assimilationist stand and began planning an armed revolt. He vigorously affirmed this conviction: "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 inspired Andres Bonifacio's Katipunan, a secret revolutionary organization. Del Pilar died in Barcelona on July 4, 1896.

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. Part of this outlook was transmitted by Freemasonry, to which Del Pilar subscribed.

Further Reading

An important source of information about Del Pilar is Magno S. Gatmaitan, Marcelo H. del Pilar, 1850-1896: A Documented Biography (1966).

Additional Sources

Gatmaitan, Magno, The life and writings of Marcelo Hilario del Pilar, Manila: Historical Conservation Society; Los Angeles, Calif.; Philippine Expressions Corp. distributor, 1987. □