DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos leads Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando and Bulakan Mayor Vergel Meneses in the Wednesday’s 173rd birth anniversary celebration if Marcelo H. Del Pilar and Second Year Celebration of National Press Freedom Day at his shrine in Sitio Cupang, Barangay San Nicolas, Bulakan, Bulacan. Photo by Shane Frias Velasco, PIA Bulacan

BULAKAN, Bulacan—Officials honored national hero Marcelo H. Del Pilar on his 173rd birth anniversary celebration on Wednesday not only as the greatest Filipino journalist, propagandist and reformist but also as a “pro bono”, activist lawyer and a political leader against the oppressive Spanish rule. 

Judge Luis Reyes, a retired officer of the law, in the “Plaridel, the Legal Luminary” piece he wrote and delivered as a lecture on Aug. 28 before Kabersea Inc., the town’s historical, cultural and heritage group said Del Pilar focused more in fighting for a political change in the country to attain justice and equality and have served the plight for justice of poor residents through numerous “pro bono cases”.

Reyes based on his research said that Del Pilar, while having sided with the economically privileged Filipinos in and out of Bulacan, had often offered his legal services for free to many in need residents.  

His pro bono services and fight in defense of aggrieved and poor residents started when he was a law student in the University of Santo Tomas where he was ordered imprisoned after he was involved in a dispute with then parish priest of San Miguel town over an increase in baptismal fees. This eventually led to his suspension from his law studies in UST.  He then resorted to self-study but was able to re-entered UST and obtained his law study: Licenciado en Jurisprudencia, a degree that vested him with the license to practice law without benefit of a successful Bar examinations that requirement not having existed until 1901, the judge research further states. 

Based on his studies and research, Reyes said Del Pilar’s activism and protest started when his brother Toribio who was then incarcerated was refused by Spanish friars to temporarily get out of jail to visit their sick and dying mother. 

“He promptly joined what was, then, a growing protest movement against the friars, forcing Del Pilar to balance his protest activities with his successful law profession,” Reyes said. 

Del Pilar for many occasions also served as counsel for a number of detained members of the protest movement against the Spaniards. 

“What apparently followed was an activist-lawyer Del Pilar, who argued basically against the legality of the Spanish government treatment of the natives. Marcelo raised an issue on arbitrary deportation that was based on the law of the ancient Indies in 1588 and applied only in times of war and there was no state of war at that time. He invoked the basic right of the individual to domicile,” Reyes said. 

“From the foregoing, and as similarly reflected in his other advocacies, Del Pilar may be considered more of a political rather than a socio-economic reformer. He firmly believed in justice and fairness, and the dignity of the Filipino achieved through political means, and placed stress on attaining a parity of rights between those enjoyed by native Filipinos and peninsular Hispanics, under the Spanish Constitution,” the judge piece also said. 

Retired Bulacan Judge Luis Reyes, a member of Kabesera Inc. delivering his lecture, “Plaridel, the Legal Luminary,” in honor of Marcelo H. Del Pilar in this year’s 173rd birth anniversary celebration of the hero last Aug. 30 at his shrine in Sitio Cupang, Barangay San Nicolas, Bulakan town. The lecture was held before other members of Kabesera Inc., in the conference room of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Del Pilar museum on Aug. 28 where a bust of the hero is on display for students, researchers and tourists. Photo by Carmela Reyes-Estrope

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos hails Del Pilar and his works and sacrifices which led to the freedom that Filipinos now enjoy. Amidst the modern world today with 40,000 satellites serving the internet and communication of all the people and all the changes we now face, he said, only the courage, love, compassion of our heroes through our leaders today remain intact. 

He said this year’s theme on the 173rd birth anniversary of Del Pilar, “Marcelo H.  Del Pilar, Liwanag ng Nakaraan, Tanglaw Natin sa Kasalukuyan,” is the best policy each and every Filipino particularly our leaders should observe for the glory of our nation. 

“Siya ang bayani  ng ating  bansa na simbolo ng kalayaang tintamasa sa ngayon dahil sa mga sakripisyo niya at pagmamahal sa sambayanang Filipino. Ang kanyang ginawa na paglaban sa kasamaan ang dapat nating tularan. For evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, iyan ang panuntunan ni Del Pilar na dapat nating patuloy na sundin at gawin” (He is our hero that symbolizes the freedom we now enjoy. That was Del Pilar’s principle we should follow and abide), he said. 

“Parati nating ipaglaban ang tama, matalo ka man o manalo, nananatili ang kredibilidad mo. Hindi lahat ng pagkatalo ay talo, mayroong panalo sa pagkatalo,” (We should always fight for what is right, whether we win or lose, your credibility stays. Not all defeat are failure, there are cases where defeat is victory) he said. 

“Ipagdasal natin sa Diyos ang kasaganaan ng ating bansa. Ipagpatuloy natin ang ating mabuting gawa para sa ating mahal na bansa,” Abalos also said. 

Gov. Daniel Fernando also gave honor to Del Pilar, also known as Plaridel being the beacon of light for demoicracy and press freedom  as the country honors the hero on the second year celebration of the National Press Freedom Day. 

Fernando however challenged the media not to abuse the power of the press by serving the reporter’s personal gains. “Ang mga diyarista ay dapat hindi maging abuso sa kanilang trabaho at manlibak ng kanyang kapwa,” (The newspapermen should not abuse their power against anyone to mock, humiliate and degrade others), he said. 

Del Pilar who also used the pen name Cupang, being his birthplace, was the editor of the La Solidaridad whose writings ignited the Filipino spirit for enlightenment against Spanish rule. 

Bulakan Mayor Vergel Meneses assured residents that the track of his leadership and services follows that of Del Pilar.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) President Atty. Bunrofil Altares and Senior Grand Warden, Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines RW Raul Canon Jr., also graced the ceremony and offered their group’s respective wreath.