Katipunan – DIMABUNGGO

Katipunero Eusebio Viola (alias Dimabunggo) , also known as Maestro Sebio, is one of the more colorful characters of the Philippine revolution against Spain. Accompanied by Felipe Estrella, the schoolmaster Viola was bandied about as possessing the mysterious and powerful gift of making a person invulnerable. Estrella claimed that an amulet blessed and awarded by Maestro Sebio could protect the recipient from all harm. The said amulet, when swallowed, would protect one against all sorts of enemy weapons for a whole week, it was claimed that one could be exposed to enemy fire and not a single bullet would touch the individual.

The people who heard the claims of Estrella regarding Dimabunggo, the Katipunan code name of Eusebio, believed the stories and submitted themselves to the ministrations of Maestro Sebio. Throngs of katipuneros and ordinary citizens sought him out and filled the house the pair were staying in.

Maestro Sebio’s “powerful” amulets were made of white round pieces of paper with inscriptions in latin. This “sacred” charm came in a variety of sizes, cut out by Estrella for Maestro Eusebio. Like a priest giving communion, the revered schoolteacher would bless the inscribed piece of paper and place the sacred talisman on the tongue of the communicant in a short but solemn ceremony. At the end of the ritual, Dimabunggo collected “donations” ranging from a few centavos to as much as a peso.

A special ceremony, wherein three amulets were swallowed separately, was said to provide greater power and protection. It endowed the recipient with great agility, strength and stamina to escape ambushes and avoid capture.

Initially reprimanded by Gen. Mariano Alvarez of the Magdiwang faction of the Katipunan, Maestro Sebio defended himself by stating that this “aid” that he gave to the people and the revolution were priceless and was welcomed and needed by the masses. Besides, argued the schoolteacher, all donations were voluntarily given and were a mere compensation for his extraordinary service.

A similar protest

A similar protest was aired by Mr. Ariston Villanueva, the minister of war for the Magdiwang council. He strongly stated that by tolerating Dimabunggo’s activities, they were, in effect, abetting superstition, just like the friars who used such rituals and beliefs to keep themselves in political and economic power. He feared that tolerance of such rituals and beliefs would have a positive impact on the friars and their teachings, making the church regain and strengthen its strangle hold on the people.

Other leaders of the Magdiwang council laughed at the accusations and dismissed Mr. Villanueva’s fears. Gen. Alvarez said that faith itself was not evil, specially if professed by patriots dedicated to the service of their country. He likened it to the Japanese belief that those who die in the service of their motherland or superiors are guaranteed entry into the kingdom of everlasting glory. He added that just as the Japanese were emboldened in battle because of this belief, so would the Filipinos gather more courage in confronting the enemy if they were similarly fortified. They would be fighting fearlessly in defense of their freedom if they possessed and believed in the power of Maestro Sebio’s talismans.

Such was the demand for Dimabunggo’s amulets that his assistant Estrella never had a moment of rest. He was so busy cutting out paper talismans, organizing the long lines of people and collecting and counting their donations. The people would not accept the talismans except from Dimabunggo believing that the power of the talisman was channeled only through the venerable schoolteacher and no one else.

In dispensing the talisman, Dimabunggo stood before each applicant who kneeled humbly before him. With the awarding and blessing of each piece of “sacred” amulet, Maestro Eusebio intoned, “Ego.. peravit… ego… peravit… sacrificit.” Then in the manner of a priest serving communion, he put the paper talisman on the tongue of the communicant, giving the final blessing, “Enom … dre… Enom… go.. Enom… to.”

General Apoy

General Apoy, which was the code name of General Alvarez,(meaning fire) was an interested observer as the schoolteacher conducted his services and ministrations. He covertly encouraged Dimabunggo’s amulets and services, because through them, thousands found new courage to join the Katipunan and fight the Spaniards. This met a crucial need of the Revolution and Maestro Sebio’s activities helped boost the people’s spirit. With such successful results, General Apoy was very well pleased with the maestro’s performance.

After completing his “aid” to the Magdiwang faction, Maestro Sebio moved to the Magdalo territory and, with the approval of the Magdalo council leaders, he began to practice and minister his well-known services. The Magdalo received him as warmly as the majority of the Magdiwang did. He was popular that people eagerly invited him to their towns and homes. The people believed that his mere presence protected them from all kinds of malady and injury.

One day, Maestro Sebio and Estrella slipped away from the Magdalo group without any fanfare to give themselves some well-earned rest in Kakarong, a hilly village in Bulacan. The Magdalo, realizing the absence of the respected schoolteacher and his assistant, launched a manhunt and searched far and wide for this famed Merchant of Valor.

The people’s tenacity paid off and they located Maestro Sebio and Estrella in a camp that was built for the revolutionary forces. Once discovered, Kakarong became a focal point for his followers and refugees from other areas. Kakarong soon became a full-fledged revolutionary outpost with Maestro Sebio as its head and Felipe Estrella as his deputy and secretary. Kakarong soon became well known not only for its military strength and organization, but also for the bravery and daring of its citizens. Courage that was, without a doubt, reinforced by their belief in the magical powers of Dimabunggo’s amulets and prayers. This was often demonstrated in fearless encounters with the Spaniards from whom they confiscated various weapons that they added to their growing armory.

Spaniards managed to infiltrate Kakarong

Eventually, the Spaniards managed to infiltrate Kakarong with spies who managed to join the ranks of trusted soldiers. A planned attack by Felipe Estrella against the Spaniards stationed in San Rafael was uncovered and one of the three infiltrators managed to slip away and warn the Spanish authorities. Because of the many victories that the Kakarong revolutionaries enjoyed, many who were not part of the original mission joined the planned raid and so Kakarong was left defended by only a small force. Arriving at San Rafael in jubilant spirits, they quickly routed and defeated the enemy and confiscated their arms. The Anak ng Bayan (Sons of the People) were drunk with victory and they happily mingled and celebrated with the people of San Rafael.

In the meantime, Kakarong was attacked by a large detachment headed by Captain Jose Sta. Maria. The infiltrators set fire to the headquarters and surrounding houses to create confusion. In the ensuing chaos, the few troops that were left to guard the outpost were kept busy trying to extinguish the fire and save the older citizens and children trapped by the flames. The Spaniards, knowing of the weak defense force protecting Kakarong, quickly overran the camp. Killing indiscriminately, they spared no one, from suckling infants to weak, frail old folks. There were very few who managed to escape, among them was Maestro Sebio.

News of the massacre reached San Rafael and Estrella hastened to mobilize his scattered troops to attempt a desperate rescue. With the few men he was able to assemble, Estrella prepared to immediately proceed back to Kakarong leaving instructions for the other soldiers to follow.

Estrella and his men, barely having left the town of San Rafael, walked into an ambush and were soon surrounded by the Spaniards. Fighting back valiantly, the Katipunan band dispersed and managed to find shelter individually in shops and houses. With the enemy completely closing in and surrounding the town of San Rafael, some of the people ran as a last resort to the town church and the parish house. The Spanish horde descended on the town and the massacre once again began. Sparing no one, they decimated the town of San Rafael, killing men, women and children. Those that sought sanctuary inside the church were not spared regardless of their plea for mercy.

Felipe Estrella

Some two thousand people were killed, among them was the patriot Felipe Estrella and his assistant Ato Kingwa. Fighting to the last man, Estrella commanded his troops to fight to the death and not give the Spaniards the satisfaction of a surrender.

Dimabunggo, who managed to escape the massacre at Kakarong, slowly began to once again organize a new base for a resistance group. He was, because of his age and many harrowing adventures, overcome with fatigue and shortly became ill. While recuperating in the village of Sili, in the municipality of Angat, he began preparations for a renewed struggle. His hideaway was soon discovered by the Spaniards and he was ultimately captured. With his elbows bound behind him he was marched into the town of Bulacan and was detained in an open-air enclosure where a Spanish officer interrogated him.

The officer asked the bound schoolteacher, “Are you the rebel chief, Maestro Sebio. The one who is the rebel leader and warlord of the province of Bulacan?”

With defiance in his eyes, the Maestro answered fearlessly,”Yes. I am Maestro Sebio. But I am not the leader of the Tagalogs in Bulacan. I am just one of the faithful soldiers of the Sons of the People who have committed themselves to the defense of justice and to uphold our rights and our way of life.”

On hearing, the defiant answer of the bound old prisoner, the officer signaled his men to execute the rebel leader, Maestro Sebio. Thus ended the brave life of Maestro Eusebio “Dimabunggo” Viola — the Katipunan’s Merchant of Valor.

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