Sunday, March 23, 2008

76. AGAPITO CONCHU: Kapampangan Martyr of Cavite

A KAPAMPANGAN AMONG 13 MARTYRS. Agapito Conchu of Guagua, made Cavite his home after his Manila education, settling down there and earning a livelihood as a musician and lithographer. Implicated in a revolutionary plot againt Spain, he was executed as one of the Trece Martires de Cavite on 12 September 1896. Picture from the book “Mga Anak ng Tangway sa Rebolusyong Pilipino by Emmanuel Franco Calairo”, from where most of the above information on Conchu were taken.

For my National Heroes’ day article, I decided to have for a subject, a little-known Kapampangan hero whose noble deeds—and even his name--have been blurred by time and forgotten in most history books. My rediscovery of him began in one of my visits to my favorite antique dealer who resides along a narrow street that cuts across the busy Zobel Roxas in Makati. Conchu Street, that’s how it is called, and if you don’t pay attention to the street signs, it’s easy to miss. When I asked for directions, people would scratch their heads and ask in return, “Conchu who?”. Just like them, I never knew who this Mr. Conchu was, until I later found out through the internet that he was, in fact, one of the 13 Martyrs of Cavite, and more significantly, a Kapampangan. Agapito Conchu, like the street named after him, is largely unknown to many Kapampangans but his role in the revolutionary history of Cavite and needs to be told and recognized.

Agapito Conchu was born in Guagua, Pampanga on 18 August 1860 to parents Saturnino Conchu and Nemencia Hocson. He obviously had Chinese mestizo roots judging from his parents’ surnames and his extant picture that shows him with distinct Sino features. His paternal aunt, Leonicia Conchu brought him to Manila, together with his two brothers to pursue their studies. Agapito attended Ateneo de Manila where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.

It was also in this Jesuit-run school that Agapito began his love affair with music, an interest that earned him an assignment at the Binondo Church where he moonlighted as a church organist. Occasionally, he would also conduct the local orchestra which provided music during fiestas and other events. His brothers, Deogracias and Candido opted for more practical courses, becoming a seaman and a tailor, respectively.

Looking for a more stable job, Agapito worked in the printing press of Salvador Chofre. Here, he learned another trade: lithography printing. Having mastered this art, he set up his own printing shop at Calle Real in Cavite in 1890. His studio, established next to the pharmacy of Victoriano Luciano, was called Foto-Litografia Moderna de A. Conchu. Here, he printed colorful labels for medicines, cigars, perfumery and pharmaceutical products.

It was also at this time that Agapito settled down with Isabel Basa with whom he had 9 children. To supplement his income, he returned to his first love, music. He taught piano to children of government officials and other prominent families. When Agapito Escacio, the music teacher of the local elementary school, passed away, Agapito Conchu took his place.

Agapito lent his talent to the social events of the town, organizing orchestras for both young and old. He launched La Compaña del Trueno, a band which included Francisco Osorio (drums), Victoriano Luciano (bass, violin), Dr. Hugo Perez (fife, triangle), Basilio Borromeo (violin, piano, cantor). Agapito himself, aside from the organ and the piano, played the violin. Julian Felipe became its famed Conductor. On certain occasions, Agapito also sang at the Church of Porta Vaga, and as if his services to the church were not enough, assisted in painting the reredos of the Church of San Pedro. His main source of income however, was his burgeoning printing business. In 1892, during a regional exposition, Agapito’s lithographic prints won for him a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Honor. The winning works included paintings and artworks.

In the Revolution of 1896, Cavite and its towns actively participated in the revolt against Spain. A plot was hatched by the principalias in the province but was twarthed when Victoriana Sayat of Imus told Dña. Victorina de Crespo, the wife of military governor, of the suspicious moves of Severino Lapidario (jail warden), Alfonso de Ocampo (asst. warden) and Luis Aguado (connected with the arsenal).

On 3 September 1896, Agapito was arrested on the basis of the testimony of de Ocampo, who, under torture named him as one of the cabecillas of the revolutionary association of Cavite. He, together with 12 others (Victoriano Luciano, Maximo Inocencio, Francisco Osorio, Antonio San Agustin, Hugo Perez, Jose Lallana, Eugenio Cabezas, Maximo Gregorio, Feliciano Cabuco along with Aguado, de Ocampo and Lapidario) were arrested and executed at the Plaza de Armas at the Cavite arsenal on 12 September 1896. Thus one brave Kapampangan—Agapito Conchu of Guagua-- joined the pantheon of noble heroes collectively known today as the Trece Martires de Cavite.
(29 November 2003)

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