By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes

Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers

(July 1993)

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RELATED ARTICLE I have earlier written on Mabini, titled "Sublime Statesman," seeks to give readers of Health Alert more knowledge about Apolinario Mabini than his simply being the "Sublime Paralytic." What a shame it is to know him, one of our more prominent national heroes, only by his physical condition in the last of his politically-active years, and not know what he said and did, what he stood tall and fast for.

          This accompanying piece tackles the "Sublime Paralytic," description. How accurate or fair is it.  It may be all a matter of semantics, but this writer would prefer to call him "Handicapped Hero."

          The popular term's operative word is "paralytic," qualified as "sublime." This implies that he is the sublime one among the paralytics, and it may not be fair at all to the paralytics who are great in their own right, who have served our nation much more than many of those with perfectly healthy bodies.

          I know of one, my friend Ryan who is now an expatriate. He was a full-time activist of the revolutionary underground movement waging what was then a lonely fight against the Marcos martial law dictatorship in the early seventies. His mind has always been sharp, his heart always in the right place (for our people), and his effort to cope with the physical limitations imposed by polio has always inspired people around him.

          There are hundreds of them. Mabini was one of them, but he has won wide recognition, while the rest remain as unsung heroes.

          There can be no real meaning in the term "sublime paralytic" unless we concede the implied contraposition in the pairing of the two words. This writer would not go along. There is no relationship at all between being a paralytic and being sublime: Mabini was not sublime despite his being paralytic; he was simply both.

          The operative word should be "hero," the way it is used popularly to mean a group of men and women who became prominent in the fight against the Spaniards and the Americans about one hundred years ago. Among these heroes, Mabini was handicapped. He was carrying a heavy physical burden, one that did not disable him (that is why I am also disturbed by the word "disabled" as psychologically disempowering).

          While we are on the subject of Mabini's paralysis, it may be good to lay to rest malicious allegations that he got it grom syphilis. Some have even called him "Sublime Syphilitic."

          Ambeth Ocampo's "Looking Back" column gives us the following information:

          "Syphilis as the cause of Mabini's paralysis originated from detractors who claimed the black spot on Mabini's back was proof that he was receiving syphilis treatment. Arsenic or Salvarsan, which was a syphilis cure, was manufactured in Germany in 1907 and couldn't have been available in the Philippines at the time of Mabini's death in 1903. Syphilis in its advanced stages makes the victim suffer from epileptic seizures, blindness or insanity, none of which was true of Mabini, whose brilliant mind was functioning where he learned English, wrote his La Revolucion Filipina and his version of Balagtas's Florante at Laura, all the while refusing to swear allegiance to the United States. His mind was lucid until his death. X-rays did not show the thickened skull of a person with syphilis.

          "Though polio is a disease associated with children and Mabini was paralyzed at 31,this was not wurprising, since other leaders like Franklin D Roosevelt caught polio at 39. Despite his paralysis, Mabini had sensation in the affected part of his body. With all the other possibilities ruled out, our medical sleuths (a team of doctors formed in 1980 and led by Dr. Jose Pujalte, then director of the National Orthopedic Hospital) were left with only one conclusion - Mabini's paralysis was caused by polio."

          Now, with this pair of articles, we not only know much more about Mabini than his paralysis, we also know more about how he got that handicap.

(Kamalaysayan Media Service)



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