Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaytan († July 4, 1896)was a satirist and a celebrated figure during the Philippine Revolution who was a leading propagandist calling for reforms in the Philippines. Known to the general public as Plaridel, he was the writer and co-editor of the newspaper La Solidaridad. His effort was to achieve a national sentiment among the enlightened Filipino ilustrados (the educated natives) and the middle class against Spanish imperialism.
Marcelo Hilario was born on August 30, 1850 in the town of Cupang in the province of Bulacan to Julián del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaytan, into a thoroughly cultured family. One of his brothers was the priest Fr. Toribio del Pilar, who was exiled to the Marianas in 1872. His nephew, Gregorio del Pilar, was also an important figure who fought and died in the Philippine-American War.
He began his scholastic career at the college of Mr. Jose Flores. He then transferred to the Colegio de San José and later studied at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, where he graduated in law in 1880.Marcelo H. del Pilar was multitalented. He played the violin, piano and flute. He was a good fencer and used to serenade and play pieces on his violin during the Flores de Mayo, a Catholic festival.In 1878, he married his cousin Marciana del Pilar, with whom he had a total of seven children.
Driven by his sense of justice and his own bad experiences with the clergy, del Pilar denounced the clergy”s violations, narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy in his publications. In court, he defended a few times the dispossessed victims of radical discrimination.
He preached the gospel of work, self-respect and human dignity. The language he knew best was Tagalog, his native tongue. It enabled him to awaken the consciousness of the masses and convince them of the need for unity and continued resistance to Spanish tyranny.
In 1882, under the pseudonym Plaridel, del Pilar founded the newspaper Diariong Tagalog, through which he spread his democratic liberalist ideas among the peasants and agricultural workers, as well as criticizing the workings of the Spanish government in the Philippines. In 1888, he defended Jose Rizal”s polemical writings against the attack of a priest by publishing a pamphlet in simple Tagalog. In doing so, he fought with his deadly wits and a distinctive rhetoric with which he exposed his relentless scorn of spiritual folly. An action that was not without consequences.
That same year, fleeing persecution by the clergy, del Pilar went to Spain, leaving his family behind in the Philippines. In December 1889, he succeeded in getting Graciano López Jaena to join him in Madrid as editor of the Filipino reformist magazine La Solidaridad. The newspaper dealt with the moderate goals of the representatives of the Philippines in the Spanish Parliament. It advocated legal equality between Spaniards and Filipinos and the abolition of polo (labor service) and vandala (the forced sale of local products to the government). The paper also called for a guarantee of the basic rights of freedom of speech and association, and a level playing field for Filipinos and Spaniards who wanted to enter government service.
Del Pilar succeeded in furthering the goals of the paper by contacting liberal Spaniards who sided with the Filipino cause. Under him, the paper”s demands expanded to include the elimination of monasticism and the secularization of church congregations, active participation of Filipinos in government affairs, freedom of speech, press and assembly, broad social and political autonomy, equality before the courts, and inclusion of representation in the Spanish Cortes or Parliament.
Del Pilar soon ran into difficulties, however, and these peaked when the funds to support his newspaper were exhausted. At the same time, there was no sign of any immediate response that would hold out the prospect of support from the Spanish ruling class. Before his death, aided by hunger and great hardship, del Pilar abandoned his stance on alignment and began planning an armed revolt.
He reinforced this conviction with the following lines:
This idea was an inspiration for Andrés Bonifacio”s Katipunan, a secret revolutionary organization in the Philippines.
Marcelo Hilario died of tuberculosis, completely impoverished, in Barcelona, Spain, on July 4, 1896.
Plaridel was the pseudonym of Marcelo H. del Pilar, one of the most important figures of the Filipino propaganda movement whose writings inspired the Philippine Revolution. He wrote “Dasalan at Toksohan,” a satirical account of the “Ten Commandments,” as well as a parody of the “Our Father,” replacing “Father” with a monk who, in a sense, retroactively abused Filipinos.
He spent his parodies of the Lord”s Prayer, the Holy Mary, the Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Catechism in pamphlets that resembled the novena in form and format and became a successful and effective propaganda. Unlike Rizal, who wrote his writings in Spanish, Plaridel wrote in Tagalog, which was far better understood by most Filipinos.
Plaridel was elected “patron saint” (“national patron”) by contemporary journalists because he dedicated his life and work to freedom of thought and expression, putting his self-reliance above materialistic gain.
Del Pilar”s ideology of truth, fairness and impartiality was based on democratic principles that formed a basis for social acceptance of all Filipinos.