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Maureen Justiniano     Got any heroes in your family baul?

Yvanne Dandan in the late 1990s with the statue of Fr. Pedro Dandan y Masangkay that was installed at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Parañaque on March 4, 1984. Yvanne is the great-great grandniece of the rebel priest

Who would pass up the opportunity of finding out that people they know might be related to a hero of the Philippine Revolution – and then, having the chance to regale them with historical chismis (gossip) about their ancestors? Being in academe, I’m sometimes lucky enough to encounter a significant historical figure hidden in someone else’s family baul (wooden chest). This time around, it’s particularly interesting to me because this individual not only has a close connection to a Winnipeg family, but his descendant is one of my close friends from high school – Sheryl “Ayen” Dandan-Zamora, producer of Pinoy Saturday Night on Radio 810 CKJS and occasional columnist for the Pilipino Express.

Fr. Pedro Dandan – His life in the Margins

While searching for names of members and sympathizers of the Katipunan, the secret revolutionary society that began their struggle against Spanish colonial rule in August 1896, I found a particular Filipino secular clergyman by the name of Fr. Pedro Dandan y Masangkay who was born in what is now Parañaque City in Metro Manila – though at that time it was known as the town of Palanyag and it was a part of Morong Province, later renamed Rizal.

There is not much information about his early life in Parañaque – either from the existing literature or from his family in Winnipeg and the Philippines. Even the information provided by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (formerly the National Historical Institute) has a lot of gaps. Fortunately, other works such as Nicanor Tiongson’s book, The Malolos Women (2004) are able to fill some of the gaps.

From my initial sources, Fr. Dandan had never been to Malolos in the province of Bulacan. However, according to Tiongson, Fr. Dandan was indeed in Bulacan beginning in 1869 as one of the coadjutors, or assistants to the parish priests of Malolos, who baptized several of the young reformist women of Malolos. During his time in Malolos, Fr. Dandan was somehow implicated in the Cavite Mutiny of 1872 but he was one of the “fortunate” native clergy members who were only exiled to the Marianas Islands instead of being executed like Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, for the alleged crime of sedition.

At some time after his return from exile, Fr. Dandan resumed his position as coadjutor in Malolos. Tiongson wrote that in 1888 Fr. Dandan joined the Comite de Propaganda, a political group in Malolos organized by Marcelo H. del Pilar in 1885 that campaigned for the total secularization of all the parishes, that is to say, to replace the powerful Spanish friars with Filipino priests. The Comite de Propaganda later funded Del Pilar’s stay in Spain as well as the publication and distribution of La Solidaridad and other anti-friar materials in the Philippines.

Since the 1880s Fr. Dandan was actively involved in the anti-friar movement along with other members of Comite de Propaganda who clandestinely circulated anti-friar pamphlets and copies of the illegal propaganda newspaper, La Solidaridad. Some members of the Comite, such as Deodato Arellano and Gregorio del Pilar, later joined the Katipunan.

It was Gregorio del Pilar, a nephew of Marcelo, who came up with a plan to smuggle anti-friar literature into the Malolos Church sanctuary. During the colonial era it was the practice of the friar parish priests to distribute pamphlets, which they ordered their parishioners to read and share with others so as to gain indulgence and to avoid excommunication. Members of the Comite managed to slip copies of their anti-friar material inside the covers of the friars’ pamphlets and then dispose of the originals. The original pamphlets, as well as the anti-friar ones, were written in Tagalog, and because the unsuspecting friars of Malolos generally knew little Tagalog, they did not know that they, themselves, were distributing anti-friar publications to their parishioners after mass.

Association with the Manila-based Katipunan

There were no clear explanations as to why Fr. Dandan left for Manila in 1895, where he worked as chaplain in the Quiapo area until August 1896. However, given his history as a subversive or filibustero, he might have been considered as a possible threat in Malolos.

In Manila, Governor-General Ramon Blanco ordered the Cuerpo de Policia Secreta de Manila (Spanish colonial secret police) to spy on Fr. Dandan from 1895 to 1896. Even though there is no evidence (so far) indicating that Fr. Dandan had formally joined the Katipunan before August 1896, he seemed to be connected with Ladislao Diwa from Cavite, one of the co-founders of the Katipunan and a room boarder in Andres Bonifacio’s house. Diwa was married to a certain Deliza Dandan from Parañaque with whom he had three children (Mariano, Guadalupe and a third child whose name is unknown). I have yet to confirm Father Dandan’s relation with Deliza Dandan.

The discovery of the Katipunan in August 1896 forced Fr. Dandan to flee to Cavite and to officially join the revolution. In Ambeth R. Ocampo’s Philippine Daily Inquirer article “Photograph” (24 November 2009), Ocampo included an anecdote about Fr. Dandan’s escape, as told by Julio Nakpil, a Quiapo resident who was a revolutionary commander under Bonifacio and who later became the second husband to Bonifacio’s widow, Gregoria de Jesus.

Ocampo writes, “Fr. Pedro Dandan, a Katipunero [emphasis mine], was on his way out of the house when he met the secret police. They asked for Father Dandan, not knowing they were speaking to him. Father Dandan replied, ‘He is upstairs eating breakfast.’ As the detectives went up the house quietly, Father Dandan took the same taxi [carriage or carromata?] that brought the detective to his place.”

After the fall of Cavite, Fr. Dandan retreated to Bulacan where Generalissimo Emilio Aguinaldo tried to establishthe Departmental Government of Central Luzon, which included all the revolutionary provinces except Cavite and Batangas, with Fr. Pedro Dandan as the elected president under Aguinaldo’s direct military rule. This government only lasted for a few months during which the Spanish started peace negotiations at Biak-na-Bato with Aguinaldo. However, before the treaty was signed in December 1897, Fr. Pedro Dandan died of unknown causes.

General Antonio Luna’s revolutionary newspaper, La Independencia, gave tribute to Fr. Dandan in September 1898 in recognition of his contribution to the cause; “In Laguna, Father Dandan, that valiant and battle-worn old man, never surrendered, nor did his people abandon him either. They say that the venerable old man died of chagrin and sorrow, but we have not been able to find out what the reason was.”

Maureen Justiniano is a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She specializes in Philippine colonial and nationalist history, and comparative history of colonial Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Selected References:

  • Santiago V. Alvarez, The Katipunan and the Revolution: Memoirs of a General, with the original Tagalog text (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994).
  • Luis Camara Dery, Alay sa Inang Bayan: Panibagong Pagbibigay-Kahulugan sa Kasaysayan ng Himagsikan ng 1896 (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1999).
  • National Historical Commission of the Philippines, “Pedro M. Dandan”,
  • Ambeth R. Ocampo, “Photographs”, Philippine Daily Inquirer (24 November 2009),
  • Artemio Ricarte, Memoirs of General Artemio Ricarte (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1993)
  • John N. Schumacher S. J., Revolutionary Clergy: The Filipino Clergy and the Nationalist Movement, 1850-1903 (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1981).
  • Nicanor C. Tiongson, The Women of Malolos (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2004)


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