If you’ve been in the Philippines for the past couple of years and have not been living under a rock, you would have caught wind of the “Heneral Luna” craze, if not been part of it yourself. This film was a success story in all forms: a sleeper hit, an indie underdog that somehow managed to stay in cinemas by pure word-of-mouth until it was running for weeks.
“Heneral Luna”, as the title suggests, is a historical film centred on the controversial character of General Antonio Luna, sometimes touted as the only real general the Philippines had during the Philippine-American War.
The success of the film prompted murmurs of a trilogy, until it was recently confirmed that a sequel to the movie would be underway. The next film will focus on another contentious figure in Philippine history: General Gregorio del Pilar, famed for his successes in war and leading the defense of Tirad Pass, but also for being a notorious playboy and a suspected hatchetman for President Emilio Aguinaldo.
Filipinos being Filipinos may focus on Gregorio’s reputation as a rake, and indeed, almost all biographies of Gregorio del Pilar will mention the long list of lovers he left behind. This list often ends with a girl called Dolores Nable Jose, supposedly the last love of the Boy General that he was determined to end the war for.
However, a recent rediscovery by Ambeth Ocampo unveils an article by the historian, Carlos Quirino, which contains an interview with Remedios Nable Jose, Dolores’ older sister. What is interesting about this article is that Remedios declares that it was actually she who the General courted and wished to marry. The original article, to my knowledge, is not widely available for public perusal, but multiple details from it are detailed in Xiao Chua’s article here.
Having been interested in this topic for about a year now, I have personally found this revelation to be surprising, largely in part because it has only resurfaced now, and that all other sources where Gregorio’s last love is explicitly named seem to point to Dolores.
Thus, this article will focus on enumerating some of these sources and providing lines of reasoning as to why it may be concluded that Dolores Nable Jose was Gregorio’s last love.
WHO IN THE WORLD WERE THE NABLE JOSES?
Unlike Gregorio del Pilar, there are no biographies written solely for either Remedios or Dolores Nable Jose. However, multiple sources provide pieces to the puzzle that was their lives, which I will put together to the best of my ability.
Remedios and Dolores were the two eldest daughters of Doña Paz Borja and Don Mariano Nable Jose, a prominent Chinese mestizo businessman that specialized in ship trade like most flourishing merchants of Dagupan at the time. They had three other siblings: Feliciano, Rocio, and Mariano Jr. Their family could be said to be one of the richest in Dagupan; in fact, Don Mariano was described to be at the top of the local elite, and was even part of the Malolos Congress.
After Gregorio’s death, Dolores seems to have disappeared from the records, as there is no mention of her in the 1916 court case where her other siblings and father appear.
However, there is a record by John Devins where he was hosted by Don Mariano when he visited Dagupan in 1900. Here, he mentions having made the acquaintance of Don Mariano’s three daughters, thus we can assume that Remedios, Dolores, and Rocio were definitely present at the time.
GREGORIO DEL PILAR COMES RIDING IN
Although Gregorio del Pilar had previously passed by Pangasinan on his way to Hong Kong, it wasn’t until 1899 that he was assigned to Dagupan, supposedly to help protect Lingayen from attack by the Americans. He took up base at Don Mariano’s home in Pantal, and it is here that one may presume he met the Nable Jose children.
(It is also important to note that Major Manuel Bernal, one of the soldiers loyal to the assassinated General Antonio Luna, was reportedly held at the home of the Nable Joses before being carted off to the casa de gobierno to be tortured and eventually killed by del Pilar and his men.)
All in all, Gregorio del Pilar spent about five months in Pangasinan, during which he and his troops would supposedly patrol for brigands, particularly those who were formerly Luna’s men, and arrest them for raiding pueblos for horses and arms. There were also reports of him attending many fiestas and banquets held in his honor, and leaving a lover in each town that he visited.
It was also around this time that Gregorio allegedly proposed to a Nable Jose daughter, which does seem true if the letter to his mother is anything to go by. The wedding, however, did not push through – either Remedios stood him up at the altar, or Dolores was set to marry him but the call from the President came too soon.
Either way, Gregorio was summoned by Aguinaldo to the north, and eventually stayed behind at Tirad Pass to hold the Americans back while the President fled.
NOBODY, NOBODY BUT DOLORES
Remedios Nable Jose’s claim is based solely on the interview of her, but there remains a glaring lack of third-party sources to verify her story.
In contrast, despite the lack of an interview with Dolores, a number of third-party sources name her as Gregorio’s last love.
1. John McCutcheon, the war correspondent that was with the American troops at Tirad Pass. In an article published by the Boston Evening Transcript, McCutcheon details that Gregorio del Pilar and Dolores Nable Jose were set to be married around mid-November. However, Aguinaldo’s order of a hasty retreat in early November caused the wedding to be postponed, and ultimately, to be canceled altogether. He also mentions the handkerchief found on Gregorio’s body to be embroidered with Dolores’ name, and that a number of the letters retrieved from his person were from her.
Despite being an American, there is good reason to believe in the authenticity of McCutcheon’s account. For one, McCutcheon knew del Pilar previously, having interviewed him multiple times throughout the war.
For another, he was with the soldiers that looted Gregorio’s body, and would have actually seen the spoils himself. He also released more articles that consistently named Dolores where she could be mentioned; had he been mistaken, he would have corrected himself in a later article, but the reports did not change.
2. Isaac Cruz Jr’s biography of Gregorio del Pilar, “General Gregorio H. Del Pilar: Idol of the Revolution”, includes statements from Tirad Pass survivors that he was able to interview before they passed on.
Lt. Jose Enriquez recounted that Major March showed them some of the General’s belongings in his possession, and asked explicitly for Dolores Nable Jose. Additionally, Captain Isidro Wenceslao mentioned that Dolores was in Gregorio’s thoughts during his last meeting with Aguinaldo.
Aside from being two of the only survivors from the Tirad Pass, both men were particularly close to the General. Jose Enriquez was the younger brother of Vicente and Anacleto Enriquez, who were del Pilar’s aide-de-camp and idol respectively. The children of both families were neighbours and childhood friends.
Meanwhile, Isidro Wenceslao was part of the famed Seven Musketeers of Pitpitan, the group of young men lead by Gregorio that initially joined Maestrong Sebio’s forces at Kakarong de Sili.
If anyone had been privy to the thoughts and feelings of Gregorio del Pilar, especially in matters so important to him as love, it would be these men.
3. “Nandaragupan : the story of a coastal city and Dagupan Bangus” names Dolores Nable Jose as the Dagupan belle that Gregorio del Pilar fell in love with during his stay in Pangasinan.
I find this source particularly striking as it also names Don Mariano’s Pantal property in particular as del Pilar’s base of operations, a detail that locals would most be privy to.
Not surprising, as the book was commissioned in part and published by the Dagupan City Heritage Commission, which sounds as best an expert on local history as any organization could be.
4. This point is more personal speculation based on the presented facts.
One of the biggest tells for me is that all sources consistently describe the handkerchief found on Gregorio’s corpse to be embroidered with Dolores Nable Jose’s name, not Remedios’.
If a man were riding off to his death, why would he desire such a personal souvenir from the younger sister of his lover, instead of his lover herself? Rather than looking for convoluted, conspiratorial reasons as to why he would be be in possession of Dolores’ handkerchief when his sweetheart is Remedios, perhaps the simplest explanation is the correct one—that he died carrying Dolores’ handkerchief because he was betrothed to Dolores.
Are these sources conclusive? No, not as much as hard evidence would be, such as DNA testing of the strands of hair found in the gold locket, or perhaps the discovery of a letter addressed to or from either of the daughters.
I am by no means a historian by profession (I took up Psychology in college, and my line of work so far has been geared more towards Human Resources), and my sources are limited to what an amateur can access. I would dearly love to be able to visit Dagupan someday, or even the National Library’s precious archives to see if any of the remaining letters there would provide solid proof, but until then, here is what I have been able to find.
I hope this article was able to provide some logical proof in favour of Dolores. Should anyone have any further information on the Nable Joses around the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, or have access to more conclusive evidence, please feel free to contact me here!
- Amparo Nable Jose v. Mariano Nable Jose (http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1916/dec1916/gr_l-7397_1916.html)
- History of Dagupan (http://www.dagupan.com/city/history1.htm) (http://www.dagupan.com/city/history2.htm)
- “An observer in the Philippines; or, Life in our new possessions” by John Devins (1905)
- Original Boston Evening Transcript (https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2249&dat=19010422&id=naY-AAAAIBAJ&sjid=nFkMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6350,2867544&hl=en)
- Official Government Electoral Almanac (http://malacanang.gov.ph/76776-electoral-almanac-ph/)
- “Feeding Manila in Peace and War, 1850-1945” by Daniel F. Doeppers (2016)
- “General Gregorio H. Del Pilar: Idol of the Revolution” by Isaac Cruz Jr. (1985)
- “Nandaragupan : the story of a coastal city and Dagupan Bangus” by Jesus Victor Vistro and Crispina Reyes (2005)