Paula's story is one of defiance. Left with the responsibility of burying the dead during the pestilence of 1890, she refused to accede to burial rules that meant paying the cura parroco of Tiaong an obscene amount of money. Ordered arrested by the friar, she is taken by four Guardia Civiles and is forced to walk 30 kilometers across four Tayabas Province towns, from Candelaria to Tayabas, elbows tied behind her back.
In Calamba at this same historical juncture, Jose Rizal's mother Teodora Alonzo was arrested on false charges and made to walk the same distance across five Laguna towns from Calamba to Sta. Cruz.
"Paula's son Isidro was 30 years old in 1891; Paula must have been close to, if not yet, 50. Luckily for Paula, her son had worked as a notary; he knew how to craft a complaint in proper Spanish and had a sound grasp of laws and procedures. He had no illusions about getting justice for his mother, there was no way that a court would find against a friar in favor of an indio. . . And then, again, it was 1891, run-up to the revolution, a time of growing resistance to friar rule. Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere hadbeen out for four years and which Isidro must have already read. He knew how the system worked, he was not beyond playing politics, mounting a counter-offensive; he and his wife Juliana had connections."
Isidro went incognito, traveling across Sariaya and Tiaong, to Dolores and the foot of Mt. Banahaw, to Manila, and back. Within Quezon he traveled on foot, taking only a boat to Manila, always looking like the poor peasant the colonizers wouldn't suspect, the illiterate indio who did not understand a word of Spanish. Traveling under the radar, quietly gathering information against the cura parroco, was a crucial part of Isidro's plan.
This is the story of this son's fight for his mother's freedom. It begins, and ends, with the story of one Paula Cerrada Herrera's defiance.