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The Tragedy Of Andres Bonifacio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

November 27, 2005

Isagani A. Cruz

Let me express these non-historian's thoughts about a patriot of our land whose birth anniversary we shall celebrate this coming Wednesday. It is an official holiday declared by law in his honor as Bonifacio Day.

Andres Bonifacio was the unknown indio who organized and led the Katipunan that was to ignite the Philippine Revolution of 1896 and ultimately free this country from Spanish rule after more than three centuries of oppression. That enslavement might have continued indefinitely (probably up to now, considering the tribulation we patiently endured during the ordeal of martial law), if he had not chosen to defy the alien tyrant in his impregnable citadel.

Bonifacio was not known as a civic leader and did not belong to the principalia of middle-class educated natives that included among its members Jose Rizal and other propagandists. He joined the Liga Filipina but was not prominently active in it. He was a private person with a secret dream and consuming passion: to form the Kataastaasan at Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng manga Anak ng Bayan. It was a task in which he excelled and succeeded as an efficient organizer and a dedicated plotter.

I think it was the historian Teodoro Agoncillo who disagreed with the popular notion that as between Bonifacio and Rizal, it was the former who was the realist and the latter the idealist. Agoncillo held the opposite view, with which I humbly concur.

Bonifacio was the idealist because he believed the Katipuneros would win despite their limited resources because they were fired by the spirit of liberty. Rizal, who was more practical, argued that an appeal to reason and justice was sharper than the Filipinos' rusted bolos against the Spanish artillery that he challenged with the Noli and the Fili.

Both of them, to their everlasting credit, died for their convictions. It is regrettable, though, that while Rizal's execution inspired the nation to great sacrifices in their fight for freedom, Bonifacio's death did not attract similar sentiments. He was killed in a secluded place away from the now hallowed field where Rizal was felled. And to deepen Bonifacio's tragedy, it created little interest among the people he had died to help make free.

It is a sad but unavoidable assessment that for all his achievements in forming the Katipunan that began with a small group of patriots until it swelled into an avenging nation, Bonifacio was less successful as a soldier on the field of battle. Let us note, but not derisively, that his military record was less than impressive, unlike that of the former school teacher from Kawit who became a better general.

Emilio Aguinaldo's skirmishes against the Spanish forces catapulted him to national prominence and potential leadership in the fight for independence. Soon people were comparing him with, and even against, the Supremo of the Katipunan. The man who shouted the historic Cry of Pugad Lawin on Aug. 26, 1896, was now facing a formidable rival for the leadership of the Revolution. Bonifacio was to lose that final fight.

To the military shortcomings of Bonifacio must be added his lack of political acumen. This was demonstrated when he agreed to go to Cavite for what turned out to be a showdown between him and Aguinaldo. Bonifacio might have proposed that the meeting be held in his native Manila, which was after all the capital of the country, or if this was impractical, at least a neutral place. Instead he willingly went to his rival's bailiwick, where his followers were outnumbered by Aguinaldo's comprovincianos.

Aguinaldo was elected president of the new government to replace the Katipunan, and Bonifacio, the erstwhile acknowledged leader of the Revolution, was demoted to a mere member of the Cabinet. Outwitted and outflanked, Bonifacio refused to recognize the election and angrily marched away with his followers. His defiance was considered treasonous by a special military tribunal that sentenced him to death.

Aguinaldo reportedly commuted the sentence but later restored the original penalty upon the advice, or pressure, of some generals. It was unceremoniously carried out on May 10, 1897, and Andres Bonifacio died, like Rizal and in his own words, "without seeing the dawn."

When the United States took over our country while our forebears were still savoring that elusive dawn, the new rulers had to choose for our national hero between Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. They opted for Rizal as the man of peace in preference to Bonifacio whose tempestuous nature might start another revolution, this time against them.

It was a wise choice for there is no denying the magnificent role Rizal played in the winning of our freedom. But his selection did not diminish the greatness of Andres Bonifacio, who stands equally tall with him among the heroes of our race.

The Supremo Lives
Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 21, 2005
Manuel L. Quezon III

FROM THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE TRIAL OF Andres Bonifacio (as translated by Virginia Palma-Bonifacio, 1963), we read:

"In the municipality of Maragondn on this 4th day of May, 1897, before the investigating officer appeared the person of Andrs Bonifacio, 33 years old, married and a native of Tondo, Manila, with occupation as President of the Revolution and head of the Katipunan. In the course of the investigation he was asked if he knew of the existence of a revolutionary government in this province to which he answered that he did not know...

"Asked whether he was in that meeting at Tejeros, [where] Emilio Aguinaldo had been elected President, he replied that because confusion reigned at the time, nothing resulted therefrom and the matters taken up were declared null and void, including the topics taken up by the Magdiwang ministers and the election of Artemio Ricarte as commander-in-chief of the Tagalog provinces, all of which resulted in proving that irregularities were committed and anything taken up did not express the will of the people; thus, he was not in a position to say that General Emilio Aguinaldo had been elected President of the whole archipelago.

"Asked whether Emilio Aguinaldo took his oath of office immediately after his election as President, he answered he did not know...

"The hearing was adjourned and after reading [the transcript] and informing him of his statement, the declarant signed it; the Secretary afterwards attested to its correctness."

When Bonifacio signed the transcript of his testimony, he wrote, under his name, "Maypagasa," his Katipunan nom de guerre. He was an idealist to the end.

Setting aside the power struggle which resulted in the downfall of the Supremo, and the question of the Supremo's qualification to be a hero (a useless debate, which is why I have stopped trying to rebut Father Nudas), the saddest thing about Bonifacio's last days is the behavior of the soldiers around him: their cruelty, their delight in humiliating people, their love of showing off their authority when no one could resist them (which was plain and simple cowardice).

After he left the Tejeros Convention, Bonifacio ended up with his supporters in Limbon, Indang, Cavite. Colonels Agapito Bonzon (nicknamed "Yntong"), Jose Ignacio Pawa and Felipe Topacio, the officers sent by the new government to arrest the Supremo, arrived there on April 27, 1897. They arrested him the next day. Here is the Supremo's testimony about his arrest taken from the transcript (the "declarant" is Bonifacio):

"[T]he men under Col. Yntong [Bonzon] fired five shots from Muaser guns but there were no return shots by the declarant's men. After a while, soldiers under the command of Col. Yntong approached the trenches and surrounded them, but the declarant in a loud voice ordered Maj. Benito Torres to relay it to their men not to fire at the approaching men, because they were shouting that they were our brothers and that their respective officers should first confer: when the declarant allowed them to come nearer, they aimed their guns on the soldiers inside the trenches, disarmed them and shouted loudly for the shameless Supremo who had robbed them of their money to come out [from the transcript: 'Ang ualang hiyang Supremo na magtatakao g aming salapi']. The declarant came out and embraced the soldiers and told them, 'Brothers, I have not committed any shameful acts nor have I taken your money from you.' The reply was a gunshot ordered by a thin man who was said to be a major, but the bullet missed him near the shoulder and instead hit in the breast a man in a brown shirt behind him. The declarant shouted at them, 'Look whom you are killing, brothers, they are your own countrymen!' Instead of heeding his appeal, they simultaneously fired at him and after he fell, an officer stabbed him in the throat."

Bonifacio added that "besides the acts committed, the soldiers confiscated his clothes and the little money he had saved for expenses; declarant further added that he saw Col. Yntong forcing his wife to go up to an uninhabited house with the intention of dishonoring her." (The act, said the Supremo, was frustrated by the intervention of others, but Yntong would try to rape Gregoria de Jesus again in Indang.)

Bonifacio's account shows his fellow revolutionaries acting the way Philippine Constabulary troops were said to have behaved during martial law: firing their guns without any justification, abusing women, beating up the people they arrested. Additional testimony by Bonifacio's brother, Procopio, is interesting:

"Question: Where was he arrested and why were there bloodstains on his clothes? He replied that he was arrested in the trenches of Limbon. The bloodstains came from the wound [on] his upper lip when a soldier hit him with the butt of his gun. He was surprised by the attack, and he did not fight back and immediately surrendered his firearms."

Worse than the Constabulary troops, the soldiers sent to apprehend Bonifacio hid behind a supposed grievance (they accused Bonifacio of pocketing soldiers' funds) instead of coming out with it and saying they were arresting him because of his refusal to recognize the new government.

We seem to have a streak of cruelty-combined with cowardice-running in our veins that shows itself the moment we're given a little power over others, especially if we're wearing a uniform or hold military rank.

Was this always part of our character as a people, or is this one of the sadder legacies of the Revolution?

Thinking Aloud Dead Ends Need Not Be Dead

Manila Times

November 29, 2005 Tuesday

Roberto Lazaro

SOMEWHERE in a lifetime, a person meets a dead end, short of death . . . maybe an obstacle to a day-to-day chore, maybe a career crisis, maybe a waterloo of some sort. How he faces the dead end and how he puts up with the challenge is a matter of his personal idiocomplex-his perceptions of reality, his perspectives of value, his priority and his potential to think critically, to decide and to act.

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Tomorrow is the 30th of November, the official day commemorating the birth anniversary of the Great Plebian Andres Bonifacio but was in stead celebrated yesterday (November 28) by directive of the President. Of course with all the official trimmings fit for a hero's commemoration day. Yesterday was therefore a nonworking day, extending the past weekend a daylonger. Back to work today and continue working tomorrow.

Bonifacio was the first Filipino revolutionary, who led the first Philippine revolution that was the first revolution waged in Asia against European colonial rule, and was the first to proclaim Philippine Independence on August 23, 1896. But in spite of the nationalistic fervor inspired in him by Jose Rizal, his paths were blocked by dead-ends. Losing to the stronger Spanish forces in dead ends after dead-ends, he took refuge in the Marikina mountains. When the revolution ended, he met the dead-end of his leadership over the movement when he lost to Emilio Aguinaldo in the election for President held in Tejeros, Cavite. His attempt to regain leadership struck back at him when he was accused of treason and sedition. He was found guilty and executed on May 10, 1897.

Today, the nation that he built on the foundation of nationalism is also meeting with dead-end after dead end, for better or for worse. For better when the dead-end of ugliness gives way to the beginning of better times. For worse when the dead end is the collapse of a noble cause.

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A GMA dead-end plot was in the offing when an exit plan was reportedly being readied by a Palace aide to be implemented in case a political crisis would force her to step down. Forcing a dead-end situation on the President with such exacting conditions stipulated in the plan is a very serious matter. But the alleged plan was vehemently denied by the Palace aide who referred to it as a form of intrigue, thus dosing the bombshell cold. Not a dead-end for the President after all.

The options given by the Charter panel on how President Arroyo may end her term make more sense. The proposed Charter change is not creating a dead-end on the President's term. It is designing a system where the end of the President's term is merely a consequence.

Many other attempts to slap a "dead-end verdict" on the President in the past had been made to no avail. Which does not however mean that some dead-end crisis is not approaching. It may not be in sight at the moment, but the possible threats may be real when probable cause is established. Would it be the President's wrongly spelled name on a batch of newly printed P100 bills sent mixed messages to the people? To the pessimistic opposition, it was an ominous sign of an impending disaster for the President; to the optimistic supporters it was a mere technical error that was not capable of creating or inviting bad karma. The majority of the people did not even know there was such an error, and nobody seemed to care. Not about the karma, nor about the coincidences of Arrovo with the Spanish robo (robbery) nor with the Japanese dorobo (thief) impliedly contained in the printing error as some kind of a mystic association with graft and corruption.

We create our own dead ends by circumstance or by design. By circumstance, we either participate actively in the creation of dead ends, adopting them to our convenience or gain. Or we participate passively by tolerating and going along with the creation of dead ends, and then sometimes complain about the consequences that hurt us. Or we assume an indifferent posture with an I-don't-care attitude, unconcerned about what is happening all over.

Dead ends are not always dead, and they need not be. They can be barriers or bridges to be crossed toward new openings, new challenges, new hopes. Even death is not a dead end, but a birth to some beautiful beginnings.

If there should be dead-ends in our country, we pray that they be the end of our political and socioeconomic pathologies both on the part of the administration and on that of the opposition groups. We are a splintered political structure of a multiparty system with no distinctive social foundations to stand on, all sharing common issues distinguished one from the others only in the volume and pitch of the competing voices that proclaim the platforms.

There is much more to be done than the bickering and our fragmented philosophies that make us a people ironically separated from one another by a common aspiration. The dead-end skirmishes and aspirations of Andres Bonifacio may not be a clear model for all, but they should certainly jolt us into the awareness of certain realities . . . that his death was not the death of his nationalistic aspirations.

Let the dead bury their dead, but let not dead ends be the death of our dreams as a nation. We must move on beyond dead ends.

Bonifacio: The Neglected Hero

Philippine Daily Inquirer

December 9, 2004

Marlon Ramos

DESPITE monuments built to depict his heroism and streets named after him, most Filipinos continue to give Andres Bonifacio, "The Great Plebeian," the cold shoulder.

Historian Ambeth Ocampo shared this sentiment during the Nov. 30 unveiling of a four-meter Bonifacio monument on the hillside of Mt. Nagpatong in Maragondon, Cavite, said to be the "official" execution site of the great revolutionary and his younger brother, Procopio.

The ceremony, led by Mayor Monte Andaman, was part of the nation's commemoration of the hero's 141st birth anniversary.

Sculptor Toym Imao crafted the bronze monument, which also features a wounded Procopio lying on Bonifacio's left. Interestingly, Imao's father took his name after the acronym TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men), as he was born the same time the elder Imao received a TOYM award.

Two panels of murals adorn the place.

Ocampo, chair of the National Historical Institute (NHI), said the majority of history books used in schools today presented several misconceptions about the life and times of Bonifacio. These were among the reasons no Bonifacio Shrine had been declared yet.

Mysteries surrounding the hero's death on May 10, 1897, have remained unexplained, Ocampo said. For one, he said, no one really knows exactly where the "Champion of the Working Class" was killed and buried. The country's historical archives do not have precise information about the matter, aside from the memoirs of Lazaro Makapagal.

Makapagal was ordered by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo to bring Bonifacio and Procopio to the execution grounds. Some history books used by high school students identified Mt. Buntis as the site where the two were shot by Aguinaldo's men, Ocampo said.

"Even now, no one can really tell where his remains are. The bones found here (in the early 1990s) are now gone after World War II. I, for one, refuse to believe the authenticity of the remains," Ocampo said.

The reported discovery of Bonifacio's bones was used as a political tool when then presidential candidate Manuel L. Quezon ran against Aguinaldo in the Commonwealth elections, he said.

Ocampo lamented that the centenary of Bonifacio's death in 1997 was treated with less fanfare than that of another national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, in 1996 and the Independence Day centennial.

As if to add salt to injury, this year's commemoration of Bonifacio Day was eclipsed by news about Typhoon "Winnie."

Long overdue

Imao said the Bonifacio Monument in Nagpatong, the tallest and largest so far, was put up to dispel myths about the "Father of the Philippine Revolution."

He said he wanted to portray Bonifacio as "a genius war tactician and an intellectual organizer."

"The image depicts Bonifacio not as the usual hot-headed, bolo-wielding revolutionary that many Filipinos think of him. I wanted to picture him as a bright and brave hero who knew how to use his brains and gun," he said.

For Georgina Reyes-Encanto, professor and former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communications, the monument was "long overdue."

Until the project started a year ago, the site had remained unnoticed. Graffiti scrawled all over the concrete marker were glaring indications of how the site was ignored.

"For years, Bonifacio's deeds have been neglected. This project is definitely long delayed," Encanto said.

She compared the rather deplorable state of national historical landmarks, such as her uncle's house where Aguinaldo's Katipunan faction tried Bonifacio for sedition in Maragondon, to how other countries preserve theirs as national treasures.

Encanto said she almost bought the house in the early 1990s after learning that its occupants nearly sold it to give way to a commercial establishment.

"So what we did was to help the family in their daily expenses just to avoid the sale of the trial house. It was really very saddening," she said.

She added: "In other countries, the government would spend millions just to save their historical landmarks."

Encanto said she was doing research for a book on Maragondon's history, which, she hoped, would give the youth a better grasp of the town's importance as "seat of revolution in Cavite."


Jeffrey Lubang, former curator of the trial house, blamed politics for the government's alleged negligence in preserving Bonifacio's records, especially his ties with Caviteos.

Some provincial officials and local officers of the Cavite Historical Society (CHS) still give weight to the politics behind Bonifacio's death and the stature of Aguinaldo, an Imus native, Lubang said.

"It's time to put all the politics behind and instead work for the protection of Bonifacio's memoirs," Lubang said.

Curiously, none of the invited Cavite officials and CHS officers attended the ceremony.

Where Are the Bones of Bonifacio?

Philippine Daily Inquirer

December 1, 2004

Ambeth R. Ocampo

YESTERDAY, I found myself on a hill known as Nagpatong in Maragondon, Cavite. It is "officially" the place where Andres Bonifacio and his brother Procopio were executed by a team led by Lazaro Makapagal on May 10, 1897. I put the word "officially" in quotation marks because personally I don't think anyone really knows where the brothers Bonifacio were killed and buried. As a matter of fact, I believe that the so-called Bonifacio bones dug up in 1952 in the area now marked by the Philippines Historical Committee are not those of Andres Bonifacio. These bones were brought to Manila with much fanfare but they have disappeared since. I am sure these bones would not have withstood closer scrutiny. That is another story detailed in my book "Bones of Contention" (Anvil, 2001).

When I first visited Nagpatong seven years ago, I traveled on foot from Maragondon passing through a rickety suspension bridge, two streams and largely uninhabited terrain. It was a desolate place. The historical marker had been vandalized, covered with graffiti (of the type that goes "Loloy loves Mary" and "Bawal omehe deto").

Today, a dirt road makes the place accessible to tourists in cars. There are some scattered houses now, as well as a visible military presence in the area that suggests Nice People Around. Through the efforts of Maragondon Mayor Monte A. Andaman this place may yet see some development. A huge tableau by Toym Imao is rising on the site, changing the landscape we hope, for the better.

This development will surely spark some historical controversy. Worn-out questions will resurface like: Who was responsible for the death of Bonifacio? Who should rightfully be our National Hero?

If the monument will inspire patriotism, then it is worth all the trouble. But if it simply becomes another excuse to divide, another way to indulge in historical sabong, then it has no place anywhere in the Philippines.

What will be overlooked again is that our textbooks do not agree on the site of the execution of the Bonifacio brothers. Some books, following tradition, say they were executed on Mt. Buntis; others, towing the official line, say Mt. Nagpatong. I have no clear answer except that they were buried somewhere in this mountain range.

When I asked people to point out Buntis to me yesterday, I got the same vague answer as seven years ago. Nobody seems to know anything specific. From Nagpatong where we stood, Buntis was just a mountain away separated by Naputok. This is not a joke. The traditional names of the hills or mountains on the Maragondon range are very suggestive: Nagpatong, Naputok, Buntis and Hulog.

Until the National Historical Institute corrects history, as it did recently when it moved the site of the beginning of the Filipino-American War on Feb. 4, 1899 from a bridge in San Juan to a spot in Sta. Mesa, then we are stuck with Nagpatong. For whatever it is worth, I reproduce excerpts from a letter of Fr. Lupo Dumandan published in Taliba on Jan. 12, 1918 narrating the finding of the alleged Bonifacio bones on Nagpatong:

"In the town of Maragondon, Cavite, in a place called Hulog, on the hacienda of Jose Reyes, on the libis of a hill called Nagpatong and under the shade of an alibangbang tree, I found the burial place of the Supremo...I asked the residents of the area of the cause of death of the Supremo of the Katipunan. Some said that before the Spanish soldiers entered the town of Maragondon the revolutionaries took the wounded Supremo to the site I have mentioned, where he was shot and buried...

"Many people saw the Supremo...being carried in a hammock by two men because he was wounded....According to the people, Bonifacio was wounded in a battle that happened between the revolutionary soldiers...due to the delicacy (kaselanan) of my present state and due to my being a Catholic priest, I should not get involved in politics and in this way I am announcing the discovery of the skeleton of Andres Bonifacio so that those encouraging love of country can see if they should be moved to a place that is more fitting."

We now have many monuments to Bonifacio (and street names, too) all over the Philippines, among the most significant being that in Caloocan by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino (in the junction now popularly known as Monumento). There is another in bronze by National Artist Napoleon Abueva in Balintawak (the older statue in plaster, the one with white shirt and red pants, is now in front of Vinzon's Hall in UP Diliman). Part of the mural by National Artist Carlos V. Francisco in Manila City Hall has Bonifacio leading his men to battle. There is also a sole figure of Bonifacio standing in front of the Manila Post Office, now the Liwasang Bonifacio, also by Guillermo Tolentino, and a rather tacky but striking three-dimensional tableau on Mehan Garden by the prolific Eduardo Castrillo who is sometimes mislabeled as a "National Artist." It is the Castrillo piece that spawned the one in Maragondon by Imao.

There will be more monuments to follow, and it is unfortunate that the remains of the Bonifacio brothers have not been found and given a proper burial. Till that day comes, let's hope historians and forensic doctors can piece together what happened to the Bonifacio brothers and why this happened.

Bonifacio & our changing notion of 'hero'

Opinion & Editorial Manila Bulletin

November 29, 2004

Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

TOMORROW, the nation observes Bonifacio Day. The Filipino masses still look up to the man as their own personal hero because he came from their rank of the masa. Bonifacio is admired for the sacrifices he made to effect a positive change in the life of the average Filipino during his time, no matter how radical they may be.

Andres Bonifacio was born on November 30, 1863, in a nipa hut in Tondo, Manila, across the street from the Tutuban grand railway station. Andres learned his three Rs from a school run by a Cebuano teacher. But he finished only the primary grades. Orphaned at age 14, he had to look after his siblingsthree brothers and two sisters.

* * *

To support them, Andres made canes and paper fans and sold them in the streets. Because of his excellent penmanship, he also made posters for small commercial establishments. To augment his meager income, he sought employment and was hired first as messenger clerk with a British firm. He later transferred to another British company where he became a sales agent.

Andres married a neighbor named Monica who died after just over a year of their marriage.

* * *

Bonifacio may not have been highly educated, but he was a learned man through self-study and reading of books. Among the books found in his possession after his tragic death on May 10, 1897, were Rizals two novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, books on international law, the lives of US presidents, a book on the French Revolution, and many more.

With no hope in sight on how to end the unabated sufferings of the common people at the hands of the abusive colonial rulers and the clergy through peaceful means, Bonifacio opted for a radical solution.

* * *

In a complete departure from the aims of reformists like Rizal, Bonifacio trained his sights to fight for Philippine independence and complete freedom from Spanish sovereignty through armed struggle. Thus was born the Katipunan, the secret revolutionary brotherhood.

But like any other political or social organization, factionalism in the Katipunan reared its ugly head soon enough.

* * *

Differences occurred between Bonifacios (Magdiwang) and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldos (Magdalo) factions, with the latter eventually gaining the upper hand. These deadly differences have been blamed for Bonifacios assassination, together with his brother Procopio, on May 10, 1897, on the slopes of Mount Buntis in Maragondon, Cavite.

What is so ironical is that Bonifacio died at the hands of his compatriots from within the organization which he himself led.

* * *

What we can learn from Bonifacios assassination is that unwarranted rivalries aggravated by personal and regionalist considerations can lead to dire consequences.

To be sure, Bonifacio served his country without counting the cost, and in a manner he sacrificed so much even to the point of shedding his blood.

Today it seems, however, that our notion of "hero" is changing. For instance, compatriots who are taken hostages are regarded by many as heroes. When they are released and brought home, they are treated to a "heros welcome" and given all sorts of rewards and tributes.

Are they the real heroes or rather the people who worked behind the scene and sacrificed for their release?


Philippine Daily Inquirer

November 29, 2004

A MURAL will mark the spot near where national hero Andres Bonifacio was killed 107 years ago.

The National Historical Institute (NHI) and the municipal government of Maragondon, Cavite, will lead the rites unveiling the Gat Andres Bonifacio Mural and marking the national hero's 141st birth anniversary on Nov. 30 at Ecology Park, Mt. Nagpatong, Maragondon.

The mural is a bio-drama of Bonifacio's life, trial and death by sculptor Toym Imao.

Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan, was tried with his brother Procopio by a court-martial in a house in Maragondon which was restored and declared a national historical landmark by the NHI. He was shot to death on May 10, 1897, on Mt. Nagpatong.

A Mass will be said at 8 a.m. to be followed by the blessing of the mural led by NHI chair Ambeth R. Ocampo representing President Macapagal-Arroyo.

Andres Bonifacio: The Katipunan Supremo;

Metro & National News Manila Bulletin

November 27, 2004

Ellalyn B. De Vera

One hundred forty-one years earlier, on November 30, 1863, was born a baby boy named Andres. Santiago Bonifacio and Catalina de Castro named him Andres after St. Andrew the apostle whose feast day falls on the same date.

On Tuesday, November 30 is celebrated in memory and honor of Andres Bonifacio, the Father of the Katipunan. The date was declared a legal holiday by virtue of Republic Act No. 2946 approved on February 16, 1921.

Anyone who knows Philippine history will understand why Bonifacio is remembered on his birthday, November 30, rather than the date of his death, May 10, 1897. Unlike Rizal who was executed by the enemy, and other heroes who died in battle, fellow Filipinos executed Bonifacio.

The Katipunan Supremo

A difficult childhood gave Andres Bonifacio the strength to face all odds with great courage and determination. He was the eldest of six children of Catalina de Castro and Santiago Bonifacio.

At the age of 14, Andres was orphaned and had to assume the task of caring for his younger brothers and sisters. To do this, he had to quit school and look for ways of supporting his family.

Together with his siblings, they made rattan canes and colorful fans from Japanese paper. To educate himself, he bought a few good books and read them avidly deep into the night under the flicker of the lamp. Bonifacio read the novels of Rizal and Dumas; he also read about international law and French Revolution. In later years, he too began to write about what the Filipino should know to appreciate the desire and the need to be free.

During his late teens, Andres was able to work as a clerk, then as a sales agent. Later on, he became a warehouseman in Tondo.

When Rizal was arrested in 1892, Bonifacio realized that Spain would never grant the requested reforms. So, on the night of July 7, 1892, Bonifacio, Valentine Diaz, Deodato Arellano (brother in-law of Marcelo H. del Pilar), Teodoro Plata (Andres brother in-law), Ladislao Diwa, and a few others secretly met in a house along Azcarraga Street (now Claro M. Recto Street) near Candelaria Street (now Elcano Street).

On that night, the Katipunan was formed. The members formalized their membership by signing the pact with their own blood.

In 1895, Bonifacio became the Supremo, or leader.

The Cry of Balintawak

The news of the discovery of the Katipunan spread throughout Manila and the suburbs. That same night of August 19, Bonifacio, accompanied by his brother Procopio, Emilio Jacinto, Teodoro Plata, and Aguedo del Rosario, slipped through the cordon of Spanish sentries and reached Balintawak before midnight. Pio Valenzuela followed them the next day.

On August 21st, Bonifacio changed the Katipunan code because the Spanish authorities had already deciphered it. In the afternoon of the same day, the rebels, numbering about 500, left Balintawak for Kangkong, where Apolonio Samson, a Katipunero, gave them food and shelter.

In the afternoon of August 22, they proceeded to Pugad Lawin.

The following day, on August 23, 1896, in the yard of Juan A. Ramos, the son of Melchora Aquino who was later called the "Mother of the Katipunan.The Spaniards had gotten hint of the Katipunan and deciphered its secret codes. The katipuneros are now fugitives and in great danger. Bonifacio asked his men whether they were prepared to fight to the bitter end. Despite the objection of his brother-in-law, Teodoro Plata, all assembled agreed to fight to the last. "That being the case, Bonifacio said, "bring out your cedulas and tear them to pieces to symbolize our determination to take up arms! The katipuneros tore up their cedulas and shouted, "Long live the Philippines!

Bonifacio, informed of the discovery, secretly instructed his messengers to summon all the leaders of the Katipunan to a general assembly to be held on August 24. They were to meet in Balintawak to discuss the steps to be taken to meet the crisis.

Bonifacios life as a militant katipunero ended on Mount Hulog, a mountain in Maragondon, Cavite. Bonifacio and his younger brother Procopio were accused by the Spaniards of rebellion and were sentenced to die.

On May 10, 1897, Mariano Noriel handed a sealed envelope to Lazaro Makapagal and instructed him to take the two Bonifacio brothers to Mount Taal. For once, Bonifacio requested Makapagal to open the envelope. In it was the order to execute both brothers. Makapagal had no recourse but to follow the command, for fear that he be punished severely. In doing so, he executed the Filipino who spearheaded the Philippine Revolution against Spain.

The Bonifacio Monument: The Cornerstone of Greatness

After what seemed to be hours of traveling through EDSA, one may catch a glimpse of a tall shaft of grayish concrete in Caloocan City, cornered by a throng of automobiles puffing toxic gases and appeared diminutive by tall, dusty buildings on all corners.

The first structure to have been identified as the Bonifacio monument was made by the sculptor Ramon Martinez sometime after 1905.

The Grito de Balintawak, the first sculpture in the country to be done in reinforced concrete, featured a solitary figure with outstretched hands, in an apparent call to arms, summoning the people to revolt. In the figures left hand is a Katipunan flag, in the right, a revolver. While the figure is not actually Bonifacio but a nameless Katipunero, onlookers associated the figure with the fallen Supremo. From then on it was referred to as the Bonifacio Monument.

In 1968, the Grito was transferred to its present site in front of Vinzons Hall in UP Diliman, with layer upon layer of paint covering the crumbling figure.

In 1930, a competition was held for a monument to be built in honor of Bonifacio. Entries poured in, with the artists using aliases. The design by Guillermo E. Tolentino, even then a renowned sculptor, emerged as the judges choice.

In 1933, Tolentinos masterpiece was unveiled to the public. The monument was heralded by some as the first public statue of note by a Filipino sculptor, and is regarded as the apex of Guillermo Tolentinos artistic career. The monument survived the war unscathed and stands as proudly today as it did seven decades ago.

The multi-figured sculpture in the area everyone calls Monumento features a 45-meter pylon or obelisk topped by a winged figure of Victory. The pylon is composed of five parts corresponding to the five aspects of the society Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Venerable Association of the Sons of the Nation). At the pylons base is an octagonal obelisk symbolizing the eight provinces to rise against Spain. Surrounding the shaft are 23 figures in darkened bronze, depicting scenes of injustice, suffering, and resistance.

At the fore is the Supremo, sporting a barong Tagalog, holding a bolo in his right hand and a revolver in the other. He is dignified yet defiant in his stance, in contrast with the emotional tone of the figures on both sides. Immediately behind him stands Emilio Jacinto, the brains of the revolution, and another Katipunero waving the societys flag.

The Bonifacio Monument is more appropriately described as a montage rather than a straightforward representation of a single event. Movement is towards the onlooker, with the bodies of the figures thrust forward. The figures are arranged symmetrically, as in a dance.

Flanking the triad are two bolo-holding Katipuneros: The one on the left with arm thrust forward, the other flung backwards. These figures embody the spirit of the Cry of Pugad Lawin, which are both a call to arms and the answer to such a call. Beside are an old man, clenched fist upraised, and his other arm supporting the limp body of a woman which compositionally, is the echo of the fallen man on the right.

Other figures complete the ring of the shrine, each group representing an important event leading to the Philippine Revolution. Opposite the Supremos figure are those of the three martyred priestsGomez, Burgos, and Zamora hooded, in their final moments at the garrote.

As Napoleon Abueva, a student of Tolentino in UP says, "the tragic related events and corresponding feeling of desolation, of hopelessness that Tolentinos figures evoke, contrasted by the stance of soaring confidence and hope in Bonifacios expressive gesture, together with the defiant bolo-wielding compatriots, provide a reassuring promise of eventual success at all costs-reminding us of an old saw which goes this way: "Great was the sacrifice and great was their reward."

For the Filipinos, the monument is a fitting tribute to the man to whom we owe our freedom.

The Sculptor

Guillermo Estrella Tolentino is a product of the Revival period in Philippine art. Returning from Europe (where he was enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Rome) in 1925, he was appointed as professor at the UP School of Fine Arts where the idea also of executing a monument for national heroes struck him. The result was the UP Oblation that became the symbol of freedom at the campus. Acknowledged as his masterpiece and completed in 1933, The Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan stands as an enduring symbol of the Filipinos cry for freedom.

Guillermo E. Tolentino was barely past his sixth year when Bonifacio moved the Katipunan to Pugad Lawin at Caloocan.

In making the monument, he described his procedure as; "Before I formed a definite picture in my imagination of a national monument to Andres Bonifacio, I first devoted a great portion of my time to reading books, historical documents, works of men like General Ricarte - all pertaining to the Katipuneros and the revolution. I did not like my conception to be a misinterpretation of the facts and happenings related to the revolution particularly to the man who uttered the first Cry."

"In addition to my research, I approached Mrs. Espiridiona Bonifacio for more personal and first-hand enlightenment. Then I began to formulate designs. I did not right away decide on one particular model. I first made five little monuments all symbolizing the coming of a leader to lead in the fight of an oppressed common mass. I then made myself the jurado (judge) and from my five diminutive creations, I selected one after long and careful reasoning and deliberation."

Other works of Tolentino include the bronze figures of President Quezon at Quezon Memorial, life-size busts of Jose Rizal at UP and UE, marble statue of Ramon Magsaysay in GSIS Building; granolithics of heroic statues representing education, medicine, forestry, veterinary science, fine arts and music at UP.

He also designed the gold and bronze medals for the Ramon Magsaysay Award and did the seal of the Republic of the Philippines. (With reports from the National Historical Institute)

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