ANDRES C. BONIFACIO
Great Plebian and Patriot
On November 30, 1863, the first child of a poor couple, a tailor, and a homemaker, who would end up a hero in history, was born and named Andres. Santiago Bonifacio and Catalina de Castro had him christened at the parish church of Tondo by Father Saturnino Buntan.
Andres Bonifacio had little education because of poverty that became worse when his parents died. Because of these circumstances, Andres learned to be responsible of his siblings at his young age. He sold canes and paper fans and did other odd jobs to meet their needs. The Fleming and Company, a British commercial firm, employed him as its clerk and messenger. He was later promoted as agent to sell the company’s products. Later, he transferred to the German owned Fressel and Company.
While he was busy earning for a living, he took time to augment his knowledge by reading books and other literatures. He had read Rizal’s Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, the reformists’ La Solidaridad and many other foreign books, either historical or revolutionary in nature that have Spanish translations, and even the Holy Bible. It was through his readings that the fire of patriotism in his heart was awakened. By self-study and by joining the theatrical plays or moro-moro, he improved his Tagalog, the language that he later used in his campaign for a revolution.
Andres married twice. First to Monica, his neighbor in Tondo, who died of leprosy a year after their marriage; and second to Gregoria de Jesus from Caloocan. He married Gregoria in 1893 at the Binondo Church with Restituto Javier and his wife, Benita Rodriguez, as sponsors. Javier was Bonifacio’s friend and co-worker at the Fressel & Co., and later became his comrade-in-arms in the revolution. He and Gregoria later remarried in the Katipunan. They had a son, who died in 1896.
Exposed to the injustices committed by the Spanish authorities, acquainted with people who were equally liberal-minded, a Mason and a voracious reader of pro-revolution books, Bonifacio was challenged. He formed the Katipunan or KKK, short for Kataastaasang Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, together with Ladislaw Diwa and Teodoro Plata, who were his board mates in a house on Sagunto Street (now Santo Cristo Street) at the house of Deodato Arellano in Tondo on July 7, 1892. Diwa was a Law student at the University of Santo Tomas and Plata was an employee in Binondo.
Added to the trio were Deodato Arellano and Valentin Diaz. All of them intensified campaign and recruitment activities for the Katipunan. Before long, many joined the organization that spread to the nearby provinces and existed like a government with its set of “cabinet” members chosen by election. Bonifacio was the third to become its president after Deodato Arellano and Roman Basa served their terms briefly. Bonifacio, having Emilio Jacinto as Secretary and trusted adviser, directed the affairs of the Katipunan. On April 12, 1895, Bonifacio led his men to the mountains of San Mateo and Montalban where they found the caves of Makarok and Pamitinan useful for purposes of the Katipunan. In Pamitinan, Bonifacio inscribed on its walls: Long Live Philippine Independence.
Having a high reverence for Rizal who was already living in exile in Dapitan, Bonifacio dispatched Dr. Pio Valenzuela to seek Rizal’s support for the planned revolution. Rizal, however, advised the Katipunan to be financially and militarily equipped before carrying out a revolution. Undaunted by Rizal’s cold response, Bonifacio tried to seek support from the Japanese. He conferred with Japanese Admiral Kanimura but the latter did not want to commit his country to the revolution. Nevertheless, Bonifacio continued to build the Katipuneros, mostly peasants and ordinary employees in the colonial government.
On August 19, 1896, Father Mariano Gil, parish priest of Tondo, discovered the Katipunan and immediately alarmed the government. Consequently, suspected members were arrested and Bonifacio
was left with no choice. He declared the revolution on August 23 that same year in Pugad Lawin at the house of Juan Ramos, son of Tandang Sora. There, the Katipuneros tore their cedulas and cried “Long Live the Katipunan! Long Live Philippine Independence!” Seven days later, they attacked the Spanish garrison in San Juan. They were easily drove out but the event ignited the simultaneous uprising of the freedom fighters, rallied around the red banner of the Katipunan, from neighboring provinces of Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac. Governor-General Ramon Blanco declared these provinces under martial on the same day of the uprising, August 30.
As the revolution gained momentum, internal problems within the Katipuneros in Cavite, divided into two factions – the Magdiwang, led by Bonifacio’s associate Mariano Alvarez, and Magdalo led by Baldomero Aguinaldo, General Miong’s brother. Both factions believed that their question of leadership and the effectiveness of the Katipunan as governing body of the revolution could only be resolved by the Supremo. Since the rival factions reached no agreement during the meeting in Imus on December 31, 1896, they decided to hold another meeting in Tejeros that would take place on March 22 of 1897. What appeared to be simple issues that need to be resolved would later turn out tragic.
At the Tejeros convention, the Katipunan was finally replaced into a republic government and election of officers followed. In the election, Emilio Aguinaldo emerged as president and Bonifacio the Director of the Interior. However, Daniel Tirona questioned Bonifacio’s capacity to handle the position, as he was not a lawyer. Insulted, the Supremo threatened to shoot Tirona but cooler heads intervened. Believing that anomalies took place in favor of the Magdalo people during the election, Bonifacio declared the election invalid. General Artemio Ricarte who won as Captain General agreed and did not take his oath of office.
On March 23, the day after the election, Bonifacio’s party drew up the Acta de Tejeros document, stating their reasons for not accepting the results of the election and plans to separate from the government made at Tejeros. Because of this, General Emilio Aguinaldo, who was acting on his capacity as president of the days old government, ordered Colonel Agapito Bonzon to arrest the Supremo.
Bonifacio, his wife, his brothers Ciriaco and Procopio, and his men were overtaken in the barrio of Limbon, Indang. At the skirmish, Bonifacio was stabbed in the larynx, Ciriaco was killed, and Procopio wounded. From April 29 to May 4, the Council of War formed by Emilio Aguinaldo tried Bonifacio and his brother and found them guilty of treason and sedition punishable by death. Aguinaldo had commuted this decision of the War Council to banishment but on the pretext that the Supremo could continue to disrupt the unity of the revolutionary forces, the original sentence was carried out. On May 10, Bonifacio and his brother were brought up to Mount Nagpatong where they were killed and buried in a shallow grave by Major Lazaro Makapagal, whom General Mariano Noriel ordered to deliver the execution.
Many years later, on February 16, 1921, the Philippine Government signed Act No. 2946 declaring November 30 of every year as legal holiday. On November 30, nine years after, the cornerstone of his monument in Grace Park, Caloocan was laid. Many schools and streets have been named after him.
Agoncillo, Teodoro A. History of the Filipino People 8th Ed. Quezon City: Garotech, 1990.
Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History. Manila: Verde Bookstore, 1970.