GREGORIA F. DE JESUS
Lakambini ng Katipunan
A brave and patriotic woman who played a heroic role in the Philippine Revolution, Gregoria de Jesus was born in Caloocan, on May 9, 1875, one of the four children (two boys and two girls) of Nicolas de Jesus and Baltazara Alvarez Francisco. Her father was a native of Caloocan, a master mason and carpenter by profession who had been teniente del barrio and later gobernadorcillo (municipal mayor) of the town, and her mother, a native of Noveleta, Cavite, was a niece of General Mariano Alvarez, a plain housewife.
She attended the local public elementary school and finished the first grades of instruction. Although she was the recipient of a silver medal in recognition of her being the winner of an examination given by the Governor General and the town curate, she stopped schooling to help support her family and her two brothers Arcadio and Ariston who were studying in Manila. She relates in her Autobiography: “I decided to stop studying and to join my sister in looking after my family interests. Often I had to go out in the country to supervise the planting and harvesting of our rice, to see our tenants and laborers, or to pay them their wages on Sundays. Also now and then, I did some sewing and weaving and assisted my mother in her housework.”
Oriang, as she was fondly called, grew up to be a beautiful maiden. Many young men called at their house, and one among them was Andres Bonifacio, who came in the company of Ladislao Diwa and her cousin Teodoro Plata. Bonifacio wooed her with his characteristic boldness and persistency.
Out of respect to her parents, who are against Bonifacio for the reason of him being a freemason, they even tried to keep her away from Bonifacio by transferring her to an accessoria (apartment) in Binondo. Oriang who was eighteen years of age, was canonically married to Bonifacio (29 years of age) in the Catholic Church of Binondo in March, 1893, with Mr. & Mrs. Restituto Javier as wedding sponsors. A week later they were married again under Katipunan rites in the house of their sponsors, after which Oriang was initiated as member of the Katipunan. She took the symbolic name Lakambini which means “princess.” She was the first Filipino woman to join the Katipunan.
They stayed about one week in Mr. Restituto Javier’s house and decided to look for a residence of their own. They found one on Calle Anyahan in front of the San Ignacio Chapel and after that she began to do all she could for the propagation of the Katipunan (recruiting of new members). The dangerous work of keeping the secret papers of the society was entrusted to her. It was here that Emilio Jacinto assembled the printing press of the Katipunan.
Oriang and her ninang, Benita Rodriguez y Javier, made the first flag of the Katipunan.
In her Autobiography, she recounts: “Many times on receiving some warning that the house would be searched by the Veterana police, regardless of the hour, I would immediately gather all the papers, the arms, and the seal and ordered a vehicle whose windows could be kept closed and abandoning my meals, for quite often this happened at noon or eight o’clock at night, I would go driving until midnight along the bay of Tondo and the streets of Binondo in order to save our countrymen from anger.”
After more than a year, Oriang gave birth to a baby boy in her parent’s house in Caloocan and christened him with his father’s name. Dr. Pio Valenzuela acted as the boy’s godfather at baptism. After two months the couple returned to Manila and before the year’s end, they were among the victims of the fire that razed Dulong bayan. Another sad event that overtook them was the death of their child, a victim of small-pox, at home of Dr. Valenzuela on Calle Lavezares, Binondo, Manila.
When the Katipunan was finally discovered, Gregoria had to go into hiding with Bonifacio. They fled from the city and went to Balintawak. Later on, they went to the mountains. They traveled at night with assumed names. Gregoria used the name Manuela Gonzaga.
Later, she joined her husband, who was fighting into the mountains and shared with him the hardship and the sacrifices of a patriot’s life. In her autobiography, she relates: “I have no fear of facing danger, impelled as I was then by no other desire than to see unfurled the flag of an independent Philippines. I was considered a soldier, a true one. I learned how to ride on horseback, to shoot with a riffle, and to manipulate other weapons. I have known what it is to sleep on the ground, without tasting food for the whole day, to drink water from mud-holes or the sap of vines which though bitter, tasted delicious because of my intense thirst.
It was in San Francisco del Monte that Gregoria and Bonifacio saw each other again. One night he was forced to leave Manila for Balara. Here Oriang stayed, while Bonifacio with his men went to Marikina. The couple’s next meeting was in Naik, Cavite; not long afterwards Bonifacio was tried and found guilty of treason and sedition and ordered executed.
Following the death of Bonifacio on May 10, 1897, Oriang who was then a young and pretty widow, age 22, lived in the mountains of Pasig with other refugees. Here she met Julio Nakpil, former secretary of Bonifacio and commander of the Katipunan forces that fought in Montalban and San Mateo, Rizal, A talented musician and composer. They fell in love with each other and were married at Quiapo Church in Manila on December 10, 1898. The newly wed lived in the house of Dr. Ariston Bautista in Quiapo with the family of Julio. During that time, Oriang being in nature artistic carved wooden bases for holy images like Virgen de la Paz and hand-hammered kitchen utensils.
She lived happily in Manila. On March 15, 1943, Oriang, the Lakambini of the Katipunan, died of heart disease in the house of Dr.Ariston Bautista in Quiapo, at the age of 68. At that time the Philippines was then agonizing beneath the yoke of Japanese occupation so that her passing was unheralded and unpublicized.
In her Autobiography, she gave good advices in the form of a Decalogue to the Filipino youth, as follows:
1. Respect and love your parents, because on earth they are second to God.
2. Always remember the sacred teachings of the heroes who died for love of country.
3. Do not squander time so that you can show good example to others.
4. Pursue diligently any chosen profession to be of service to the country.
5. Remember that virtue is wealth.
6. Respect the teachers who educate you, because if you are indebted to your parents for birth, you are likewise indebted to your teachers for your enlightenment.
7. Rescue the oppressed from danger.
8. Fear history, for no secret can be hidden from it.
9. By avoiding evil, you will attain greatness.
10. Work hard for the unions of all men and for the welfare of the country so as not to so hinder the march of liberty.
Ancheta, Herminia M. and Ricardo C. Galang. Our Great Women Manila: R.P. Garcia Publishing, 1948.
Hilario-Soriano, Rafaelita, Ed. Women in the Philippine Revolution. Quezon City: Printon Press, c1995.
Quirino, Carlos. Who’s Who in Philippine History. Manila : Tahanan Books, 1995.
Varias, -de Guzman, Jovita, Ed. Women of Distinction: Biographical Essay on Outstanding Filipino Women of the Past and the Present. Philippines : Bukang Liwayway, 1967.