It was Gregoria de Jesus, Andre Bonifacio’s wife, who warned, “Beware of history, for no secret can be hidden from her.” As we celebrate the 151st birth anniversary of one of the most prominent figures in Philippine history, it is only proper that we sift through the “facts” presented to us and determine the grain of truth behind each of them. Andres Bonifacio’s legacy, though recognized, is still full of grey areas due to remnants of black propaganda during the revolution. These efforts to discredit him has spread like wildfire and has made its way to our history books, which led to many myths, misconceptions and untold stories about the Supremo.
He was once a victim of treason planned by people right inside his brotherhood (*cough* Emilio Aguinaldo *cough*). Let us not betray him once again by remaining ignorant of the truth behind the life of this great man.
8. Bonifacio worked as a “lowly factory worker” when he and his siblings became orphans at a young age.
This reads like a perfect plot for a telenovela. The overdramatizing of his life led many of us to paint this singular image of Bonifacio in our minds– suited in camisa de chino, red scarf tied around the neck, black trousers – and prompted us to think that he was a simple factory worker during his time. However, Bonifacio held a variety of office jobs. He worked as broker and agent for multinational companies. He was also known to have good penmanship, which helped him get a poster-making job for different companies. In today’s standards, whether Bonifacio likes it or not, he would be categorized as a “yuppie” or young professional.
7. Bonifacio was an indio and came from a poor family.
Many people easily and mistakenly categorize Bonifacio as an indio probably because of his affinity with the struggles of the masses. Bonifacio wasn’t really an indio but more a Spanish mestizo. What most don’t know is that his mother, Catalina de Castro, a native of Zambales, was a mestiza born of a Spanish father and a Filipino-Chinese mother. She worked as a supervisor in a cigarette factory. His father, Santiago, was a tailor, a boatman and a local politician who served as Tondo’s teniente mayor. From these, one can deduce that Bonifacio came from a middle-class working family.
6. Bonifacio was “almost illiterate” as written by historian Teodoro Agoncillo in his book “The Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan.”
Agoncillo even wrote that Bonifacio “barely finished the equivalent of today’s grade four.” This belittling of Bonifacio’s intellectual capacity is nothing new. In fact, Daniel Tirona, one of the leaders of the Magdalo group and close associate of Aguinaldo, claimed that the Supremo had no academic credentials in order to besmirch the hero’s reputation during the Tejeros Convention. But Bonifacio wasn’t anywhere near as ignorant as this claim was. Since his father was a well-paid tailor, he had the means to hire Andres a private tutor. He was well-read and devoured almost any book he could get his hands on – books about French revolution, law, medicine and novels like “The Wandering Jew,” “Les Miserables,” and Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.” He was often seen eating lunch while reading. Also, how could someone “almost illiterate” write Dekalogo (Katipunan’s teachings), “Ang Dapat Mabatid ng mga Tagalog,” and the compelling and touching poem “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa”?
5. Bonifacio was a poor leader who often lost the battles he led.
There have been many criticisms about Bonifacio’s inability to win battles on the field. Many have also accused him of being a poor military leader. What they failed to see was the kind of war strategy that Bonifacio utilized during the revolution. He used strategies mostly based on indigenous tactics that made use of resources found in his surroundings. He used the mountains and natural land formations to create reales – camps made in towns on higher ground or with natural covers. Many historians have even described him as a “military strategist specializing in guerrilla warfare.” His tactics could be likened to what the NPA and MILF in their armed struggle in the countryside.
4. Bonifacio was already a 30-year old widower when he met Gregoria de Jesus, his second wife.
Oryang, the woman who would later be known in history as Lakambini, was not Bonifacio’s first wife. That distinction goes to a lady named Monica, his neighbor in Palomar, Bacoor. They were married in 1880 and were together for ten years until Monica died of leprosy in 1890. Sadly, there are no other details about the first Mrs. Bonifacio except for these.
3. We only have one known photograph of Bonifacio. ONE.
For a man of his importance in our history, it is hard to take that we only have one existing photo of him. Plus, the details surrounding this photo aren’t even clear. The photo was dated 1896 from Chofre y Cia, a prominent printing press that time. It is currently in Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain, and was believed by some to be taken during his second wedding to Gregoria de Jesus (the first was in Binondo church and the second was a secret Katipunan ceremonial wedding).
2. Bonifacio wasn’t shot to his death. He was hacked by a bolo.
Bonifacio’s execution, ordered by Emilio Aguinaldo, is among the most controversial in our history. Was he really shot to death by Lazaro Makapagal and his men, or was he hacked by bolo? In Makapagal’s account, Procopio was shot first and then Andres made a run into the woods when his request to be set free was denied. The soldiers caught up with him, shot him near a stream, and then buried his body in a shallow hole. What one must remember that before Andres and his brother, Procopio, were taken to Mount Tala in Maragondon, the Supremo already sustained multiple injuries – a gunshot wound in his left arm and stab wound in the neck. In fact, he had to be carried to the mountains in a hammock because he was extremely weak. How could a man suffering from multiple wounds suddenly run to escape? This is where the alternate version of his death comes in. One of Makapagal’s own men told a Katipunero that Andres was hacked several times with a bolo while lying helplessly in a hammock. This account was supported by the story of a farmer who said that he saw five men hacking a man in a hammock.
1. The grand debate: Andres Bonifacio as the Philippines’ first president.
It is important that history books, especially the ones used in schools, mention the existing debate regarding Andres Bonifacio’s legitimacy to be recognized as the country’s first president. Many of Bonifacio’s supporters have come forward with a flurry of evidence that establishes Bonifacio’s rightful place in our history. Historians contend that when Haring Bayang Katagalugan was established, it is the Supremo, not Aguinaldo, who is the country’s first president. There are letters and appointment papers that confirmed his leadership. When the revolution broke out, Katipunan stopped being a secret society and started functioning as a revolutionary government out in the open. He established the Katipunan as the national government that had its own set of law, structure and leadership with him at its helm. In fact, the international newspaper La Ilustracion Española y Americana published a photo of Bonifacio with the caption “Titulado Presidente de la Republica Tagala” or “Recognized President of the Tagalog Republic.”
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