Father of the Filipino Nation
Andres Bonifacio was born on November 30, 1863 to Santiago Bonifacio and Catalina de Castro in Tondo located in Manila Philippines. He was a Filipino revolutionary hero who founded the Kataastaasan Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) or Katipunan a secret society devoted to fighting the Spanish occupation of the Philippines. He was the first one to have a clear vision of what a Filipino nation should be—The Father of the Filipino Nation. He would later be known as Supremo; destined to change the history of the Filipino people.
Bonifacio was not born and raised a plebeian, his mother was half-Spanish and he was privately tutored by a certain Guillermo Osmeña. But things became tough for him when his parents died when he was 14 years old forcing him to quit his studies and look after his 5 younger brothers and sisters. He earned a living as a craftsman and seller of canes and fans and then he became clerk and agent for a foreign commercial firm, Fleming and Company. In spite of his lack of formal education, he taught himself to read and write in Spanish and Tagalog, and was actually so good at it that he later got a job as a clerk-messenger for the German trading firm Fressel and Company. It was said that Bonifacio was interested in Western classic rationalism and read the works of Victor Hugo, Jose Rizal, and Eugene Sue. He had a deep interest in reading books on the French Revolution and the lives of the presidents of the United States and acquired a good understanding of the socio-historical process. Although it must be argued that the main thing that made his later organizing activities successful would be his savvy to appropriate local consciousness and ancient Filipino concepts to the Katipunan—Inang Bayan, sandugo, kapatiran, kaginhawaan, and katimawaan or kalayaan. His passion for changing the plight of his countrymen under colonialism encouraged him to join La Liga Filipina. La Liga Filipina was organized in July 3, 1892 by Jose Rizal with the purpose of uniting the people under “one compact homogenous body” which is the nation, instituting reform, education and cooperation, building the nation in the grassroots.
Rise of the Katipunan
Four days after the establishment of the Liga, July 7,1892, the arrest and banishment of Jose Rizal the day before made it practically nonexistent as an organization. Andres Bonifacio along side Ladislao Diwa, Teodoro Plata and others decided to continue the struggle and formed the Kataastaasan Kagalanggalang ang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) or Katipunan at the home of Deodato Arellano in Calle Azcarraga, Manila. A small room lit only by a table lamp they signed a solemn compact with blood drawn from their forearm to symbolized the birth of the Katipunan the sandugo was not just a blood pact but a pledge to love each compatriot as brothers and sisters as the ancients did when they consolidate the bayan—kapatiran.
Only when people have mabuting kalooban (good intentions, thus the Kartilya) for each other, will true kaginhawaan (total well-being) and kalayaan (freedom) be attained. Thus it must be said that the Katipunan was not just a mere organization that wanted to unite the people to topple the Spanish Empire, but wanted a true unity of mind and hearts among the Tagalogs (Taga-ilog, river people, referring to peoples/mga bayan from the whole archipelago) under one Inang Bayan seeking the enlightened and straight path, an original Filipino concept of the nation. After two previous Supremos, the humble founder of the Katipunan Andres Bonifacio finally agreed to be Supremo of the Katipunan.
An Excursion to the Mountains
As a theater actor himself, Bonifacio had a favourite character to play—Bernardo Carpio, the mythical Tagalog king trapped in between two mountains who will soon be freed to fight and free the people from the bondage of colonialism. On Good Friday of 1895, he went to the caves of Mt. Tapusi, Montalban, Rizal with his men. They wrote through charcoals on the walls of the caves “Naparito ang mga Anak ng Bayan, hinahanap ang Kalayaan. Mabuhay ang Kalayaan.” (The Sons of the People came here searching for freedom. Long live freedom!) Definitely, it was not a coincidence why he chose that time place for this, a declaration of independence: The Katipunan will be the Bernardo Carpio who will free Inang Bayan. They are willing to sacrifice their lives for the altar of freedom.
Mt. Tapusi, Montalban
Kartilya ng Katipunan (Katipunan Code of Ethics) – by Emilio Jacinto
- Ang kabuhayang hindi ginugugol sa isang malaki at banal na kadahilanan ay kahoy na walang lilim, kundi man damong makamandag.
(Life which is not consecrated to a lofty and sacred cause is like a tree without a shadow, if not a poisonous weed.)
- Ang gawang magaling na nagbubuhat sa pagpipita sa sarili at hindi sa talagang nasang gumawa ng kagalingan, ay di kabaitan.
(A good deed that springs from a desire for personal profit and not a desire to do good is not kindness.)
- Ang tunay na kabanalan ay ang pagkakawang-gawa, ang pag-ibig sa kapwa at ang isukat ang bawat kilos, gawa’t pangungusap sa talagang Katuwiran.
(True greatness consists in being charitable, in loving one’s fellow men and in adjusting every movement, deed and word to true Reason.)
- Maitim man o maputi ang kulay ng balat, lahat ng tao’y magkakapantay; mangyayaring ang isa’y higtan sa dunong, sa yaman, sa ganda; ngunit di mahihigtan sa pagkatao.
(All men are equal, be the color of their skin black or white. One may be superior to another in knowledge, wealth, and beauty but cannot be superior in being.)
- Ang may mataas na kalooban, inuuna ang puri kaysa pagpipita sa sarili; ang may hamak na kalooban, inuuna ang pagpipita sa sarili kaysa puri.
(He who is noble prefers honor to personal gains; he who is mean prefers personal profit to honor.)
- Sa taong may hiya, salita’y panunumpa.
(To a man with a sense of shame, his word is inviolate.)
- Huwag mong sayangin ang panahon; ang yamang nawala’y mangyayaring magbalik; ngunit panahong nagdaan na’y di na muli pang magdadaan.
(Don’t waste away time; lost riches may be recovered, but time lost will never come again.)
- Ipagtanggol mo ang inaapi at kabakahin ang umaapi.
(Defend the oppressed and fight the oppressor.)
- Ang taong matalino’y ang may pag-iingat sa bawat sasabihin; at matutong ipaglihim ang dapat ipaglihim.
(An intelligent man is he who is cautious in speech and knows how to keep the secrets that must be guarded.)
- Sa daang matinik ng kabuhayan, lalaki ay siyang patnugot ng asawa’t at mga anak; kung ang umaakay ay tungo sa sama, ang patutunguhan ng inaakay ay kasamaan din.
(In a challenging path of life, the man leads the way and his wife and children follow. If the leader goes the way of evil, so do the followers.)
- Ang babae ay huwag mong tingnang isang bagay na libangan lamang, kundi isang katuwang at karamay sa mga kahirapan nitong kabuhayan; gamitin mo nang buong pagpipitagan ang kanyang kahinaan at alalahanin ang inang pinagbuhata’t nag-iwi sa iyong kasanggulan.
(Think not of woman as a object merely to while away time but as a helper and partner in the hardships of life. Respect her in her weakness, and remember the mother who brought you into this world and who cared for you in your childhood.)
- Ang di mo ibig gawin sa asawa mo, anak at kapatid, ay huwag mong gagawin sa asawa, anak at kapatid ng iba.
(What you do not want done to your wife, daughter and sister, do not do to the wife, daughter and sister of another.)
- Ang kamahalan ng tao’y wala sa pagkahari, wala sa tangos ng ilong at puti ng mukha, wala sa pagka-paring kahalili ng Diyos, wala sa mataas na kalagayan sa balat ng lupa: wagas at tunay na mahal na tao, kahit laking-gubat at walang nababatid kundi sariling wika; yaong may magandang asal, may isang pangungusap, may dangal at puri; yaong di napaaapi’t di nakikiapi; yaong marunong magdamdam at marunong lumingap sa bayang tinubuan.
(The nobility of a man does not consist in being a king, nor in the highness of nose and the whiteness of the skin, nor in being the priest representing God, nor in the exalted position on this earth, but pure and truly noble is he who, through born in the woods, is possessed of an upright character; who is true to his word; who had dignity and honor; who does not oppress and does not help those who oppress; who knows how to look after and love the land of his birth.)
- Paglaganap ng mga aral na ito at maningning na sumikat ang araw ng mahal na Kalayaan dito sa kaaba-abang Sangkapuluan at sabugan ng matamis niyang liwanag ang nangagkaisang magkalahi’t magkakapatid ng ligayang walang katapusan, ang mga ginugol na buhay, pagod, at mga tiniis na kahirapa’y labis nang natumbasan.
(When these doctrines spread and the Sun of beloved liberty shines with brilliant effulgence in these unhappy isles and sheds its soft rays upon the united people and brothers in everlasting happiness, the lives, labors, and suffering of those who are gone shall be more than recompensed.)
Andres Bonifacio (Maypagasa) • Katipunan (Kataastaasan Kagalanggalang ang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan)
The Cry of Caloocan
The Spaniards discovered the Katipunan on August 19, 1896. Upon their discovery, Bonifiacio and many katipuneros from Manila escaped the systematic search of the Spaniards, leading to the Katipuneros fleeing to a barrio in Caloocan, Balintawak. On August 24, 1896, Bonifacio rallied the Katipuneros for an emergency meeting. Armed poorly with bolos, bamboo spears, paltiks (makeshift guns), and few old Remington rifles; the meeting was off to a good start. Bonifacio welcomed the attendance of 500-1,000 patriots and informed them of the urgency for beginning the revolution. This episode in the revolution would later be referred to as The Cry of Balintawak; alternatively referred to as The Cry of Pugadlawin, Kangkong, or Bahay Toro—all of these places within the area of Caloocan.
Their opposition produced a heated debate between those who favored the uprising, thus plunging the meeting into turmoil. According to Aurelio Tolentino, theater actor and friend of Andres Bonifacio. Angered by the raging debate among his men, Bonifacio inspired these words, “Kalayaan o kaalipinan? Kabuhayan o kamatayan? Mga kapatid: Halina’t ating kalabanin ang mga baril at kanyon upang kamtin ang sariling kalayaan!”(Freedom or slavery? Life or death? Brothers and sisters let us rise and fight the oppressors with their guns and canons of for it is the only way to truly achieve our freedom!) Bonifacio then took out his cedula (community tax certificate) and tore it to pieces shouting, “Mabuhay ang Katipunan!”(Love live the Katipunan!) An act of defiance of Spanish rule become the finest day in Philippine history.
1896 Cry of Caloocan
Battle of Pinaglabanan
On August 30, 1896 Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto led a group of Katipuneros to attacked the El Polvorin (powder depot) of San Juan which was well defended by well-armed and trained Spanish artillerists and infantrymen. Bonifacio and the Katipunan was able to capture the powder depot and water station. Over 150 Katipunero died. The news of the battle reverberated throughout the arkipelago. The town of San Juan del Monte was transformed into a national symbol of unity, freedom and a shrine of Filipino courage.
Andres Bonifacio as a Military Strategist
Some of Bonifacio’s critics and a number of historians had argued that because he lacked formal education he automatically did not have a military strategy. They also said that Bonifacio lost all his battles. As compared to the Cavite generals who won battles in their province during the onset of the revolution, Bonifacio didn’t have military success. But recent scholarship in the past two decades emphasized that Bonifacio and his men, even before the revolution up until 1897, were setting up networks of camps called reales in the mountains and forests where they could retreat after their battles. This made it possible that even when he was defeated in battles such as the battle of Pinaglabanan, the Katipuneros where not wiped out completely. According to Dr. Zeus Salazar, the concept of reales were taken from the ancient Filipino strategy of Ilihan, where the old bayan will designate a high place where they would evacuate in case of natural calamities like tsunamis, or an attack. Salazar also said that Bonifacio was beyond the tactical aim of freeing only one province of the revolution, he wanted the national government to fall by planning to attack the seat of power—Intramuros, Manila, midnight of 29-30 August 1896, where it will be surrounded on all sides and will also be attacked from the inside. Unfortunately, the 500 soldiers from mestizo officers were arrested the morning of the attack, and the forces from the south coming from Cavite did not arrive, despite a number of skirmishes that happened around the area. If only the Katipunan was not discovered, they could have been more prepared for a Manila offensive with the benefit of the element of surprise. Bonifacio’s timing in wanting to start the revolution was also proper since a large part of the Spanish colonial military was deployed in Mindanao trying to bring down the Moro Sultanates. When these forces were returned to Manila to become reinforcements, even the victorious Cavite towns fell one by one to the Spaniards. What saved General Aguinaldo after Bonifacio’s death were the network of reales set-up by Bonifacio until he reached the Real of Biak-na-Bato where he negotiated peace with the Spaniards. According to Dr. Milagros Guerrero, an expert on the Katipunan:
As commander-in-chief, Bonifacio supervised the planning of military strategies and the preparation of orders, manifests and decrees, adjudicated offenses against the nation, as well as mediated in political disputes. He directed generals and positioned troops in the fronts. On the basis of command responsibility, all victories and defeats all over the archipelago during his term of office should be attributed to Bonifacio. The claim by some historians that “Bonifacio lost all his battles” is RIDICULOUS.
Twilight in Cavite
Due to conflict, the Katipunan were split into two groups, Magdiwang and Magdalo in Cavite, Luzon. Cavite became a major province of the Revolution, and the Katipuneros. Baldomero Aguinaldo, headed the Magdalo group, which was stationed in Kawit. General Mariano Alvarez led the Magdiwang group, which was stationed in Noveleta. The two groups fought in a separate battle, where later, Emilio Aguinaldo, brother of Baldomero Aguinaldo took over the Magdalo group. To try to fix the division, the Magdiwang group invited Bonifacio in his capacity not just as the Supremo of the Katipunan but as President of the Haring Bayang Katagalugan, as he was elected by acclamation in the establishment of the revolutionary government on August 24, 1896 at Caloocan. A government which preceded that of General Emilio Aguinaldo, making Bonifacio as according to historians Milagros Guerrero, Ramon Villegas and Emmanuel Encarnacion the First President of the Philippines. So what happened next in Cavite is argued by some as a coup d’etat to a legitimate leader by a number of elite generals.
Katipunan seal with Andres Bonifacio’s signature
While Aguinaldo was favoured as leader by the Magdalo faction, Bonifacio was recognized as the leader of the Katipunan by the Magdiwang faction. An assembly was held in Imus, Cavite on December 31, 1897 to settle the leadership issue but was not successful. Then on March 22, another assembly was held at Tejeros (known as the Tejeros Convention) to elect officers of the revolutionary government. Aguinaldo won as president while Bonifacio was [elected] as the Director of the Interior. However, Daniel Tirona objected that the position should be occupied by a person with an education. Bonifacio, clearly insulted, demanded that Tirona retract his remark. Supremo then drew a pistol to challenge Tirona in a duel as gentlemen during those times do when their “amor-propio” was hurt, but stopped when Ricarte grabbed his arm. Bonifacio rejected the elections and declared it void. Bonifacio later formed the Naic Military Agreement, essentially creating a government contending Aguinaldo’s. Soon after, Bonifacio was captured, stood trial, and was sentenced to death by a War Council of Aguinaldo’s government for treason and sedition. Aguinaldo initially commuted the sentence to deportation but later reversed the commutation upon pressure from Mariano Noriel and Pio Del Pilar. On orders from General Noriel, Andres Bonifacio and his brother Procopio Bonifacio was secretly executed at the foothills of Mt. Buntis by Major Lazaro Makapagal on May 10, 1897.
Bonifacio was unjustly accused of betraying the new republic led by Emilio Aguinaldo. His remains are buried in an unmarked tomb. As the years passed, the great Supremo’s story has been forgotten until his memory was diminished to a footnote in the history books of our time. He was not merely a revolutionary; he was a man who put his life on the line to see his people free. Bonifacio was not just a supreme chief of some secret society; he was the Father of the Filipino nation who was determined to bring his people together in the name of solidarity and freedom. He serves not just as a champion for the sake of bravery and bravado: he is an example of a just, hopeful, and humane hero amidst the desolate condition of his country–thus his nom de guerre–Maypagasa (There is Hope).
Author, Margarita Mansalay
( Additions by Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua, Assistant Professorial Lecturer of History of the De La Salle University )