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Monday, November 30, 2009

Andres Bonifacio


In one of the houses located opposite the present Tutuban Station lived a young couple, Santiago Bonifacio, a tailor and Catalina de Castro from Zambales. On November 30, 1863, a boy was born to them and was christened Andres. As devout Catholics, Andres' parents took him to the parish of Father Gregorio Prieto in Tondo where he was baptized by Fr. Saturnine Buntan with Vicente Molina as godfather. Andres was the oldest of four brothers, the other three being Ciriaco, Procopio and Troadio and two sisters, Esperidiona and Maximina.

His first teacher was his aunt Remigia Castro de Sanchez, who taught him his prayers and the alphabet. Later, he attended the school of Don Guillermo Osmeña from Cebu.

Orphaned at an early age, Andres and his brothers and sisters made canes and paper fans which he sold to meet their bare necessities. He also made posters for commercial firms as he had a fine penmanship and a keen interest in the calligraphic arts. Subsequently, he was employed as clerk-messenger in the British commercial firm of Fleming and Company. His industry and honesty earned him promotion as an agent of the firm, he was authorized to sell rattan and other articles of trade. It was while working for this firm that he learned the rudiments of the English language.

Later, Andres transferred to work again as an agent at Fresell and Company, a German commercial firm located at 450 Nueva Street. To augment his income, he continued to make canes and paper fans with his brothers and sisters until 1896.

To educate himself, he bought a few good books and read them avidly deep into the night under the flicker of the lamp. Among these books were Robiespiere's The French Revolution, Eugene Sue's The Wandering Jew, Hugo's Les Miserables, Rizal's Noli and Fili, The Ruins of Palmyras, The Holy Bible, International Law, Penal and Civil Code, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, and the novels of Alexander Dumas and his son.

To improve his Tagalog, he joined the dramatic society in Palomar, Tondo. Ha would memorize his lines patiently and take part in the moro-moro to learn more of the nuances of the language. In 1887 he and his friends founded the El Teatro Porvenir. Inspired by his profound knowledge of the Tagalog tongue, he gradually changed to Tagalog the names of things, places and scenes in the Spanish plays staged in the vernacular.

Andres married Monica, a comely and beautiful neighbor. A year later, however, she contracted leprosy and died. Fond of fiestas and dancing, widower Andres came across Gregoria de Jesus of Kalookan and fell in love with her. Gregoria's father objected to the match because Andres was a Mason, having affiliated himself with the Masonic lodge Taliba. But the old man finally acceded to the entreaties of the young lovers. In 1893, less than a year after Bonifacio founded the Katipunan, Andres and Gregoria were wed at the Binondo Church. Restituto Javier and his wife, Benita Rodriguez were the sponsors.

As a katipunero, he later took his bride to Oroquieta Street, the home of his sponsors where they were married again in accordance with the rites of the Katipunan. Present in the affair were Dr. Pio Valenzuela, Josefa and Trinidad Rizal, Jose Turiano Santiago, Marina Dizon, (Turiano Santiago's fiancee), Roman Basa and other members of the Katipunan. Gregoria de Jesus-Bonifacio was initiated into the organization as Lakambini (muse) and was made custodian of the Katipunan seal and of the society's valuable papers.

The founding of the Katipunan took place on July 7, 1892 in a house on Calle Ilaya with Ladislao Diwa, Teodoro Plata, and Deodato Arellano. Its full name was Kataastaasang Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (K.K.K.N.MA.N.B.), Bonifacio adopted the name Maypagasa .

It was at this time that Bonifacio became closely acquainted with Emilio Jacinto then a law student at the University of Santo Tomas. Bonifacio chose Jacinto to be the Secretary of the Supreme Council. He later became the "Brains of the Katipunan." Taking extreme precaution and foresight for the safety of their documents in the event that the authorities would discover the society, Andres, together with Emilio Jacinto, Guillermo Masangkay, Aurelio Tolentino, Faustino Mañalac, Pedro Zabala and a few other katipuneros convened in the mountains east of Manila on April 12, 1895.

In San Mateo and the Montalban mountains, they came upon the caves of Makarok and Pamitinan. Deep inside the cave of Pamitinan was an ideal place. It was selected for an initiation site as well as for a hiding place. Rebels from Morong joined them. With a piece of charcoal, Andres wrote on its walls: "Long Live Philippine Independence."

Because of the dangerous and heavy responsibilities imposed upon him as head of the Katipunan, he returned to Manila. He expanded the society's activities; removed members who were less active in the performance of their duties: imposed discipline on its members: and embarked on espionage missions to keep them well-informed of the movements of the Spanish civil and ecclesiastical officials. With cunning persuasion, Andres was able to secure a recommendation from the parish priest of Santa C'ruz for the employment of Julio Navarro, a katipunero, in the Spanish secret service Likewise, Jacinto succeeded in getting a recommendation from his professor in the University of Santo Tomas for the employment of secret katipuneros in the branches of government.

Andres was a calm and composed individual, yet alert and prudent in avoiding leakages of the activities of the Katipunan. In one instance, a coded message of the Katipunan fell into the hands of a certain Professor Arias of the University of Santo Tomas. This professor was a close friend of a Spaniard, the husband of Felicula Javier who was a half-sister of Jose Turiano Santiago then, the Secretary of the Supreme Council. Although Santiago's complicity in the leakage of information was not clearly established, he was expelled in accordance- with the meeting of the Katipunan under Bonifacio at Kalookan in 1895.

In 1896 Andres, together with Dr. Pio Valenzuela, Procopio Bonifacio, Candido Tirona and Emilio Jacinto, toured Cavite to recruit more members to the Katipunan. Upon his return, the house where he left Gregoria de Jesus was burned. They moved to Lavezares Street then to Magdalena. Two months later, their only son died.

By this time, alarming reports about the Katipunan reached Governor-General Bianco. But Bianco, in his disdainful attitude and tired of the complaints of the friars, dismissed the information as mere imagination of the overzealous clergy.

On May 1. 1896, a meeting was held by Bonifacio at Ugong. Morong Province (now Rizal) where they decided to consult or enlist the support of Rizal the moment the armed clash would start. Dr. Valenzuela was chosen to carry out the mission. With a blind man, Raymundo Mata and a boy named Rufino Magos, Dr. Valenzuela boarded the S.S. Venus for Dapitan under the ruse of seeking medical consultation with Dr. Rizal.

Upon reaching Dapitan, Dr. Valenzuela told Rizal of his mission. The latter, however, advised the group that the Filipinos must be financially and militarily prepared before staging an armed revolution.

After the discovery of the Katipunan by the Spanish authorities, Bonifacio and his men prepared for the eventual armed struggle. Bonifacio ordered his men to assemble in Balintawak. In a place called Kangkong, on the 21st of August in the house of Apolonio Samson they discussed the start of the armed rebellion but they were unable to come to an agreement.

On August 23 in the yard of Juan Ramos, son of the famous Tandang Sora, Bonifacio and his men decided to start the armed uprising on the 29th. There, they tore their cedulas to symbolize their final determination to rise in arms and to free the country from Spanish sovereignty this is called "Unang Sigaw sa Balintawak".

The pursuig Spanish soldiers however, dispersed them. On the 24th, Boaifacio and his men lodged in the house of Tandang Sora. The next morning, the civil guards and infantrymen overtook them but they fought back under the command of Bonifacio. The battle swung back and the Katipuneros had to retreat, under the cover of darkness and thick cogon grass to Balara. They reached Marikina, then Halang Bato where Bonifacio proclaimed the general uprising against Spain on Saturday, August 29, 1896.

The plan to lay siege on Manila did not materialize. Instead, Bonifacio and Jacinto's men attacked the powder magazine at San Juan. From Marikina, they seized the powder magazine and encircled the Spanish garrison. On the 30th however, a relief column of Spanish soldiers arrived and completely routed the rebels. But the flame of armed resistance had already engulfed Pasig. Noveleta, Tagig, Kalookan, Kawit, San Francisco de Malabon and Makati. Bonifacio's men assaulted and captured San Mateo only to yield the town to the enemy three days after.

On August 30, 1896, Governor-General Bianco declared martial law in the provinces of Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Bulakan, Pampanga, Tarlak and Nueva Ecija.

Meanwhile, in Cavite, Aguinaldo, a young revolutionary leader, proposed the establishment of a revolutionary government. The issue as to who should head the new government began to divide the Katipunan. The Magdalo faction maintained that the victories were attributed to Aguinaldo's leadership while the Magdiwang faction held on to the idea that since they were the instigators of the rebellion in Cavite, they were entitled to higher recognition as leaders of the armed organization. Magdiwang leaders, however, believed that the question of leadership could only be resolved by Bonifacio. An invitation was sent to the Supreme who was then in the mountains of Montalban. On December 31, 1896, the revolutionaries convened the Imus Assembly. Unfortunately no agreement was reached to transform the Katipunan into an organized government, much, less was there an agreement on the leadership question. They agreed, finally, to hold another meeting in Tejeros on March 22, 1897.

Before the assembly started, they decided to respect the majority. In the election for president, Aguinaldo was elected in absentia. Bonifacio placed second. Severino de las Alas, suggested that Bonifacio be the vice-president but his plea was not heeded. Instead, Mariano Trias was elected vice-president and Bonifacio was chosen minister of the interior. But his qualifications were questioned by Daniel Tirona who said a lawyer was more fit to occupy that office. Feeling gravely insulted, Bonifacio threatened to shoot Tirona but cooler heads intervened.

Bonifacio and his followers believed that as Bonifacio was the founder of the Katipunan and initiator of the armed rebellion, he should have been president. Embittered, Bonifacio and his followers determined to ignore and to nullify the results of the elections. Even General Ricarte affirmed the irregularity of the elections by refusing to take his oath as Captain-General. He was, however, prevailed upon by those present to accept the position. On March 24, Bonifacio and his men drew up a document repudiating the validity of the Tejeros electoral results. Misleadingly called the Acta de Tejeros, it showed the repugnant character of the new government and expressed the threat that should other parties impose its sovereignty over them they would resist.

Bonifacio, with his wife, brothers and a few followers left Tejeres for Limbon, a barrio of Indang, Cavite. The Magdalo faction overtook them, fought the men of Bonifacio, killing Ciriaco and wounding Bonifacio. Gregoria de Jesus, Procopio and the Supreme were taken to Maragondon where they were tried by a military court presided over by General Mariano Noriel. The prosecuting fiscal was Jose Elises. Teodoro Gonzales was the defense lawyer of Procopio and Placido Martinez for Andres Bonifacio. The military court, allegedly found them guilty of sedition and condemned them to death.

On May 7, 1897, the papers were forwarded to President Aguinaldo, who after a study of the case, commuted the death sentence to exile in a distant place. Upon learning of this decision, General Mariano Noriel and General Pio del Pilar rushed to Aguinaldo and prevailed on him to confirm the original sentence in order to safeguard the interests of the revolution and prevent the demoralization of the officers and men. Cautious of the position of the President in those times of emergency, Aguinaldo acceded to the entreaties of the two military officers.

On May 10, 1897 Bonifacio and his brother Procopio were taken by Major Lazaro Makapagal from the prison at Maragondon and brought them to Mt. Buntis where they were shot to death.

In his memory and honor, November 30th of every year was declared a legal holiday by virtue of Act No. 2946, approved on January 16, 1921. To perpetuate his greatness further, the cornerstone of his monument in Monumento, Caloocan was laid on November 30, 1929.