Manila Bulletin

A memorable Bonifacio Day event

- By FLORANGEL ROSARIO BRAID My email, Florangel.braid@

LAST Wednesday’s commemorat­ion of Bonifacio’s 153rd birth anniversar­y was an unsual event, worthy of rememberin­g for a long time. Marked with several anti-Marcos protests mostly by millennial­s and victims of Martial Law who marched from the Monumento in Caloocan to Mendiola and then to People Power monument on EDSA, the celebratio­n showed that the anti-burial sentiment is still very much alive. There were similar rallies held in Cebu City and abroad – in Vancouver, Edinburgh San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.

President Duterte’s message before he flew to Lanao del Sur to visit troops who had been fighting with ISIS-linked Maute terror groups was for Filipinos to emulate Bonifacio for being “patriotic, unfettered, and independen­t.” Even some lawmakers hailed Bonificaci­o as the “real hero” – the last phrase, today’s current buzzword. Some want Bonifacio’s remains buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani while others want him declared as the first president of the country.

It is noteworthy to cite some 10 facts about Bonifacio which Rappler. com’s researcher­s Buena Bernal and Nigel Tan had gathered in interviews with historian Michael “Xiao” Chua and National Artist Virgilio Almario; and writings of Digna Apilado, E.R. Azicalte, Glenn May, Isagani Medina, Ambeth Ocampo, Zeus Salazar, and Sylvia Mendez Ventura. Some are familiar stories we’ve heard from stories during our early years and with more details, some of which are trivia, and others which could turn out as myths.

One is that he was a versatile worker who, with his brothers and sisters made canes and paper fans that were sold on Manila’s streets. He had to take on other jobs to support his siblings after their parents died of tuberculos­is. The other jobs were those of “bodegero” (warehouse keeper), clerk-messenger, poster-maker, and a “Moro-moro” performer. He rose to lower-middle class status like Gregorio de Jesus whom he later married.

He was sometimes called “Bobong Supremo” or “uneducated” but according to scholars, he studied in Guillermo Osmena’s school in Cebu and reached what is now second year high school. His employer, Elvie Prysler, remembers him holding a book every lunch time. Among these were books by Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo (Les Miserables), Eugene Sue’s Wandering Jew, The Ruins of Palmyra: Meditation­s on the Revolution of the Empire, Holy Bible, Religion Within the Reach of All, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibuster­ismo, History of the French Revolution, and books on internatio­nal law, civil and penal code, and medical books. He would say, “I just finished a course in law or medicine,” after reading the latter.

Why does he always wear a “camisa de chino?” Perhaps to emphasize his position as leader of the masses. But his only surviving photo showed him wearing a coat and tie. He was known to dress neatly and always carried an umbrella.

As member of Katipunan, he and the others wrote their oath in blood (sandugo). His choice of name for himself was Maypagasa.

Almario notes that he was a better writer than Rizal. His works dubbed “Akdang Katipunero” were easier to understand by ordinary people than the writings of the ilustrados. An example is the oft-quoted poem which resonates and stirs our patriotism:

“Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya

“Sa pagkadalis­ay at pagdadakil­a

“Gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubang lupa?

“Aling pag-ibig pa? Wala na nga, wala.”

So the question is, “Is Bonifacio a hero?” He had a concept of who we are as a people. These are the Katipunero’s beliefs:

• They revived the indigenous practice of the blood compact or sandugo, a sign of brotherhoo­d.

• Love is the key to the concept of nationhood.

• Freedom is not a mere declaratio­n of independen­ce.

He experience­d what is described as the “Tragedies of 1896, namely.

• His home was burned down during the Holy Week of 1896.

• Their baby boy Andres died of small pox.

• On August 19, Katipunan was discovered; many members were arrested, jailed, or shot. Andres and Gregoria went into hiding.

• On August 23, Bonifacio with other leaders gathered in Pugadlawin, and tore their cedulas (residence certificat­es).

• On August 30, at the battle of the Philippine revolution led by Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto, 150 out of 800 men died; 200 were captured.

He was not your hot-tempered hero as depicted in some stories.

The writers ask the reader to choose the circumstan­ces of Bonifacio’s death from among several scenarios:

• One is on April 26, 1897, when Bonifacio was arrested, tried by a military court for only 12 days, charged with treason.

• The widely accepted ending which was that on May, 1897, when he and his brother Procopio were sentenced and shot to death.

• But according to Ambeth Ocampo, Guillermo Magsankay claimed that Bonficacio was hacked to death with bolos.

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