Andres Bonifacio, who was born on November 30, 1863, 160 years ago, was only 33 when he died.
He is known as the Father of the Philippine Revolution. He founded the Katipunan, a revolutionary movement that fought for Philippine independence against the Spanish colonial government, at age 28.
Historian Ambeth Ocampo noted that “heroes, like saints, are usually commemorated on the day of their death, their transition into history. Bonifacio is commemorated on his birthday because his death raises painful questions.”
Because Bonifacio was killed by the revolution he started through an order of someone he personally inducted to the Katipunan. He did not die in the hands of Spanish colonizers, but in the hands of his own comrades in the revolution.
Anthropologist and columnist Antonio Montalvan II wrote about Bonifacio in a commentary on Vera Files a year ago: “His death was an extrajudicial killing committed by the elitist cabal of Emilio Aguinaldo.”
To put more emphasis on Bonifacio’s tragic death, Montalvan quoted Apolinario Mabini’s lament calling Bonifacio’s assassination as “the first victory of personal ambition over true patriotism.”
This sounds very familiar because this has been the storyline of every Filipino political soap opera since the first Philippine government headed by Aguinaldo.
Before Bonifacio was killed, he was first cheated. In the elections held during the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897, which was a meeting between the two Katipunan factions, Magdiwang (Bonifacio allies) and Magdalo (Aguinaldo allies), to create the new revolutionary government, there were reports of ballots already filled up even before they were distributed.
According to historical accounts, that election was not originally planned to take place during the convention. The purpose of the assembly was to plan the defense of Cavite against Spanish colonial forces. However, the focus of the discussion became the governance and leadership of the Katipunan itself.
Bonifacio and his allies maintained that the Katipunan as it was organized was already sufficient as their government, but the Magdalo faction insisted that a new revolutionary government was needed. When you look at these historical events now, it seems Bonifacio and his allies were ambushed into a change in leadership.
Aguinaldo was not present during the convention as he was in the military front in Pasong Santol, a barrio of Dasmariñas, Cavite. He was informed of his election as president only the following day.
It was interesting to note that Aguinaldo and his new cabinet, with the exception of Bonifacio, took their oath of office inside a chapel officiated by a Catholic priest, under the authority of a Roman Pope.
Artemio Ricarte, who reluctantly took his oath of office as Captain-General, declared later on that “dirty and shady” practices in the Tejeros elections had “not been in conformity with the true will of the people.”
So, naturally, Bonifacio and his allies rejected the Tejeros election results and made their own Naic Declaration, which formed the Naic Military Government.
Because of that, Aguinaldo charged Bonifacio of treason and was tried by what historians called “a kangaroo court” — a mock court characterized by irresponsible, unauthorized, or irregular status or procedures.
So Bonifacio was not just cheated, he was also a victim of great injustice. And it was carried out with the cooperation of some of his former allies in the Katipunan.
Historical accounts described that Bonifacio did not resist his arrest when he was served and that he was, in fact, “cordial” to his arresting officers, believing they were all comrades.
Even during the last moments, as narrated by Lazaro Makapagal, who received the orders to execute the Bonifacio brothers, Bonifacio was conversing with him like they were friends on his way to the place where he would be executed.
And upon reading their order of execution, Bonifacio begged his executioner as a brother: “Patawarin ninyo ako, kapatid.” (Forgive me, brother.)
But his comrade and executioner still carried out the orders because, according to him, he needed to do it out of “military discipline.” Just following orders, my brother.
Bonifacio died with the bitter realization that the revolution he started was falling into the wrong hands.
Only weeks after Bonifacio’s execution, many leaders of Aguinaldo’s government composed of mostly rich professionals and big landlords, started to surrender.
Aguinaldo signed the Pact of Biak-na-Bato on December 14, 1897, just a few months after he ordered the execution of Bonifacio, that created a truce between Spanish colonial Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera and Aguinaldo to end the Philippine Revolution.
Under the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, Aguinaldo and members of his revolutionary government were given amnesty and monetary indemnity by the Spanish government and in return, they would go into voluntary exile in Hong Kong.
So all that violent drama within the revolution only resulted in eventual surrender and exile in a foreign country by the leaders of the Philippine revolution.
Later on, we would learn that the Spanish did not pay the full monetary indemnity under the truce and did not even declare a general amnesty.
I did not learn all of these things in school. I had to seek the stories myself from other sources. They did not teach history like this under our colonial-inspired educational system. And I am starting to think it is by design.
Our colonizers and their elite conspirators would like us to think that we are truly incapable of freeing ourselves from their control. So we have been programmed to behave like slaves and think that any attempt to change the way things are would be futile.
A truly patriotic education (“edukasyong makabansa”) would be an education on the true history of our country from the perspective of the Filipinos who fought for our freedom.
That is the only way to change the narrative of our government’s favorite plot line — deceive, cheat, betray, conspire, falsely accuse, try in a mock court, kill, surrender to foreign power, change sides, then repeat.
Let us remember that Bonifacio was only 28 when he started the revolution. That’s young. We are a country with at least 30 percent of the population belonging to the Filipino youth. There is still hope for a plot twist.
Bonifacio deserves a better, happier ending to the revolution he started. Or a new beginning.#
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