Andres Bonifacio: Hero of the Philippine Revolution
• Father of the Katipunan
• Father of the Revolution and Philippine Democracy
• The “Supremo”
• The Great Plebeian
• Born November 30, 1863 in Tundo, Manila
• Died May 10 1897, in Mt. Buntis, by execution
Andres Bonifacio was born to Santiago Bonifacio and Catalina de Castro, a Spanish mestiza, in a shack in Tondo, Manila on November 30, 1863.
He started his early education in the school of Guillermo Osmeña of Cebu. He reached only primary school. At the age of 14, his father and mother died, forcing him to quit his studies and to look after his younger brothers and sisters. As a means of support, he had them help him make wooden canes and paper fans, which he sold in the streets.
Having learned how to read and write, he became a clerk messenger of Fleeming and Company, a business firm dealing with rattan, tar, and other articles of trade. Because of his industry he was promoted as agent. But his earnings were still not sufficient to support the orphans. He moved to Fressell and Company as an agent. He showed determination and industry in his job. He supplemented his low education through reading and self-study. Among the books he read were Rizal’s novels, the lives of presidents, Victor Hugo’s Le Miserables, the ruins of Palmyra, and the French Revolution. Those books prodded his spirit of rebellion and gave him impulse to organize the Katipunan.
This organization spread rapidly in 1894 in many parts of the Philippines. He felt that he was about ready to lead a successful revolt in May 1896. However, before he could act, the Katipunan was discovered by the authorities. More than 1,000 Katipuneros assembled with him at Pugad Lawin, Caloocan, on August 23, 1896 and tore their cedulas. Since the time the Katipunan was discovered, they evaded arrest, won uncertain victories and incurred severe defeats. This prompted the Magdiwang faction to invite Bonifacio to Cavite to settle their differences and remain united.
An assembly was called at Tejeros, Cavite. Bonifacio presided the conference to establish the Republic of the Philippines. In the election, Emilio Aguinaldo was elected President, Mariano Trias, Vice-President and Bonifacio as Secretary of the Interior. Daniel Tirona questioned Bonifacio’s qualifications, and Bonifacio was offended. Evoking his authority as the supreme head of the Katipunan, he declared the proceedings void. Bonifacio moved to Naic, Cavite and started to form his own government and army. Meantime, the advancing troops of Spanish General Camilo de Polavia threatened to capture Cavite. Aguinaldo ordered Gen Pio del Pilar and Noriel who were being given new higher positions to leave the Bonifacio camp and go back to their duties.
Bonifacio with his family and men left Naic for Indang. On his return from Montalban, Aguinaldo sent men to arrest him, but Bonifacio resisted arrest and was wounded. He faced a trial for acts inimical to the existence of the new government and was given the death sentence by a military tribunal.
Aguinaldo’s men executed him in the mountains of Maragondon, Cavite on May 10, 1897.
(Source: Andres Bonifacio, National Bookstore)
The Great Plebeian, Andres Bonifacio, completed only what we call grade four. But Bonifacio was far from being uneducated. In the bodega of the foreign firm where he worked as a storekeeper, Bonifacio put up a small library along with Emilio Jacinto and Pio Valenzuela. Jacinto owned all the law books while Valenzuela, a physician, owned all the medical books. The Supremo’s collection, however, were more impressive — Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, Religion Within the Reach of All, The Bible, Les Miserables, Wandering Jew, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, Two Volumes of the History of the French Revolution, International Law, Civil Code, Penal Code,several volumes of La Solidaridad, and novels and works of other noted authors.
Bonifacio, who got insulted during the Tejeros Convention for his lack of diploma, was fluent enough in Spanish to translate Jose Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios in Tagalog. He also wrote the head-stirring poem, Pagibig sa Tinubuang Lupa, and most probably, was well-versed in French and English.
By Gerard A. Borrero.
Kalayaan Vol 3 No 3 March 1998