Bonifacio reveals fervor in writings


BONIFACIO AT 149. Workers prepare the shrine of Andres Bonifacio at Manila’s Plaza Lawton on Thursday for Friday’s observance of his 149th birth anniversary. Bonifacio was the founder and later supreme commander of the Katipunan movement that launched the Philippine Revolution for independence from Spain in 1896. RAFFY LERMA

(Editor’s Note: Bryan C. Paraiso is senior historic sites development officer at the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.)

Andres Bonifacio is best known in Philippine history as the Supremo of the Katipunan, the peasant army that launched the Philippine Revolution against Spain in 1896.

But little else is known about Bonifacio, making him an elusive character in the Philippines’ struggle for independence.

Stories about the orphaned boy single-handedly supporting his siblings by selling fans and walking sticks, a theatrical performer and amateur poet, a highly literate bodeguero skilled enough to manage foreign trading firms have so romanticized our image of Bonifacio and his life that historian Glenn Anthony May commented:

“… Bonifacio has been posthumously re-created. He has been given a new personality and a childhood that may bear little resemblance to his real one … The national hero who has emerged from this process of re-creation—the Bonifacio celebrated in history textbooks and memorialized in statues around the Philippines—is, in reality, something closer to a national myth.”

Much of what Filipino students of history know about Bonifacio has been culled from the writings of historians based on firsthand narratives of witnesses and protagonists in the national uprising.

But those writings are colored by the historians’ subjective interpretation, such as the article of Epifanio de los Santos in Revista Filipina that aims to vindicate the Supremo against the “cold and hostile … to the extent of objecting to his being given due recognition”  and the view that Bonifacio was the progenitor of a “class struggle” that arose from the inadequacies of the Reform Movement and apathy of the educated gentry for the masses.

Contentious evidence

Fate has been unkind to Bonifacio. His mystery-shrouded life ended in an ignominious death.

And the only tangible proofs of his existence are a faded photograph and some sparse writings, contentious evidence endlessly debated by historians.

But the snippets of prose and poetry may provide a clear picture of the personality and the rational workings of Bonifacio’s mind.

They reveal a man with an adequate education, adept at writing using an elegant hand and passionate about his idealistic and nationalistic principles.

Bonifacio’s revolutionary poetry diverged from the critical yet cautious literature of the Reform Movement.

According to literary critic Bienvenido Lumbera, poetry composed by ilustrados like Marcelo H. del Pilar during the period of the Reform Movement employed popular literary forms such as the duplo, a verbal joust in improvised versification, retaining its romantic air but encapsulating a witty political opinion in order to gain the attention and involvement of the masses in the struggle for reform.

Though Del Pilar’s caustic poetry such as “Sagot ng España sa Hibik ng Filipinas” (Spain’s Response to the Philippine Cry) primarily assailed the abuses of the friars and advocated concerted action by the Filipinos, there was a note of restraint and ambiguity—either to endure oppression or work for the country’s good—since no aid could be expected from a feeble Spain:

Ito na nga lamang ang maisasagot

ng salantang ina sa hibik mo, irog

sasakyan mo’y gipo, huwag matutulog

ang mga anak mo’t masigwa sa laot.

(This is all that can be said in reply

to your plaint by your crippled mother, dear one;

your vessel is fragile: let not your sons sleep

for a tempest tosses at mid-sea.)

Spanish way of life

Conversely, Bonifacio’s “Tapunan ng Lingap” (Care a Little) admonishes his countrymen to reject the reprehensible habits and way of life of the Spaniards, which had tarnished the Filipinos’ native psyche, and encourages a revolt against oppression, bravely facing the enemy to protect the country’s interests:

Mga kapatid ko’y iwaksi ang sindak,

sa mga balita ng kastilang uslak

ugali ng isang sa tapang ay salat

na kahit sa bibig tayo’y ginugulat.

At huwag matakot sa pakikibaka,

sa lahing berdugo na lahing Espanya,

nangangarito na para manggagaga

ang ating sariling ibig pang makuha.

(Brothers of mine, banish fear

of the imbecile Spaniard’s exaggerated boast,

it is the habit of he who is devoid of courage

to frighten us—even with his mouth.

And don’t be afraid to fight

the race of executioners, the Spanish race,

they are here in order to usurp,

they want to get what is ours.)

Cleansing revolution

In the same vein, Bonifacio’s prose works such as “Dapat Mabatid ng mga Tagalog” serve as a declaration of distrust and repudiation of Spain’s failure to abide by its promises to bring justice and prosperity to the Philippines, justifying a revolution to cleanse societal evil:

“Itinuturo ng katwiran, na wala tayong iba pang maaantay kundi lalut lalung kahirapan, lalut lalung kataksilan, lalut lalung kaalipustaan at lalut lalung kaalipinan. Itinuturo ng katwiran na huwag nating sayangin ang panahon sa pag-asa sa ipinangakong kaginhawaan na hindi darating at hindi mangyayari … Itinuturo ng katwiran ang tayo’y magkaisang loob, magkaisang isip at akala at ng tayo’y magkalakas na maihanap ang naghaharing kasamaan sa ating Bayan. (Reason tells us that we cannot expect anything but more sufferings, more treachery, more insults and more slavery. Reason tells us not to waste time hoping for the promised prosperity that will never come and materialize. Reason tells us to be united in sentiment, thought and purpose in order to have the strength to combat the prevailing evils in our country.)”

Catalyst for nationalism

Proficiently written in the vernacular, Bonifacio’s literary works served as a catalyst for the nationalist awakening through the Katipunan, spurring on the Filipino’s political development and popularizing Tagalog poetry during the late 19th century.

True enough, though little known are the physical traits and features of Bonifacio, a virtual persona of bravery and patriotism arises from his surviving literary works.

A deeper investigation is necessary to uncover the elusive Bonifacio. Another interesting area of inquiry is the formation of his character through his choice of books to augment his thirst for knowledge.

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  • WAJ

    Why can’t you tell them that Bonifacio was killed by a group of assassins.

    • kismaytami

      He was sentenced to death by a traitor known by the name emilio aguinaldo.

      • spider69

        ito rin ang pinaniniwalaan ko. kaya hindi ko kinikilala na bayani si Aguinaldo. pilit na inililiko ng mga apo ni Aguinaldo ang katotohanan.

      • spider69

        When I was young, we always go places in Cavite. But never the Aguinaldo’s place. I think you called it Aguinaldo shrine.

    • Shadows1

      There were also reports, although unvefied, that Bonifacio’s wife was raped by his arresting officers. But when Bonifacio asked his wife during his trial if she was violated, the wife said no, and Bonifacio believed him.

  • lucidlynx

    Bonifacio is the man! The model Filipino – educated and fearless. He should be equal to Rizal.

    • taga_ilog

      He was not equal, I think he even greater because he took action and not merely watched from the sidelines, like many intellectuals did.

  • Tausog51

    It is a pity that our nation did not give much attention to the writings and life of Andres Bonifacio. In my elementary and high school days, we were taught more about the life of Abraham Lincoln and the life of George Washington. Obviously, the life, leadership, and writings of Andres Bonifacio were obscured or even suppressed by the adversaries of Andres Bonifacio. If Andres Bonifacio, was not killed, what could have been the direction of the Phillipine Revolution. ?

    • Jezzrel

      kung di minasaker si Bonifacio at si Gen. Luna, malamang baka di tayo naging american colony….

    • eirons1043

      Mr. T – the omision of Bonifacio’s literary talent and emphasis on his failures are american sponsored event abetted by the spanish/american period ilustrado makapilis who masquerade as newspaper columnist of that era. They chose the transactional Emilio A as their poster boy revolucionario.  But Aguinaldo never get elected on the then still honest counting coz the voters know what kind of person he is.

      • taga_ilog

        in war, propaganda makes up of 50% of defeating the enemy. if the populace does not support a war, then everything is lost without even firing a shot. Alas for Gat Andres, he was a victim both of propaganda and his fellow revolutionists

    • taga_ilog

      Not to discredit Gat Andres, he frequently lost his encounters with the spanish during those days, I believe he lost prestige to the other revolutionists during that time and add to that, the political ambitions of the others in the revolutions proved to be his undoing. If ever he was not killed, I don’t think that he would have gone far with the revolution. The Philippines got lucky that the Spanish-American war was ongoing that time, and the other revolutionaries asked the americans for help. 

      • tvnatinto

        that doesn’t ring true. by all accounts it seems he was cut off at his prime and at his most effective.

  • tra6Gpeche

    Ang pagpaslang sa ating Bayani
    Sa aking isip di maiwaksi
    Sariling kabayan ang pumatay
    Dahil ba sa inggit at sakim na pakay?

    Gat Andres Bonifacio, ikaw ay dakila
    Sa lahat ng bagay na ‘yong ginawa
    Isa kang magiting na dapat tularan
    Pagmamahal sa bayan, tunay na tunay.

    Ipinagbubunyi ka sa iyong kaarawan
    Inaalaala ang iyong nakaraan
    Ang pagtatatag mo ng Katipunan
    Ang naging landas ng kasarinlan.

    Sa panahon ngayon, walang tulad mo
    Nagsilbi sa bayan ng totoong-totoo
    Walang pag-iimbot, walang pagkagahaman
    at di nagnakaw sa yaman ng inang-bayan!

    • 12JEM

       Like 100 times.  To be 100% Tagalog  substitute   “naglingkod” for “nagsilbi” .

      • tra6Gpeche

        Tama ka kabayan. “Silbi” really came from infinitive form of spanish word “servir.”

  • Eddie AAA Calderon

    Very good tra6Gpeche. If not for the foreign word silbi from the Spanish servir, the language of Gat Francisco Balagtas you are using for this poetry is really good and would be 100 Tagalog.

    Mayroon tayong salin sa salitang silbi. Ngunit nakaligta-an ko na ito o nawaglit ito sa aking pag-iisip.

    Minnapolis, Mn

    • boyod

      di ba o pwde ba ang “nagaaruga” ang salin sa silbi, just asking lang

      • 12JEM

         In the context it was used the Tagalog equivalent is naglingkod.

      • tra6Gpeche

        My mistake…the tagalog word should be naglingkod. The word “nagsilbi” came from the infinitive form Spanish word “servir.” Nag-aaruga means nagkakandili or nag-aalaga.

    • 12JEM

       naglingkod  instead of nagsilbi.

      • tra6Gpeche

        You are correct. I wrongly used the word that came from the infinitive form of Spanish word “servir.”

    • tra6Gpeche

      My mistake…”Silbi” came from Spanish infinitive word “servir.”

    • tra6Gpeche

      My mistake! I think my first answer to you was redundant. “Naglingkod” is the Tagalog word. Thanks!

      • Pio Gante

        asa na man tong pungko-pungko oy para maglingkod ko samtang nagkaon?

      • tra6Gpeche

        Paumanhin kabayan. Hindi ko nauunawaan ang iyong mga kataga. Maari bang isalin mo sa Tagalog o sa wikang Englis? Salamat.

  • Stuubs

    Supremo ka Andres, the Original and the True leader of the Katipunan.He became the very first victim of an election fraud in the history of the philippines.Betrayed and killed by Gen Aguinaldo,the founder of the Magdalo group ! The old school Philippine politics…Young filipinos must learn and emulate the lives of Dr Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and the rest of our true heroes of the philippines. The youth is the hope of our fatherland !— Dr Jose Rizal

  • Eddie AAA Calderon

    I remember vividly the Aguinaldo and the Bonifacio story in our Philippine Nationalism class during my junior year at the University of the Philippines that was taught by Prof Gabriel Fabella.
    Bonifacio and General Antonio Luna who were killed ………. became official national heroes. Aguinaldo did not and it was because of the death of the two declared heroes.

    So was Apolinario Mabini, El Cerebro de la Revolucion Filipina. He did become a national hero. He rather acceptrf being exiled to Guam than accept American sovereignty over the Philippines. My history class told us that President Aguinaldo and relatives were given life pension by the American government if he would accept American sovereignty over the Philippines. Aguinaldo readily accepted it. Mabini refused to accept American sovereignty but two to three years later accepted it when he saw that American rule in the Philippines was vastly superior and humanitarian than the Spanish rule. You can read this in his Revolucion Filipina which was our textbook in my junior and senior Spanish courses at the UP (24 credits of legally required Spanish to graduate) and also in my MA class on the political philosophy of the Philippine revolution taught by Dr. Caesar Adib Majul at the UP. 

    • Homer Guo

       A teacher in Lyceum in Muralla street, Ms Adel Trias, declared: it was necessary for Bonifacio to die, she wanted to justify Aguinaldo’s treachery. My soul revolted when she uttered those.

    • dipadadaig

      “Mabini was taken to Manila from Guam on the U.S. transport Thomas on Feb. 26, 1903, and took the oath before the Collector of Customs. The Americans offered him a high government position but he turned it down. To Americans discomfiture, he resumed his work of agitating for independence.” Source: Philippine – American War, 1899 – 1902 by Arnaldo Dumindin. This is for your info.

  • Homer Guo

    Sabi nga: the winner in war gets to write history. That’s why, Bonifacio’s part was marginalized. Dapat nga walang national hero because all those who died for their country are heroes and many more…..

  • tuldok

    Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya
    sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila
    Gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa?
    Aling pag-ibig pa? Wala na nga, wala.

    • tvnatinto

      is there a love more pure, more great
      than the love you bear for the land which nurtured you?
      is there a love? there is none, no…none.

  • MonMayuga

    “At huwag matakot sa pakikibaka,
    Sa lahing berdugo ng lahing Espanya,
    Nangangarito na para manggagaga,
    Ang ating sarila ibig pang makuha.”

    There is a similarity here with what President Aquino said in his SONA, regarding the obvious attempt of the Chinese to conquer the disputed islands, Scarborough Shoals.

    “Masama bang ipaglaban ang sa totoo lamang ay atin naman talaga?”

    Andres Bonifacio was assassinated in Cavite by the men of General Emilio Aguinaldo. The two men were in contention for the leadership of the Philippine Revolution. Even the death of General Antono Luna was under suspicious circumstances.

    Nothing has changed much form those waning years of the 19th century of our country’s history as we view our nation today. Many people in high offices of the government eliminate those they see as potential rivals by killing them or having them murdered.

    Sad, sad, sad.

    • tvnatinto

      kaya pala ang daming aguinaldo sa gobyerno ngayon

  • mangTASYO

    Panahon na para palitan ang PMA AGUINALDO SABER ng PMA BONIFACIO BOLO!

    Ang Aguinaldo SABER ay simBOLO ng TRAYDOR na MAGDALO.

    The execution and assassination of Bonifacio was the first victory of personal ambition of Aguinaldo over true patriotism – Apolinario Mabini.

  • basilionisisa

    so BEAUTIFUL article! thank you, Mr. Paraiso. my personal favorite quote from Bonifacio:
    “Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya,
    Sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila?
    Gaya ng pag-ibig sa sariling lupa,
    Aling pag-ibig pa?
    Wala na nga… Wala!”

  • buttones

    Bonfacio is history, and has been delegated to history, an interesting subject but utterly irrelevant it the concept of what goes on today, it’s almost a fairy tale. Typical of us Filipinos bleating on about our past, guys waving swords about, for the love of Mary grow up!

  • Conrado L Mancao

    Who killed Bonifacio? I’ve read somewhere, sometime ago, that Aguinaldo ordered his execution for a treasonous act. Am I correct?

  • Eddie AAA Calderon

    To tra6Gpeche. Thanks for your email. Yes tama ang salitang maglingkod. If if may interest you, I wrote two articles in the somosprimoscom Hispanic magazine for December, 2012 under the category The Philippines. One of the article is about the English language. Let me know if you have any opinion about my article. The other article is my experience visiting the largest concentration camp in the world (Auschwitz).


    “Itinuturo ng katwiran na wala tayong iba pang maaantay kundi lalut lalung kahirapan, lalut lalung kataksilan, lalut lalung kaalipsutahan, lalut lalung kaalipinan”. ….. “Itinuturo ng katwiran….. ipinangakong kaginhawaan na hindi at hindi mangyayari…. ” The words of Bonifacio is true up to this day. As proven by 25 years, non implementation of Anti Political Dynasty law. The family of corrupts continue to rule with impunity.
    Magka isang isip tayong lahat upang tapusin ang kasamaang namamayagpag sa ating bayan. REFUSE to VOTE for congress and senate. There is no more need for PDAF hungry crocodiles. Enough for enacting laws. Kick out the Political Dynasty is the saving peaceful revolution.  

  • joerizal

    Wala nang Bonifacio ngayon. Wala nang galing sa hirap na makakapaglungsad ng rebolusyon na tulad ng ginawa niya. Pero ang hindi pa rin nagbabago ay ang pagkagahaman ng mga mayayaman sa kapangyarihan at patuloy na pagmata at pag-api sa mga pangkaraniwang tao. Si Bonifacio ay naging biktima ng mga ilustrado na katumbas ng mga political dynasty ngayon.

  • kalikasanipagtanggol

    Ang dugo ng berdugo ay hindi na nasa mga kastila nananalaytay na rin sa dugong pinoy na nahaluan na ng dugong berdugo!

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