Andres Bonifacio: A Philippine Hero
Andres Bonifacio is a well known filipino nationalist and revolutionary. In the time of spanish colonial rule, he became the founder and leader of the Katipunan Movement that sought the independence of the Philippines and started the Philippine Revolution. This is of great significance to the Philippine history and my family history as well. Andres Bonifacio was the uncle of my great grandmother. I'm proud to have learned of his bravery and leadership and share his story with you.
Although not officially recognized as such, Bonifacio is considered by some filipino historians to be the first president of the Philippines, most definitely a hero. Andres Bonifacio (November 30,1863 - May 10, 1897) was the eldest of six children. Born in Tondo, Manila his father served as a municipal official in Tondo working as a tailor. His mother (mestiza - of spanish descent) worked in a cigarette factory. By his late teens both his parents died, his mother of tuberculosis in 1881, and his father passed a year later. In order to support his family, Bonifacio dropped out of school and worked as a messenger and wherehouse agent and later on setting up a family business selling canes and paper fans. His first wife died of leprosy, and with his second wife, Georgia de Jesus, he had fathered one son who died as an infant.
Bonifacio was self educated and had read books about the French Revolution, biographies of the Presidents of the United States, and studied colonial and civil penal codes. In 1892 he joined a peaceful organization that called for political reforms in the Spanish government in the Philippines called, La Liga Filipina (The Philippine League). Following the arrest and exile of La Liga Filipina's leader Jose Rizal, the group disbanded.
Bonifacio believed that there needed to be an armed revolution to free the Philippines from Spanish rule. The same day he learned of Rizal's arrest, he and others formed the Katipunan organization. Katipunan was an underground society who felt strong in freeing the Philippines from Spain by armed forces if necessary. Bonifacio and the others performed a blood compact and used their blood to sign their names as members of the society. Being a freemason, the Katipunan used principles of masonry in its organization. They implemented codes, hand signals, symbols and secret initiation ceremonies in accepting new members. They viewed all men, rich or poor as equals and were taught to care for one another in sicknesss and need.
In March 1896 there was a publication of Kalayaan featuring Bonifacios writings including a poem "Love for the Homeland". Katipunan membership increased greatly from less than 300 members in January 1896 to about 300,000 to 400,000 by August. Bonifacio became the central force in uniting and organizing the society, although he was not its first leader. It was only when the first set of leaders failed to live up to their responsibilities that Bonifacio established his leadership of the Katipunan and was eventually elected supremo.
Due to it's size in numbers the Spanish soon discovered the Katipunan, making arrests of any filipinos who were actual or suspected members of the group. Bonifacio gave orders to different chapters of the Katipunan in various parts of the Philippines and began the revolution. The revolutions spread quickly throughout the country, most successfully in Cavite where they were able to liberate town after town. In the province the Katipunan were divided in two; the Magdalo (headed by Emilio Aguinaldo) and the Magdiwang (headed by Mariano Alvarez). There was conflict between the two and Bonifacio was called to settle differences. Once arriving in Tejeros, it was decided that they would elect officials of a revolutinary government, and Bonifacio made it known that the result was to be respected by everyone. Aguinaldo was elected president, and Bonifacio, the Secretary of the Interior. It was protested by Daniel Tirona that an "uneducated man" was unfit for the position. Bonifacio then aimed his revolver towards Tirona and as supremo of Katipunan, declared the elections to be invalid.
Following this, Bonifacio's group went to Naik and drew up a Naik Military Agreement declaring a separate government from the one established at Tejeros. Because of this Aguinaldo ordered the arrest of Bonifacio and his men, being charged with treason against revolutionary government of Aguinaldo. On May 1897, Bonifacio was shot and executed at the foot of Mount Buntis. He was buried in a shallow grave marked only by a few twigs and leaves.
Bonifacio as National Hero
On March 17, 1918 Bonifacio's remains were found and placed in an urn and put into the care of the National Library of the Philippines. When Emilio Aguinaldo ran for President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon (his opponent and eventual victor) invoked the memory of Bonifacio against him. Some historians such as Milagros Guerrero, Emmanuel Encarnacion, and Ramon Villegas have pushed for the recognition of Bonifacio as the first president of the Philippines instead of Aguinaldo, the officially recognized one. This view is based on his position of president/supremo of the Katipunan revolutionary government from 1896-97. This view also emphasizes that Bonifacio established a government through the Katipunan before a government headed by Aguinaldo was formed at the Tejeros Convention. Bonifacio's birthday on November 30 is celebrated as Bonifacio Day and is a public holiday in the Philippines. There are many monuments honoring Bonifacio in the country. The two most famous can be found at Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines and at Caloocan. Bonifacio is also depicted in the 10 peso note and 10 peso coin in Philippine currency.
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