Posted by: Atty. Oliver Bulang | December 4, 2011

Cabadbaran City 148th Birth Anniversary Celebration of Andres Bonifacio

A pleasant early morning to all of us.

Before anything else, I’d like to say that I am deeply honored to have been invited as your guest speaker for this year’s 148th Birth Anniversary Celebration of Gat. Andres Bonifacio, also known as the Great Plebeian and a Freedom Fighter.

Today, we are fondly commemorating the birth of a great man—a potent revolutionary leader who instigated the revolt of the masses against Imperialist Spain.   It is in this regard that we have been celebrating his birth, that we have been remembering his memory, not only to honor his heroic deeds, but also to rekindle our hearts and refresh our memories, that somewhere in the mists of time, there was one man who stood against the oppression of a tyrannical Spanish Rule in the hope of building a united and lasting Filipino nation.

Gat Andres Bonifacio’s story is not just your typical and off-the-shelf story of a great man who died for the love of country. Unlike Rizal, Andres Bonifacio did not die in the hands of the enemy. He died in the hands of the very men he was fighting for. And that is something quite sad and intriguing—precisely the main reason why we do not celebrate Bonifacio’s death ever since, for to celebrate it would mark a huge paradox of our existence as a nation and as a people worth dying for.

And for that, I am constrained to revisit again his life and works so that we may be able to pay our respects with the man who should have occupied an exalted place in our history as Jose Rizal.

Andres Bonifacio was born in Tondo, on this day, 148 years ago, to spouses Santiago Bonifacio and Catalina de Castro. He was the eldest among the 6 children. Contrary to popular knowledge, Andres Bonifacio did not really live a hard life as both his parents were earning modest income. In short, they were not really poor. However, the modest life of Andres Bonifacio did not last that long.

In one sudden twist of fate, Andres Bonifacio was orphaned at the age of 14. For a young boy, that sorry episode was too much a misery. Consequently, at his tender age, Andres Bonifacio had to take on the role as both the father and the mother of his younger brothers and sisters. And he assumed that role wholeheartedly. At a very young age, Andres already knew the value of responsibility and accountability—values which greatly helped Bonifacio in leading the Philippine revolution.

The difficulties that Andres Bonifacio experienced following the death of his parents were insufferable. For one, he had to drop out of school because he had to take care and support his young siblings. To eke out a meager living, Andres and his brothers and sisters had to find ways to earn money just to survive. So while their childhood friends were busy learning how to read and write in school, Andres and his siblings were out on the streets selling fans and rattan canes.

But, intolerable as it looks, it did not weaken the tenacity of the young Andres. On the contrary, it even provided him with a strong resolve to face all the odds with audacity and guts.

It was Andres Bonifacio’s initial show of determination and fortitude of spirit.

It was not unknown to most of us that Andres Bonifacio’s lacked access to formal education. However, that did not hinder him from seeking higher knowledge. Unlike Rizal, Bonifacio did not have the luxury of getting a good education. But like Rizal, he also thirsts for knowledge. He put premium to it. Historical accounts would say that Andres Bonifacio tried to cover up his deficiency in formal education by maintaining a collection of all manner of books. So what Bonifacio lacked in formal education, he compensated by reading a lot of books. In fact, his modest collection of books included 2 volumes of the “History of French Revolution, “The Lives of the Presidents of the US,” 3 volumes of the “La Solidaridad,” “Noli Me Tangere,” “El Filibusterismo,” “International Law,” “Civil Code,”   “Les  Miserables” by Victor Hugo, and the “Wandering Jew.” Bonifacio even maintained a collection of law and medical books. As you will see, most of these books were progressive in nature, in fact some of these books have political underpinnings, warranting the presumption that these books could have inspired Andres to set off an armed revolution against Spain. Truly, Andres may be unschooled, but his knowledge somehow outweighed those of his contemporaries at the time.

This is a fitting reminder for all of us that poverty is never an excuse for not getting a good education. On the contrary, poverty can even fuel your desire to rise above the gutters and move towards the apex of your dreams.

Bonifacio taught us that virtue.

Anyone who is familiar with Philippine History would surely know that life under the Spanish regime was unbearable. Absurd and excessive taxes, forced labor, widespread poverty, friar oppression, among others. These things did not escape the prying eyes of the freedom-loving Andres. He thought something was wrong, that reforms had to be done. This marked the first foray of Andres Bonifacio into the realms of the revolution.

As a result, he joined the La Liga Filipina, founded by Jose Rizal, and shared the same visions of reforms and self-governance with men of the same stripe. Andres found his place under the sun. Originally, the La Liga was established mainly as a tool for a reform movement. Rizal only wanted reforms and Filipino representation in the Spanish Cortes. However, with the arrest of Rizal and the subsequent dissolution of the La Liga, a new and aggressive grassroot organization came about—it was the KKK or “The Katipunan.” Whereas the La Liga wanted peaceful reforms, the Katipunan wanted nothing less than an armed revolution.

For Bonifacio, there was no longer turning back. He believed that the only way to achieve absolute freedom is to effect a bloody uprising—a throwback to the French Revolution for which Andres Bonifacio presumably was so inspired of. Just like the French Revolution, Andres Bonifacio availed himself of the power of the proletariats, the masses, by enlisting the services of like-minded Filipinos. Soon enough, Katipunan gained a foothold among the Filipino masses as the number of its members swelled into thousands. It did not take that long before Andres Bonifacio became Katipunan’s Supremo.

 However, it also did not take that long for Spanish authorities to got wind of Katipunan’s sinister plans against the Spanish government.

At the age of 32, Bonifacio began orchestrating the overthrow of a 400-year old Spanish domination in the Philippines. It was the first in Asia. To signal the official start of the Philippine Revolution, Bonifacio and a horde of like-minded freedom fighters, gathered at Pugadlawin, tore their cedulas up and vowed to lay their lives for the motherland if only to achieve complete freedom.

The Philippine revolution spread like wildfire all over the Philippines. It even reached the provinces of Agusan and Surigao. But given the sophistication of the enemy’s weaponry, the revolution was never a walk in the park. Battle by battle, war by war, the Filipino patriots always suffered heavy casualties. Nonetheless, it did not deter the freedom fighters from moving forward. With Bonifacio’s able leadership, he became the vital force in uniting the Katipuneros.

Andres Bonifacio could have been the first Philippine President given his priceless efforts in mobilizing the Filipino patriots and in establishing the Katipunan. In fact, he had dreams himself to become a president someday. But his visions were short-lived by a discord within the Katipunan. Various factions, who were vying for supremacy, moved heavens and earth to sidestepped Bonifacio. Leadership was already up for grabs.

So while the flames of the revolt raged on, the internal struggle for dominance in the katipunan became inevitable. Soon enough, Bonifacio was downgraded as Secretary while Aguinaldo was overwhelmingly voted as the President. Bonifacio felt betrayed. For all of his invaluable support, he couldn’t believe the organization he had established would turn its back on him. And the reason? His lack of formal education and proper qualifications. Andres Bonifacio resented this and eventually established a faction of his own.

Viewed as a threat to the cohesiveness of the Katipunan, Andres was arrested, unfairly tried and immediately convicted for treason, along with his brother, Procopio. For a man who knows nothing but unconditional love of the country, it was utter treachery. It was an act of ungratefulness to a man whose entire existence was devoted only to the struggle of Filipino freedom.

On May 10, 1897, somewhere in the mountains of Maragondon, Cavite, Andres and his brother Procopio, humbly faced their grim end.

While it was established that they were executed on the basis of an order issued by the Revolutionary government already headed by Aguinaldo, Andres and Procopio’s manner of death has been shrouded with mystery up to this date. The truth is, the Supremo never received an impartial trial, a proper burial and the standard honor of an interment ceremony. He died faceless, almost nameless. It seems that nobody really cared.

It is against this backdrop of historical events that I would like you to contemplate on. Then and now, the political state of affairs of the Philippines has never changed. Then and now, the same evils continue to plague our governmental institutions. And I need not belabor my point on this one because I assume you are all cautious of today’s national current events. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two out of Bonifacio’s mysterious death.

Be that as it may, Andres Bonifacio still left an indelible mark in the annals of our history. By championing the cause of the masses—in the real sense of the word—Andres came out a genuine hero after all. For while it was Rizal who awakened the senses of the Filipinos, it was actually Bonifacio who undertook the bloody deed. And while it was Aguinaldo who pushed the revolution through, it was actually Bonifacio who planted the seeds of the revolution. For all of his glorious deeds, he truly deserves a special place in the pantheon of our greatest heroes.

Today, as we pay our tribute to the Great Plebeian and a Freedom Fighter, let us all commit to memory all his countless sacrifices, all his invaluable sufferings to the cause of Filipino freedom. Let us all remember that the independence and freedom we so enjoyed now were already guaranteed by the flesh and blood of those who came before us, Andres Bonifacio no less. In return, we are duty-bound to secure this freedom, in much the same way that it was secured for us, for the present generation and the generations that will come after us.

Thank you very much and Long live Gat Andres Bonifacio! Long live the City of Cabadbaran!

Mabuhay Tang Tanan!!!

*(Speech of the author who had the rare chance  of being invited as the guest speaker for the 148th Birth Anniversary Celebration of Andres Bonifacio in Cabadbaran City.)


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