FOR one reason or another, there are fewer materials on Andres Bonifacio compared to other contemporaneous historical figures. For instance, there is only one available photograph of Bonifacio and it showed him wearing a coat!
Thus, lacking any physical evidence, representations of Bonifacio wearing a camisa de chino with scarf may be factually inaccurate. The bolo may not even be the weapon of choice of Bonifacio. No historical accounts mention Bonifacio wielding a bolo. But there are stories of Bonifacio pointing a pistol at another revolutionary who gravely insulted him.
Myths have been woven around Bonifacio -- many of them obviously demolition jobs perpetrated by his political detractors. These myths have since been debunked by credible historians.
One such myth portrays Bonifacio as the Unlettered Supremo (Ang Bobong Supremo). But as later historians pointed out, Bonifacio's reading list contained titles which would make his detractors illiterate by comparison.
That is just the tip of the iceberg.
Young historian Michael Charleston "Xiao" Chua, quoting eminent historians Milagros C. Guerrero, Emmanuel N. Encarnacion and Ramon N. Villegas, asserts that Bonifacio may even have been our First President.
This assertion is based on "newly-accessed Katipunan documents."
In remedial law, "newly discovered evidence" could be the basis of a review or reconsideration of a previous adverse ruling.
Chua taught history at the University of the Philippines (where he completed BA and MA in History) and is currently an Assistant Professional Lecturer in De La Salle University. Chua is currently completing his Doctorate in Anthropology.
Dr. Guerrero is the co-author (with Teodoro Agoncillo) of the widely used history textbook "History of the Filipino People." She is a retired history professor of the University of the Philippines and has served as chair of the Department of History from 1989 to 1992. She is also a former president of the Philippine Historical Association. In 2007, Dr. Guerrero received an award from the National Research Council of the Philippines in recognition of her work in "the holistic synthesis of historical materials in the field of history."
Collaborating with Dr. Guerrero are Ramon Villegas, a historian and a collector, and Emmanuel Encarnacion, a historian, an antiquarian and a holder of some original Bonifacio documents.
In their investigation, Dr. Guerrero et al. received a providential boost from recently- accessed Katipunan documents.
These documents formed part of the collection of noted historian and former Director of the pre-war Philippine Library and Museum, Epifanio de los Santos. These consisted mainly of letters and other important documents signed by Andres Bonifacio which more fully explained Bonifacio's revolutionary government. Curiously, these documents became accessible only in 1988.
In addition, documents accessed sometime in 2014 from the Archivo General Militar de Madrid (AGMM) provided more detailed insights into the workings of Bonifacio's revolutionary government. These consisted of Katipunan documents which were confiscated by the Guardia Civil during the revolution and later deposited at the archives in Madrid.
Dr. Guerrero et al. also reviewed memoirs of contemporaneous revolutionary figures (eg. Santiago Alvarez , Artemio Ricarte, Pio Valenzuela). They re-read documents available at the National Historical Insitute and the archives of Madrid and Barcelona.
They revisited the interpretative accounts and conclusions of distinguished earlier historians, among them Gregorio Zaide, Teodoro Agoncillo, Jose P. Bantug, Jose P. Santos, Fathers Pedro S. Achutegui, SJ, Miguel Bernad, SJ and even US military historian John R.M. Taylor.
Using both primary historical documents and interpretative accounts of earlier historians, Dr. Guerrero et al, are submitting the proposition that:
1. When the plans of a general uprising were discovered, Bonifacio called a general meeting of the Katipunan on August 24, 1896. According to Santiago Alvarez, a thousand people came, indicating that there was already a government working when they declared the national government.
2. In that meeting, the Katipunan assembly made three decisions -
a. They declared a nationwide armed revolution to win freedom from Spain.
b. They established a national government.
c. They elected officials who would lead the nation and the army.
3. From a secret organization, the Katipunan became an open de facto government.
4. This de facto government had its constitution - the Kartilya ng Katipunan. An important document called "Casaysayan" defined the de facto government's leadership and various positions.
5. Early documents referred to the de facto government as Haring Bayan ng Katagalugan. Haring Bayan means Sovereign Nation or Pamahalaan or Republika.
6. Katagalugan encompassed not just the Tagalogs but all ethnic groups from the entire archipelago.
7. Katagalugan was preferred over the use of "Filipinas" to symbolize the complete break of the natives or "Indios" from the "Filipinos." At the time, "Filipinos" referred only to Spaniards born in the islands - the so-called Insulares.
8. Haring Bayan ng Katagalugan had a near complete cabinet: a Secretary of War, a Secretary of State, a Secretary of Interior, a Secretary of Justice, a Secretary of Finance.
9. Haring Bayan ng Katagalugan had a diplomatic component - a "Commission" which tried to negotiate for Japanese political, military and financial aid. The same "Commission" also tried to touch base with the US and French governments through their respective consulates in Hong Kong.
10. Haring Bayanng Katagalugan had its own flag consisting of the red and white sun with the baybayin K in the center.
11. Haring Bayan ng Katagalugan had its own national anthem "Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan" which was composed by Julio Nakpil.
12. Haring Bayan ng Katagalugan commanded the loyalty of a significant portion of the population.
13. While it existed, the government held territory where it exercised the functions of a state, especially in Pasig and Morong.
Foregoing considered, I cannot but agree with the following conclusions of Dr. Guerrero et al. that:
1. Andres Bonifacio founded the Katipunan in 1892.
2. Bonifacio initiated and established the first national government in 1896.
3. Bonifacio became the first Philippine President, from August 24, 1896 until he was unseated in a political coup during the Tejeros Convention held on March 22, 1897.
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