ON WEDNESDAY, November 30, the country honored Andres Bonifacio with a national holiday. Not many heroes share that respect.
Andres Bonifacio is often depicted in a camisa chino with a red scarf and forging into battle with a bolo. Was he just a peasant, an indio, based on the usual image?
Andres Bonifacio was the eldest child of Santiago Bonifacio, who was a tailor, a boatman, and a politician – a Teniente Mayor of Tondo, Manila. His mother was Catalina de Castro, born of a Spanish father and a Filipino- Chinese mother making Andres, a mestizo. Catalina worked as a supervisor in a cigarette factory. So, his lineage does not qualify him as a peasant or an indio. His father with enough means afforded Andres a private tutor. However, when his parents died of illness, he stopped school to feed and support his siblings singlehandedly.
He was self-taught and well-read on different topics from medicine to law, to Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.” He could speak Spanish and Tagalog and English as well.
Industrious and resourceful, he sold canes and paper fans, but also held a variety of office jobs. He worked as a broker and agent for multinational companies like the British trading firm Fleming and Company, then for the German trading firm, Fressell and Company. He had a great penmanship and would often do poster-making jobs. Andres was an actor in the theatre. He later on wrote the Dekalogo (Katipunan’s teachings), “Ang Dapat Mabatid ng mga Tagalog,” and the compelling poem “Pag-ibig sa TinubuangLupa”?
Andres Bonifacio was married twice. Little is known of his first wife, Monica. They were married for 10 years but were childless. She died of leprosy.
Then he met the 18-year-old Gregoria de Jesús, (Oriang), 11 years his junior. She was the daughter of a prominent landowner from Caloocan. Gregoria's parents were not too accepting of Andres as he was a freemason. But they were married through a Catholic ceremony in Binondo Church and on the same day, through Katipunan rites. They had one son named Andres Jr., who died of small pox in infancy. “Lakambini” was a title first referred to Oriang.
In August 1896, before the revolution, Bonifacio reorganized the Katipunan into a de facto revolutionary government with him as the President and the Supreme Council as his cabinet. As Supremo, Andres Bonifacio was able to organize the first national movement in the country that aimed for nationhood and succeeded. From Batanes to Jolo, he united the nation with the one goal of fighting for national independence and establishing a Filipino government.
Then as it is now, despite the efforts of Bonifacio, there was division in the Katipunan. The two factions of the KKK, the Magdiwang headed by Mariano Alvarez (uncle of Oriang) and the Magdalo headed by Emilio Aguinaldo held the Tejeros Convention in Cavite in 1897 to conduct the first presidential and vice presidential elections in Philippine history. Only the Katipuneros took part in this election.
It is believed that the first incidence of election fraud was held in the Tejeros Convention. Alvarez wrote of the proceedings: “When the ballots had been collected and the votes were ready to be canvassed, Mr. Diego Mojica, the Magdiwang Secretary of the Treasury, warned the Supremo that many ballots distributed were already filled out and that the voters had not done this themselves.”
In an interview, Atty. Gary Bonifacio, the great-great-grandson of Bonifacio’s younger brother Procopio says: “The first election that made Aguinaldo president was marred by corruption. There were more votes counted than the actual registered voters.”
He continues: “Aguinaldo’s taking over of the Philippine Revolution in 1897 by the controversial election at the Tejeros Convention in Cavite was a takeover of power.”
The word Magdalo resurfaced when Antonio Trillanes IV staged a military coup against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was later elected senator.
Andres and his brother Procopio were charged with sedition and treason against Emilio Aguinaldo’s government and conspiracy to murder “El Presidente.” A jury consisting exclusively of Aguinaldo's men sentenced to death the Bonifacio brothers and had them executed on May 10, 1897 in the Maragondon mountains in Cavite.
Lazaro Makapagal states: “Procopio was shot first and then Andres made a run into the woods. The soldiers caught up with him, shot him, and buried his body in a shallow hole.”
In an alternate version, one of Makapagal’s men told a Katipunero that Andres was hacked several times with a bolo while lying helplessly in a hammock. This account was supported by a farmer who claimed seeing five men hacking a man in a hammock. Andres Bonifacio already sustained multiple injuries (a gunshot wound in his left arm and stab wound in the neck) and was carried in a hammock because he was extremely weak to climb the mountain. How could he run to escape?
Again, according to Atty. Gary Bonifacio: “Aguinaldo did write a confession in 1949 admitting that he was behind the killing of Bonifacio.” He was prodded by Council of War to maintain the stability of the government.
Andres Bonifacio was executed at the age of 33 years with Procopio, while their other brother Ciriaco was shot dead during the arrest. The other siblings were Espiridiona, Troadio, and Maxima.
After the revolution, Troadio went into self exile. The last news of him was he was in France in 1898 or 1899. Espiridiona was hunted and she hid in Cavite by the Distrito family. Maxima died at an early age. As to the wife of Andres Bonifacio, the Lakambini insinuates in her memoirs having suffered much while in captivity under Aguinaldo’s men.
Bonifacio descendants went into hiding and some changed their names. Atty. Gary Bonifacio states: “It was not until 1992 when the descendants of Procopio and Espiridiona met each other. Before that, even Espiridiona herself did not know about Procopio's son.