Andres Bonifacio

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Andres Bonifacio
30 November 1863 – 10 May 1897
Gat Andrés Bonifacio.jpg
Andres Bonifacio, leader of the Katipunan
Place of birth: Tondo, Manila, Philippines
Place of death: Mount Buntis
Major organization: Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan

Andres Bonifacio (30 November 1863 – 10 May 1897) was a Filipino revolutionary leader and patriot, known as the "Father of the Philippine Revolution." He was one of the founders and organizers of the Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) or Katipunan. He has earned his place in Philippine history as a Filipino hero with an uncompromising stance in leading Filipinos to the path of freedom.


Bonifacio was born in Tondo, Manila to Santiago Bonifacio and Catalina de Castro. On December 2, 1863, he was baptized at Tondo Church by Father Saturnino Buntan, with Vicente Molina as godfather.

His father sent him to study under Guillermo Osmeña, who taught him basic arithmetic, writing in Tagalog, and basic Spanish.

Bonifacio was 14 years old when his parents died. As the eldest, he was forced to give up his studies to support his siblings: Ciriaco, Procopio, Troadio, Espiridonia, and Maxima. Andres made canes and paper fans and sold them in the streets of Manila to earn income and provide for his siblings.

Bonifacio was eventually employed as a messenger in Fleming and Company, an English trading company. Seeing his perseverance and industry, the officials of the company promoted him as an agent responsible for buying and selling abaca, rattan, cotton, and other farm products. Bonifacio later transferred to Fressel and Company, a German trading house where he worked as a warehouseman. He held this position until the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution in 1896. While working for these companies, Bonifacio continued to manufacture canes and paper fans, but his brothers and sisters took over the responsibility of selling the items.


Despite Bonifacio's limited salary and the strain of supporting his siblings, he still devoted some of his money to acquiring books to educate himself. His collection of books included the Spanish translation of a book on the history of the French Revolution, Eugene Sue's The Wandering Jew, Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, The Ruins of Palmyra, the Bible, Les Miserables, and various law books. Although limited in scope and nature, Bonifacio managed to educate himself by assiduously reading whatever books he could obtain.

Aside from working and studying, Bonifacio kept himself busy with other productive endeavors. Being proficient in Tagalog, he became a member of a Tagalog dramatic society, both as an actor and organizer of plays. In 1887, he and his friends established the Teatro Porvenir and staged moro-moros in Tondo. Bonifacio was also a freemason and a member of the Taliba Lodge. He likewise joined Rizal's La Liga Filipina and helped in the organization of the society in Binondo, Paco, and Tondo.


Bonifacio married twice. His first marriage did not last long as his wife, Monica, died of leprosy a year after they were married. He then met Gregoria de Jesus from Caloocan and immediately fell in love with her. Bonifacio courted her against the will of her father, Nicolas de Jesus, who strongly objected to Bonifacio's freemasonry as a creation of the devil. Despite this, he eventually agreed to the marriage provided that the wedding be under Catholic rites. In March 1893, Bonifacio and de Jesus were married at Binondo Church.

Later, the couple were also married under Katipunan rites. De Jesus was then inducted into the women's chapter of the Katipunan with Lakambini as her symbolic name. Her duties included protecting the letters, manuscripts, revolvers, and seals of the Katipunan.

The couple had a son who died two months later after contracting smallpox.

The Katipunan

After the dissolution of the Liga and the arrest and exile of Rizal, a secret meeting was held at the house of Deodato Arellano in Tondo on 7 July 1892. The meeting was attended by Bonifacio, Ladislaw Diwa, Teodoro Plata, Deodato Arellano, and Valentin Diaz. They formed the Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) or Katipunan as a reaction to what they saw as the inherent weaknesses of the Liga and the reform movement and the necessity of ending Spanish rule in the Philippines. Their aim was to achieve Philippine independence through revolution. Bonifacio and the others performed a blood compact and used their blood to sign their names as members of the society.

Since most of its founding members were freemasons, the Katipunan employed the principles of masonry in its organization. Katipuneros used codes, hand signals, symbols, and secret initiation rites and ceremonies in accepting new members. Initially, the triangle system was used in recruiting members, wherein a member would recruit two people who did not know one another. The new recruits would also follow the same process in recruiting members. However, the process proved too slow and tedious so the Katipunan decided to abandon the system and just directly recruit members.

With the passing of months, Katipunan membership grew and quickly spread throughout Luzon. it reached Panay in the Visayas and even Mindanao. 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.

Outbreak of the Revolution

Prior to the outbreak of the revolution in 1896, it was estimated that the membership of the Katipunan was between 30,000 to 40,000 Katipuneros. With such numbers, it was only a matter of time before its existence became known to Spanish authorities in the Philippines.

The Katipunan was finally discovered in August 1896. Bonifacio had no choice but to launch the revolution, although prematurely, as the Spaniards started to arrest Filipinos who were actual and suspected members of the Katipunan. Gathering the Katipuneros, Bonifacio and his men tore their cedulas as a symbol of their struggle against Spain. He then gave orders to the different chapters of the Katipunan in various parts of the Philippines to begin the revolution.

The revolution spread like wildfire throughout the country but the most successful military campaigns of the Katipunan were in Cavite, where Katipuneros managed to liberate town after town. Gradually, hostilities shifted from Manila to Cavite as the Spaniards tried to counter these military victories. Both sides started diverting their troops and supplies to the province.

Tejeros Convention

Although it enjoyed military success in Cavite, the Katipunan in the province was unfortunately divided into two factions, the Magdalo and the Magdiwang. The Magdalo, headed by Baldomero Aguinaldo, became powerful because of its success in defending its territories against Spanish attacks. The Magdiwang, headed by Mariano Alvarez, was losing its influence because of numerous military defeats. Because of the conflict between the two factions, Bonifacio was invited to Cavite to mediate and settle the differences.

Bonifacio arrived at the friar estate house in Barrio Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabon, Cavite. Upon the arrival of the Magdiwang and Magdalo factions, it was decided that the group should elect officials of a revolutionary government. Although he was the supremo of the Katipunan, Bonifacio submitted to the decision of the group regarding the formation of a new government. However, he reiterated to all participants in the convention that the result of the process should be respected by everyone.

In the elections that followed, Emilio Aguinaldo was elected president while Bonifacio was elected to the position of Director of the Interior. Disregarding Bonifacio's reminder, Daniel Tirona vehemently protested Bonifacio's capacity to handle the position as he was an "uneducated man." Tirona suggested lawyer Jose del Rosario for the position. In a fit of anger, Bonifacio drew his revolver and aimed it at Tirona. Cooler heads prevailed but in disgust, Bonifacio, acting as the supremo of the Katipunan, declared the proceedings and elections that took place in Tejeros to be invalid.

Arrest and Trial

After the convention, Bonifacio and his men drew up the Acta de Tejeros document invalidating the Tejeros proceedings due to voting anomalies and election irregularities. In April 1897, Bonifacio's group went to Naik where they drew up the Naik Military Agreement declaring a separate government from the one established at Tejeros. The document stated that an army would be formed and a new military commander would be chosen. It was signed by Bonifacio, Severino de las Alas, Pio del Pilar, Mariano Noriel, and Artemio Ricarte.

Aguinaldo saw the actions of Bonifacio as fatal to the unity of the Filipino revolutionaries and ordered the arrest of the supremo. Colonel Agapito Bonzon, Felix Topacio, and Jose Ignacio Paua were tasked to apprehend and arrest Bonifacio and his men. Bonzon found them in Limbon, Indang, Cavite. After a brief firefight, the wounded Andres and Procopio were arrested, while Ciriaco was killed.

A military court was convened in Maragondon, Cavite where the Bonifacio brothers were charged with sedition and treason against the revolutionary government of Aguinaldo. Placido Martinez, counsel for Andres, asked for clemency while Teodoro Gonzalez, Procopio's counsel, asked for acquittal. Although the military court was legal, the proceedings surrounding the trial were clearly against the accused. Mariano Noriel, the presiding judge, was the same man who signed the Naik Military Agreement with Bonifacio. The accused were not able to face their accusers and witnesses while their defense counsels eventually argued that the Bonifacio brothers were guilty. Much weight was also given to the testimony of Pedro Giron, a witness of dubious character.

The military court sentenced the Bonifacio brothers to death while their men were demoted and given barracks duty. Aguinaldo tried to commute the death sentence to banishment. However, Generals Pio del Pilar and Noriel argued that with Bonifacio alive, the president of the revolutionary government and the revolution itself would be endangered because of factionalism. With these arguments, Aguinaldo rescinded his order of commutation.

Execution of Bonifacio

On 10 May 1897, a sealed order was received by Major Lazaro Makapagal from Noriel. The latter further ordered Makapagal to take four soldiers and escort the Bonifacio brothers to Mount Buntis. Noriel insisted that only upon arrival at said location would Makapagal open the sealed orders and follow the instructions. Makapagal, four soldiers, and the Bonifacio brothers marched along a trail leading to Mount Buntis. At the foot of the mountain, Andres asked Makapagal to open the sealed order. After reading the content, the Bonifacio brothers were shot and buried in a shallow grave marked only by a few twigs and leaves.

On 16 February 1921, the Philippine government declared November 30 of every year as a legal holiday in commemoration of Bonifacio's birth. After nine years, the cornerstone of his monument in Caloocan was laid.

Legacy of the Bonifacio Story

Philippine historiography at the turn of the 20th century tended to neglect Bonifacio's seminal leadership of the Philippine Revolution. Under the auspices of the American colonial educators, a systematic attempt was made to cast aside Bonifacio and insist on Rizal as the prototypical national hero. For example in 1912, an important decision was made by the Americans in connection with the inauguration of the Rizal Monument in what was then Luneta Park, and the subsequent national commemoration of his death anniversary.

Esteban A. de Ocampo of the National Historical Institute recounted the events leading to the decision of Governor William Taft in choosing Rizal as the Philippines' national hero. Taft said: "'And now, gentlemen, you must have a national hero.' These were supposed to be the words addressed by Governor Taft to Messrs. Trinidad Pardo De Tavera, Benito Legarda Jr., and Luzurriaga, Filipino members of the Philippine Commission of which Taft was the chairman. It was further reported that 'in the subsequent discussion in which the rival merits of the revolutionary heroes (Marcelo H. del Pilar, Graciano Lopez-Jaena, Rizal, General Antonio N. Luna, Emilio Jacinto, and Bonifacio) were considered, the final choice—now universally acclaimed a wise one—was Rizal. And so history was made.'"

Since then, the debate of Rizal versus Bonifacio has remained unabated, mercilessly pitting the qualities of one against the other: the ilustrado class versus the proletariat, the sophisticated European education versus the self-schooled one, the privileged situation of one versus the plebeian beginnings of the other, Rizal's mastery of Spanish versus Bonifacio's Tagalog background, and the list goes on. As a result, a prejudiced view of Bonifacio persisted in almost all Philippine history books.

In 1956, the publication of a landmark book in Philippine historiography changed the historical and intellectual treatment of Bonifacio. Teodoro Agoncillo's Revolt of the Masses advanced the view that Bonifacio's accomplishments were worthy of the accolades given to a national hero, and that the Philippine revolution was primarily driven by the masses. These theses were encapsulated in a classic Marxist dialectic, beginning the rise of a distinctly nationalist historiography, aimed at reappropriating the signs and symbols of the nation.

A new line of Philippine history books based on the nationalist discourse of Agoncillo followed, culminating with Reynaldo Ileto's Pasyon and Revolution in 1979. Ileto's book started the trend of studying history using unofficial documents, textual references in plays, oral tradition, and other similar sources. History from below, as it came to be known, focuses on the story, achievements, and contributions of sectors of society that were either neglected or cast aside for various reasons.

This nationalist trend would eventually be challenged by other historians. On April 7, 1995, American scholar Glenn Anthony May of the University of Oregon delivered a paper entitled, "Andres Bonifacio: Inventing a Hero" at a meeting of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) in Washington, D.C. In this paper and the subsequent book, Inventing a Hero: The Posthumous Re-Creation of Andres Bonifacio, May revealed in very strong words that the Bonifacio story was "a story of a fabrication of a national hero—a history of deception, dissimulation, and distortion....all that can be reliably known is the illusion itself, the product of doctored, spurious, or undocumented sources, and the collective imagination of several generations of historians."

Various scholars, academicians, and historians attacked May's thesis that Bonifacio's accomplishments and certain portions of his life were mere fabrication of some Filipino nationalist historians. Malcolm Churchill contended that May was not savaging and degrading the honor and memory of Bonifacio but was making a name and building a reputation of being a revisionist historian in the Philippine and American academic community.


  1. Agoncillo, Teodoro. 1956. Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
  2. Agoncillo, Teodoro. 1990. History of the Filipino People 8th Ed. Quezon City: Garotech.
  3. Constantino, Renato. 1975. A Past Revisited. Quezon City: Tala Publications.
  4. Cristobal, Adrian. 2005. The Tragedy of the Revolution. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
  5. Kalaw, Teodoro. 1926. The Courtmartial of Andres Bonifacio. Manila: Manila Publishing Company.
  6. May, Glenn Anthony. 1996. Inventing a Hero: The Posthumous Re-Creation of Andres Bonifacio. University of Wisconsin.
  7. National Historical Commission of the Philippines. 2015. Martyrs & Patriots. Accessed 4 April 2021.
  8. Sarmiento, Abraham. 2005. The Trial of Andres Bonifacio: The Appeal. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
  9. Zaide, Gregorio. 1970. Great Filipinos in History. Manila: Verde Bookstore.

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