COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Nations undergo revolutions in one way or another, each with some specific aims of its own. The French Revolution arose against monarchy, and advocated democracy with its ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The Cultural Revolution in China was for communism and the rule of the proletariat. The Philippine Revolution in the same manner, was for nationalism and independence, and waged against the continued colonization of Spain in the archipelago.
For the Philippines, it was not democracy nor communism but independence. Thus, on June 12, 1898 was the declaration of Philippine Independence. Thus, on June 12, 1998 was the centennial of the Philippine Independence.
The only odd thing to note is that except for the Philippines, other nations declared the leaders or founders of their revolutions as their national heroes. These men who actualized their revolutionary ideas into one historical event were given the right due for their work. No wonder, these countries moved in a forward direction.
In our case, we cannot seem to find the right direction due to an erratic perception of the past. We downplayed the pivotal role of Bonifacio and the Katipunan. As a consequence, we have not moved a step from where the aims of the Revolution of 1896 have left off. We still experience a continuing struggle waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Hukbalahap Movement, the New People’s Army, and the Muslim movement for sovereignty and independence. That’s why we have an undying guerrilla movement.
Over a century ago, Andres Bonifacio made a courageous decision at a very critical moment in our history. As soon as the reform movement failed and Jose Rizal was exiled to Dapitan, Andres Bonifacio founded the Katipunan, appealed to the masses and launched the Revolt of 1896. That decisive act alone makes him the hero.
Besides, in acknowledging a hero, we must identify him as representative of the people, only rising above in an unprecedented act of humanity and courage in times of crisis. Bonifacio was a truer specimen of the majority of the Filipinos at that time. Born of poor origin and with very limited education, he belonged to the working class. He worked under a foreign company but still took a hobby of weaving bamboo hats to make extra income. In his spare time he read books by the lamplight at home. In manhood, he married. He was typical of the common tao.
Unlike Jose Rizal. With all his brilliance and talents and outlook, Rizal appeared more like an alien among the rest of the indios. Even if you place him side by side with the illustrados, still he was an exception. If you watched the movie Rizal sa Dapitan, you will get a glimpse of the man that a college professor commented as being out of the ordinary, a freak.
Rizal was extremely exceptional and did not seem to belong to his time. Just studying on his life and works, you will see a person who was highly schooled, well traveled, a linguist, a poet and novelist, an eye doctor, very much skilled and talented, energetic, brilliant, noble in character with a global outlook – still way above the 21st century typical Filipino.
This is not to discredit Rizal’s place in our history but to make our definitions right. If a national hero is assigned to the leader of a revolution then in the Philippine setting the credit goes to Bonifacio. Our reference point is the Philippine Revolution of 1896. The other side of the equation is Bonifacio and the Katipunan.
Indeed, our nation is filled with great leaders and heroic men and women, not to mention the persevering masses; but we should give credit where credit is due in telling and writing history for our own.