Volume 85 – November 2013
November 30, 2013 marks the 150th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, Supremo of the Katipunan. Andres Bonifacio led the first national liberation movement in Asia which successful liberated the country against European colonialism and occupation. We were the first national revolution in Asia against a Western power. According to the Chinese historian Chen Yan De of Xiamen University of the People’s Republic of China, the Philippine Revolution of 1896 led by Andres Bonifacio played an inspiring role in the awakening of the whole of Asia, particularly to the Chinese revolutionaries led by Dr. Sun Yat Sen.
We join past and present Filipino patriots, nationalists and revolutionaries in drawing inspiration from the life and writings of Andres Bonifacio, leader of the Katipunan. Despite attempts in the 90s by an American historian Glen May to malign the memory of Andre Bonifacio and nationalist historiography by insisting that Andres Bonifacio was an “invention” of Filipino nationalist historians like Epifanio de los Santos, Teodoro Agoncillo and Renato Constantino, Bonifacio truly remains the soul of the 1896 Philippine Revolution for past and present generations of Filipino nationalists and revolutionaries. No wonder, when Glen May attempted to denigrate the memory of Andres Bonifacio, the Cultural Affairs office of the U.S. embassy in Manila tried to promote Glen May’s writings against Bonifacio by organizing symposia and fora for his anti-nationalist writings.
For even today, the historic figure of Bonifacio, Supremo of the Katipunan, and leader of the Filipino masses, generates the spirit of continued struggle for national freedom and democracy. It was Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan who provide the leadership demanded by the Philippine Revolution of 1896. He is the soul of our people still struggling to be truly free against neo-colonialism and today, against imperialist globalization. Bonifacio symbolizes the spirit, the daring, the active involvement of the common people in the shaping of our national destiny against foreign domination and rule of the collaborationist local elite class.
Historical evidence shows that Bonifacio whom we have only known as one of the founders of the Katipunan, and later its Supremo, was actually our nation’s first President. In archival documents, he has the designation of Pangulo ng Haring Katagalugan or President of the Sovereign Nation of Katagalugan. In the Katipunan’s document, Cartilla, it states that Tagalog meant ” all those born in this archipelago; therefore, though Visayan, Ilokano, Pampango, Bikolano, etc., they are all Tagalogs.” For, at that time, the Katipunan as a movement for our national independence from Spain refused to use the term “Filipino” because it applied only to Spaniards born in the archipelago. The word Tagalog was therefore substituted for the derogatory term Indio.
Thus, according to Bonifacio historian Prof. Milagros Guerrero, the country’s first revolutionary government was actually the one formed on August 24, 1896, by the Kataastaasang Kapisanan (National Assembly) of the Katipunan. It was formed at Barrio Banlat, then part of Kalookan where Melchora Aquino (or Tandang Sora) lived. It was there where the Katipunan transformed itself from a secret revolutionary organization planning to overthrow the Spanish colonial government and to replace it with a de facto national government. It was there that the revolutionaries declared a nationwide armed revolution against Spain and elected the officials of the revolutionary government and its army. This is why in an article on the Philippine Revolution which appeared in the Spanish journal, La Illustracion Espanola y Americana on Feb. 8, 1897, Bonifacio’s picture appears with the caption: Titulado (Presidente) de la Republika Tagala, or President of the Tagalog Republic. For, as early as Sept.2, 1892, Deodato Arellano and Andres Bonifacio, founding leaders of the Katipunan ng Katagalugan, had written an authorization letter to a certain Restituto Javier to organize Katipunan chapters in Mindanao.
In his book on French colonialism in Algeria, Frantz Fanon wrote:
“Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip, and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the people, and distorts, disfigures and destroys it.”
This is what anti-nationalist historians like Glenn May try to do when they try to disfigure the soul of the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Likewise, this is what the former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos tried to do when they declared 1998, as the “Year of Emilio Aguinaldo”: they tried to glorify the assassin of Andres Bonifacio. Aguinaldo represented the collaborating and vacillating elite class which wrested the leadership of the independence movement from its plebian leadership and orientation. When the Aguinaldo was captured by the new American colonialists, he declared his allegiance to the American flag and was even appointed a Board of Director member of a U.S. company in the Philippines, the Philippine Manufacturing Corporation (predecessor of Procter and Gamble Corporation).
Bonifacio must be recognized as the first Philippine president, and not just a national hero. To most Filipino nationalists who courageously and unselfishly continue his spirit of patriotic dedication in their lives and practice, Bonifacio was more than an inspiration. He was a great Filipino. His place in the hearts of Filipino revolutionaries – past and present – is secure. He came when the Filipino people were in bleak despair. He restored our people’s hope in themselves. He rekindled our faith in our national destiny.
The spirit of Andres Bonifacio lives in the future that we shall build as a great nation. its greatness is in its people committed to national renewal and social transformation.
It is our hope that the life and sacrifices of Andres Bonifacio will continue to serve as a guide and inspiration in our lives. The commemoration of his 150th birth anniversary this year will become even more meaningful if we live the ideals of Andres Bonifacio. We carry the responsibility as torchbearers of the ideals of Bonifacio as well as the torch of the future of this nation.
Let us practice the patriotic ideals of Andres Bonifacio and rise to the challenges of our time.
* Article by Roland G Simbulan – For a full professional background of Professor Roland G. Simbulan (Click Here)