Andres Bonifacio: 5 Modern Day Learnings and Reflections

Today (November 30) marks the birth anniversary of the known Filipino hero Andres Bonifacio. Many including me are used to hearing Bonifacio's name but never really got to deepen the appreciation and knowledge about him. There were controversies and unresolved issues regarding the motivation, personality and death of Bonifacio; but in this blogpost, the focus would rather be on the learnings we could possibly derive from the story of Bonifacio and how we could reflect on it when applied on our own respective lives.

Family and friends first

At the age of 14, Bonifacio needed to stop going to private school to support his five other siblings because both their parents died of illness in a duration of a year. Because of this, he earned a living for his family until his siblings had been regularly employed thereafter. On the other hand, by mere impression, Bonifacio treated Rizal as a friend or as an important person of the Filipino revolution. Motivated by this, Bonifacio with his confidant Emilio Jacinto offered Rizal to escape from the Spaniards although Rizal refused after he made a deal with the Spaniards to send him to Cuba to serve as doctor, in exhange of his release from exile in Dapitan. Bonifacio seemingly was correct in the rescue offer because his dear Rizal was executed thereafter.

Hardwork pays

Although Bonifacio was deprived of the opportunity of formal education, he tried learning on his own on world history and the English language while working in a British trading company. Moreover, Bonifacio worked hard for the establishment of the Katipunan, a revolutionary group whose objective is to initiate simultaneous armed revolt against the united Spanish colonizers, who retains its strong grip on the Philippine capital Manila. Due to hardwork and leadership, he was proclaimed as the Supreme President of the "Tagalog Republic" or "the Filipino nation." However contrary to popular belief, Bonifacio did not win all his battles. He even had major losses, which was considered inferior at the time to Aguinaldo's victory in Cavite. Nevertheless, there is no question on hardworking and perseverant Bonifacio is.

Goals are not possible with unity

Rizal and Bonifacio were considered equally important national heroes with their respective commemorative dates, but both of them have conflicting views on how to achieve Philippine independence from three-century-old Spanish colonialism. Rizal opted diplomacy, peaceful reforms and better and longer war preparation over Bonifacio's hasty guerilla approach. This somehow compromised the goal for freedom and even resulted for both to be executed by the Spaniards for Rizal and co-Filipinos for Bonifacio. The difference of their philosophy even drifted farther when some Cavite's elites preferred Aguinaldo over Bonifacio as the head of the revolution, inspite of the fact that Bonifacio coordinated the attacks not just the surrounding areas of Manila, but in the whole archipelago in general. Thereafter, after Bonifacio was executed, Aguinaldo together with other Cavite leaders made a compromise with the Spanish and somehow aided the Americans over the Spaniards, which resulted to the American occupation of the Philippines for over three decades.

Conflicts are non-sense without resolutions

Bonifacio as the head of the Katipunan has to mediate conflicts arising on Cavite between Aguinaldo's Magdalo elite faction and Bonifacio's Magdiwang socially-disadvantaged supporters. Perhaps due to conflict of interest due to Bonifacio's familial connection with Magdiwang's head Mariano Alvarez, Bonifacio was not impartial and unbiased. This led the other faction to doubt through insubordination and challenged Bonifacio's leadership. Some even made malicious rumors against Bonifacio, seen as threat to the Cavite leaders on being an atheist, an unworthy ordinary Manila employee and uneducated. On the other hand, Bonifacio has hesitations on fully trusting the intention of Aguinaldo because the latter have known to have started talks with the Spaniards, sending mix signals on the direction of the Philippine revolution.

This conflict was even highlighted during the Tejeros Convention when Aguinaldo was elected as President by a seemingly rigged election against Bonifacio. Bonifacio ended up not recognizing the results after he was purposively elected to a lower position and was challenged not even suited to the said position merely because Bonifacio had no law degree. As a result, Bonifacio reasserted his leadership, which caused him to be charged of sedition and treason after  allegedly forcing people to burn a church and eventually ordered to death by Aguinaldo.

Never say die attitude.

Due to the suspicion that the radical Bonifacio was planning bad against the newly-proclaimed Aguinaldo-led republic, Bonifacio and his brother Procopio stood in a trial where the jury were entirely Aguinaldo's men and his defense lawyer acted as a prosecutor by unilaterally declaring Bonifacio's guilt. The disadvantaged Bonifacio was already physically and emotionally suffering from a previous loss of his brother Ciriaco's death, a deadly gunshot and stabbed wound and the alleged rape of his wife Gregoria after a bloody treacherous encounter with other Filipino revolutionaries. Despite of this, Bonifacio fought for both his life and innocence until the end. The alleged discovery of Bonifacio's bones including a fractured skull in the 1910's provide a glimpse on how Bonifacio suffered in his last hours.

Lastly, Bonifacio seems to be forgotten by many including the new generation. Worse, even other recognized Filipino heroes are losing attention, including Rizal. Nobody seems to care. However, by pointing out the various learnings we can get from the life story and tragedy of Bonifacio, we could enrich ourselves with not just facts and knowledge, but also Filipino pride that there was a Filipino, who had the courage to fight for freedom, even some influential people either are opposed to the idea or skeptic on the sufficiency of financial resources to support the armed revolt. He is Andres Bonifacio. He was not perfect but he stood to fight for Filipinos.

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