Posted on Monday, 30th November 2009 by All Philippines

Andres Bonifacio

Today the Philippines commemorate the 146th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, the Father of the Philippine Revolution and the Supremo (supreme leader) of the Katipunan.

Humble Beginnings

Andres Bonifacio, born on November 30, 1863, was the eldest son of Santiago Bonifacio and Catalina de Castro of Tondo, Manila. The couple also had five children. Santiago worked as a tailor for the municipal mayor of Tondo while Catalina was employed at a local cigarette factory. When young Andres was 18, her mother succumbed to tubercolosis, and a year later, his father would also share his mother’s fate. The event of losing both his parents forced Andres to quit his studies and work to support his younger siblings. His first job was at the Fleming and Co., a British-owned trading firm, working first as a clerk and messenger; he was later promoted to agent, trading tar and rattan products. He also worked at the Fressell and Co., a German trading firm, and was employed as an agent and warehouseman. He also created a small family business where he was helped by the other Bonifacio siblings, creating and selling wooden canes and paper fans on the streets of Tondo.

Andres Bonifacio was married twice. His first wife, Monica, died of leprosy. He married his second wife Gregoria de Jesus from Caloocan, Manila in 1893. Gregoria bore him a son which later died in infancy.

Though Andres Bonifacio did not finish any formal education he was by no means illiterate. He did finish his primary education and was very fluent in Spanish. He also spends his free time studying and reading books.  One of the foreign firms he worked for has a small library which housed an impressive collection of literature: Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, Religion Within the Reach of All, The Bible, Les Miserables, Wandering Jew, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, History of the French Revolution, International Law, Civil Code, Penal Code, volumes of La Solidaridad and other classic works of famous authors. These book collection and some other materials procured by Bonifacio became his education and inspiration which leads to the next and greatest chapter of his life.

The Katipunan

Just like Dr. Jose P. Rizal, Andres Bonifacio was an active member of the Freemasonry. He was a member of the Gran Oriente Español (Spanish Grand Lodge). He later joined the La Liga Filipina, a progressive organization founded by Rizal which aims to reform the Spanish government in the Philippines. The La Liga organization disbanded after only one meeting when the Spanish authorities arrested Rizal and was subsequently deported in Dapitan in the island of Mindanao.

Four days after Rizal’s arrest, the La Liga Filipina was reorganized by Andres Bonifacio, Domingo Franco, Deodato Arellano, Apolinario Mabini and other former key members of the organization. The newly reformed La Liga Filipina was divided into two factions, the Cuerpo de Compromisarios and the Katipunan. The wealthier, peaceful and more conservative members of the La Liga Filipina joined the Cuerpo de Compromisarios while the Katipunan faction attracted member of the organization who pushes for an armed revolt in reforming the Spanish government in the Philippines.

Andres Bonifacio and some of the radical members of the La Liga Filipina founded the Katipunan – official revolutionary name: Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (K. K. K.) (Trans. Supreme and Venerable Society of the Children of the Nation) on the night of July 7, 1892 in a house along Azcarraga St. (Claro M. Recto St.) in Tondo, Manila. This was a day after Jose Rizal was exiled to Dapitan. In honor of Rizal, they named him honorary president of the new organization despite Rizal’s belief for a more peaceful means of revolution, contradicting the tenets of the Katipunan.

Deodato Arellano was voted as the first President of the Katipunan when the first Supreme Council of the Katipunan was formed in August of 1892. Ramon Basa succeeded Arellano as President of the Katipunan when the Supreme Council was organized in February 1893.  During the Arellano and Basa term, Andres Bonifacio was voted comptroller and fiscal of the secret society. Bonifacio became the Supreme Leader (Supremo) of the Katipunan in January 1895 a year before the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution in 1896.

During his tenure with the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio became friends with Emilio Jacinto, who became his confidante and personal adviser. Emilio Jacinto would later be known in Philippine history as the Brain of the Katipunan. Bonifacio would use Jacinto’s Kartilla primer as the official doctrine of the Katipunan replacing his own.

Even though the Katipunan, at this point, was still a secret society, the popularity of the organization spread rapidly from Manila, to Northern Luzon all the way to Mindanao. From less than 300 members in January of 1896, it attracted 400,000 members by August 1896.

By early 1896, Andres Bonifacio was contemplating on starting the armed revolt to gain back the Philippine independence in the hands of the Spanish government. While some of the members of the Katipunan supported Bonifacio’s plan, other leaders of the organization, like General Emilio Aguinaldo of Cavite rejected the plan, saying the Katipunan needed more arms before they could start the war. However the planned uprising was prematurely halted when the Spanish authorities discovered the existence of the Katipunan.

With the discovery of the Katipunan, the Spanish government in the Philippines arrested thousands of suspected Katipuneros, interrogated them and learned of the society’s plot for a nationwide armed revolution. With their secret now out in the open, the Katipunan, lead by the Supremo Andres Bonifacio, tore their cedulas (tax certificates) at Pugad Lawin in Caloocan in defiance to the Spanish authorities and declared war against Spain. This will be known in the pages of history as the “Cry of Pugad Lawin”.

Andres Bonifacio reformed the Supreme Council of Katipunan and created a revolutionary government and was voted again as the Supremo of the Katipunan, his friend and adviser Emilio Jacinto was voted Secretary of State. Bonifacio then led an attack on key Spanish-controlled towns in and around Manila (San Juan del Monte, Santa Ana, Pateros, Sampaloc) but was unsuccessful in reclaiming these towns. Bonifacio and his men were forced to retreat in Marikina, San Mateo, and Montalban after the San Juan defeat. He and his band of Katipuneros temporarily gained control of the area but were quickly subdued by a far more superior Spanish army. Eventually Bonifacio decided it would be best for them to regroup in Balara.

The most successful Katipunan-led rebellion was under the leadership of General Emilio Aguinaldo in the province of Cavite. Because of the Spanish government’s anticipation of the Bonifacio-led attack in Manila, the Spanish commanding army transferred most of its unit in Cavite to Manila. The result weakened the Spanish defense in Cavite which paved way to an easy victory for the Cavite Katipuneros. In a span of just two months (September and October 1896) the Filipino rebel forces captured the entire province of Cavite. The victorious battles in Cavite gave honor and prestige to Emilio Aguinaldo and his men.

With Bonifacio’s defeats in the battlefield and the success of Emilio Aguinaldo and the Cavite faction of the Katipunan, most of the previous members of the Katipunan loyal to Bonifacio pledged their support to the victorious Caviteños.

There was also an internal conflict between the two rival chapters of the Katipunan in Cavite, the Magdalo, led by Baldomero Aguinaldo, cousin of Emilio Aguinaldo, and the Magdiwang, headed by General Mariano Álvarez. To settle their differences, the Magdiwangs invited the Supremo of the Katipunan Andres Bonifacio. Bonifacio travelled to Cavite in late 1896 accompanied by his wife, brothers Procopio and Ciriaco, and some members of the Katipunan. The initial meeting between Emilio Aguinaldo, the Magdalo group, and Bonifacio led to more friction as the Magdalos accused Bonifacio of being biased to the Magdiwang group. Emilio Aguinaldo also felt that Bonifacio acted “like a king” during their initial meeting. They also argued against different strategic troop placements in Cavite. Aguinaldo also blamed Bonifacio for the loss of the Silang town to the Spaniards which Aguinaldo and his men reclaimed earlier.

The leaders of the Magdalo and the Magdiwang group together with Bonifacio held an assembly in Tejeros, Cavite to settle the dispute as well as elect the leaders of the Katipunan government. Bonifacio presided over the assembly and insisted that the newly created government of the Philippines should remain a republican much to the dismay of Aguinaldo and his supporters which plans to create a dictatorial-type of government for the Katipunan and the Philippine archipelago. In the subsequent election, Emilio Aguinaldo was elected President and Andres Bonifacio was voted Director of the Interior. Daniel Tirona, a close ally of Aguinaldo and a member of the Magdalo, protested the election of Bonifacio arguing that the position of the Director of Interior should be given to a lawyer and not to Bonifacio, who lacks a degree in Law. Tirona’s action angered Bonifacio and declared, as head of the Tejeros assembly and Supremo of the Katipunan, that the assembly be dissolved and the previous election annulled.

In defiance to Bonifacio’s statement at the assembly, Aguinaldo and the other elected officers were sworn in office the following day. Bonifacio and his supporters drew up the Act of Tejeros to protest the results of the Tejeros convention. They accused Aguinaldo and his men of cheating. Bonifacio also believed that Aguinaldo talked to Spanish negotiators and was willing to surrender the cause of the revolution for his own personal gains.

Trial and Death of the Supremo

Andres Bonifacio and his supporters moved to Naik, Cavite to form his own government and rebuild his troops. He appointed Emilio Jacinto to lead the Katipunan forces in Manila, Morong, Bulacan, and Nueva Ecija. He also appointed General Pio Del Pilar, whom together with General Mariano Noriel switched side from the Magdalo group to the Bonifacio camp, as commander-in-chief of the revolutionary forces.

At this time, the Aguinaldo-led government has been established and most of the Cavite elites and revolutionary leaders have fully supported the Aguinaldo leadership. Even the Magdiwangs, former allies of Bonifacio in Cavite, pledged allegiance to Aguinaldo. While Bonifacio reaffirmed his command of the Katipunan with the Naik Military Agreement, Aguinaldo ordered Generals Pio Del Pilar and Mariano Noriel to return to his camp. The two Generals left Bonifacio’s side following General Aguinaldo’s order. This made a huge dent in Bonifacio’s reputation as an able leader of the Katipunan. Soon after, Aguinaldo ordered the arrest of Andres Bonifacio.

Bonifacio, together with his wife, his brothers, and some troops, left Naik for Indang to regroup in Montalban. While encamped in Indang, the Bonifacio camp was visited by a unit of Aguinaldo’s forces led by Agapito Bonzon and Jose Ignacio Paua. Unaware of Aguinaldo’s arrest order against him, Bonifacio received his guest cordially. The following day, the Aguinaldo forces attacked the Bonifacio troops. Andres Bonifacio was wounded in the arm after the attack and stabbed in the neck, his brother Ciriaco was shot to death, brother Procopio was beaten by the Aguinaldo men, and some claimed that Gregoria de Jesus, Bonifacio’s wife, was raped by Agapito Bonzon.

Bonifacio and his surviving troops were brought back to Naik for a trial of sedition and treason against the government of Emilio Aguinaldo. He was also accused of conspiracy to murder General Aguinaldo. The jury was composed of Aguinaldo supporters. Bonifacio’s defense lawyer was also a close ally of Aguinaldo. Andres Bonifacio and his brother Procopio was sentenced to death by the jury despite lack of evidence and general bias against Bonifacio throughout the trial.

On May 8, 1897, General Aguinaldo commuted the death sentence of Bonifacio and his brother to deportation but was quickly opposed by Generals Pio Del Pilar and Mariano Noriel, former allies of Bonifacio. They persuaded Aguinaldo to withdraw the commutation order to preserve the unity of the revolutionary forces. General Aguinaldo relented.

Andres Bonifacio, founder and Supremo of the Katipunan, and his brother Procopio were executed by Aguinaldo’s men in the mountains of Marogondon, Cavite on May 10, 1897.


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