Supremo “Andres Bonifacio” one of the Key Figure of Philippine Revolution
Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro (November 30, 1863 – May 10, 1897) was a Filipino revolutionary leader and the president of the Tagalog Republic. He is often called “The Father of the Philippine Revolution”. He was one of the founders and later Supremo (Supreme Leader) of the Kataas-taasan, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or more commonly known as “Katipunan”, a movement which sought the independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule and started the Philippine Revolution. He is considered a national hero of the Philippines.
He learned the alphabet through his mother’s sister. He was first enrolled in Guillermo Osmeña’s private school, where he learned Latin and mathematics. However, his normal schooling was cut short when he dropped out when he was about 14 years old to support his siblings after both of their parents died of illnesses one year apart.
Bonifacio was blessed with good hands in craftsmanship and visual arts that he made canes and paper fans, which he and his young siblings sold. He also made posters for business firms. This became their thriving family business that continued on when the men of the family, namely Andres, Ciriaco, Procopio, and Troadio, were employed with private and government companies, which provided them with decent living conditions.
In his late teens, he worked as a mandatorio for the British trading firm Fleming and Company, where he rose to become a corredor (broker) of tar, rattan and other goods. He later transferred to Fressell and Company, a German trading firm, where he worked as a bodeguero (storehouse keeper) where he is responsible for warehouse inventory.
Not finishing his normal education, Bonifacio enriched his natural intelligence with self-education. He read books about the French Revolution, biographies of the Presidents of the United States, books about contemporary Philippine penal and civil codes, and novels such as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Eugène Sue’s Le Juif errant and José Rizal’s Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo. Aside from Tagalog and Spanish, he could speak and understand English, which he learned while working at J.M. Fleming and Co.
Andres Bonifacio was married twice: first to a certain Monica of Palomar. She was Bonifacio’s neighbor in Tondo. Monica died of leprosy and they had no recorded children.
In 1892 Bonifacio, a 29-year-old widower, met the 18-year-old Gregoria de Jesús, through his friend Teodoro Plata who was her cousin. Gregoria, also called Oriang, was the daughter of a prominent citizen and landowner from Caloocan. Gregoria’s parents did not agree at first to their relationship as Andrés was a freemason and freemasons were then considered enemies of the Catholic church. Her parents eventually gave in and Andrés and Gregoria were married through a Catholic ceremony in Binondo Church in March 1893 or 1894. The couple also were married through Katipunan rites in a friend’s house in Santa Cruz, Manila on the same day of their church wedding.
Image by Pinterest
They had one son, born in early 1896, who died of smallpox in infancy.
In 1892 Bonifacio was one of the founding members of José Rizal’s La Liga Filipina, an organization which called for political reforms in Spain’s colonial government of the Philippines. However, La Liga disbanded after only one meeting as Rizal was arrested and deported to Dapitan in Mindanao. Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini and others revived La Liga in Rizal’s absence and Bonifacio was active at organizing local chapters in Manila. He would become the chief propagandist of the revived Liga.
La Liga Filipina contributed moral and financial support to the Propaganda Movement of Filipino reformists in Spain.
On the night of July 7, 1892, the day after Rizal’s deportation was announced, Bonifacio and others officially “founded” the Katipunan, or in full, Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (“Highest and Most Respected Society of the Country’s Children”; Bayan can also denote community, people, and nation). The secret society sought independence from Spain through armed revolt. It was influenced by Freemasonry through its rituals and organization, and several members including Bonifacio were also Freemasons. Within the society Bonifacio used the pseudonym May pag-asa (“There is Hope”). Newly found documents though suggest that Katipunan has already been existing as early as January 1892.
For a time, Bonifacio worked with both the Katipunan and La Liga Filipina. La Liga eventually split because some members like Bonifacio lost hope for peaceful reform and stopped their monetary aid. The more conservative members, mostly wealthy members, who still believed in peaceful reforms set up the Cuerpo de Compromisarios, which pledged continued support to the reformists in Spain. The radicals were subsumed into the Katipunan. From Manila, the Katipunan expanded to several provinces, including Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija. Most of its members, called Katipuneros, came from the lower and middle classes, and many of its local leaders were prominent figures in their municipalities. At first exclusively male, membership was later extended to females, with Bonifacio’s wife Gregoria de Jesús as a leading member.
From the beginning, Bonifacio was one of the chief Katipunan officers, although he did not become its Supremo (supreme leader) or Presidente Supremo (Supreme President) until 1895. He was the third head of the Katipunan after Deodato Arellano and Román Basa. Prior to this, he served as the society’s comptroller and then as its ‘fiscal’ (advocate/procurator). The society had its own laws, bureaucratic structure and elective leadership. For each province involved, the Katipunan Supreme Council coordinated with provincial councils in charge of public administration and military affairs, and with local councils in charge of affairs on the district or barrio level.
Within the society, Bonifacio developed a strong friendship with Emilio Jacinto, who served as his adviser and confidant, as well as a member of the Supreme Council. Bonifacio adopted Jacinto’s Kartilya primer as the official teachings of the society in place of his own Decalogue, which he judged as inferior. Bonifacio, Jacinto and Pío Valenzuela collaborated on the society’s organ, Kalayaan (Freedom), which had only one printed issue. Bonifacio wrote several pieces for the paper, including the poem Pag-ibig sa Tinubúang Lupà (approx. “Love for One’s Homeland) under the pseudonym Agapito Bagumbayan. The publication of Kalayaan in March 1896 led to a great increase in the society’s membership. The Katipunan movement spread throughout Luzon, to Panay in the Visayas and even as far as Mindanao. From less than 300 members in January 1896, it had 30,000 to 40,000 by August 1896.
The Bonifacio shrine at the foot of Mount Nagpatong and Mount Buntis in Maragondon, Cavite where he was believed to be executed, on May 10, 1897.
The rapid increase in Katipunan activity drew the suspicion of the Spanish authorities. By early 1896, Spanish intelligence was aware of the existence of a seditious secret society, and suspects were kept under surveillance and arrests were made. On 3 May, Bonifacio held a general assembly of Katipunan leaders in Pasig, where they debated when to start the revolution. While some officers, especially Bonifacio, believed a revolution was inevitable, some members, especially Santiago Alvarez and Emilio Aguinaldo both of Cavite, expressed reservations and disagreement regarding the planned revolt due to lack of firearms. The consensus was to consult José Rizal in Dapitan before launching armed action, so Bonifacio sent Pío Valenzuela to Rizal. Rizal turned out to be against the revolution, believing it to be premature. He recommended more preparation, but suggested that, in the event the revolution did break out, they should seek the leadership of Antonio Luna, who was widely regarded as a brilliant military leader.
After the republic was established, he lost the selection for president, but proclaimed that it was fraudulent. He was subsequently arrested, tried and executed for treason. Today, he is remembered as a national hero, and some historians see him as the first president, due to his role in the revolutionary government.