My father and I have had plenty of conversations regarding Philippine history. His stories were quite different from what I was being taught in primary and secondary schools. It seemed I was receiving a "sanitized" version of the past from school. My father's stories were much more intriguing. In college, I therefore decided to explore further these stories. In the midst of all these conflicting lessons in history was a man named Andres Bonifacio. My father easily identified with Bonifacio because like him, Bonifacio's parents died while he was still young. Bonifacio was then forced to stop schooling to take care of his siblings. My father made a living by selling necklaces made from jasmine. Andres Bonifacio sold canes and paper fans.
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So in college, I took the opportunity to learn more about Andres Bonifacio. In classes where an essay is required, I chose to work on topics related to Bonifacio whenever it was relevant. In literature, I finally had the chance to look for his writings. One poem that I could recall was about the love of the country. I am pleased to see that some of the writings of Bonifacio are now online. So, here is the third stanza of that poem
¡Banal na pagibig! pagikaw ang nukal (Holy love! when born)
sa tapat na puso ng sino't alin man, (of a pure heart)
imbi’t taong gubat maralita’t mangmang (the humble and the backwoodsman, the poor, the unlettered)
nagiging dakila at iginagalang. (become great and respected.)
Seeing this stanza made me refresh the memory of the joy I had when I finally found some of Bonifacio's writings. The words in his writings are simple yet very profound. I likewise got the chance to look into the trial that led to Bonifacio's execution. And I still remember what the teacher said as he was returning the papers to the class. As he was giving me back the essay I wrote, he said to the class that what I wrote was truly filled with anger. My father was correct, Bonifacio did not have a fair trial. I wrote in my essay that the lawyer defending Bonifacio was like a pig who eats its own manure. That comparison I felt compelled to write after seeing the defense Bonifacio had:
Although it was not my fortune to have defended Andres Bonifacio et al, in the trial on the charge of conspiracy, bribing and treachery, I venture to give the following statements: The word defense seems to be already far from applicable to Andres Bonifacio at this time, due to his contemptous act, and if there is a graver punishment than death, it should be meted out to him, because the intention to kill our President is equivalent to a desire to exterminate all of us. From his designs, we can conclude that he is totally devoid of any sympathetic regard for us, who are his brothers of the same country, blood, and race. Nevertheless, it is not unknown to your high intelligence that we are brothers of sin and that, therefore, we need counsel and advice. Bonifacio, however, arrived at a most pitiful situation when he was taken from Yndang. He was stabbed, stripped of the clothes on his person and of the little things that he carried with him. I think that such punishment is sufficient for the offense he has committed. And if this is not enough, hear what I shall further say. Is it not stated in our Kartilla, or constitution of the Katipunan, that we should love our fellowmen as we love ourselves? Did not our Savior Jesus, ask our God the Father to pardon the Jews who had slandered him and killed him? And how should we, who are only creatures made of dust, not pardon our fellowmen? In consideration of all this, I plead that Andres Bonifacio be pardoned for the crime he has committed, so that in so doing we may fulfill what we pray in Our Father, "Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Andres Bonifacio's life was tragic yet it provides inspiration for the weak and oppressed in society. His love for his fellowmen enabled him to transcend his poor and humble status in society. His life is truly a magnificent realization of the third stanza of the poem he wrote.
After he saw the film "Supremo", Napoleon Imperial reminded me of the importance of learning what really happened in 1897:
It is my fervent hope that the film "Supremo," premiered last night, just in time for the 149th Bonifacio Day, which seems to have presented a corrected version of the history of the Philippine Revolution, will be watched by all Filipinos especially the young people.
Presently, there is a proposed bill in the House of Representatives in the Philippines that seeks to require a course in college that tackles Bonifacio's life, works and ideals: