Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tragic and mysterious

He was a charismatic and brilliant organizer who had a way with people. Perhaps it was because he infected them with his passionate and militant advocacy for the cause. His primordial aim, like many of his peers, was to unify an emerging nation and its people. He did not have a doctorate degree, no one is certain where he graduated, but reliable sources say his parents could afford a private tutor. Home schooling made him a voracious reader; he was a self-made man who worked for two multinational firms; he had an ear for music and wrote patriotic poems. He joined what was then considered a radical movement the leader of which was immediately captured by government authorities so he establisihed a secret society that was hunted but feared, specially after the its unexpected initial attack that thundered from Balara to San Pedro Makati to Santa Ana and struck right at the heart of Manila. Today ( 10 May) is the 114th anniversary of his tragic and mysterious death at the hands of fellow fighters, at the foot of a forlorn mountain in Maragondon, Cavite.

The summary execution of Gat Andres Bonifacio after a hasty trial exposed some horrifying defects of our national character like regionalism, deviousness and divisiveness, our pitfalls to this very day. To commemorate the death of the Supremo of the Katipunan, I read through "Mga Kasulatan sa Pagllilitis " (Agoncillo, 1963). The brothers Bonifacio--Andres and Procopio--were accused of "nagtipon ng kawal barilan at sandatahan ng walang parating gumagawa ng pulong na lihim" (illegal army and possession of arms, secret assemblies) Utterly grave was , "May panukalang ihapay itong pamahalaan at patayin ang Presidente [Aguinaldo]" (intent to overthrown government and assasinate the president) They were sentenced to death, "parusang kamatayan", but curiously enough, in the same document, the death penalty was commuted to "destierrong walang taning dusang gaganapin sa isang tanging lugal nahiwalay at babantayan." (perpetual exile at an isolated and well-guarded place)

So what happened? Why were Andres and Procopio killed just the same? On the 97th birthday of former President Emilio Aguinaldo in 1969, historian Teodoro Agoncillo read a paper at a conference of the Philippine Historical Asscociation where he recapitulated certain facts. He said that Aguinaldo decided to exile Andres and Procopio Bonifacio instead of executing them but was overrruled by the Council of War. Consequently, in a letter signed by General M.Noriel, a certain Major Makapagal was ordered to kill the brothers and had he failed to mete the punishment, Makapagal would have been punished with all the rigors of the Spanish Military Court.

Very few know that Andres Bonifacio had joined the La Liga Filipina established by Jose Rizal on 3 July 1892, and had successfully organized its local councils. When Rizal was arrested and hastily exiled to Dapitan , Bonifacio founded the Katipunan, attracting Liga members who saw the need for more drastic measures. Surprisingly enough, Bonifacio's death is commemorated yearly in Maragondon, Cavite but only since 2008 in Manila, under Mayor Alfredo S. Lim's second incumbency. On the day of his tragic and cruel death, Gat Andres Bonifacio is given military honors at his shrine beside City Hall and his other monuments and markers all over the city are embellished with wreaths of summer flowers.

Mabini's eulogy

The most precious, lofty, heart-rending but profoundly inspiring tribute to Jose Rizal was written by Apolinario Mabini in a book he wrote during his exile in Guam, La Revolucion Filipina. You will find this awesome eulogy in Chapter VIII, "First Stage of the Revolution" ; I have read it many times and have wept each time. Mabini did know what it was all about!

He wrote: "In contrast to Burgos who wept because he died guiltless, Rizal went to the execution ground calm and even cheerful, to show that he was happy to sacrifice his life, which he had dedicated to the good of all the Filipinos, confident that in love and gratitiude, they would always remember him and follow his example and teaching. In truth, the merit of Rizal's sacrifice consists precisely in that it was voluntary and conscious. He had known perfectly well, that, if he denounced the abuses which the Spaniards were committing in the Philippines, they would not sleep in peace until they had encompassed his ruin; yet, he did so because , if the abuses were not exposed, they would never be remedied. From the day Rizal understood the misfortune of his native land and decided to work to redress them, his vivid imagination never ceased to picture to him at every moment of his life the terrors of the death that awaited him; thus he learned not to fear it, and had no fear when it came to take him away. The life of Rizal, from the time he dedicated it to the service of his native land was, therefore, a continuing death, bravely endured until the end for love of his countrymen. God grant that they will know how to render to him the only tribute worthy of his memory: the imitation of his virtues."

Let us then imitate Rizal's virtues as a gift for his 150th birthday.

(Source: Mabini, Apolinario, The Philippine Revolution, translated into English by Leon Ma. Guerrero, 1969)