Autobiography of Gregoria de Jesus
Translated and Annotated by Leandro H. Fernandez
Professor of History, University of the Philippines
From time to time documents of considerable interest on some phases of our country's history, particularly during the period of the revolution, appear locally, written by persons who were either participants in the events narrated or witnesses. These documents are generally written in either Spanish or in the vernacular and consequently are not accessible to many of our students to whom English has become the chief language of study. One such document is Gregoria de Jesus' Mga tala ng aking buhay, which, as its title indicates, is an autobiography of the wife of Andres Bonifacio. This interesting document has not yet been published in the original Tagalog, although a Spanish version of it had already been released and printed, thanks to the efforts of the young writer, Mr. Jose P. Santos, in the Free Press (issues of November 24, and December 1, 1928) under the title of La Princesa del Katipunan. Because of its importance, coming as it does from the pen of the wife of the Supremo, I have thought it worthwhile to attempt an English translation, which forms the basic part of this monograph.
I am greatly indebted to my friend, Mr. Jose P. Santos, who kindly furnished me with a copy of Mga tala ng aking buhay, as well as the picture appearing herewith.
I am Gregoria de Jesus, native of the town of Caloocan in Rizal province. I was born on Tuesday, May 9, 1875, at number 13, Zamora Street, then Baltazar, a place where thousands of arms used in the revolution were buried, and where the Katipunan leaders met to make the final arrangement for the outbreak. My father was Nicolas de Jesus, also a native of this town, a master mason and carpenter by occupation, and an office holder during the Spanish regime, having been second lieutenant, chief lieutenant, and gobernadorcillo. My mother was Baltazara Alvarez Francisco of the town of Noveleta in Cavite province, a niece of General Mariano Alvarez of (the Katipunan center of1) Magdiwang in Cavite, the first to raise the standard of revolt in that province.
I attended the public schools and finished the first grades of instruction, equivalent to the intermediate grades of today. I still remember that I was once a winner in an examination given by the governor-general and the town curate and was the recipient of a silver medal with blue ribbon, a prize bestowed in recognition of my little learning. To enable two brothers of mine to continue their studies in Manila, I decided to stop studying and to join my sister in looking after our family interests. Often I had to go out in the country to supervise the planting and the harvesting of our rice, to see our tenants and laborers, or to pay them their wages on Sundays. Also now and then I did some sewing or weaving, and always assisted my mother in her house work.
When I was about eighteen years old, young men began to visit our house, and among them was Andres Bonifacio, who came in company with Ladislao Diwa and my cousin Teodoro Plata, then an escribano, but none of them talked to me of love, since parents in those days were extremely careful, and girls did not want people to know that they already had admirers. The truth, however, was that my parents had for about one year already been informed of
Bonifacio's courtship although I knew nothing about it. Three months thereafter, just as I was beginning to like him, I learned that my father was against Bonifacio's suit because he was a freemason, and freemasons then were considered bad men, thanks to the teachings of the friars. Six months later I had earnestly fallen in love with him, and my father, though opposed at first, in the end gave his consent because of his love for me and because I told him the whole truth.
In deference to my parents, we were married in the Catholic church of Binondo in March, 1893, with Restituto Javier and his wife as sponsors. But the week following, we were remarried in the house of our sponsor in what was then Calle Oroquieta before the katipuneros at their request, since they gave no importance to the Catholic ceremony. I remember that there was a little feast, attended, among others, by Pio Valenzuela, Santiago Turiano2, Roman Basa, Mariano Dizon, Josefa and Trining Rizal, and nearly all the dignitaries of the Katipunan. That very night I was initiated as a member of the Katipunan3 and assumed the symbolic name "Lakambini" in order to obey and practice its sacred principles and rules.
After staying about one week in Mr. Javier's house, we decided to look for a residence of our own and we found one on Calle Anyahan in front of the San Ignacio chapel, and after that I began to do all I could for the propagation and growth of the K. K. K. (Kataastaasan Kagalanggalang Katipunan)4 of the A. N. B. (Anak ng Bayan)5. For this reason, certain belongings of the Katipunan, such as the revolver and other weapons, the seal, and all the papers, were in my custody, since in those days Emilio Jacinto, the Secretary of the Katipunan, lived at our house.
He (Emilio Jacinto) was in charge also of the printing press used by the Katipunan and was the first to print the Kartilla and the "ten commandments" that were drawn up by Andres and himself, who were like two brothers, so much so that they worked together in all the balangay. Andres was the author of the first regulations or ten commandments, Emilio Jacinto of a later one (i. e. the Kartilla), so that it could be truthfully said that Andres was the author of the idea; but because of his affection for and in deference to Emilio Jacinto, the Kartilla written by the latter was made to prevail and put into effect by the katipuneros. Bonifacio's decalogue was never published and I am told that the same now is in the collection of Mr. Pepe Santos, son of the late Don Panyong Santos.
Those days were extremely full of danger for us since the sons of the nation, already chafing under bondage, rose to a man and quickly swelled the ranks of the K.K.K., and every night our house was nearly filled with men who came to listen to the voice of the fatherland, among whom were Enrique Pacheco with his two sons, Cipriano and Alfonso, Tomas Remigio, and Francisco Carreon, members of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan, and others who later joined in the "cry of Balintawak". Often these people remained till dawn busy administering the Katipunan oath. Once or twice a month, those in charge of the propaganda met, and consequently the printing press, managed by Emilio Jacinto, was busier than ever and he was obliged to devote his whole day to this work, and I nearly clothed myself with the katipunan documents6 that were so dangerous to keep in those days. It is useless to conjecture what would have been my fate had those papers been discovered on my person and the fate of those liberty-loving sons of the Philippines whose names were inscribed on them, for it sometimes happened that a mere denunciation would cause many deaths. Many times on receiving some warning that the house would be searched by the police (veterana), irrespective of the hour, I would immediately gather all the papers, the arms, and the seal, and order a quiles and in it without eating -- for this often happened at noon or at eight o'clock at night -- I would go driving till midnight along the bay front of Tondo and the streets of Binondo in order to save our countrymen from danger. The thing that grieved me, however, was the fact that there were among our friends some who instead of protecting me refused to give me help and even kept away from me upon finding that I was carrying dangerous things. News was then transmitted not by telephone but verbally from one man to another, and in this way I knew whenever the danger was over and I could go back home for some rest and peace.
The time passed and after more than a year I was about to become a mother. Andres Bonifacio temporarily moved me to my parents' house where I had been born, and there, too, our eldest child saw the first light of day, a boy, whom we christened also Andres Bonifacio and whose godfather was Pio Valenzuela. After two months, I returned to Manila, and before the end of the year we were victims of a fire in Dulong Bayan, which occurred on Holy Thursday, and caused no little trouble. We were forced to move from one house to another until one day our child died in the house of Pio Valenzuela, on Calle Lavezares, Binondo. In this house we lived together for a while; then we moved to Calle Magdalena, Trozo. By this time, a close watch on the Katipunan was already being kept by the Spanish government.
Having extended (the association's activities) to all parts of the Archipelago so that some of its secrets had already been divulged, we returned to Caloocan. But because we were closely watched, most of the men, including Andres Bonifacio, after a few days left town, and then the outbreak began with the cry for liberty on August 25, 1896. I was then with my parents, but when I learned that I was about to be apprehended I decided to leave and did so at once at eleven o'clock at night, with the intention of returning to Manila under cover, through the rice fields to Loma. I was treated like an apparition, for, sad to say, I was driven away from every house I tried to enter to get a little rest. But I learned later that the occupants of the houses I visited were seized and severely punished and some even exiled -- one of them was an uncle of mine whom I visited that night to kiss his hand, and he died in exile. My father and two brothers were also arrested at this time.
My wandering continued and by four o'clock in the morning I reached Lico Street, now Soler, and went to the house of an uncle of mine, Simplicio de Jesus, sculptor, but near a police station, and after five hours I left there in a carromata to look for a safer place to live. I found a refuge in Calle Clavel and there, with my sister-in-law, Esperidiona Bonifacio, I stayed quietly for a month under the name of Manuela Gonzaga. Being a member of
the Katipunan, however, and hearing the country's call, I decided to come out of hiding and left for the mountains on November 1, 1896. My husband met me at San Francisco del Monte, and we proceeded to the historic mountain of Balara where the sons of the country had their headquarters, between the towns of Caloocan and Mariquina, from which place we entered Cavite province.
My second husband is Julio Nacpil. He was secretary to Andres Bonifacio and the one given command of all the troops in the north, which put an end to the fighting in Montalban and San Mateo. We met again as he retired to Pasig, fell in love with each other, and were later married in the Catholic Church of Quiapo, December 10, 1898. The Philippine revolution at an end and peace restored, we made our home with the well known philanthropist Dr. Ariston Bautista and his wife, Petrona Nacpil. With us also lived my mother-in-law, and brothers and sisters-in-law. Together we lived like true brothers and sisters, born of the same mother. By my second husband I have eight children, two of whom, Juana and Lucia, are now dead, and six, Juan F., Julia, Francisca, Josefina, Mercedes, and Caridad, are living. They were all sent to school by Dr. Ariston Bautista, who also made it possible for my son (Juan F.) to complete his studies, and who treated me like a daughter and sister while he lived.
With respect to the controversy between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo which originated from the troubled elections held in Tejeros, and the persecution of and the cruelty committed against our family by the Aguinaldo faction, which culminated in the execution of Bonifacio, I will say nothing here, since (an account of) the same can be read in a letter7 of mine to Emilio Jacinto, which, according to General Pacheco, is now in the collection of Jose P. Santos.
Further, with respect to what I know regarding the Katipunan, I will say, so that all may know, that I was the first to translate or decipher the (Katipunan) acts in code which Emilio Jacinto sent to me in Pasig with a piece of bone extracted from his thigh when he was hit by a bullet at an engagement in Nagcarlan, Laguna. I was then in Pasig, now a part of Rizal province, and it was there that I deciphered the Katipunan acts already referred to.
The first printing press, the revolver and other weapons, the seal, and other articles were all bought by the supreme council, although gifts were also received from Messrs. Francisco and Valeriano Castillo, men of the right spirit, patriotic, and of high ideals, who, when informed of the aims of the Katipunan, immediately purchased a bigger printing press in order to rush the printing of the Kartilla, the newspaper, and the rules (of the society). So Emilio Jacinto, Aguedo del Rosario, and Alejandro, Cipriano, and Marciano Santiago from Polo, Bulacan, worked together (in the printing office) while Macario Sakay and other leaders took charge of the distribution and attended to errands. Some people consider him (Sakay) a bad man, who in the end became a bandit, but I know (literally "saw") that he helped the Katipunan a great deal. Macario Sakay was a true patriot and I can hardly believen that he ended his life on the gallows.
I went through a number of adventurous experiences during the revolution. I had no fear of facing danger, not even death itself, whenever I accompanied the soldiers in battle, impelled as I was then by no other desire than to see unfurled the flag of an independent Philippines, and, as I was present in and witnessed many encounters, I was considered a soldier, and to be a true one I learned how to ride, to shoot a rifle, and to manipulate other weapons which I had occasions actually to use. I have known what it is to sleep on the ground without tasting food the whole day, to drink dirty water from mud holes or the sap of vines which, though bitter, tasted delicious because of my thirst. When I come to think of my life in those days, considering my youth then, I am surprised how I stood it all, and how I was spared.
As I remember it, the punishment given those who failed to obey the precepts of the Katipunan, for example those who committed adultery, was to summon them immediately [after] their guilt became known, and to admonish them to respect women as they respected themselves. The admonition was read to them in these words: "If you do not want your mother, wife, or sister abused, you should likewise refrain from abusing those of others, for such an offense is fully worth three lives. Bear in mind always that you should never do to others what you do not want done to you, and in this way (i. e. observing this rule of conduct) you may count yourself an honorable son of the country."8
With respect to gambling, he who was found guilty upon investigation by the balangay prosecutor, was dropped from the society (and was not reinstated) till he changed his conduct. Every one thus admonished or punished, then, changed his behavior.
At the request of Mr. Jose P. Santos to whom this account of my life is dedicated, I conclude by giving our youths of whom he is one, the following counsel or advice in the form of decalogue:
1. Respect and love your parents because they are next to God on earth.
2. Remember always the sacred teachings of our heroes who sacrificed their lives for love of country.
4. [sic] Acquire some knowledge in the line or field of work for which you are best fitted so that you can be useful to your country.
5. Remember that goodness is wealth.
6. Respect your teachers who help you to see and understand, for you owe them your education as you owe your parents your life.
7. Protect the weak from danger.
8. Fear history, for it respects no secrets
9. Greatness begins where baseness ends.
10. Promote union and the country's progress in order not to retard its independence.
Here ends this short account of my life written in my leisure moments when alone and free to commune with the past so that all its contents are true to the facts.
Gregoria de Jesus.
Nov. 5, 1928.
1The insertions within parentheses are mine. —- F.
2Jose Turiano Santiago.-- F.
3Regarding this section for women, Isabelo de los Reyes, in La Religion del Katipunan, has the following to say (Kalaw version):
"The wives of the members of the Katipunan became alarmed at the nightly absences of their husbands, and as they took money for the contribution box or to pay their monthly dues, they interpreted it as being quite for another purpose. To calm their wives, and because they knew that the women could help greatly in gaining recruits, the members let their wives find out the secret and admitted them into the society, telling them that the object of the association was mutual aid in social life and hiding the deeper or political purpose. Some 25 women came in, led by Dofia Maria Dizon, a pretty young woman, wife of Don Jose Turiano, who was the first initiated. In the meetings they wore a green mask, a white sash edged with green, with revolver or dagger, and helped to watch the outside of the room in which the men held their meeting. The 25 also initiated some others and also served to help the brothers in distress." According to Artigas, in Andres Bonifacio y el Katipunan, the number of women initiates was 29. -- F.
4Most Exalted and Venerable Association. -- F
5Sons of the Nation. -- F.
6It was not unusual then and even now for women to hide valuable papers inside their clothing. -- F.
7Certain portions of the letter referred to can not now be found; they have been, according to Mr. Jose P. Santos, either misplaced or lost. The available portions, were published by the late Epifanio de los Santos in his "Andres Bonifacio" in the Philippine Review and read as follows:
"They (the Magdalo partisans) held a secret meeting and resolved to pursue him and pick a quarrel with him, and, if he became offended, to kill or disarm and bind him (A. Bonifacio), together with his soldiers. When the detachment came, they
sent a message to our house, from afar off, to lay down our arms. We paid no attention, whereupon they came, and when they approached our house, they surrounded it, and their colonel then entered the house. He (her husband) went up to him peacefully and asked him where he was going, and the colonel replied that they were making a reconnaissance towards Indang and had stopped because they had not yet had their breakfast. At the same time he inquired concerning our situation, saying that most assuredly we must be short of provisions. We replied we were not, saying that we were better off here than at Indang, as there was somebody who furnished us rice that was not of the poorest quality (pinawa). The colonel replied: They are better off in the pueblo now because they receive rice from Naik, and, if you wish, we can live together. He (my husband) replied: What should I do at Indang where our brethren would maltreat me? I do not even want my eyes to behold them again. After he had said this, there was a pause and they had their breakfast. They then asked to go, saying that it was getting late and promising that they would return with their soldiers to have dinner with us. After leaving, what they did upon arriving outside of our battery was to order the same closed, giving instructions that no member of the family of the Supremo was to be allowed to pass, as otherwise their lives would be forfeited. This was the order given at said battery, which they watched with a small detachment of their soldiers. When our men who were taking rations outside of the battery arrived, the sentries refused to let them pass. The men to whom passage was thus denied reported the matter immediately, and it was only thus that we learned what was being done. Besides, they disarmed all our comrades on the outside and took all the men away. For this reason my husband ran after them in order to ask them why they were acting in this manner, but he did not succeed in overtaking them, and they returned and
waited for them to return in order to ask them whether they had been acting under orders from their officers. While thus waiting, night came. They seized our women and even our utensils, but one of the women kidnapped made her escape and reported to our soldiers that their women had been abducted. The soldiers wanted to leave in order to demand an explanation, but we succeeded in detaining them, and they did not go beyond the battery, but waited there. When he (her husband) learned what had happened to his comrades, he gave orders and, sent a message requesting a conference with the officers, because, he said, it was not becoming that there should be any quarrel between them. They told the messenger that they refused to parley and that bullets would settle the matter. The messenger therefore returned. About dawn they fired shots, and some more shots on the other side. I then awakened him (her husband) and when he went outside, he met a soldier who told him that they were coming in overwhelming force and were already near. When they came close, they fired rapidly, and, forming a line of skirmishers, surrounded us. He (her husband), however, ordered our soldiers not to fire, and our men shouted: Brethren, don't shoot; tell us what you want. They paid no attention, and when we were within range, they fired a volley at my husband, and when he fell they stabbed him and struck him with the butts of their guns. My brother-in-law Ciriaco was seized by two and shot to death. Procopio they tied and beat, with a revolver. They then placed the wounded in hammocks, and those they had bound, and took them to the pueblo. When they saw me come out of the place where I had been hiding, the officers of the detachment ran towards me and tried to compel me to say where the money of Cavite or of the treasury was kept; they also took by force my revolver and even what little expense money we had. Then they hastened to tie me to a tree, attempting to force me to tell them the whereabouts of the money which they said we had collected. The brothers can testify to this, also the other residents here who are bringing us food every month. When they did not obtain from me what they sought, they took me to the Tribunal at Indang, and there I took care of the wounded man, whom they had stripped, taking possession of the clothes he wore, and giving him a blanket instead. When I approached, I was hardly able to attend to him, as they wanted to bind me and take me to Naik, but upon the supplications of others, they let me alone. In the morning, however, the soldiers took us back and forth between Indang and Marigondon and Naik. Alas, my brothers; when we arrived at that pueblo, they locked us up in the barracks, and when we first arrived, they left us at the door for two hours before we were taken in, and about an hour at the foot of the stairs. They then put us in the kitchen part of the building, in the priest's bath room, where they locked us up as in a dungeon, and where it was almost impossible for me to get to him (her husband), and when I insisted, they put me in a room prohibiting me from communicating with any person. And as they said they were going to make us testify, I besought all the generals to treat us with justice, saying that, if it was practicable, they should, before requiring us to testify, call the other chiefs and question us publicly in their presence. They agreed to my request, saying that this was no more than just; but it was not done, and after more than a week had elapsed, they took us to Marigondon and took our testimony only on the third day. They bought over Pedro Giron with money and coached him well in what they wished him to testify; that he (her husband) had ordered them all put to death. He agreed (to testify to this) because they promised him his life, and, as a fact, they made him leave immediately after he had testified. Hence, when my husband demanded to be allowed to face Giron, they replied that he had been killed at Naik. Why is he with them now? When the summary trial was over, Capitan Emilio, according to them, crdered my husband shot within twenty four hours. They did not even allow him to make his defence or have a counsel of his own choice. The time passed and he was pardoned, but four or five days later, orders were given for his banishment. When the sentence was pronounced, I asked several of the chiefs whether the contents of the sentence were the truth, to which they replied that I must not pay any attention to rumors, and to prove this, the judge advocate who had prosecuted the case came and told us not to worry, because
nothing had happened, and then there came... an order to the Spanish captain that on the third day at eight o'clock at night, while it was raining hard, they should
take my husband out of the house by force. I besought the major, Lazaro Macapagal, who took him and executed the order, not to take the sick man outside until after the rain had stopped, or the next morning. He could not do so for the reason that, as he said, it was by order of the commanding officer; but he told me to go to Capitan Emilio's house and supplicate him. I went out accompanied by two women; we almost had to go on all-fours through the dark night and amidst a heavy downpour while we were passing the river. We arrived at Emilio's place, but were unable to go upstairs immediately, as we were completely drenched. When we went upstairs, Emilio hid in his room and made them tell us that he was ill and was resting; but I noticed that he was awake and talking to Jocson. When Jocson came out and approached Pedro Lipana, who claimed to be Emilio's secretary, he came to me and asked me what I wanted. I said that, if it was possible, they should not take the sick man away until the next day. He said no, and I took leave in order to go back; but as I was going downstairs, he told us to wait for a letter for the sentry. The letter being written, he handed it to two soldiers, with orders to accompany us. They were to detain him (her husband) in the Tribunal and confine me upon the return from the house of the Pangulo. I argued, but they told me they would shoot me; and thereafter nobody was allowed to approach me. At noon on the following day they took the two brothers out; towards the afternoon there was a skirmish outside of the pueblo, near where I was, and they let me go. Upon being released, I went to the other side to look for him, (her husband), and I met those who had taken him away. They were carrying with them the clothes I had obtained for charity, like the medicine and the blanket with which I had covered my brother-in-law. When I asked them about those they had taken away, they answered that they had left them in the hills, in the house of a lieutenant. I asked why they were carrying the clothes, and they told me that he (her husband) had told them to bring me those clothes. Alas, brothers! I then began to look for them (Bonifacio and his brother) at the place they had indicated, and when I arrived, I was told they were on another hill, which was extremely high. I got there, ascended, and did not find him. We then went on again. Alas, my brothers we went through the hills looking for him for about two weeks, resting only at night. As I did not find him and there was nobody to tell me his whereabouts, we followed the soldiers, but they in answer to our questions, indicated all sorts of places. And we resolved to leave only when one of my uncles told me the truth, because he had given him food at the place where the firing squad had stopped before they took them away.
I am still lucky, my brothers, to be alive after all I have gone through. We roamed about for a whole month with nothing to eat but green bananas. When my companions succeeded in obtaining, through charity, a handful of rice, they boiled it in water and gave it to me. The clothes I wore were so much used that it was impossible to burn them.
Gregoria de Bonifacio,
8The writer apparently has in mind this section of the Kartilla (Santos' version):
"On the thorny path of life, man is the guide of woman and of the children, and if the guide leads to precipices, those whom he guides will also go there.
"Thou must not look upon woman as a mere plaything, but as a faithful companion who will share with thee the penalties of life; her weakness will increase thy interest in her and she will remind thee of the mother who bore thee and reared thee.
"What thou dost not desire done unto thy wife, children, brothers and sisters, that do not unto the wife, children, brothers, and sisters of thy neighbor." -- F.
Testimony of Gregoria de Jesus at the Court Martial of Andres Bonifacio
In the town of Maragondong on May 4, 1897, appeared Gregoria de Jesus, nineteen (sic) years of age, married, holding no official position and native of Caloocan, Manila, before the investigating judge (juez instructor) and the secretary in order to testify.
When asked who started the fighting in Limbon she answered that it was started by the soldiers who arrived.
When asked who fired the first shot, she answered that she could not tell because she ran away (and hid herself) in the forest when she saw many persons approaching their house.
When asked whether she knew the reason why five men were detained whose eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair were shaved, she answered that she knew that there were five men, believed to be spies, whose eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair were shaved.
When asked whether it was true that there were frequent meetings in their house and who were those who attended, she answered that it was not true.
When asked whether she knew that there was a President of the whole archipelago, she answered that she did not know.
When asked whether she knew that Andres (Bonifacio) had instructed his men the preceding morning in the barrio of Limbon to halt the government soldiers on their return and to open fire on them should they not heed the third "halt", she answered that she did not know.
The testimony was closed and the witness, after reading it, signed it, and the secretary attested to the same. The witness, moreover, declared that after the fighting the men looked for her, and, when found, she was asked where the money was hidden, and that when she failed to give information regarding the money she was tied to a tree by order of Colonel Yntong and ordered to be flogged, but this his (Yntong's) companions did not allow. On the men's refusal, said Colonel had
her taken to a vacant house and demanded that she surrender at that instant a gold engagement ring, twelve pesos, and revolver ammunitions, From this place, she was taken to another house after its occupant had been sent out. When she
arrived in Indang, she was again ordered to be tied, but once more the soldiers intervened.
The witness signed, with the secretary attesting.
Gregoria de Jesus.