Andres Bonifacio, The Great Plebeian*
By Manuel L. Quezon
In designating my wife to lay the cornerstone of the monument which is to be erected in memory of the Father of the Katipunan and in requesting me to address you on this solemn occasion, you have conferred upon us a signal honor for which we are profoundly grateful.
When Rizal consecrated his doctrines with his precious blood, he was at once venerated by all. But unlike Rizal, Bonifacio was not immediately hailed as a national hero by the intellectual and well-to-do classes of our society. The masses, possessing that unerring Judgment by which they appraise true patriots, were the first ones who elevated Bonifacio to the pedestal of a hero of our people. The observance which we hold today is a solemn declaration by the entire country that Andres Bonifacio is deserving of the undying gratitude of his people, and that the memory of his life and deeds would keep the flame of inspiration ever burning in the hearts of generations yet unborn.
On the very day the Governor General signed the bill that was unanimously passed by the Legislature appropriating funds which, together with the amount raised by popular subscription, will meet the expense for the erection of a fitting monument to Bonifacio. On this day, the Honorable Dwight F. Davis, the representative in these Islands of America, the sovereign nation, joins us in paying this tribute of love and admiration to the Great Plebeian.
Through their writings Rizal, Marcelo H. del Filar and other patriotic toilers of their time infused into the Filipino way of life a deep sense of nationhood, and made our people realize that they were shorn of their rights and were being trodden under the iron heel of oppression. Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto and a handful of brave men launched our people into the battlefield for the vindication of their rights and to free them from the yoke of tyranny.
* From 1940 Bonifacio Day Souvenir Program, pp. 16-19. Speech delivered by the then Senate President M. L. Quezon at Balintawak, November 30, 1929).
It can be truly said, therefore, that Rizal was the creator of Filipino nationality, and Bonifacio the redeemer of our country's liberties.
To appreciate Andres Bonifacio's love of liberty for this country, to understand his faith in the justice of his people's cause and his concept of the value of human dignity as being far above life itself, it is necessary for us to deliberate upon them magnitude of his task. His mission was to emancipate a people who had lived for centuries under foreign rule -- a people unorganized, unarmed, and with but a nascent national spirit -- from a government then considered by a majority of the Filipinos as so very powerful that it could command every instrumentality to suppress any uprising of the people under subjection. And Andres Bonifacio was undoubtedly one of those extraordinary men who are born to carry out "enterprises of great pith and moment" that would demolish unjust empires and deliberate subject peoples. Imagine Bonifacio as a man born of poor and humble parents, reared in privation, always toiling hard in order to earn a living for himself and his family, and later conceiving the idea of challenging the power and might of a whole government and carrying out his plan with undaunted boldness, and you have before you the life and deeds of the Great Plebeian.
Let it be known, however, that he did not immediately think of revolution. A man with a high sense of responsibility, leading an austere life, modest to the point of humility, exhibiting a great love for God and his fellowmen, -- as can be rapidly seen when we read his decalogue -- he was a man of peace and he could not have failed to be horrified at the tragic consequences of a resort to arms.
But Bonifacio had read the history of the French Revolution. He understood and professed the new doctrine embodying the right of the people to appeal to force as a last resort in order to destroy governments which do not fulfill the objects for which they have been instituted. Therefore, when he saw that the peaceful means used by the La Solidaridad, by Marcelo H. del Pilar, Rizal and the Liga Filipina, of which he was a very active member, were not only fruitless but harmful because they increased and aggravated the outrages and injustices committed by the rulers, he decided with firm resolve to organize and lead the Revolution. He founded the Katipunan, the first organization that really worked for the liberation of the country.
Nothing depicts and portrays the character of Andres Bonifacio, the man and the patriot, so well as his decalogue wherein he sum-
marized what he considered to be "the duties of the sons of the country."
The decalogue reads as follows:
1. Love God full-heartedly.Emilio Jacinto and later Apolinario Mabini, also wrote their own decalogues. In modesty Bonifacio preferred Jacinto's decalogue to his own, and adopted it for the use of the Katipunan. But even without making any comparison among these three documents, it cannot be denied that the decalogue of Bonifacio would be sufficient, if observed by every Filipino as the Great Plebeian had, to make our country the most exemplary nation in the world.
2. Bear always in mind that true love of God is love of country, love which is also true love of man.
3. Bear always in mind that the true measure of honor and of charity is to die in defense of your country.
4. Serenity, constancy, reason, and faith in whatever act or endeavor, crown with success every desire.
5. Guard, as you would your honor, the mandates and aims of the K. K. K.
6. It is incumbent on all that he who runs a serious risk in complying with his duties should be protected at the sacrifice of life and riches.
7. Let the achievement of each, either in self-control or in compliance with duty, be an example to his fellowmnan.
8. Help to the limit of your endurance, share with your wealth with the needy or unfortunate.
9. Diligence in your daily work to earn a living is the true expression of love and affection for yourself, for your wife, for your brother, and for your countryman.
10. Believe in the chastisement of the perverse and the treacherous and in the reward of all good work. Believe also that the aims of the K. K. K. are the gifts of God; for the hopes of the country are also the hopes of God.
Andres Bonifacio was not a demagogue. Having dedicated his life to the cause of liberty and being resolved to die in the vindication of the rights of his people, he spoke to them by their own duties rather than of their rights. He knew that for the enjoyment of true liberty the citizens should first know and observe their duties toward God, toward the country and toward their fellowmen. The spirit of abnegation and sacrifice which underlies his teachings should challenge our attention. His purpose was to inculcate among his countrymen the sense of duty and the practice of civic virtues even at the risk of one's life.
Coming from the masses and earning his living by the sweet of his brow, he proclaimed in his decalogue the dignity of labor in the face of a society which at that time considered it as degrading.
To my mind if Bonifacio had done nothing else but to bequeath to the Fiiipino people the doctrines of his decalogue and the example of a life consecrated to these doctrines, that would have been still sufficient to make him worthy of our perpetual veneration. Taken together, the lives of national heroes constitute a whole gospel to a people. We may say, therefore, that Bonifacio's life supplements that of Rizal. The teachings of both are necessary for a thorough grasp and comprehension of the doctrine of patriotism, that solid patriotism which includes both the thought and the deed. If we seek inspiration for art, for poetry and for science; if we need to be steeped in the essense of the purest nationalism, -- the nationalism of rigid and austered principles --, if we wish to pay homage to the history of our country in order to reconstruct and enrich it, and to learn to improve our customs and institutions through the processes of progress, of morality and of culture; in short, if we wish to find the way to light and redemption through the arts of civilization, then Rizal is the guide, the apostle, the hero without peer. If we want to put forth our own efforts and invoke our own dignity, because we find that the doors of opportunity and improvement are closed to us; if, seeing around us nothing but injustice and oppression, we want to work out our own salvation by concerted and united action; if we see that the law is not obeyed, that right is trampled upon and the fundamental principles of liberty, equality and fraternity have ceased to impel human action, then the apostle, the guide, the fitting hero is Andres Bonifacio.
In honoring the memory of the Great Plebeian, we also honor the Philippine Revolution. Bonifacio was the embodiment of that Revolution. His was the great mind which conceived it; his, the iron will which was determined to carry it through; his, the forceful arm which executed it. It is for this reason that the monument which is to be raised here and whose cornerstone we are laying today will perpetuate not only the memory of Andres Bonifacio. It will also perpetuate the memory of our Revolution which is the most sublime adventure ever embarked upon by the Fiiipino people, the most glorious achievement, of a whole race which marked it as virile, heroic, and worthy of the blessings of liberty.