Monday, July 10, 2006

Richardson, Jim. "Andrés Bonifacio in Cavite, February 13, 1897". (March 29, 2006).


Transcribed below (in the original Tagalog, followed by an English translation) is a previously unpublished letter that Bonifacio wrote on February 13, 1897 to Julio Nakpil, the president of the Katipunan government in the "Northern District", the region to the north and east of the capital.

This brings the total number of known "Bonifacio letters" to nine -- four to Emilio Jacinto, two to Mariano Alvarez, two (1, 2) to Julio Nakpil and one to the High Military Council in the Northern District. In date order, they are as follows:
To the High Military Council in the Northern District, December 12, 1896.
To Mariano Alvarez, January 2, 1897.
To Julio Nakpil, February 13, 1897.
To Emilio Jacinto, March 8, 1897.
To Emilio Jacinto, undated but probably about March 16, 1897.
To Emilio Jacinto, April 16, 1897.
To Emilio Jacinto, April 24, 1897.
To Julio Nakpil, April 24, 1897.
To Mariano Alvarez, April 27, 1897.
Readers of this website will be aware that the provenance of some of the letters has been contested, but the balance of probability now is that most are authentic.1 Aside from its significance as an addition to the still slender corpus of Bonifacio’s known writings, the letter transcribed here is interesting mainly for its references to Fr Antonio Piernavieja, a Spanish friar then being held captive by Katipunan forces.

Fr Antonio Piernavieja

The bald chronology of Piernavieja's life is recorded in a directory compiled from the archives of his order, the Augustinians. A native of the small Castilian town of Rueda, he took his vows in Valladolid in 1853 and was sent to the Philippines in 1855. For more than three decades he served as a cura párroco in the province of Bulacan, assigned at various times in the towns of Paombong, San Rafael and San Miguel de Mayumo. Relieved of parish duties in 1891 due to his advancing years, he lived for a time in Augustinian convents and then was appointed in 1895 as chaplain to the casa-hacienda of Buenavista in the town of San Francisco de Malabon, Cavite.2

But beyond these spare details there lies an astonishing story. In the 1880s Piernavieja became a figure of great notoriety, the epitome, for anti-clericals, of the cruel and abusive Spanish friar. Rizal even mentions him in a footnote in Noli me tangere. It is not known, says Rizal, whether any Franciscan friar was ever guilty of a crime like the murder of Crispin (a poor boy in the novel who earned a few paltry coppers ringing the church bells), "but something similar is related of the Augustinian P. Piernavieja."3 The tragic tale of Crispin is said to have been translated from the Noli by Marcelo H. del Pilar and circulated as a propaganda leaflet in the Tagalog provinces, giving still wider currency to the belief that it was based on a real occurrence in a Bulacan parish "where Fr Antonio Piernavieja had charge of the souls".4 Word spread, too, that Piernavieja had committed another murder, his second victim an elderly woman servant. John Foreman, a long-time British resident of Manila, heard these stories and accepted them as fact. Even though the public voice could not then be raised very loudly against the priests, he wrote, the scandal was so great that "the criminal friar" had to be removed from his parish.5 Piernavieja’s consignment to convent life in 1891, therefore, may not have been due to his age after all. He was still in his fifties.

After withdrawing from the public eye for about four years, in any event, Piernavieja was deemed still fit for the ministry and was assigned to San Francisco de Malabon. The truth about what then happened is just as irrecoverable today as the truth about his alleged crimes. Some accounts say that after the area was liberated from Spanish control in September 1896 he was forced into acting as the "mock bishop" of revolutionary Cavite. To save his life he accepted this indignity, but then used his freedom to collect information about the movements, plans and strongholds of the Katipunan forces for passing on to his order and the Spanish authorities.6

The letter transcribed here indicates that in mid-February 1897 Piernavieja was being held prisoner, but that Bonifacio would be prepared to authorise his release if a suitably large ransom could be negotiated. No agreement was reached, however, and Piernavieja was put on trial together with two other Augustinians and a Recoleto before a Katipunan court. Accounts again differ as to the nature of the charges. The case against Piernavieja presumably included his attempts to pass information to the enemy, but the prosecution may also have raised the deaths of the boy and the old woman in Bulacan, and also older political allegations against him. In the wake of the Cavite mutiny of 1872, it was said, he had identified many prominent liberals and subversives in Bulacan to the authorities and had thereby been instrumental in despatching them into long exile.7 Prior to their trial, moreover, Piernavieja and his co-accused were reportedly coerced into confessing to the corporate culpability of the Spanish friar orders for the execution of Gomez, Burgos and Zamora in 1872 and of Rizal in 1896.8

Found guilty by the court, the three Augustinians and the Recoleto were sentenced to death and in March 1897 were executed near the town of Maragondon. According both to the revolutionary general Artemio Ricarte and to the official Augustinian records, Piernavieja, like the others, was shot. But the facts about his death, as about his life, got submerged by legend and rumour. A number of sources relate that he was tied to a post or tree and left in the tropical sun to die of heat and thirst.9

The executions deepened the enmity between the two Katipunan factions in Cavite, the Magdiwang headed by Andres Bonifacio and Mariano Alvarez and the Magdalo headed by Emilio Aguinaldo. The tribunal that imposed the death penalty is said by Ricarte to have been appointed by Bonifacio acting on the authority of the Magdiwang Council en banc, and the sentence was carried out by Magdiwang troops. Aguinaldo says in his memoirs that he wrote to Bonifacio urging that two of the accused (not Piernavieja) be treated leniently because they had not committed any serious crimes, but that his intervention was to no avail.10 After the executions he is said to have angrily denounced Bonifacio and the others responsible as "crueles" and atheists.11 So far as Bonifacio was concerned, that accusation was false, and if it was indeed made it must be seen as part of Aguinaldo’s campaign to swing public opinion against the Katipunan Supremo. In reality, both Bonifacio and Aguinaldo were under pain of excommunication from the Catholic Church because they were Masons, but as Masons they both professed to abhor atheism. "The doors of Masonry," stipulated the code to which the Philippine lodges of the time subscribed, "will never open to an atheist or to those who deny the existence of the Supreme Creator."12 Like other Katipuneros, as the example here shows, Bonifacio signed off his letters with the wish that the recipient should remain safe in the care of the Lord (Maykapal).

The Himno Nacional

Bonifacio mentions in his letter that he has received a copy of the Himno Nacional that Nakpil had sent. Julio Nakpil later recalled that he composed this piece -- also known as the Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan -- at the request of Bonifacio when they were encamped with Katipunan troops in the vicinity of Balara in November 1896. He remembered the hymn still being played in Cavite and Laguna in 1898, but as the history textbooks tell Aguinaldo then chose as the national anthem the composition by Julian Felipe originally titled the Marcha Filipina Magdalo. In 1903 Nakpil reworked his Marangal na Dalit as a tribute to Rizal under the title Salve, Patria, but the only surviving copies of the original score were destroyed in 1945 during the battle for Manila. The version of Marangal na Dalit we have today was reconstructed by Nakpil from memory when he was in his eighties.13 The form chosen by Nakpil, the dalit, was traditionally a sung prayer or supplication, and his hymn, as readers may hear, is very solemn, almost mournful.14 To lift the spirits, it is good to listen to a different piece by Nakpil that is also highly evocative of those revolutionary times, the lively pasa-doble militar entitled Pasig Pantayanin.15


The Tagalog text of this letter bears accents, but these have been omitted here due to the difficulties of rendering them in electronic format. Paragraph numbers do not appear in the original, and have been inserted simply to facilitate comparison between the Tagalog original and the English translation.

The text is as follows:

Sa Kap... na M. Julio Nakpil Guiliw, Pangulo ng M. na Sangunian sa bayan ng Pasig

Guiliw kong kapatid: tinangap ko po rito ang iniyong kalatas gawa ng ika 30 ng Enerong nagdaan, at sa pagkatanto ng doo’y iniyong saad, ay ang tugon ko’y ang sumusunod.

Ako po ay tumangap ng sulat niniyo na dalawang veces na at aking sinagot naman, nguni’t ang di malaman ay kun tinangap niniyo, baga man aquing ipinaaalaala na ang sagot ng huli ay saloob na ng buang ito.

Kalakip ng kalatas niniyo na sinasagot ko, na dumating sa akin ng ika [blank] ng lumalakad, ay tinangap ko ang Himno Nacional at susundin ang tanging hiling sainiyo ukol dito.

Ang Fraileng si Antonio Piernavieja ay mabute at kalakip na ipinadadala ko sa iniyo upang gawin ang nararapat, ang sulat ng nasabing Fraile sa kaniyang anak na ibinabalita ang kaniyang kalagayan at tuloy sinasabi na siya ang may nasa na maabuloy sa atin. Ayon dito sa abuloy na ito at sa sabi niniyo na ang anak na iyan ay ayos sa atin at makaabuloy ng halagang $1000; sa akala ko ay makahihingi tayo ng $5000 -- limang libong piso, sapagka sa balita ko ay may kualtang marame na hindi niya lubos ipagdadamdam ang halagang ito; kaya ka yo ang bahalang tumapon. Masasahe niniyo tuloy sa anak niya ang kaniyang amo ay hindi mapapatay na at dili naman pahihirapan, sapagka ipinagutos ko na taga ingat ng bilanguan na huag na siyang papagtrabahuhin.

Ako ay lubos nagagalak sa balita inyo tungkol sa kay Grl. Francisco de los Santos, at kun kayo ay susulat sa kaniya ay masabi niniyo ang aking sa kaniya ay pagpupuri.16

Mangyare po lamang na kun ano man ang mangyare sa sulat ni Piernavieja sa kanyang anak, ay malaman ko agad.

Ako po at ilang mga taga rian ay may panukala na lumagay sa bayang Bakood at ng malapit dian sa atin at ang isapa ay ng doon magawa ang mga paggagayak ng mga kakailanganin sa paguwi namin dian na ito ay di malalaon, sapagka talastas ko na malaking lubha ang kailangan na tayo ay magkapipisan dian.17

Ingatan kayong lahat dian ng Maykapal; at tangapin ang yakap na ipinahahatid namin.

Malabon, ika 13 ng Febrero ng 1897.

Ang K. Pangulo

And... Bonifacio
English translation
To Brother Mr Julio Nakpil, Guiliw, President of the High Council in the town of Pasig.

My brother Guiliw: I have received here your letter written on 30th January last, and, having understood what you say in it, my reply is as follows.

I received your [earlier?] letter twice already, and have also replied, but what I don’t know is whether you received it, although I have reminded you to reply to it within the present month.

Together with your letter to which I am now replying, which reached me on the [blank] of the present month, I received the National Hymn and I will comply with the special request that has been made to you in this regard.

The friar Antonio Piernavieja is well, and together with this I am sending you, so that you can do what is necessary, the letter of the said friar to his son giving news of his current situation and going on to say that he has the desire to give us a contribution. In relation to this donation, and to what you said about the son settling with us to contribute the amount of $1,000: in my opinion we could ask for $5,000 -- five thousand pesos, because my information is that they have lots of money and this amount would not totally overwhelm them; so it is up to you to agree. Then you can go ahead and tell the son that his father will not be killed, nor even suffer hardship, because I have instructed the guards of the prison that he should not be made to work.

I am overjoyed by your news about Grl. Francisco de los Santos, and if you are going to write to him could you tell him that I applaud him.

Whatever happens in relation to the letter of Piernavieja to his son, please can I know as soon as possible.

Myself and some people from there have a plan to position ourselves in the town of Bakood so that we are nearer to there, and one other thing is that it will not take long there for the necessary preparations to be made for our return home, because I appreciate very gravely the need for us to group together there.

May the Lord take care of you all there; and accept the embrace that we send.

Malabon, February 13, 1897

The Supreme President

And... Bonifacio

1 The letter to the High Military Council has not yet been published, but it is intended that a transcription and English translation will be posted on this website soon. Facsimiles of the letters to Emilio Jacinto dated March 8, April 16 and April 24 are interleaved in Adrian E. Cristobal, The Tragedy of the Revolution (Makati City: Studio 5 Publishing Inc., 1997), pp.146-7. Tagalog versions of the two letters to Mariano Alvarez and the four letters to Emilio Jacinto are reproduced in The Writings and Trial of Andres Bonifacio, translated by Teodoro A. Agoncillo with the collaboration of S. V. Epistola (Manila: Antonio J. Villegas; Manila Bonifacio Centennial Commission; University of the Philippines, 1963), pp.82-91. For reasons already discussed in the posting on this website that reproduces Bonifacio’s letter to Nakpil dated April 24, 1897, the Tagalog texts of the letters to Jacinto published by Agoncillo and Epistola are substantially different in language (but not meaning) from the facsimiles reproduced by Cristobal. The Tagalog texts of the letters to Alvarez published by Agoncillo and Epistola are the same as those published by José P. Santos in his Si Andrés Bonifacio at ang Himagsikan (Manila:, 1935), pp.25-6. Agoncillo and Epistola’s English translations of the four letters to Jacinto and the two to Alvarez are posted in the "Documents" section of this website.
2 Gregorio de Santiago Vela, Ensayo de una biblioteca Ibero-Americana del Orden de San Agustin, vol. 6 (Madrid: Imp. del Asilo de Huérfanos del Sagrado Corazon de Jesús, 1922), p.313.
3 José Rizal, Noli me tangere: novela tagala (Manila: Instituto Naciónal de Historia, 1978), p.79. This is an offset of the first edition, as published in Berlin by the Berliner Buchdruckerei-Actien-Gesellschaft in 1887. Many other editions omit Rizal’s footnotes.
4 Epifanio de los Santos, "Marcelo H. del Pilar", Philippine Review, 5:9 (September 1920), p.587.
5 John Foreman, The Philippine Islands, Second edition (London: S. Low, Marston & Co., Ltd., 1899), p.219.
6 José M. del Castillo y Jiménez, El Katipunan ó El Filibusterismo en Filipinas (Madrid: Imp. del Asilo de Huérfanos del Sagrado Corazon de Jesús, 1897), p. 347.
7 Telesforo Canseco, "Historia de la insurrección Filipina en Cavite", in Pedro S. de Achutegui SJ and Miguel A. Bernad SJ, Aguinaldo and the Revolution of 1896: a documentary history (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila, 1972), pp.335-41.
8 Artemio Ricarte, Memoirs (Manila: National Heroes Commission, 1963), p.12; La Democracia, July 12 and 14, 1906, cited in Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson (eds.), The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898, vol.52 (Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1907), pp.192-3; Martin F. Venago, Ang mga paring Pilipino sa kasaysayan ng Inang Bayan (Maynila:, 1929), pp.7; 41-2.
9 Vital Fité, Las desdichas de la patria: politicos y frailes (Madrid: Imprenta de Enrique Fojas, 1899), p.79; Castillo y Jimenez, El Katipunan, p.347; Foreman, The Philippine Islands, p.219.
10 Emilio Aguinaldo, Mga Gunita ng Himagsikan (Manila: Cristina Aguinaldo Suntay, 1964), p.156.
11 Ricarte, Memoirs, p.12; Canseco, "Historia", p.340; Personal communication from John N. Schumacher SJ, January 2, 2006.
12 Reynold S. Fajardo, The Brethren: Masons in the struggle for Philippine independence (Manila: Enrique L. Locsin and the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines, 1998), p.106.
13 Julio Nakpil and the Philippine Revolution, with the autobiography of Gregoria de Jesus, edited and translated by Encarnación Alzona (Manila: Heirs of Julio Nakpil, 1964), pp.90-2; 137.
14 "Himno Nacional (1896)" (10 July 2006)
15 "Pasig Pantayanin, Pasa-doble Militar (Military March) by Julio Nakpil, June 17, 1897" (10 July 2006)
16 Francisco de los Santos is one of the countless heroes of the Katipunan about whom the historical record is virtually silent. He was appointed as a general by Bonifacio soon after the outbreak of the revolution, and subsequently was involved in the fighting in and around the municipality of San Mateo. He also served as a general in the second phase of the revolution, and in 1901 the Americans deported him to Guam together with Apolinario Mabini, Artemio Ricarte and other intransigents. Artemio Ricarte, Himagsikan nang manga Pilipino laban sa Kastila (Yokohama: "Karihan Café", 1927), p.132.
17 At this juncture Bonifacio had been in Cavite for less than two months, but he is already expressing the desire to return "there", meaning to where Nakpil is, probably in the vicinity of Pasig or San Mateo. He was still making preparations to return in late April 1897, just prior to his arrest, trial and execution, and the reasons why he fatally kept deferring his journey are not clear.