Sunday, December 02, 2012

St. Clair, Francis. Excerpt from The Katipunan: Or, The Rise and Fall of the Filipino Commune. Manila: Tip. "Amigos del Pais," 1902. 130-138.


Note 16. Andrés Bonifacio was the soul of the Katipunan movement; he was the President of the “Council of Ministers of the Supreme Popular Council.” His social condition was of a low grade, that grade from which many of the most fanatical pseudo-reformers have come; he was a warehouseman, a porter. In this capacity he was employed in the establishment of Messrs Fressel and Co., and was one of the humblest of the employees.

Bonifacio was, however, very vain and quixotic. He was, too, a man of sanguinary character, and held the people over whom


he attained ascendancy, in awe.

His ambition was the cause of his ignominious downfall and brutal murder at the hands of another self-asserted dictator of the filipino Commune. Like most of his kind, he was a great reader, and by those who knew him best he was likened to Don Quixote, for like that worthy he passed many a night burning away oil and candles, and sacrificing needed sleep in reading, until his brain was turned and his whole mind given up to ideas of revolutions. His favorite study was the French Revolution, from the which he learned many lessons which he utilized in his projects, the principal of which was the formation of a government after the style of the French Commune. He was astute and comparatively intelligent, and spoke the Tagalog dialect well. For the carrying out of his plans he had agents in every nook and corner. No place where information might be gathered or the work of propaganda done, was over-looked. The offices of the Civil Government had their quota of his spies, as also did the Intendencia, the Maestraza de Artilleria and the other large centers. Nor were the Convents and Colleges overlooked, nor even


the big business Corporations.

Bonifacio enjoyed an envied ascendancy over the lower classes and the ignorant. Like others of similar tendencies, Bonifacio knew how to exploit the “membership”. He was at one time treasurer of the Katipunan, and upon one occasion after the examination of the books by the president of the society Andrés was denounced as an exploiter, the accounts being found in a very bad condition. A series of mutual squabbles and insults passed between the president Roman Basa, and Bonifacio, the whole affair ending up in a re-election of officers, Bonifacio being chosen as president. This occurred towards the end of the year 1893.

The vanity of Bonifacio was comparable only to that of Aguinaldo. Among the number of chief workers of the Katipunan was a certain Valenzuela, a doctor who had, according to his own confession, been forced into the membership by Bonifacio, on the strength of a “love” affair; he was given the choice of membership or death. He chose the former but later on resigned. Whilst a member he enjoyed a salary of 30 pesos a month as medical officer, but only with difficulty could he collect his pay. He claim-


ed to have been exploited by Bonifacio who, whilst merely a porter, could thus have at his command the free services of a real doctor, spurning the services of the petty physicians which abound in Manila. Nor was this all. His own (Bonifacio’s) house having been burned down, he went, on the strength of this same “love” affair, to live in the house of the said doctor (see foot-note p. 48),* taking with him his paramour, the doctor paying the greater part of the expenses thus incurred.

At the time of the organization of the popular Supreme Councils, Bonifacio was chosen president of the Council of Trozo; but in consequence of internal troubles occasioned by his rebelliousness, the Supreme Council decided to dissolve the local Council. Bonifacio, true to his colors, disregarded this order and continued working on his own account, taking upon himself the faculties of the Supreme Council.

He preserved in a case which was found in the warehouse of Messrs Fressel and Co., the organization of the “Filipino Republic” which was to be, as well as a number of regulations, codes, decrees of nominations, etc., all drawn up in Tagalog (see foot-note p. 49.)**

* Pio Valenzuela y Alejandro, a near companion of Bonifacio in matters relative to the Katipunan, testified in his evidence in the courts of Justice, (fols 1,663 to 1,673), that Andrés Bonifacio had read much, and possessed a library which was destroyed when his house caught fire. (See note 16) That he would pass the night in reading instead of sleeping, and that from such an excess of reading there had happened to him the same as happened to Don Quixote—his brain had become turned. Thus it was that Andrés was ever dreaming of the presidency and speaking of the French Revolution.

** It was in the warehouse of this German firm that the Spanish authorities discovered the documentary evidence which Valenzuela testified had been hidden there by Bonifacio. It had been determined by the Katipunan to destroy all documents, but evidently Bonifacio overtaken suddenly by the unexpected discovery of the plot he was developing, had not sufficient presence of mind, or what is more probable still, enough time to put them out of existence, and he therefore hid them as has been said, hoping no doubt, to be thus enabled to put the authorities off the track in case they should happen to get possession of them.


Upon the discovery, on the 19th of August 1896, by the Augustinian Padre fray Mariano Gil, parish priest of Tondo, of the plot of the Katipuneros, Bonifacio and his immediate assistants fled from Manila to Caloocan. From that point he sent orders to the provinces of Manila, Cavite and Nueva Ecija that a general rising should take place on the 30th of that month. These orders were given out of revenge for the failure of the blood-thirsty plot whereby every Spaniard, man, woman or child should share in the sufferings which his diseased brain had concocted for those who should fall into his hands. Bonifacio issued special orders concerning the Governor General, his plan being that he and the other Spanish authorities of any importance should be taken prisoners, but not killed, it being intended to hold their persons as security for the granting of their demands. He called together the members of the Junta Superior and nominated a general-in-chief, a general of division and other officials. These however refused to step into the places he had prepared for them and Bonifacio angered thereat threatened to have the head removed from the shoulders of anyone who dared to disobey him.


The general-in-chief Teodoro Plata, a cousin of Bonifacio, fled during the night following his nomination, whereupon Bonifacio issued orders for his capture, commanding his death wherever he should be found.

Sometime previous to this, about the month of May, Bonifacio sent Pio Valenzuela to Dapitan to hold a conference with Rizal concerning the convenience of immediate rebellion against Spain. Rizal would not consent to the projected revolt but opposed the idea most strenuously, being thrown into such a bad humor by the information he received of Bonifacio, that Valenzuela, who had gone to Dapitan intending to spend a month there, determined to return on the following day. On his return to Manila he recounted to Bonifacio the result of his mission. Bonifacio who knew Rizal’s influence over the people to be greater than his own, had been living in hopes of receiving Rizal’s consent which would be the surrendering to him of the whole responsibility and glory of the bloody enterprise. Bonifacio aspired to the absolute, like all the so-called leaders of the revolt; so when he realized the stand taken by Rizal, who was willing to wait patiently till the poison with which he had ino-


culated the people should work of itself, he flew into a rage like a spoilt child, declaring Rizal to be a coward and imposing upon Valenzuela, his messenger, implicit silence on this subject, prohibiting him from manifesting to anyone what he considered to be the bad exit of the consultation.

No methods were too underhand for Bonifacio; to gain his end he lied to the people over whom he held sway as only a Filipino can lie. On one occasion he affirmed that in Coregidor was a vessel loaded with arms and ammunition for the rebels, and by this means he animated them, a very necessary thing at that time, as they were but scantily armed with bolos and were no match against those they intended to assail.

Taking him all in all, Bonifacio was a first class organizer for such an enterprise as that aimed at by the Katipunan, and upon his shoulders lies the weight of the greater part of the iniquities of the diabolical society. He ordered the outbreak and in a skillful manner pulled the strings which worked the figures which formed the performers in the marionette revolution. He had rivals in the field however, the most powerful being Aguinaldo, the would be


president of the mushroom republic. After the encounter at San Juan del Monte in which the insurgents suffered the loss of 95 killed and 42 taken prisoners in the first instance, and shortly afterwards of 200 more, Bonifacio escaped, carrying with him the funds of the Katipunan, some 20,000 pfs. (a) He was supposed to be in hiding in the most inaccessible parts of the mountains of San Mateo, in as much as he had told Pio Valenzuela that in case the movement were unsuccessful he had determined to retire to that point to devote himself to highway robbery (b), to foot-padding, an idea gotten 

(a) Pedro Gonzales, a native who was captured whilst carrying dispatches and letters to and fro between Manila and the insurgent camp, was a man well posted in the doings of the rebels and was able to give much interesting and valuable information to the Authorities. The most interesting portions of his evidence will be found in appendix F.* In this matter of the flight of Bonifacio he stated that “it was not exact as had been said, that Andrés Bonifacio was in Cavite (at that particular time), for after the defeat at San Juan del Monte he disappeared with the funds of the Katipunan, which amounted to some 20,000 pesos, as he had been assured.”

(b) Having been asked during his trial whether he was aware of the hiding place of Bonifacio, Valenzuela (fol. 600 to 605) stated that “he was not aware of the place in which Bonifacio and others were to be met with; that he merely supposed that Bonifacio could be found in the mountains of San Mateo, in Tapusi, in other words in the most inaccessible part of the said mountain range; because the witness heard him say that he would retire to that point to dedicate himself to highway robbery if the movement should not be successful.

*Appendix F. G. H. I. J. These latter appendices have been suppressed in this first edition for want of space.


from some modern French novel probably. He worked his way eventually into Cavite, and, according to information gotten from Pedro Gonzalez, he fell into the disfavor of Aguinaldo who saw his own superiority in danger of being supplanted; the generalisimo therefore put a price upon his head (a). A party was sent in search for the runaway and upon his capture he was subjected to most brutal treatment, and at last fell a victim to the unprincipled ambition of the Dictator.

Had Bonifacio lived he would have made a splendid acquisition to the Partido Federal, he being a man who could, like many of the self-asserted leaders of to-day, plan and follow out any double-faced policy that might be needed under the circumstances.

(a) “The generalisimo, captain Emilio, is very indignant with the conduct of Andrés Bonifacio, upon whose head he has set a price, offering a good recompense to the one who will present him dead or alive, for he says that he cannot consent to such a desertion after he had been the principal promoter of the popular rebellion”. From the statement of Pedro Gonzalez previously quoted.