Saturday, September 17, 2005

May, Glenn Anthony. "Introduction: History, Invention, and Nationalism." Inventing a Hero: the Posthumous Re-Creation of Andres Bonifacio. Madison: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, 1996. 1-17, notes 167-71.


This book tells a bizarre story about a famous man. The man in question is the Philippine national hero Andres Bonifacio, the leader of the Philippine Revolution of 1896, who died almost a century ago. The story concerns the successful efforts of a number of historians and one memoirist to transform Bonifacio in the years since his death.

In effect, Bonifacio has been posthumously re-created. He has been given a new personality and a childhood that may bear little resemblance to his real one. Literary compositions have been attributed to him that he almost certainly did not write, and, as a consequence, he has been credited with ideas he did not have. Key events in his life have been altered beyond recognition. The national hero who has emerged from this process of re-creation -- the Bonifacio celebrated in history textbooks and memorialized in statues around the Philippines -- is, in reality, something closer to a national myth.

In the pages that follow, I demonstrate that almost every line of poetry heretofore thought to have been written by Bonifacio cannot be shown to be his literary product. Indeed, most of his personal correspondence was probably forged. Perhaps the single most astonishing fact about the Philippine national hero is that most of what we will ever know about him must be refracted through the lenses of his contemporaries. Furthermore, I argue that the historians and the one memoirist who were largely responsible for producing the image of Bonifacio we have today often adopted questionable methods. More than one consciously dissembled. More than one altered evidence.


More than one interpreted the evidence at their disposal in very strange ways. One placed into circulation a small collection of seemingly bogus documents. I have entitled this book Inventing a Hero because that is precisely what those people did.

I did not originally plan to write such a book. In September 1989, I arrived in Manila, intending to launch a research project on the Philippine Revolution of 1896. The centennial of the revolution was approaching, and I believed that the existing literature about it was deficient. A reconsideration seemed to be in order. But over the next three months, as I worked my way through the holdings of archives and libraries and spent hundreds of dollars on xeroxed copies, my focus slowly shifted from the revolution itself to the leader of the secret society that launched the uprising against Spain, Andres Bonifacio. The more documents I read about Bonifacio, the more I felt that historians' accounts of the man were wholly off the mark. So my projected book about the Philippine Revolution became a book about Bonifacio.

The research project did not progress well. Back in the United States, working my way through accumulated research notes, various books and articles written about Bonifacio over the years, and thousands of xeroxed pages of texts written in difficult, deep, turn-of-the-century Tagalog, I began to realize that something was not quite right. The scholarly literature was even more problematic than I had originally thought; contributions considered reliable turned out to be seriously flawed. Furthermore, the sources I was reading appeared to contradict each other often, sometimes on matters of small detail and sometimes on important issues. Could I ultimately make sense out of the mess of contradictions?

A colleague suggested that I try to write something on Bonifacio based on the research I had done thus far. In the summer of 1991, I produced two article-length pieces: the first a reconsideration of the most influential book ever written about Bonifacio, Teodoro Agoncillo's The Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan, and the second a study of the Tejeros assembly, a meeting held by the Filipino revolutionaries in the province of Cavite in March 1897 -- an


event that is often depicted as a crucial turning point in the revolution against Spain. The first, eventually published in the journal Pilipinas, laid out some of the concerns I had about Agoncillo, a scholar who dealt with historical evidence in demonstrably peculiar ways.1 The second pointed out the dubious nature of some of that evidence and made an honest effort to determine whether it was possible, given such flawed sources, to figure out what really happened at Tejeros. In that summer of 1991, I came to the tentative conclusion that it was possible -- and I wrote as much at the time -- but I was uncertain about some of my findings. I did not attempt to publish the second piece.

For the next three years, I spun my wheels. I continued to do research, spending many hours alone with my refractory Tagalog texts, but I made little headway, and my doubts increased about my ability to write a book about Bonifacio. The sources would not permit it. They were too untrustworthy and too biased. The secondary literature was even more difficult to fathom. How could so many highly regarded scholars make so many obvious mistakes? More than once, I decided to drop the project entirely, only to return to it a month later, hoping my mind had cleared sufficiently to allow me to find a path through the documentary/scholarly forest.

In the end, I did find a path, but the process was more the result of trial and error. Three developments, only one of which I can place firmly in time, set me on that path. The first was my growing realization that, of all the baffling texts I had examined, the most baffling of all were certain letters supposedly written by Andres Bonifacio to his fellow revolutionary Emilio Jacinto. What bothered me most about them, aside from the vagueness of too many passages, was that some of the factual information they contained did not agree with that conveyed in any other source.

The second development occurred on a research trip to the Philippines in November 1993. My principal reason for going there was to examine firsthand the "original" texts of those same Bonifacio letters, which had recently been purchased by a well-known collector of rare Filipiniana. With some difficulty, I managed to see photocopies and determined that, in all likelihood, those presumed "originals" were forgeries.

The third development took place over the following eight months as I puzzled over what to do next. Despite my seemingly confirmed doubts about key sources, I remained committed to the goal of


writing a book about Bonifacio. But then, slowly, two simple questions became clear. Why was I persisting in my effort to produce a study of Bonifacio if the sources would not permit me to do so? And, if the sources and the published books and articles about Bonifacio were really as odd as they appeared to be, why not write about them? Such were the origins of this book.

At this juncture, let me briefly explain the book's organization and summarize its contents. Each of the next five chapters examines an important component of the Bonifacio myth. My focus throughout is not so much on Bonifacio as on the process by which he was posthumously re-created and the six individuals who did the re-creating: three pre-World War II historians, Manuel Artigas, Epifanio de los Santos, and Jose P. Santos; the memoirist, the famous revolutionary Artemio Ricarte; and two highly regarded post-World War II historians, Teodoro Agoncillo and Reynaldo Ileto.

The first chapter looks at what historians have written about Bonifacio's life before the outbreak of the revolution of 1896, paying particular attention to the contributions of Artigas, de los Santos, and Santos. As I demonstrate, the writings of those three about the young Bonifacio have influenced every subsequent account of the national hero's life: they tell us almost everything we know about Bonifacio's childhood and about the prose and poetry he supposedly composed. But, in fact, the picture of Bonifacio that emerges from their writings cannot necessarily be given credence. Most of the data about his childhood are not supported by reliable evidence, and the aforementioned prose and poetry cannot be shown to be his compositions. Chapter 2 deals with the remaining body of primary source material attributed to Bonifacio -- his personal correspondence. De los Santos and Santos again play prominent roles in the story I recount. The first apparently located the Bonifacio correspondence and then published it in translation; the second executed the Tagalog-language transcriptions of the original letters that scholars have relied on for the past four decades.2 As it turns out, however, the famous Bonifacio correspondence was probably forged.


Chapter 3 turns to a different re-creator, Artemio Ricarte, a historical actor rather than a historian. Ricarte's memoir of the Philippine Revolution, first published in the 1920s, provides one of the fullest (a certainly one of the most frequently cited) accounts of what is arguably the most important event in Bonifacio's life -- the Tejeros assembly. But, as I show, Ricarte's influential narrative bears little resemblance to reality.

The final two chapters examine the writings of two of the most influential Philippine historians of the postwar period: Teodoro Agoncillo and Reynaldo Ileto, both of whom have made significant contributions of their own to the Bonifacio myth. In chapter 4, a revised version of my earlier article, I focus on Agoncillo's problematic discussion of Bonifacio's personality in his prize-winning book, The Revolt the Masses. In the next, I call into question Ileto's more recent efforts to add a millenarian tinge to the Philippine national hero.

My investigation of Bonifacio's posthumous invention is admittedly selective. I do not scrutinize every component of the Bonifac myth, nor do I discuss at length all the historians who have produced significant studies of the national hero or the revolutionary period. I write relatively little, for example, about Gregorio Zaide, Carlos Quirino, Renato Constantino, Nick Joaquin, and Alfredo Saulo. In my view, none of these historians, however widely read their books may be have made contributions to the Bonifacio myth comparable with those of the five historians and one memoirist on which I focus. This book is not, I should make clear, a historiographical study in the conventional sense; it is rather an analysis of historical re-creation. Furthermore, have not attempted to examine the representations of Bonifacio in paintings, public statuary, plays, films, and popular fiction, nor have touched on the well-orchestrated public campaign of the 1960s to make Bonifacio a national hero -- the naming of streets and schools, the appearance of postage stamps, and so forth. All of those things are relevant to our understanding of popular conceptions of Bonifacio, and I regret that I have not had the time, resources, or energy to treat them in this book. I hope that other scholars will someday pick up where I have left off.


In addition to exposing certain myths about a Philippine historical figure of undisputed importance, this book deals explicitly with four interrelated issues that transcend the particularities of the Philippine case: the political uses of history, nationalism, heroic biography, and historical invention. For all the historians whose writings I scrutinize, a primary reason for posthumously re-creating Bonifacio and casting him in a heroic mold appears to have been political. All were, in their respective days, prominent, outspoken nationalists, deeply committed to the ideal of Philippine nationhood. To such people, a reconstructed Bonifacio -- idealized and also sanitized in ways I will discuss -- served a vital political function as a symbol of Philippine nationalism and a model for Filipino youth. More than anything else, their common commitment to a nationalist agenda probably explains the liberties they took with historical evidence and other deficiencies of their scholarship.

Of course, the Philippines is hardly the only place in which historians have used their writings to promote political objectives. In Western Europe, the United States, and other parts of the planet, Marxist historians have often been charged with attempting, through their books, to promote the possibility of social transformation, and conservative ones have been accused of providing an intellectual justification for existing political and socioeconomic hierarchies. Liberals and environmentalists have agendas; so, too, do feminists and postmodernists. Indeed, it can be argued, and sometimes is, that all historical writing, including the most esoteric, has a political dimension, even if the writers do not acknowledge (or may not be aware of) it.3 The Philippines is also not the only place where the dominant political agenda is a decidedly nationalist one. In every nation-state of which I am aware, historical writing usually passes through a nationalist phase in which, as in the Philippines, the goal of nation building appears to determine many of the subjects investigated, the topics ignored, and, more often than not, the interpretations given to the data uncovered.4

Nor is the Philippines the only place where heroic biography is written. Long before Thomas Carlyle celebrated the notion of writing biographies of presumably great men, historians produced such studies,


invariably hagiographic in nature, and up to the present heroic biography continues to flourish.5 In no country, perhaps, is the genre as well developed as in the United States, and in none has more attention been given to assessing whether a particular man or woman deserves to be accorded heroic status. The list of American heroes seems endless: Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Boone, Crockett, Jackson, Lincoln, Lee, Barton, Buffalo Bill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ford, Pershing, Lindbergh, MacArthur, Kennedy, King, and on and on.6 The new states of Latin America have their own heroes -- Bolivar, San Martin, O'Higgins, Father Hidalgo, Juarez, and Zapata. The newly independent African nations have Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Mugabe, Mandela, and others.7 In all these nation-states, not only are the heroes' exploits recounted (and exaggerated) in massive tomes, but, like Bonifacio, their birthdays are celebrated as national holidays, their faces are found on postage stamps and currency, and bronzed representations of their bodies tower above crowded intersections in capital cities.

Nor, for that matter, is the Philippines the only country in which supposedly priceless historical documents have turned out to be certain or probable forgeries. Readers familiar with Chinese history are no doubt aware of the celebrated career of Sir Edmund Backhouse, once regarded as a leading China specialist, who forged lengthy diaries of court officials, invented elaborate tales about how he had discovered them, translated them into English, and published the translations to universal acclaim. The field of U.S. history has been bedeviled with such inventions: the probable fabrication of many letters attributed to the author Stephen Crane by his once-lauded biographer Thomas Beer; the certain invention of letters and other documents concerning the lives of William Penn, John Paul Jones, and Andrew Jackson by the historian Augustus C. Buell; the possibly nonexistent letters of Margaret Johnson Erwin, a nineteenth-century Mississippian, which formed the basis of a book published in 1981 by a respected university press. In European history, one can point to, among the many notorious fabrications thus far exposed, the fake Hitler diaries and the spurious sources upon which the Marquis de Sade based his account of the life of Isabelle of Bavaria. In Latin American history, there are the apocryphal documents published in 1940 relating to the famous Bolivar-San Martin meeting at Guayaquil.8

Hence, the general historiographical matters I touch on in my examination of the Bonifacio myth are hardly unique: history invariably


serves a political function; nationalist historians around the world wave the flag; and heroic biography and hagiography are widely produced, as are forged historical documents. Beyond that, such things are much written about. On the other hand, less written about, but still not unique, is the particular combination of variables one finds in the Bonifacio case. The historians I discuss in this book -- or at least some of them -- have not simply placed history in the service of a political agenda, celebrated and exaggerated Filipino accomplishments, and used problematic historical records; they have, on this occasion, done all of them at once. A close connection consequently exists between certain sacred canons of Philippine nationalist historical literature and a body of seemingly bogus sources.

What is more, these are not the only canons that rely heavily on such dubious documents. One can point to other well-known examples of certain or probable fabrications of Philippine historical texts, and virtually all of them involve sources that have figured prominently in nationalist historical writing. Two of the most spectacular inventions -- the "Maragtas Code," a compilation of the customs of prehispanic Filipinos putatively derived from very old manuscripts, and the "Code of Kalantiaw," a legal code dating from the fifteenth century -- were exposed by the late William Henry Scott in his book Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History. The first reference to the Maragtas Code can be found in a volume published in 1907 by a local official from Iloilo by the name of Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro; the Code of Kalantiaw initially came to light in the next decade, when Jose E. Marco, a shadowy figure from Occidental Negros, revealed that he had uncovered a nineteenth-century manuscript written by a certain Father Jose Maria Pavon that included translations of the code. Scott's scrutiny of the sources revealed that no reliable evidence existed concerning the first code and that the manuscript by Pavon, which was filled with anachronisms and absurdities, was a crudely executed forgery. In addition, Scott concluded that more than half a dozen other supposedly old documents uncovered by the same Jose E. Marco -- all of which, like the Pavon manuscript, were filled with data about the prehispanic Philippines -- were likewise "deliberate and definite frauds."9 A few years after the appearance of Scott's book, John Schumacher exposed another batch of forgeries, all of them relating to the life of the martyred nineteenth-century priest Father Jose Burgos, a man credited with playing a key role in the emergence of Philippine


nationalism. Once again, Jose E. Marco was involved, since every one of the forged texts can be traced in one way or another to him. Among the sources shown by Schumacher to be fabrications were a novel attributed to Burgos and a long narrative by a Spaniard about events in which Burgos participated. The latter included what appeared to be excerpts of the court-martial of Burgos and two other priests. As was the case with the sources examined by Scott, the fake Burgos texts were filled with anachronisms and unbelievable data. Schumacher also determined that Burgos's signature on the text of the fabricated novel did not match that on authentic documents of the period.10

As I have suggested, one striking characteristic of all of these problematic texts -- the bogus codes, the fabricated texts relating to Burgos, the Bonifacio letters -- is that they have been taken seriously by scholars and even cited in footnotes. That has been so, in large measure, because all contained ostensibly vital information on subjects of importance to Filipinos. The codes furnished data on the prehispanic Philippines, a period about which very little was known. The Burgos and Bonifacio manuscripts fleshed out the pictures of two famous historical figures. Perhaps understandably, therefore, Philippine historians were quick to seize on them. Referring to the Pavon manuscript and various other forgeries that can be traced to Jose E. Marco, William Henry Scott commented:

Whether Jose E. Marco executed these manuscripts in his own hand, otherwise participated in their production, or simply purveyed them in good faith, he seems clearly to have responded, early and late, to a deep Filipino yearning for illuminating institutions like law codes and political confederations in a dark past, and to have supplied customers too eager to examine the merchandise and ask questions.11

The men who participated in re-creating Father Burgos and Andres Bonifacio also responded to a deep "yearning," this time about more recent developments. Whereas the old codes enabled Filipinos to feel pride about the prehispanic period, the Burgos inventions and the Bonifacio probable forgeries fed their hunger for modern heroes.

Outside the Philippines, there are comparable examples of the connection between nationalism and historical invention, but the list does not appear to be long. Perhaps the best known comes from the


historical literature of the first new nation-state, the United States, and it, too, involves hero creation. The hero in question was George Washington, the subject of a large number of heroic biographies in the early years of the Republic, none more influential than Mason L. Weems's The Life of Washington. First published in 1800, Weems's book was filled with fabulous anecdotes about Washington's life and character that illustrated the man's greatness. In later years, the book went through a number of reformulations and reprintings, which added even more fabulous stories, including the one about Washington and the cherry tree. By his own account, Weems had nationalistic motives in producing such a picture of Washington; he intended the former president to serve as a national symbol and a model to be emulated. In describing his projected biography to a friend, he wrote: "I then go on to show that his unparalleled rise & elevation were due to his Great Virtues....Thus I hold up his great the imitation of Our Youth." Weems was not the only biographer of Washington to take substantial liberties with the historical record. In the 1830s, Jared Sparks, who later became professor of history at (and still later president of) Harvard University, produced a twelve-volume edition of The Writings of George Washington in which he selectively bowdlerized Washington's prose.12

A second example comes from a state that no longer exists, the Soviet Union. The invented hero was Joseph Stalin -- today no longer accorded heroic status, but such was not always the case -- and the people responsible for the invention were Stalin himself and a cadre of official biographers. In fact, it turns out that much of what historians used to write about Stalin's early years -- details about his family and education, his precocity and rebellious tendencies, his participation in strikes and revolutionary events, his role in the development of Transcaucasian Bolshevism -- was simply fabricated. Stalin was, as one historian has commented, "the most striking example in all history of a man who has succeeded in inventing himself." He even concocted a story about a letter he had received from Lenin in 1903, several years before there was any contact between the two men. While it may be argued that this particular example of hero creation was intended more to promote the cult of personality and Stalin's personal agenda than the cause of nationalism, there can be little doubt that nationalism was also served by the effort, since the invented Stalin, a man with impeccable revolutionary credentials, functioned


as a symbol of national unity in a new, troubled, ethnically diverse state.13

What sense can we make of such willful, wholesale distortions of the historical record in the service of nationalism? To be honest, I am uncertain, primarily because it is unclear to me how widespread the phenomenon is. It may be that, in some places, certain circumstances -- a paucity of sources relating to issues of presumed significance, for example -- have made it easier to introduce and circulate inventions. But it is just as likely that the connection between nationalism and invention is much more widespread than the scholarly community has up to now suspected. That is to say, the relatively limited amount of scholarly discussion about the connection may not indicate that it rarely exists but that historians have largely discounted the possibility of its existence. My own best guess -- I must admit it is no more than that -- is that, at some point in the future, the invented Andres Bonifacio may very well be viewed as the rule rather than the exception and that, instead of appearing to be an aberration, the kind of invention I describe in this book will be seen as merely one manifestation (albeit an extreme one) of the nearly universal tendency of nationalist historians to reshape the historical record.

Before proceeding to my account of Bonifacio's posthumous re-creation, I need first to provide a modicum of information about the era of the Philippine Revolution, so that nonspecialists will have a sporting chance of understanding references to important people, organizations, places, and events. This overview is intended to be both brief and basic. One important reason for the brevity is that, given what I now know (and plan to share with readers) about the work of the mythmakers, I am uncertain about many key details of the revolutionary period.

The Philippine Revolution of 1896 followed a century of rapid change in the archipelago. Beginning in the last half of the eighteenth century, the Philippines, then a backwater of the Spanish empire, began to undergo a major economic transformation as a consequence of its integration into the world market system. In region after region, increasing numbers of Filipino cultivators shifted from the production


of subsistence crops (rice and corn, in particular) for local consumption to the growing of cash crops (sugar, tobacco, abaca, and coconuts) for export. Sugar first became a crop of importance in the provinces of Pampanga and Batangas, both on the island of Luzon, and then later on the island of Negros. Tobacco was widely produced in the Cagayan Valley of northern Luzon, and abaca in the Bikol provinces of southern Luzon. Coconuts were grown in various parts of Luzon and on several other islands.14

By the mid—nineteenth century, largely as a result of this economic transformation, a substantial number of Filipinos were able to accumulate modest fortunes from cash cropping and trading activities. They used their newly acquired wealth to buy more land, build splendid houses, import furniture and other items from Europe, and otherwise consume conspicuously. But, in addition, more than a few of them invested some of it in the education of their sons. By the late nineteenth century, tens of thousands of young male Filipinos had attended secondary schools in the Philippines, and every year more than fifteen hundred were enrolled in the University of Santo Tomas, located in Manila. Dozens more went to Spain and other places in Europe to pursue further studies.15

Not surprisingly, like educated young men in other colonies, some members of this emerging intellectual elite began to grumble openly about the colonial situation. Especially dissatisfied were a small group of Filipinos, most of them university students, who were residing in Spain -- a group that collectively launched the so-called Propaganda Movement in the 1880s. The Propagandists, the best known of whom were Marcelo H. del Pilar and the brilliant novelist Jose Rizal, identified many deficiencies of the Spanish colonial regime: censorship of the press; the abuses of the Guardia Civil, the principal law enforcement agency in the archipelago; unfair taxation; and, above all, the inordinate political and economic power of the regular Catholic religious orders (Augustinians, Dominicans, and so on) in the Philippines. In their newspapers and other writings, the Propagandists lobbied vigorously for change.

They made little headway in Spain, and by 1892 Rizal, frustrated about the lack of progress and increasingly at odds with other members of the movement, decided to return to the Philippines. Often characterized as a "mere reformist," Rizal had increasingly become convinced that separation from Spain was necessary. He arrived in Manila


in June 1892 and quickly began to organize the Liga Filipina, an organization that aimed to lay the foundations of a national community order to prepare the way for eventual self-rule. Rizal's leadership of the Liga was short-lived. He was arrested in early July and soon thereafter deported to a remote town on the island of Mindanao.17

As the Liga Filipina fell apart in the aftermath of Rizal's deportation, another organization came into being in Manila -- a secret societ called the Kataastaasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Honorable Society of the Sons of the Country), or Katipunan, as it is generally known. One of its founders was Andres Bonifacio. Our knowledge of the aims and activities of tht Katipunan is limited, due in part to the fact that it was, after all, a secret society and in part to the problematic character of the documentation that has survived. Much of the information found in the literature about its operations turns out to be derived from a source -- the so-called minutes of the Katipunan -- that a number of authorities believe to be bogus. Other key details are based the account of a nonmember, Isabelo de los Reyes.18

Even so, a few things can be said with reasonable confidence about the Katipunan.19 First, the secret society grew very slowly for several years; by the beginning of 1896, it is unlikely that the organization had more than a few hundred members. Second, as time passed, Bonifacio's influence in the Katipunan appeared to increase. In either 1893 or 1894, he attained the position of supremo, although it must be acknowledged that we do not know how much power the holder of that position actually had. Third, beginning in January 1896, the secret society's membership expanded considerably -- the causes of the expansion have never, in my view, been convincingly explained -- so that, by August 1896, the month in which the Philippine Revolution broke out, it probably numbered in the thousands.20 Fourth, the Katipunan was an almost exclusively Tagalog organization; up to outbreak of the uprising, its membership and influence did not extend beyond the boundaries of the eight Tagalog-speaking provinces of central Luzon.

Because of the rapid growth that occurred in the first eight months of 1896, it is hardly surprising that information about the existence of the secret society eventually came to the attention of the Spanish authorities. That discovery led to a crackdown by Spanish law enforcement agencies, and the crackdown, in turn, led to a decision by Bonifacio and his fellow katipuneros in late August 1896 to raise the


flag of rebellion. Almost immediately, thousands of nonmembers rallied in support of the Katipunan, both in Manila and in the surrounding provinces.

Over the next few weeks, commanded by Bonifacio and other leading figures in the Katipunan, an army composed of katipuneros and their supporters fought a series of battles against Spanish forces in the environs of Manila. All of the military encounters had similar results -- overwhelming victories for the Spaniards, who were better armed, better supplied, and better trained, and who benefited from the inexperience of the Filipino troops. By the end of September, the units under Bonifacio's command were badly beaten and the supremo himself was in hiding.

Outside Manila, however, the Tagalog forces fared a good deal better. To a certain extent, their success was due to the fact that the Spanish military units they faced in their initial operations were small in size. But, in addition, most of the provincial commanders, unlike Bonifacio, had a limited amount of previous experience with military operations. Among the leading figures in the Katipunan in the provinces were a number of men -- Emilio Aguinaldo of the town of Kawit in Cavite Province, for one -- who had held the position of gobernadorcillo in their native towns. In that capacity, as the ranking officials in their communities, they had been obliged from time to time to lead the local police force in operations against bandits. Because of that, gobernadorcillos were familiar with firearms and knew something about small-scale military actions. Hence, at the same time that Bonifacio was avoiding battle, Tagalog units in nearby areas were seizing control of many municipalities.21

Particularly noteworthy successes were achieved by revolutionary troops in Cavite, just south of Manila. After the expulsion of the Spanish forces, the province of Cavite was administered by two organizations known as Sangguniang bayan ("municipal consultative bodies"). One sangguniang bayan, with its headquarters in the town of Kawit, was named Magdalo -- which was also the Katipunan name of one of its leaders, Emilio Aguinaldo. The other, based in the town of Noveleta, was called Magdiwang, and among the prominent Cavitenos associated with it were Mariano Alvarez and his son Santiago. The jurisdiction of the Magdalo organization (Sangguniang Magdalo) included several towns in eastern Cavite; the Magdiwang organization (Sangguniang Magdiwang) had jurisdiction over western Cavite. Each


Map of Cavite Province


organization fielded its own military units commanded by its own generals.22

Toward the end of 1896 (the sources disagree about the date), Bonifacio was invited to Cavite by Mariano Alvarez, the Magdiwang leader, who was also the uncle of Bonifacio's wife Gregoria de Jesus. Bonifacio accepted the invitation, arriving in the province with a small retinue. From the start, there was tension between Bonifacio and several members of the Magdalo organization -- most notably Daniel Tirona. Furthermore, a few months after Bonifacio arrived, the Spanish Army, having been reinforced with fresh troops from the mother country, launched an offensive in Cavite and immediately began winning back the towns earlier occupied by the revolutionaries.

The Spanish offensive exacerbated the existing fissures within the revolutionary ranks, as various commanders found it impossible to cooperate with others. Those developments -- together with a perception that the existing revolutionary organization (which was based on the old secret society) was anachronistic and a growing dissatisfaction with Bonifacio -- led some of the revolutionaries to favor radical changes in institutions and leadership. In late March 1897, as the Spanish forces were preparing to advance on the town of Imus, an assembly of revolutionaries convened at the friar estate house at Tejeros, close to the municipality of Santa Cruz de Malabon. That meeting produced two significant results -- the replacement of the Katipunan by a new governmental structure and the election of Emilio Aguinaldo, the Magdalo field commander, as president of that government. Bonifacio, for his part, refused to accept the verdict of Tejeros.23

In the seven weeks following the Tejeros meeting, relations between Bonifacio and the new government headed by Aguinaldo grew steadily worse. No longer in charge, Bonifacio still had some supporters, especially in the province of Batangas just south of Cavite. Meanwhile, rumors of the wildest kind circulated in Cavite. Aguinaldo and his followers claimed that Bonifacio was plotting against them; Bonifacio made the same claims about his rivals. Attempts by intermediaries to arrange a reconciliation failed, and, in the end, superior force prevailed. Aguinaldo ordered Bonifacio's arrest and, after a skirmish, the former supremo was taken into custody. Shortly thereafter, a trial was held. Bonifacio was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. On May 10, 1897, the sentence was carried out.


The change in leadership did nothing to improve the fortunes of the Filipinos in the military struggle against Spain. By the end of May 1897, the Spaniards had recaptured all of Cavite and Aguinaldo was forced to abandon the province. He eventually went north, establishing his headquarters in Bulacan. Toward the end of 1897, he worked out peace terms with the mother country. In exchange for cash payments and empty promises, he and the other ranking field commanders of the Filipino forces agreed to go into exile in Hong Kong.

Such then, in summary, was the historical context in which Andres Bonifacio, the man who was to become the Philippine national hero, operated. The Philippines was experiencing rapid economic and social change; new elites were emerging; new political organizations were being formed; and Spanish authority was being challenged, first in print and subsequently on the battlefield. In this time of ferment, Bonifacio, the leader of the organization that launched the uprising of 1896 against Spain, was obviously an important player.

But, as the preceding overview has doubtless hinted, he was a very controversial player as well -- a revolutionary leader who became embroiled in conflicts with, and ultimately was put to death by, some of the very revolutionaries he had led. However brave he may have been and however much he may have contributed to the revolutionary movement, such a man was, it must be recognized, a somewhat curious choice as a national hero. To raise the dead Bonifacio to heroic status obliged the prospective raisers not merely to tell his story; they also had to contend with the perception that he was a man with serious human flaws.

In addition, as we shall see, they had to contend with a reality that under normal circumstances would have been sufficient to convince many historians to undertake a different research project: a lack of source material relating to Bonifacio's life. Save perhaps for a few printed orders on which his signature appears, virtually nothing written by Bonifacio was passed down to posterity. But this sparse documentary record -- something that appeared to pose formidable obstacles to the recovery of the past -- actually made it easier for nationalist historians to invent the man. Unhampered by existing documents, they were freer to attribute certain ideas and personal characteristics to Bonifacio, to explain away the apparent human flaws, and, in the process, to create a suitable national symbol. Let us see how they did it.




1Glenn Anthony May, "Agoncillo's Bonifacio: The Revolt of the Masses Reconsidered," Pilipinas 17 (fall 1991): 51-67.

2As I demonstrate in chapter 2, most scholars have assumed that Teodoro Agoncillo executed the transcriptions. In fact, the person responsible for transcribing the letters was Jose P. Santos.

3On the questions of objectivity and political agendas, see, for example, Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacobs, Telling the Truth about History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1994); and Stanley Mellon, The Political Uses of History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1958). In communist states, however, Marxist scholars typically adopt "conservative" agendas, defending the reigning political system.

4For useful discussions of this subject, see Appleby, Jacobs, and Hunt, Telling the Truth, 90-125; Donald Denoon and Adam Kuper, "Nationalist Historians in Search of a Nation: The 'New Historiography' in Dar Es Salaam," in African Nationalism and Revolution, ed. Gregory Maddox (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993), 1-21; J. D. Fage, ed., Africa Discovers Her Past (London: Oxford University Press, 1970); Arnold Temu and Bonaventure Swai, Historians and Africanist History: A Critique (London: Zed Press, 1981); Caroline Neale, Writing "Independent" History: African Historiography, 1960-1980 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985), 103-26; Jan Vansina, Living with Africa (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994), 56-57, 197-99; Jack Ray Thomas, Biographical Dictionary of Latin American Historians and Historiography (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1984), 3-77; Arthur P. Whitaker, "Developments in the Past Decade in the Writing of Latin American History," in Latin American History: Essays on Its Study and Teaching, 1898-1965, ed. Howard Francis Cline, 2 vols. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967), 2:397-412; and Anthony Reid and David Marr, eds., Perceptions of the Past in Southeast Asia (Singapore: Heinemann Educational Books [Asia], 1979), 263-98.

5On Carlyle, see Fritz Stern, ed., The Varieties of History (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1956), 90-107; G. P. Gooch, History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century, rev. ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1959), 301-9; and Pieter Geyl, Debates with Historians (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1958), 48-69.


6On American heroes, see Marshall W. Fishwick, American Heroes: Myth and Reality (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1954); Marshall Fishwick, The Hero, American Style (New York: David McKay, 1969); Dixon Wecter, The Hero in America (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1941); and Michael Kammen, Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991).

7See, for example, Jerome R. Adams, Liberators and Patriots of Latin America (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1991); John Womack, Jr., Zapata and the Mexican Revolution (New York: Random House, 1968), 418—20; and Anna Makolkin, Name, Hero, Icon: Semiotics of Nationalism through Heroic Biography (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1992), 13-23.

8Hugh Trevor-Roper, Hermit of Peking: The Hidden Life of Sir Edmund Backhouse, rev. ed. (New York: Penguin Books, 1978); John Clendenning, "Thomas Beer's Stephen Crane: The Eye of His Imagination," Prose Studies 14 (May 1991): 68-80; Milton W. Hamilton, "Augustus C. Buell, Fraudulent Historian," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 80 (October 1956): 478-92; John Y. Simon, "In Search of Margaret Johnson Erwin: A Research Note," Journal of American History 69 (March 1983): 932-41; Charles Hamilton, The Hitler Diaries: Fakes That Fooled the World (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1991); Robert Harris, Selling Hitler (New York: Pantheon, 1986); Lawrence W. Lynch, The Marquis de Sade (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984); William Spence Robertson, "The So-called Apocryphal Letters of Colombres Marmol on the Interview of Guayaquil," Hispanic American Historical Review 23 (February 1943): 154-58. Also see Robin Myers and Michael Harris, eds., Fakes and Frauds: Varieties of Deception in Print and Manuscript (Winchester: St. Paul's Bibliographies, 1989); Richard Landes, Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History: Ademar of Chabannes, 989-1034 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); and W. Thomas Taylor, Texfake: An Account of the Theft and Forgery of Early Texas Printed Documents (Austin: W. T. Taylor, 1991).

9William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, rev. ed. (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1984), 91-140, 149-54; William Henry Scott, Looking for the Prehispanic Filipino (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1992), 159-70. The first edition of Prehispanic Source Materials was published in 1968.

10John N. Schumacher, "The Authenticity of the Writings Attributed to Father Jose Burgos," in John N. Schumacher, The Making of a Nation: Essays on Nineteenth-Century Filipino Nationalism (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1991), 44-70, 216-24. Schumacher's essay on the Burgos documents first appeared in Philippine Studies in 1970.

11Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials, 129.

12 Mason L. Weems, The Life of Washington, ed. Marcus Cunliffe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), xv—xx (the quotation is on p. xv); Harvey Wish, The American Historian: A Socio-Intellectual History of


the Writing of the American Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960) 46-50; Garry Wills, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment (Garden City: Doubleday, 1984), 27-53.

13Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution, rev. ed. (New York: Dell Publishing, 1964), 405-26 (the quotation is on p. 426); Robert C. Tucker, Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879-1929 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1973) 115-43.

14The classic account of this economic transformation -- never published -- is Benito Legarda, "Foreign Trade, Economic Change, and Entrepreneurship in the Nineteenth Century Philippines," Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1955. See also John A. Larkin, The Pampangans (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972); John A. Larkin, Sugar and the Origins of Modern Philippine Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Alfred W. McCoy and Ed. C. de Jesus, eds., Philippine Social History: Global Trade and Local Transformations (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1982); and Norman G. Owen, Prosperity without Progress: Manila Hemp and Material Life in the Colonial Philippines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

15Edgar Wickberg, The Chinese in Philippine Life, 1850-1898 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), 128-30; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of the Philippine Islands: 1903, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1905), 3:633-34; Glenn Anthony May, A Past Recovered: Essays on Philippine History and Historiography (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1987), 53-65; John N. Schumacher, The Propaganda Movement: 1880-1895 (Manila: Solidaridad Publishing House, 1973), 17-35.

16Schumacher, Propaganda Movement, 36—220.

17My characterizations of Rizal and the Liga Filipina are heavily influenced by John N. Schumacher, "The Noli Me Tangere as Catalyst of Revolution," in Schumacher, Making of a Nation, 91-101. Also see Schumacher, Propaganda Movement, 221-53; and Leon Ma. Guerrero, The First Filipino: A Biography of Jose Rizal, rpt. (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1979), 384-432.

18Minutes of the Katipunan (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1978), iii-ix, 1-86; Isabelo de los Reyes, La Religion del "Katipunan" (Madrid: Tipolit. de J. Corrales, 1900). On the point that historical accounts have relied on both, see, for example, Teodoro A. Agoncillo, The Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan (Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 1956), 49-54, 76-77, 322-24.

19The following brief overview of the revolutionary period is based primarily on my reading of the extant, admittedly problematic, primary sources. In particular, I have relied on Santiago Alvarez, The Katipunan and the Revolution: Memoirs of a General (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1992); Carlos Ronquillo, "Hang Talata Tungkol sa Paghihimagsik nang 1896-97," manuscript, Filipiniana and Asia Division, University of the Philippines (Diliman) Library; Emilio Aguinaldo, Mga


Gunita ng Himagsikan (Manila: n.p., 1964); Artemio Ricarte, Himagsikan nang manga Pilipino Laban sa Kastila (Yokohama: "Karihan Cafe," 1927); Pedro S. Achutegui and Miguel A. Bernad, Aguinaldo and the Revolution of 1896: A Documentary History (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila, 1972); and Manuel Sastron, La insurrection en Filipinas y Guerra Hispano-Americana en el archipielago (Madrid: Imp. de la Sucesora de M. Minuesa de los Rios, 1901).

20It is unlikely, though, that the membership numbered thirty thousand, as Pio Valenzuela asserted in his memoir. For Valenzuela's assertion, see Minutes of the Katipunan, 106. On Valenzuela's reliability, see John N. Schumacher, "The Religious Character of the Revolution in Cavite, 1896-1897," Philippine Studies 24 (fourth quarter, 1976): 401; and Glenn Anthony May, Battle for Batangas: A Philippine Province at War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), 38.

21May, Battle for Batangas, 48-51.

22My discussion of the sangguniang bayan is based on Ricarte, Himagsikan, 2-19, 35, 52; Aguinaldo, Mga Gunita, 32, 42, 57, 103, 138, 142, 177; Alvarez, Katipunan and the Revolution, 281-82, 306, 326; Ronquillo, "Ilang Talata," pt. 1, 84-85, 95, and pt. 2, 2, 12; and Achutegui and Bernad, Aguinaldo and the Revolution. In the text of this book, I refer to the two organizations as the Sangguniang Magdiwang and the Sangguniang Magdalo. Some of the sources refer to them in that way; others refer to them as the Sangguniang Bayang Magdiwang and the Sangguniang Bayang Magdalo.

In fact, the organization known as the sangguniang bayan first came into existence well before the outbreak of the revolution. As the secret society expanded, the Katipunan established administrative units with that name in provinces and larger towns; in smaller towns, Katipunan chapters were known as sangguniang balangay. The exact functions of both are unclear, but it is doubtful that they were invested with much authority. The term sangguniang bayan, which I translate in the text as "municipal consultative body," has typically been translated by other historians as "popular council," a rendering conveying the impression -- an incorrect one in my view -- that the organization had some governing authority.

After the outbreak of the revolution, the sangguniang bayan of Kawit and Noveleta definitely acquired a measure of authority. They served as the foundations upon which the local military units were built and took on certain governmental tasks. Ricarte, Aguinaldo, Alvarez, and Ronquillo all agreed that the province of Cavite was by that time essentially administered by the two sangguniang bayan (Ricarte, Himagsikan, 2—8; Aguinaldo, Mga Gunita, 142; Alvarez, Katipunan and the Revolution, 281—82; Ronquillo, "Ilang Talata," pt. 2, 2), and Ricarte even called them sangguniang lalawigan ("provincial consultative bodies"). Clearly, though, there were limits to the perceived authority of both organizations, since they were subordinate to the secret society itself. Indeed, it was precisely because the powers of the sangguniang bayan were understood to be circumscribed that many Caviteños ultimately decided to change the organizational structure of the revolutionary movement.


Much of the literature on the revolution claims that there was considerable tension between the Magdalo and the Magdiwang, and the sources support that claim to a certain extent. But they also indicate that two other types of conflict were just as apparent in the revolutionary ranks -- conflict within each individual sangguniang bayan and conflict between Caviteños and non-Caviteños (one of whom was Andres Bonifacio). Beyond that, it is worth noting that the dividing line between Magdiwang and Magdalo was by no means as clear at the time as it has appeared to historians writing long after the events. Noveleta and Kawit, the two supposedly rival power centers, were no more than three miles apart, and the men associated with one sangguniang bayan were, by and large, well known to those associated with the other. They went to the same secondary schools, socialized together, and were even related to each other. To provide one example, Emilio Aguinaldo, the eventual Magdalo leader, was recruited to the Katipunan by Santiago Alvarez, a key figure in the Magdiwang.

23The Tejeros meeting is discussed at length in chapter 3.