Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ocampo, Ambeth R. "Andres Bonifacio: Old Questions and New Answers." Bones of Contention: The Bonifacio Lectures. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing Inc., 2001. 76-98.


Andres Bonifacio: Old questions and new answers

Professorial Chair Lecture
City College of Manila
November 30, 1997

When the Mayor of Manila, Alfredo S. Lim, and I signed the memorandum of agreement regarding the Distinguished Professorial Chair on Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan I knew that research on Bonifacio would yield more questions than answers. The challenge, according to Mayor Lim, was not to present more questions, but answers. To give you an example of my problem would mean remembering the round-table discussion sponsored by the Philippine Historical Institute in 1996 which was held in the viper's pit you probably know as UP Diliman. The discussion was initiated in the hope of resolving the long-running controversy of where and when the first Cry of the Revolution occurred. Was it Balintawak or Pugad Lawin? Was it August 23 or 26, 1896?

I was invited to react to one of the papers presented at this forum on the strength of two essays I wrote seven years ago on the Balintawak-Pugad Lawin controversy. Then as now I felt like skirting the insistent demand from teachers and students to give a definite, unequivocal answer by merely presenting both sides and leaving readers to form their own conclusions. I could not make heads or tails of the whole affair in 1989 so in desperation I suggested that we resolve the issue by tossing a coin. Heads, Balintawak and Tails, Pugad Lawin.

Personally, I think this controversy like that of the site of the first mass -- Limasawa, Leyte or Masao, Butuan -- belongs in the basura. But then, textbooks and quiz shows require definite answers. People want "facts" not lessons or perspectives.


When actually, we are wasting precious energy on the controversy which can be better spent illuminating other dark areas of our past.

We began around nine in the morning with only two options, Balintawak or Pugad Lawin. By the time we adjourned at five in the afternoon, we had more questions indeed, than answers. As an added bonus, we all left the hall with a miserable headache. Instead of just Balintawak and Pugad Lawin we ended up with: Bahay Toro, Kangkong, Pasong Tamo (not in Makati), Banlat, Daang Malalim, Pugad ng Lawin, and Pacpac Lawin. One of the few light moments was when scholars had slips of the tongue revealing that they read the Inquirer because "Pugad Baboy" was often mentioned in vain.

As for dates, we only had a choice between August 23 or 26, 1896. That was before lunch. By late afternoon we were bewildered by the following dates: August 20, 23, 24, 25 and 26. To top it all, someone even suggested a wild card date in September.

Nevertheless, all these did not faze me, what was new had something to do with the "Cry" and cedulas. To be clear on terms, we were told that the first "Cry" should not be taken literally as a scream or "unang sigaw." Rather the "Cry" should be seen symbolically as the beginning of the revolution. In this context the "Cry" is merely a figure of speech translated from a late nineteenth century Spanish account that mentions the so-called Grito de la Revolucion.

To complicate things further, don't we all have a stereotype image of Bonifacio raising the famous bolo shouting slogans like: "Sugod mga kapatid!" or "Mabuhay ang rebolusyon!" or "Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!" or words to that effect? I presume that Bonifacio, face to face, with the enemy shouted colorful words that began with letter "P".

How would you feel if a historian told you that in battle Bonifacio's preferred weapon was a gun and not the trademark bolo? Isn't it confusing to read a source stating that Bonifacio traveled to Balintawak dressed as a woman, that he left his


bolo with a Katipunero who later donated this relic to the pre-war National Museum! Let us return to the so-called "Cry" because from the lively discussion at that forum I gathered that there probably was no shouting at all. As if that weren't enough, I was also told that some sources indicate there was more than one "Cry." Probably even three! Speaking of cries, I felt like screaming, ano ba talaga kuya!

Do you want to hear more? Regarding the tearing of the cedula: some sources say there was one triumphant cedula tearing. Others say there was no such thing, while yet another source suggests that the Katipuneros could have torn their cedulas twice in two different places. How could Bonifacio have torn his cedula more than once? Based on a report in the National Archives, it seems that Bonifacio had the habit of carrying forged cedulas. This means he probably had more than one cedula in his pocket enabling him to inspire different groups by tearing his cedula in more than one place, before different audiences.

There's more to understand about the cedula itself.

For many of us, a cedula is of the five-peso variety that we use only for legal documents. In the nineteenth century, a cedula was an identification card and had to be carried at all times. If one were stopped by the Guardia Civil and could not produce a cedula he could be detained on the simple charge of being "indocumentado." For many people, including Bonifacio, the cedula was a concrete sign of colonization.

Finally, who owned the house where all these conflicting things were supposed to have occurred? In school, I was taught about the hospitality of Melchora Aquino or Tandang Sora who offered her humble home as a meeting place for the Katipunan. Where did the cedula tearing take place? In her backyard? In her balcony? In her batalan? In her kitchen? Her toilet? All this nitty-gritty confounds the imagination. What about the houses of a certain Apolonio Samson and Juan Ramos? [Adding to the confusion there were two Juan Ramoses, father and son] The KKK met there, too.


This is not the forum to settle this controversy. I brought matter up to illustrate how fossilized history can be. This is I believe that history is far too important to be entrusted to academics. History is part of our birthright. We must claim it back and make it transform our lives. Academics have been debating Pugad Lawin since the 1950's. I still think the quickest and simplest solution to the checkmate is by throwing away the chessboard or tossing a coin. Kidding aside, it seems that the evidence weighs heavily in favor of Balintawak. Dr. Soledad Borromeo-Buehler in her paper, History as illusion: Cry of Balintawak not Pugad Lawin, clearly outlined why we should return from the official Pugad Lawin to the traditional Balintawak. One of her reasons is that, "The name Pugad Lawin does not appear in contemporary accounts of the revolution, nor in the censuses of 1903, 1918, municipal records of Calookan, nor on pertinent maps of that town."51

Modern-day Pugad Lawin, I am told, is in low and stony ground. Thus, if we are to base things literally on place-names then something is wrong. Hawks do not nest in the lowlands. The descendants of Tandang Sora claimed that the "Cry" or whatever, happened in Gulod, Banlat, Kaloocan. Their explanation is that the Katipuneros did not refer to their meeting place by its geographic name, but used a code to mislead the snooping Spaniards. Pakpak Lawin was suggested as another site but this was also dismissed because, botanically, it is a fern just like Diliman. The Pugad ng Lawin or Pugad Lawin was a specific landmark, a real hawk's nest atop a tall santol (or sampaloc) tree in Tandang Sora's backyard in Banlat, Gulod, Kaloocan.

Trivia hunters like me had a field day in the discussion on the controversy. Did you know that Balintawak got its name from a certain Valentin Tawa? This man, probably born on February 14, was not a clown, like the late Bert Marcelo, rather he owned a pet snake named Tawa, which reputedly had magical powers.

51Soledad Borromeo-Buehler, The Cry of Balintawak A contrived controversy (Q.C. Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1998)


Seriously though, from what I gather, the place which saw the birth of the Philippine Revolution cannot be pinpointed to one specific house or one specific date. Therefore, we have to see the beginning of the revolution from a more wholistic viewpoint. It was not one but a series of events which saw the Katipuneros moving from one place to another towards the end of August 1896 in Balintawak or better still, Caloocan.

Eight years ago when pressed to give some sort of an answer to resolve the issue for students, teachers and textbook writers I said that the disputed sites: Kangkong, Pasong Tamo and Bahay Toro were all within the jurisdiction of Balintawak. Pugad Lawin was rather problematic, because it was near Balara and quite a distance from Balintawak. However, the solution was simple, since there were no clear-cut land boundaries in the Spanish period and Balintawak was part of Kaloocan, can't we then resolve the issue by declaring it the Cry of Kaloocan and make everyone happy? Remember that in the past century, Diliman and thus, Pugad Lawin were part of greater Balintawak or an even greater Kaloocan. Don't you think "Cry of Caloocan" has a nice alliterative ring to it?

When did the revolution truly begin? Not with the "cry", not with the meeting that ended with the tearing of cedulas. We can peg the beginning of the revolution to the very first encounter between the Katipuneros and the Guardia Civil in Balintawak on August 26, 1896. For the moment, let us leave things at that and proceed to other matters. In my opinion, it is the significance of the event rather than the date and place that makes Balintawak, August 26, 1896 a landmark in our history. Further hair-splitting is a waste of time and energy better spent researching unknown aspects of our history which is what we shall attempt this afternoon.

Bonifacio, NPA

As Co-Chairman of the Manila Historical Commission with Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, I preside over very illuminating meetings with the senior members. Once, I decided to contrib-


ute to the discussion by doing some research on Bonifacio addresses in Manila.

To begin research on Andres Bonifacio, I needed a photograph. Even before I go through the libraries and archives for material, I make it a point to have a photograph of my prey on my working table. I had no problem with Rizal, Mabini, Aguinaldo, the Luna brothers, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and other heroes. But with Bonifacio I only had one fading photograph. He was not as handsome as depicted in the Caloocan and Liwasang Bonifacio monuments. He does not look like the Bonifacio painted by Carlos V. Francisco in a mural at the Manila City Hall. Bonifacio, captured in a studio portrait shortly before his marriage circa 1894, had deep-set eyes, high cheekbones, receding hairline, and thick lips!

The first lesson I got from Bonifacio's picture was that I had to recognize Bonifacio. I had to get to know him all over again, this time without the popular but erroneous stereotype images. After contemplating the photograph, I tried to locate Bonifacio's addresses on a map. Unlike Rizal who had Calamba, Dapitan, Intramuros and other places in the world marked with memorial plaques, or Mabini with shrines in Nagtahan and Tanawan; or Aguinaldo with a fantasy mansion in Kawit, what did Bonifacio have?

I went to his birthplace and found a shopping mall on it. Tutuban Center marks the site where the Bonifacio home used to be: At least they have a Bonifacio monument there that goes against all existing iconography simply because the viewer cannot make out what he is supposed to be doing. When the Manila-Dagupan Railroad station was built, the train company bought the Bonifacio home and the family moved to Trozo. In those days many people lived in fire hazards called nipa huts and the Bonifacio home in Trozo burned down forcing them to move to the house of Briccio Pantas near the Tondo church. Later they moved to Calle Aceiteros (now Marcelino Santos} around 1886-1892.



The only photograph we have of Bonifacio.

From 1893 to the outbreak of the revolution in August 1896, Bonifacio seemed to have left his brothers and sisters and moved from place to place beginning with 11E Calle de Sagunto (now Santo Cristo), Binondo. We know he was living here in October 1893 before he married Gregoria de Jesus. One source says that this acsesoria was big enough for Bonifacio to offer hospitality to Ladislaw Diwa, Teodoro Plata, and Aurelio Tolentino when they had nowhere to go. I wouldn't be surprised if the early Katipunan meetings were held there.

When Bonifacio and Oryang got married in 1894 they spent a week in the Oroquieta house of their ninong, Restituto Javier. It was in this house where they were married in Katipunan rites. Then the newlyweds found a place on Calle Anyahan in front of the visita de San Ignacio. When Oryang was with child,

the Bonifacios moved to the de Jesus home in 13 Calle Baltazar (now Zamora), Kaloocan. Andres Jr. was born here. When the child was strong enough to travel outside lolo's house, the Bonifacios moved to a house in Cervantes (now Rizal Avenue) in the district of San Ignacio, Bambang. Santiago Alvarez described the house thus, "tabla ang palarindingan at pawid ang bubong, kainam ang laki, bagamat mababa ang silong."52 Alvarez adds that Emilio Aguinaldo was initiated as a Katipunero in this house in the evening of March 14, 1896, but Aguinaldo says in his memoirs that he was initiated in a house on Clavel in Binondo.53

To add to the confusion another source states that two months after the birth of Andres Jr., the Bonifacio's moved to a house in Dulongbayan, Tutuban which according to Oryang, burned down, on Maundy Thursday, 1896 at 3pm. They moved from house to house until they found refuge at 57 Calle Lavezares, the home of Pio Valenzuela ninong of Andres Jr. who eventually died of measles in this house.54 Finally, the last Bonifacio residence mentioned in the sources is actually on one long street today that used to be separate streets in 19th century, Trozo -- Calle Magdalena according to Oryang but 73 San Jose according to Valenzuela.55 Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, Chairman of the Manila Historical Commission plans to place markers on these sites to give people in the area a sense of history and give modern Filipinos a link to the past.

What appears to be an irrelevant list of unverifiable addresses says a lot about Bonifacio. Why was Bonifacio moving from place to place? Maybe he could not settle the rent on time? Is it possible that the constant change of addresses reflected an

52Alvarez, Op cit

53Emilio Aguinaldo, Memoirs of the Revolution. Trans from the original Tagalog by Luz Colendrino Bucu (Manila: n.p. 1967)

54Gregoria de Jesus, The National Archives

55Valenzuela, from the scrapbook of Alfonso T. Ongpin


upwardly mobile lifestyle. Could we say that Bonifacio was yesterday's Yuppie? What if Bonifacio wanted to evade the authorities who kept watch over his activities? From 1893 to August 1896 Bonifacio lived in about a dozen different places. Whatever his reasons, Bonifacio was an NPA. He had No Permanent Address.


Another fascinating part of the Bonifacio story concerns his better (or should I say bitter) half Gregoria de Jesus better known as "Oryang." Women rarely speak in Philippine history because the documents left to historians are predominantly written by men. Fortunately, we have people like Oryang who left us with a narrative that gives a woman's point of view. When I first read Mga tala ng aking buhay I was fascinated by her account of Andres Bonifacio:

"When I was about eighteen years old, young men began to call at our house and among them was Andres Bonifacio, who came in company with Ladislao Diwa and my cousin Teodoro Plata, then clerk of court, 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."56
Parents were very strict in those days and life was made difficult for males who had to win the approval of the woman's family, too! Oryang states that:
"The truth, however, was that Andres Bonifacio had already informed my parents of his intentions and for nearly a year had been trying to win their approval, although I knew
56de Jesus, Op cit

nothing about it. Three months more elapsed before I learned that my father was against Bonifacio's suit because he was a freemason, and the freemasons then were considered bad men by our elders because of the teachings of the friars and precisely by that time I was beginning to like him a little."57
As you can see, the parental objection to Andres had nothing to do with his coming from a lower socio-economic class. Contrary to popular belief, the hero from Tondo was not as poor as we had imagined. Besides, masons did not admit poor, illiterate men into the society. Would the lowly vendor of canes and paper fans in our textbooks become a mason? Oryang coyly continues:
"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 frankly of our love for each other. In deference to my parents, we were married in the Catholic Church of Binondo in March 1893, with Restituto Javier and his wife Benita de Javier as sponsors but the week following, we were married again in the house of our sponsors on what was called Oroquieta street before all the Katipuneros at their request, since they did not recognize as valid our marriage in the Catholic Church."58
Most of what we know about Andres and Oryang came from the above narration in Mga tala ng aking buhay, but then

57de Jesus, Op cit

58Gregoria de Jesus, Op cit.


documents that have slept for a century in the National Archives were brought to light by feminist historian Fe Mangahas that make us think twice about the reliability of memory in autobiographies.

Oryang, according to the archival documents, was not and could not have been married in March 1893. Parental objection to Bonifacio was so strong that Oryang was taken from Caloocan and imprisoned in a house in Binondo to keep her away from her boyfriend. Little did the separated lovers know that they were in the same neighborhood. On October 6, 1893, Oryang managed to scribble a hasty note, in pencil, to the Gobernadorcillo of Binondo stating:
"I am Gregoria de Jesus from Caloocan, a dalagang Tagalog, minor. I wish to contract marriage with my boyfriend (nobio) Andres Bonifacio of 11E Sagunto Street, Tondo. When my parents found out of my good intentions I was brought here, to Binondo, and placed in 28D Madrid street. I am truly a prisoner here. I have no liberty at all. I appeal to your power to mediate and give me justice. Take me from here, summon my boyfriend, fulfill the necessary government requirements so that we can get married. I ask justice from you and hope that you listen because this appeal is addressed to anyone with a kind heart."59
This letter made me remember racy tabloid headlines screaming about men arrested for sex with minors. I think of the age of consent in the Spanish period and imagine how packed our jails would be today if we did not lower the age of consent. Women below 24 were considered menor de edad in the nine-

59De Jesus, Op cit


teenth century. If you think that is surprising, the age of consent for males was also pegged at 24!

By the time Andres Bonifacio and Gregoria de Jesus grew serious enough to think of marriage, in 1893, Bonifacio was almost thirty years old while Oryang was only eighteen. Being menor de edad Oryang needed parental consent to marry Bonifacio. It is obvious that Oryang's parents did not consent to the marriage and yet she was so insistent that she had to be taken from their home in Kaloocan and locked up in a house in Binondo.

Oryang's letter to the gobernadorcillo of Binondo dated October 6, 1893 is transcribed and translated above. To give you the flavor of the original Tagalog and realize how hard it is to read archival documents I faithfully transcribe her letter here in full:
"Aco poi si Gregoria de Jesus nataga Caloocan dalagang tagalog at menor de edad aco po ay may tratong magasaua sa aquing nobio nasi Andres Bonifacio na taga Tondo Calle de Sagunto no. 11 letra E ng matalastas na aquin magulang ang aquing magandang hanhad aco po ay dinala dito sa isang bahai sa calle Madrid no. D letra 28 ang lagai co po dito ay tunay na bilanggo uala acong libertad na anoman.

"Saiyo pong capangyarihan aco ay nagquequeha at hinigingi co pa sa iyo mediante justicia aco poi cunin morito, tauagin ang aquing novio, gauin mo ang deligenciang dapat, ipadalasa Gobierno napara cami macasal.

"Humihingi po aco saiyo ng pagca justicia at umaasa po acong paquiquingan mo sa pagcat itoi siyang toncol ng sino mang may magandang calooban na pasa mo po."60
60De Jesus, passim


From the above we have the addresses of the separated lovers. I checked an 1872 map of Manila and found out that Sagunto street was about five blocks away from Madrid street but then I felt like someone watching a movie. I wanted to let the lovers know that they were so close and yet so far.
Action was taken on Oryang's letter and on December 6, 1893 the gobernadorcillo of Binondo instructed Cornelio Gomez, the owner of the house on Madrid street, to appear in his office with Oryang. However, Oryang's parents must have found out about the petition to the gobernadorcillo so she was moved back to Caloocan. On December 7, 1893 the house on Madrid street was inspected and when Oryang was not found there the long arm of the law reached out further and so, on December 9, 1896 the gobernadorcillo of Caloocan issued an order to locate Oryang, presented her to the gobernadorcillo of Binondo, and gave her refuge in the Binondo home of someone she could trust.

Our story would have ended here except for another complication. Oryang could not appear before the gobernadorcillo of Caloocan because she was sick. To check whether she was kept in the house against her will, a municipal doctor was sent to examine her and on December 14, 1896 a certain Dr. Jose Hilario certified that she could not be moved from her bed. Oryang was diagnosed as suffering from attacks of hysteria (ataques histeriformes) and was anemic (un estado cloro-anemico). I wouldn't be surprised if she was scolded or threatened or even physically punished by her parents for loving someone like Bonifacio.

On January 8, 1894 Oryang wrote another letter from Caloocan saying:
"I am Gregoria de Jesus who was summoned by the Civil Government because of the appeal sent to the Tribunal de Naturales of Binondo. I was not able to appear there because I fell sick. Now that I am well and strong enough, I
ask that I be summoned again. Please be firm as my parents want to remove me from here. I hope that you will listen to my appeal."61
I have yet to consult the Archives of the Archdiocese of Manila to see if there are more documents on this fascinating historical case. If we are to believe Oryang's autobiography, she got married in Binondo in March 1893. The documents cited above run counter to Oryang's memory and suggest that she was married sometime in 1894.

Were they married in church? Much of the archival records in Binondo were destroyed during the Battle for Manila in 1945 but by some stroke of luck the marriage records for 1894 were still extant and I was allowed access by Fr. Moises Andrade, Assistant Parish priest of Binondo. Fr. Andrade did not find Andres Bonifacio and Gregoria de Jesus in their records, but he allowed me to go over the books to see for myself.

Did the parents forgive Oryang for her disobedience? Perhaps her father did, but her mother did not. Before he was executed Bonifacio spoke to Oryang's uncle Graciano Alvarez Francisco and said something revealing, "Kindly look for Oryang tomorrow noon and tell her not to despair. Tell her to do every, thing at the earliest possible moment, to live in peace with her mother."(Emphasis mine.)

Who was Bonifacio? What was he?

Dan Doeppers, who has been doing demographic studies of Manila, looked through the vecindarios of Tondo covering the years 1889 to 1894 and could not find an Andres Bonifacio listed as a resident there. The only Bonifacios he found were:

1. Bernabe Bonifacio, age 36, tailor, married (probable wife Rafaela Uy Tangco, age 29, cigarrera).

61De Jesus, Op cit


2. Dionicio Bonifacio, age 26 or 36, married carrocero, probable wife Francisca Hilario, age 35 cigarrera. They had a son Telesforo age six. In another vecindario entry the same Dionisio Bonifacio's age is given as 35 his occupation tendero. He is still married to Francisca Hilario age 37 cigarrera but now with two children Telesforo four and Marcela, three.

3. Geronima Bonifacio, 24, cigarrera.

Where on earth was Andres Bonifacio? Did he really come from Tondo? What if he was registered in another suburb of Manila? Maybe he was a temporary resident of Tondo? Temporary residents are not registered in the vecindarios anyway. Maybe the person assigned to collect from Bonifacio was afraid of our hero? Maybe the collector pocketed Bonifacio's tax? Maybe the collector was delinquent, negligent or all of the above? If Bonifacio was indeed a resident of Tondo, why was he not enrolled for the head tax among the naturales in Tondo? The bottom line is -- if Bonifacio did not pay his taxes, he did not have a cedula. If he didn't have a cedula, what did he tear up during the famous Cry of Balintawak or Pugad Lawin?

The above questions crop up if you interrogate the sources. While going over pre-war magazines I saw a copy of the marriage certificate of Bonifacio's parents. It explains why Bonifacio is not in the vecindario of naturales in Tondo. It reads in part:
"D. Jose N. Jovellanos, secular priest of the Archbisopric of Manila, parish priest of Tondo, Manila, Philippine Islands

"Certifies that in Book 9 of Marriages on page 29 is a document that reads: SANTIAGO BONIFACIO with CATALINA DE CASTRO.


"On the 24th of January 1873... Saturnino Buntan, parish priest of Tondo authorized the marriage contracted in Tondo between [Santiago Bonifacio] the son of Vicente Bonifacio y de Alejandra Rosales... and Catalina de Castro, single, mestiza española, a native of the province of Zambales and resident in this pueblo of Tondo... daughter of Martin de Castro and Antonia Gregorio... in the presence of Don Severino Ampil and Doña Patricia Trinidad as witnesses and godparents..."
Why wasn't Bonifacio in the vecindario de naturales? He was not a pure indio, but a mestizo. Surely he is in the vecindario de naturales of Tondo. An added twist resulted from my research when I dug up a document that says that Bonifacio was apprehended on September 29, 1896 and brought to a detachment in the Tranvia Station of Malabon. Investigation proved that cedula personal 2492892 was fake! The document said this "Bonifacio" was a native of Tambobo, resident of Concepcion, 41 years old, a "formalero" whatever that means. Bonifacio was using fake cedulas. This explains why he is not listed in the vecindarios, and how he got married in Binondo under the name Andres Cipriano. Now I know how Bonifacio could tear cedulas in more than one place, he probably had half a dozen cedulas in his pocket, under different names! As we can see from this, Bonifacio is not as stupid as some people would want him to be. May abilidad din pala.

How plebeian was Bonifacio?

Many Filipinos in the same generation as my parents can rattle off the honorific titles we attach to our heroes: Jose Rizal is the "Great Malayan," Emilio Jacinto is the "Brains of the Katipunan," Apolinario Mabini is the "Sublime Paralytic" and Andres Bonifacio is the "Great Plebeian." One wonders why there is no honorific or even "horrorific" title for Emilio Aguinaldo.


We have no problem with "Great Malayan" except during the 1995 International Rizal Conference in Kuala Lumpur when the Malaysians asked themselves, who is this presumptuous Christian Filipino who claims to be the Great Malayan? Filipinos refer to the Malayan race while Malaysians take the term to mean citizens of Malaysia. Mabini was the "Brains of the Revolution" a title once questioned by Gregoria de Jesus who insisted that the title rightfully belonged to Jacinto. I have no problem with "paralytic" but when combined with "sublime" I don't quite know what it means.

Do Filipinos stop and try to unravel what these honorifics really mean? Filipinos can attach these titles to heroes as easily as they pin tails on donkeys at children's parties. However, when pressed to define or explain these honorifics they are tongue-tied.

Personally, Andres Bonifacio's title is the most difficult for me because "plebeian" is not a word in common use. Nobody has problems with "great" but everyone must run to a dictionary to get a definition of "plebeian." The Concise Oxford Dictionary says a plebeian, in ancient Rome, was a commoner. In time the term came to mean someone who came from the common people. Later the term became negative. It meant someone of low birth, someone who was ignoble, uncultured or coarse. When used today plebeian means all of the above, however when translated into Pilipino the meaning clashes with our idealized stereotype image of the hero of Manila. Bonifacio may have had humble beginnings but he was not ignoble, uncultured or coarse. To say Bonifacio was bastos is short of treason.

I traced the confusion over Bonifacio, the plebeian to its origin and ended up with the most widely used source, a biography in Spanish by Epifanio de los Santos published in 1917. De los Santos says Bonifacio was a vendedor of canes and paper fans. Vendedor in Spanish is very close to the English "vendor." No problem with that but then De los Santos also lists Bonifacio's other occupations: mandatorio at the English trading firm Fleming and Company, where he rose to become


corredor of tar and other products. Later, Bonifacio moved to the German firm Fressell and Company where he worked as a bodeguero.

Since words carry more meanings than we can imagine, much has been lost or added in the translation of Bonifacio's job description from the original Spanish to English and Tagalog. At Fleming and Co. for example, de los Santos and another biographer Manuel Artigas y Cuerva say Bonifacio was a mandatorio. The Oxford Spanish Dictionary translates mandatorio as either "attorney" or "agent." But Gregorio Zaide in a 1979 textbook probably consulted a different dictionary as he rendered mandatorio into "messenger." Teodoro Agoncillo in his book Revolt of the Masses translated the same word into "clerk, messenger." Jose P. Santos, writing in Tagalog, translated mandatorio into mensahero. Nick Joaquin added to the confusion by turning Bonifacio the mandatorio into an escribiente or clerk. Mandatorio thus becomes either of the following: attorney, agent, messenger, mensahero, clerk, and clerk-messenger! Now, tell me, which is which?

While employed at Fleming and Co. Bonifacio was promoted (or demoted?) from mandatorio to what de los Santos and Artigas call a corredor. The Oxford Spanish Dictionary translates this as a "runner." In other context it could also mean agent, sales representative or a traveling salesman. Agoncillo got it right when he translated it as agent. Jose P. Santos also found the correct Tagalog equivalent in tagapaglako o ahente. So far so good. The real confusion begins when Bonifacio moves to the German firm of Fressel and Company where de los Santos gives his occupation as bodeguero.

The Oxford Spanish Dictionary defines bodeguero as a wine producer! In another sense, bodeguero can also mean shopkeeper or warehouseman. Sometimes bodeguero can also mean a winerack! When de los Santos' biography was translated into English in 1918 bodeguero was rendered as "storekeeper". Agoncillo translated the same word as "agent." Jose Santos rendered it as "kawani" while Zaide (1979) again using a different dictionary


rendered bodeguero as "bodega-keeper"! Finally we have Nick Joaquin who transformed Bonifacio the bodeguero into a "sales agent."

Espiridiona Bonifacio reacting to the stereotype image of her brother as a poor and illiterate person told Joe Quirino in 1954: "There is nothing wrong with being poor as I am now, but we were not poor as rats as pictured by some writers. Just because we made fans and canes does not mean we were destitute. In fact, the family business was doing fairly well and some of our best canes sold from fifty to one hundred pesos each." Was Bonifacio really poor? Could you support a family in the nineteenth century with sales from home-made abanicos and bastones? Questions like these drove me to look for other sources on Bonifacio's finances that led me to a dead-end.

Early in October 1896, after a lull in the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution the Governor-general Ramon Blanco ordered that assets of suspected Katipuneros be frozen. Naturally, Andres Bonifacio's name crops up in the documents which state that he was living in either of two houses. One was on San Jose street, Trozo the other, in the house of a certain Capitan Quicoy on Lavesares street. Since Bonifacio was already in hiding there was not much to confiscate from the places where he lived.

The government then asked the Banco Español-Filipino and the Hongkong-Shanghai Banking Corporation on October 6, 1897 to freeze Bonifacio's assets. I could not contain my excitement at the thought that Bonifacio was a client of the Hongkong-Shanghai Banking Corporation because I have always. wanted to have an account there but lacked dollars. Emilio Aguinaldo in 1897 placed part of the funds paid for the Truce of Biak-na-bato in this bank. The banks gave these replies:
"Banco Español-Filipino, Manila.

"In reply to your communication dated the sixth [of October 1896] received today, relating to the embargo of the assets of Andres
Bonifacio and Candido Garcia I state that none of these individuals have funds nor stocks, nor shares, nor securities, nor credit of any kind in this bank."
It was signed by a certain Venancio Balbas, Director, and dated 14 October 1897. A copy of the other document reads:
"Hongkong Shanghay (sic) Banking Corporation, Manila

"In answer to your communication of the 6th of this month received this afternoon may we state that the individuals Andres Bonifacio and Candido Garcia do not have any kind of deposit in this establishment either in cash or stocks. We hope we have compelled with your order."
This was signed by a certain H.R. Coombs, agent on 14 October 1897.

Then, as late as October 20, 1897, another certification from the Administracion de la Hacienda Publica, Principal de Manila stated that Bonifacio, Juan Cuadras, Martin Ocampo, Alejandro Santiago, Modesto Español, Capitan Ramon, and Candido Garcia "do not figure in our books as contributors."

Alright, so Bonifacio did not have a bank account, but it still does not prove that he was unlettered and of the lowest socio-economic class. The documentary material suggests that Bonifacio was not as rich as Rizal or the ilustrados, but he was not as poor as we imagined him to be, either. Perhaps he was lower middle-class? We are taught in school about his industry and hard-work, would it be safe to say that as an employee of an English and German trading house he was upwardly mobile? Could we say that Bonifacio was the nineteenth century ances-


tor of today's yuppies? He was indeed young, urban, and in his own way, professional.

As I said in my last column much of the confusion stems from the different descriptions of Bonifacio's job{s): vendedor, mandatorio and bodeguero. These descriptions come from Bonifacio's biographers but Pio Valenzuela, friend of Bonifacio, added yet another job description -- portero! We are basically dealing with four Spanish words and should get an equivalent for English or Tagalog words, but then something is both lost and added in translations. Hence, depending on which book you are reading Bonifacio becomes either of these: night watchman, warehouse-keeper, agent, broker, bodega-keeper, attorney, agent, sales-agent, messenger, clerk, and clerk-messenger!

These jobs may be very low in the ladder of today's corporate jungle but in simpler times, like the late nineteenth century, these jobs, especially if they were with foreign trading houses, put one closer to the middle class than the poorest of the poor. I would think that we are reading the past with the lenses of the present. Pio Valenzuela described Bonifacio as "astute and intelligent and spoke Tagalog fluently and those who did not know him would not think he was a bodeguero."62

What do we know about Bonifacio's job and earning capacity? Not very much.

Having read the autobiography of Gregoria de Jesus numerous times from start to finish I always get fresh insights that get farther from my original sentimental reading. As we are trying to determine how poor Bonifacio was, it is important to see the socio-economic status of Oryang. She states:
"Because there were three of us then studying who had to travel to Manila to continue our studies, I decided to stop studying joined my sister in looking after our family interests to enable our two brothers to study in Manila."
62Valenzuela, op cit.


That Oryang and her sister sacrificed their own education to enable two brothers to study in Manila shows that they were not filthy rich. However, they were not poor either, because they could hire laborers to cultivate their land. She says, "Often I had to go out in the country to supervise the planting and harvesting of our rice and to supervise our tenants and laborers, and also to pay the wages of my father's workers on Sunday mornings."63 (Italics mine)

Going back to Andres' social status:

All the sources of the period also state that no masons were poor or uneducated. Bonifacio was a mason. A certain Antonio Salazar y Agustin when interrogated in September 1896, shortly after the outbreak of the revolution, stated, "I knew Andres Bonifacio, I was present at his initiation to the lodge Taliba... had nothing to do with him since except on one occasion when I helped him push some cases of vermouth into the bodega of Simeon Piesol." If Bonifacio was a mason then he was closer to middle class than the lowest class.

Bonifacio was invited to the organizational meeting of La Liga Filipina in 1892. That he was allowed to be in the same room as Jose Rizal and other ilustrados also points to a higher social class than that assigned him by historians and textbook writers. Bonifacio unlike Rizal and the other ilustrados may not have finished college; nor could he boast of postgraduate degrees but he definitely had some education. Agoncillo estimates that Bonifacio's "education could not possibly have gone beyond what is now Grade Four."64 Despite Agoncillo's views on Bonifacio's education I think it is safe to assume that he could read, speak and write enough Spanish to be hired into British and German trading firms in Manila.

If we are to assume that Bonifacio read the books confiscated from the bodega of Fressell and Company after the outbreak of the revolution, like La Solidaridad and even a History of

63 De Jesus, passim

68Agoncillo in Ocampo, Talking History


the French Revolution, his reading taste was suitably subversive, but there were other books on International Law, the Penal Code and the Civil Code. Did he really read Ruins of Palmyra, Wandering Jew or even Les Miserables (minus the music)? What will anti-American nationalists make of a Bonifacio who read Lives of the Presidents of the United States?

In conclusion, I maintain that Bonifacio had some education, he was literate, he was upwardly mobile in jobs with today's equivalent of multinational companies. Bonifacio married Oryang who came from a family of means. Bonifacio was a mason and a member of Rizal's Liga Filipina. All these point to one thing -- Bonifacio was great, but he was far from having been a plebeian. The more controversial question to ask after an examination of Bonifacio's socio-economic background is whether the Philippine Revolution of 1896 was truly a "revolt of the masses."

As promised at the beginning of this lecture, we see that there are many new answers to the old questions being asked about Andres Bonifacio. This illustrates how much more research is necessary to give us a clearer picture of the life and times of Andres Bonifacio.