The tragic lifeof Andres Bonifacio

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Tomorrow, the whole nation will pause to remember a poor and unfortunate Filipino who did much for the nation. Orphaned at an early age, Andres Bonifacio was left with the heavy burden of supporting all his younger brothers and sisters. He was born poor, lived poor and died poor. He was born in a place known as the residence of "children of the lesser gods," Tondo. In those days, the upper class, the landed insulares and peninsulares lived in Binondo and Malate, while the ruling class of Spanish government officials and the friars resided in the walled city of Intramuros. Bonifacio belonged to the working class, the Indios who used to be called the ''unwashed," the "unschooled," and the "uncultured."

Andres was orphaned at an early age and was left with the heavy burden of raising his young brothers and sisters. He had to make and sell canes and paper fans to make both ends meet. He also worked in a shop owned by Spanish masters and worked odd jobs to support all his siblings. He did not have any formal schooling but his thirst for learning led him to know how to read and write by intermittent and informal tutorship. His kind of life made him see the world as a cruel and unfair place to live. He developed an inner anger against the establishment and led him to imbibe a rebelliousness and revolutionary spirit.

But despite his limitations, Ka Andres, as he was called, was a good leader and speaker. He could convince those who were similarly situated to join him in a secret crusade to do something concrete and specific, in order to alleviate the pitiful conditions of the oppressed Filipinos. Somehow, his fervor was further inflamed by reading Dr Jose Rizal's NOLI and FILI. Rizal came to know of Ka Andres because his reputation as a dissenter preceded him. In fact, it is generally believed that Rizal's model of Elias was no other than Bonifacio himself. Or, did Bonifacio, pattern his revolutionary struggles along those of Elias?

Both Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo found inspiration in the KATIPUNAN, which Bonifacio founded. And, in fact, Aguinaldo applied for, and was accepted as member. His entry into the group planted the seed of fragmentation when the landed young general from Kawit, Cavite formed the MAGDALO faction. Bonifacio, the founder, the original leader, who made a lot of sacrifices, was sidelined and marginalized by the more aggressive and dashing Aguinaldo. The MAGDIWANG faction of Ka Andres was defeated in that ill-fated Tejeros Convention, which was rigged by the Magdalos, and ended in Ka Andres and his followers walking out in defeat.

That walkout resulted to a charge of treason against Bonifacio and his brothers. It ended in his summary execution in the mountains of Cavite by the henchmen of the Magdalos. What added impunity and anguish into those murders was the illegal arrest and despicable "rape" of Gregoria de Jesus, or Ka Oryang, the distraught widow of Ka Andres. Until today, justice has not been served and Aguinaldo is still hailed as the first Philippine President, when it should be Ka Andres. The poor boy from Tondo was cheated of his rightful place in history by the illustardos, the landed gentry and the upper class. Even if we call him the GREAT PLEBEIAN, he is still the most unsung national hero who might have been greater than Rizal himself.

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