Was Gat Andres Bonifacio a greater hero than Jose Rizal?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - November 30, 2020 - 12:00am

Today is the 157th birth anniversary of a great Filipino, Gat Andres Bonifacio y Castro. He was very poor who never had any formal education, but he was a brave fighter for freedom. He died a hero at the hands of treacherous Filipinos who murdered him and his two brothers, then molested his young widow.

Until today, the question remains unresolved: Who was really the greater hero between the well-educated, well-dressed Dr. Jose Rizal, the illustrado from Calamba, Laguna, or Gat Andres, the working class obrero from Tondo? It has been said that the pen of Rizal was mightier than the sword of Bonifacio. Rizal was edified by the Americans because he was a pacifist and reformist. Bonifacio was considered a threat to the status quo, being a rebel, revolutionary, non-conformist, and warrior. Rizal, like Crisostomo Ibarra, was a matinee idol. Bonifacio was like Elias, a filibuster and troublemaker. There is a monument of Rizal in almost all the town plazas in the whole Philippines. Bonifacio has a few or none at all.

Dr. Jose Rizal was the well-educated spoiled son from Calamba, the favorite of his mother, Tedora Alonso, and considered by his father, Francisco Mercado, as more promising than the older Paciano, the brother who sacrificed his life, farming and sending money to Jose in Germany, Spain, and France. All his sisters doted on Jose who wrote poems before reaching the age of six. Rizal was a loverboy with plenty of women, and who travelled all over the world. Gat Andres Bonifacio stayed in Tondo all his life, worked as a laborer and later as an agent in some factories and workshops. He was the eldest among six orphans, and he had to sell paper fans and canes to feed and clothe his siblings. While Rizal was drinking wine and eating steaks in Europe, Bonifacio had a hand-to-mouth existence; poor, powerless, and with no powerful friends.

Even in death, Rizal was given a more dramatic execution, in the full view of his countrymen right in Bagumbayan. The night before he was shot, he wrote a beautiful poem as his executioners allowed him to say goodbye to his family and friends. Gat Andres was secretly tried by a kangaroo court, a ragtag military tribunal, hastily convened to lend a semblance of regularity to his treacherous murder in Maragondon, Cavite. Rizal was given a dramatic trial and was even given a Spanish lawyer to defend him. He died at the hands of the Spanish colonizers who gave him the decency of dying by musketry. Bonifacio's dignity was desecrated by the surreptitious hacking with bolos by henchmen of his political rival, who even robbed him post-mortem of the noble title of being the first president of the Philippines.

Rizal was educated in Letran in Sto. Tomas and in many universities in Europe. He wrote the Noli and the Fili, which all made him a good copy, a perfect hero with a very dramatic life story that would sell in the box office. Bonifacio's life was too poor, simple, and dreary, lacking in color and excitement. But Gat Andres saw action and fought many battles. He risked his life and limb leading the Katipuners. He was wounded and scarred and his life was one of blood, sweat, and tears. Rizal never fought a battle. He even denounced the revolution, despite the fact that Gat Andres sent an emissary to Dapitan to convince Rizal to endorse the revolution, and support the Katipunan. Rizal refused to be linked to the armed struggle. He was safe and happy in Dapitan while Bonifacio was fighting in Pugad Lawin.

And so, if you ask me, who is the greater hero, I would say, can we not have both of them? The brilliance of Rizal's mind and the passions and fervor of Bonifacio's patriotism and bravery, are two sides of one coin. We need both Crisostomo Ibarra and Elias. Ibarra to strategize, and Elias to lead the warriors in the battlefield. Brilliant ideas without bold action was Dr. Rizal. Bold action without brilliant ideas was Gat Andres. If Gat Andres were imbued with the mind of Rizal and Dr. Rizal was powered by the angst of Gat Andres, we would have been having two great heroes. Today, we just have to honor the hero from Tondo. By end of the year, we shall likewise remember the genius from Calamba.

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