Andres Bonifacio Statue in the Plaza of Cabatuan, Iloilo
during the 159th Bonifacio Day Celebration
November 30, 2022.
Photo by Eduardo Coo
Andres Bonifacio may not have been alive anymore during Phil-Am War but his name and image loom large over the entire struggle for Philippine Independence, which he started. This was evidenced by his numerous statues all over the country that began popping up when the Americans lifted censorship in the 1920's. - RMC


A privilege speech delivered at the Regular Session of the
Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Iloilo, December 3, 2013..
by Hon.Demy P. Sonza, 2nd District, of Iloilo.

ON NOVEMBER 30 (2013), the Filipino nation celebrated the 150th anniversary of Andre's Bonifacio, the founder and Supremo of the Katipunan. Commemorative activities were held all over the country, led by the President who spoke at the program in Caloocan City where Bonifacio launched the Revolution against Spain on August 24,1896. On the eve of the celebration, Bayan Muna Partylist Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate filed House Bill 3431 seeking to declare Andres Bonifacio a national hero. Earlier, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon urged the passage of H. B 1381 that aims to include a course on the life, works and ideals of Bonifacio in the secondary and tertiary school curricula.

This humble representation believes that Bonifacio does not need a law to become a national hero. In fact, a hero is not -- and cannot -- be made by legislative fiat. A hero is made by the spontaneous, popular, and voluntary acclamation by the people for his heroic life and acts. That popular acclamation, which sometimes may intensify to veneration, does not only last during the hero's generation, but for generations to come, or for as long as his nation exists. Bonifacio was born to poor parents in Tondo, Manila, on November 30, 1863.Ten days later, Queen Isabel II ordained the Educational Reform Law in the Philippines. The law took the control of primary education from the Church and gave it to the Government. Consequently, in Iloilo, all the 39 municipalities put up two primary schools each, one for boys and one for girls.

We assume that Bonifacio attended the primary school in Tondo. Probably, he did not finish the primary grades because his parents were poor, and also, because he was completely orphaned when he was only 14 years old. Bonifacio rose to the challenge. He willingly assumed the responsibility of raising up his five siblings. He learned early the values of hard work, sacrifice, and family solidarity.

Bonifacio lacked formal education, but continued to learn by rigorous self-study. He mastered Spanish to be able to read such novels as "Les Miserables" in the Spanish translation. Among the books he read were "La Revolucion Frances," "Vidas de los Presidentes de Estados Unidos," "Noli Me Tangere,""El Filibusterismo," and "Sagrada Familia."

The Bible was not easily available to the Filipinos at the time, but Bonifacio was resourceful enough to get a copy. His doing so revealed his unending search for truth.

Keenly sensitive to the situation of his people, he became compassionate to the masses and thereby developed a noble mission - to free his people from injustice and subjugation. He saw one organization that upheld his ideals - Freemasonry. He joined Fremasonry whose principles of "Equality, Fraternity, and Liberty" he strongly embraced. On July 7, 1892, he founded the KATIPUNAN to secretly prepare for the Revolution. Knowing his own limitations in education, Bonifacio offered the leadership of the Revolution to Jose Rizal who had just returned from Europe. Rizal declined because he believed the Filipinos were not ready for an armed revolution.

In another instance, Bonifacio demonstrated his humility - a true sign of greatness. He wrote a Decalogue for the Katipunan, but when he learned that Emilio Jacinto had written a better one, he set aside his own Decalogue and adopted Jacinto's, which became the Cartilla of the Katipunan.

At first the Katipunan members were only the common people because the educated, influential and rich were indifferent or fearful. Fired by patriotism and nationalism, Bonifacio bravely and doggedly pushed on. The Spaniards discovered the existence of the Katipunan, and so on August 24, 1896, Bonifacio launched the Revolution. Like wildfire, the Revolution spread to Manila and the neighboring provinces.

It was unfortunate that Bonifacio fell a victim of the conflict caused by rivalry and power struggle that often are concomitants of revolutions. He died in the mountains of Maragondon, Cavite, on May 10, 1897. He was only 33 years old. Looking back, we learned that by the grace of God, Bonifacio pulled himself up by sheer will power, hard work and self-study to become mentally and morally prepared to lead the Filipinos in rising against Spain. His sense of patriotism was at par with those of other Filipino leaders of the time.

For instance, Rizal said "A life that is not consecrated to a noble cause is like a stone wasted in the field without becoming part of a beautiful edifice."

On his own Bonifacio said, "A life that is not consecrated to.a lofty and noble cause is like a tree without shade." Rizal wrote, "Pure and spotless must the victim be so that the sacrifice.may be acceptable." Bonifacio could not be faulted for his sublime obsession to free his people from economic, political,.and social.enslavement. On Bonifacio's execution, I dare say in the language of Rizal that "La muerte de Bonifacio fue un sacrificio aceptable en el altar de libertad."

There was another man who also died at age 33 - Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus died on the cross at Calvary to set mankind free from sin. I'm sure Bonifacio had read in his Spanish Bible that Christ died "para que todo aquel que en El cree, no se.pierda, mas tenga vida eterna" (so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life)" Bonifacio does not need a law to become a national hero. He already is. Besides, it will be a bad commentary on our sense of heroism as a people that we waited for some 125 years after Bonifacio's death to declare him a national hero. What may be necessary is a law that requires the study of his life, works, and ideals in the schools, and not only his, but also those of Lopez Jaena, M.H.del Pilar, Mabini, and other heroes and heroines of our dear Philippines.

In this Age of Information and Communication, Bonifacio and our other heroes and heroines should be the subjects not only of books, but also of the other forms of mass media, so that they will be better understood, appreciated, and hopefully, emulated.

Viva Andres Bonifacio! Todo gloria a Dios. . . .

Andres Bonifacio Statue in the Plaza of Cabatuan, Iloilo.
during the 159th Bonifacio Day Celebration
November 30, 2022.
Photo by Eduardo Coo