By Dahli Aspillera
‘Bonifacio was not only the Father of the Philippine Revolution. Bonifacio was above all the Father of Philippine Democracy.–Manuel L. Quezon, President, Philippine Commonwealth’
FROM Carmencita Acosta, an email which was a joy to receive, and most fitting to publish on this November 30, Bonifacio Day:
Dahli, please don’t forget that your grandfather was at the forefront working for the declaration of November 30 as Bonifacio Day, as well as the last Sunday of August as National Heroes Day.
Lope K. Santos was among the youngest members of the Katipunan who saw action. [I know...at age 16, student at a school near Luneta, he was there with classmates to watch Jose Rizal executed by musketry. Learning thereafter of the nationalism, gallantry, heroism of that man he watched shot by the authorities—no wonder Lolo became such an anti-Spanish nationalist activist. -- DA]
Lope K endangered his life being a lookout and courier. He was among the founders of the Bonifacio Memorial Association (Kapatirang Alagad ni Bonifacio), to which he recruited my mom and myself. I was the youngest member at age 12. Among the points he emphasized during meetings were:
1. Andres Bonifacio, in the mind of LKS, is the leading hero of the Philippines because he began the Philippine Revolution, the armed struggle against a powerful Western colonial power. Without Bonifacio, what kind of history would we have had? Three and a half centuries of colonial subjugation and no national struggle for independence? Without Bonifacio, would Philippine history have such heroes as Emilio Jacinto, Gregorio del Pilar, Miguel Malvar, others who carried on the struggle after Bonifacio’s death? Even Emilio Aguinaldo is now considered a hero (whom Lope K as well as others believe to be responsible for the assassination of the Bonifacio brothers in Cavite).
2. It was not only Bonifacio but his brothers were assassinated with him in Cavite. There were three brothers and a sister: Andres (eldest), Procopio (who was the most Spanish-looking because their maternal grandfather was a Spaniard), Ciriaco and Troadio. Troadio was able to escape, and lived to tell the facts. The only Bonifacio sister was Esperanza, whom Lope K. interviewed. Bonifacio’s mother was Catalina de Castro whose father was a pure Spaniard. I dislike to say this, but some American historical commentators have said that it was Bonifacio’s Spanish blood that made him fearless in the face of all odds. [Hogwash! The most spineless, indolent , useless people in the Philippines during Spanish colonial regime were the illiterate Spanish soldiers and cruel, greedy Spanish friars – Damaso -- with pure Spanish blood in their veins. They were lazy, without skills, did nothing except enslave the natives with threats of punishment and imprisonment. What made colonials seem courageous were their armies of Filipino slaves and Filipino retainers shielding them, trained to defend to their death their Spanish lords and masters. --DA]
3. History and Jose Rizal’s writings reveal that Rizal never worked for the independence of the Philippines. What he wanted was representation of the Philippines in the Spanish Cortes which meant having the Philippine Islands as a province of Spain. Hence, when Bonifacio visited Rizal to urge him to support the revolutionary Katipunan, Rizal refused and even discouraged him from battling for Philippine independence.
3. The American colonial government, in an unnatural gesture in the annals of world history, proclaimed their version of who their conquered subjects (Filipinos) should honor as their national hero: Rizal. Thus, the American colonial government, through its puppet Philippine functionaries, hastily caused the erection of Rizal monuments in plazas all over the Philippines. The object was to make the Filipinos forget all about armed fighting and the campaign then being waged by the exiled General Artemio Ricarte.
Dahli, keep in mind that all these occurred during the time of Lope K. Santos. He was a witness to all these machinations. This is the reason why he was at the forefront of the Bonifacio Day legislation (1920s). Ten years later (1930s), he was also at the forefront of the National Heroes Day legislation because unofficially the American Filipino puppets abetted by the descendants of those behind Bonifacio’s assassination), started to celebrate November 30 as National Heroes Day. But they were on the wrong side of history. To this day Bonifacio Day and National Heroes Day are separately marked.
Acosta continues: I end here on my take on Lope K’s role in this matter. After graduation, my first job was researcher at the National Historical Commission under Carlos Quirino. I was assigned to research on the so-called Philippine Insurgent Records retrieved by the Americans. I also did research on the American colonial government. Naturally the first thing I did was to research on Bonifacio and the Katipunan. True enough, those records bore out what Lope K had told us.
Do you know what happened later during the time of Marcos? Recall that for a time Cesar Virata of Cavite and grandson of Aguinaldo was prime minister and one of the powerful functionaries in the Marcos regime. An official University of the Philippines team was sent to the National Library to do research. And later on, it was discovered that files from the Philippine Insurgent Records were missing–the files about Bonifacio and the Katipunan, including the very lengthy list of the names of the fighters who signed their names with their own blood! I saw those documents and thought the fighters had signed with red ink until Carlos Quirino told me: They signed with their own blood!
When Virata was governor of the Central Bank of the Philippines, the five-peso bill bearing the face of Bonifacio was demonetized. Admirers of Bonifacio protested, so the Central Bank put Bonifacio’s face on the 10-peso bill where Mabini’s face was a fixture. Hence the 10-peso bill now had Mabini’s and Bonifacio’s faces. What did the Central Bank do next? Demonetize the 10-peso bill. But Virata and company were on the wrong side of history. The greatness of Bonifacio continues to be remembered, and the efforts of men like Lope K have not been in vain.
I’d like to add that President Manuel L. Quezon (Lope K was in the Quezon cabinet, friend, political campaigner) had given his all-out support to Lope K. and his group in the task of memorializing Bonifacio. Quezon went a step further by saying that Bonifacio was not only the Father of the Philippine Revolution. Bonifacio was above all the “Father of Philippine Democracy.”
Dahli, you are free to use all the historical data I have mentioned, after all, you are the worthy descendant of Lope K. Santos. God bless you!