While I can barely remember the name of my university Filipino history professor, the arguments ensuing on the debate as to who was truly deserving to be called national hero still remains and feels fresh in my memory. I guess this was the time when I started being a Bonifacio geek.
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It was a fight between Andres Bonifacio versus the incumbent Philippines National Hero Jose Rizal. It was quite interesting to note that there were a lot of my class and schoolmates when asked truly sympathized with how The Supremo was treated by his supposed team mates/counterparts all fighting for independence.
I remember myself totally siding with Bonifacio because I have come across some material concluding that Rizal was after all, seeking equality in the sense that he’s after having Philippines as a legitimate province of Spain. That in my books, does not fly.
Well, now Spain, after gunning down Rizal in Bagumbayan, has finally claimed Rizal as a legit “Son of Spain” (have seen this reference personally on Rizal’s statue in Madrid). Whereas Bonifacio, the self-taught, radical revolutionary, has ways, approach and interests for true independence from our Spanish, Japanese, American and most importantly, the Illustrado ruling class.
Unlike the usual profile of the popular heroes of the country, Bonifacio was born in the slums, self-educated, and truly had his heart set on empowering the Filipino working masses. His greatest work and accomplishment, was directing attention to the unjust class structure of the colonial system, the exploitation of the indigenous people. His ideals aimed at engaging the masses to “occupy” and make fair the existing regime of the then Spanish then American rule in the Philippines.
Bonifacio was victim of treachery and political maneuvering of the clannish middle-class factions leading to his death, and then cast aside by Americans for a more pacifist figure. I used to look forward to seeing his likeness on the five peso bill before it was replaced and demoted to a two-peso coin and eventually disappear with the latest currency in the land. Which is really a huge shame.
I’d like to send out a little note and try to reach out to fellow Andres Bonifacio geeks out there to come out, and campaign to update our national hero into someone that truly represents the interests of all our countrymen – of independence from foreign rule, of economic sustainability by work that allows income disparity and indigenous people exploitation to fade away.
Here’s hoping that the day will come that the rest of the country and the world realizes and gives you what the honor you truly deserve.
While your demographic continues to exist, there continues to be hope.
So let me end this post with one of the poems closest to my heart as with its writer (please use online translation tools available to translate):
PAG-IBIG SA TINUBUANG LUPA
(ni Andres Bonifacio y de Castro)
Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya sa pagkadalisay at magkadakila
Gaya ng pag-ibig sa sariling lupa?
Aling pag-ibig pa?
Wala na nga, wala.
Pagpupuring lubos ang palaging hangad
Sa bayan ng taong may dangal na ingat,
Umawit, tumula, kumata’t at sumulat,
Kalakhan din niya’y isinisiwalat.
Walang mahalagang hindi inihandog
Ng may pusong mahal sa
Bayang nagkupkop, dugo, yaman, dunong, katiisa’t pagod,
Buhay ma’y abuting magkalagut-lagot.
Bakit? Alin ito na sakdal ng laki,
Na hinahandugan ng busong pagkasi,
Na sa lalong mahal nakapangyayari,
At ginugulan ng buhay na iwi?
Ay! Ito’y ang iang bayang tinubuan:
Siya’y iona’t tangi sa kinamulatan
Ng kawili-wiling liwanang ng araw
Na nagbigay-init sa buong katawan.
Kalakip din nito’y pag-ibig sa Bayan,
Ang lahat ng lalong sa gunita’y mahal,
Mula sa masaya’y gasong kasanggulan
Hanggang sa katawa’y mapasa-libingan.
Sa aba ng abang mawalay sa bayan!
Gunita ma’y laging sakbibi ng lumbay,
Walang alaala’t inaasa-asam
Kundi ang makita’y lupang tinubuan.
Pati ng magdusa’y sampung kamatayan
Wari ay masarap kung dahil sa bayan
At lalong mahirap.
Oh, himalang bagay!
Lalong pag-irog pa ang sa kanya’y alay.
Kung ang bayang ito’y masasa-panganib
At siya ay dapat na ipagtangkilik,
Ang anak, asawa, magulang, kapatid;
Isang tawag niya’y tatalidang pilit.
Hayo na nga, hayo, kayong nagabuhay
Sa pag-asang lubos ng kaginhawahan
At walang tinamo kundi kapaitan,
Hayo na’t ibangon ang naabang bayan!
Kayong nalagasan ng bunga’t bulaklak
Ng kaho’y ng buhay na nilanta’t sukat,
Ng bala-balaki’t makapal na hirap, muling manariaw’t sa baya’y lumiyag.
Ipahandug-handog ang busong pag-ibig
At hanggang may dugo’y ubusing itigis;
kung sa pagtatanggol, buhay ay mapatid,
Ito’y kapalaran at tunay na langit!