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We’re gonna say it: Andres Bonifacio deserved better

You know that trope “always the sidekick, never the main character?” 

We have a lot of feelings for second leads―obligatory third wheels to the main characters that we were supposed to focus on but that doesn’t stop us from being endeared to them.

You have your “didn’t get the love interest” second lead. You’ve got your “lowkey anti-hero” second lead. You even got your “protagonist’s best friend who’s conveniently there to aid in the power of friendship” kind of second lead. All of them deserve better.

You know who else deserved better? Look at your calendar. Yeah, Andres Bonifacio, Father of the Katipunan himself. 

If Jose Rizal is the OG softboi, Bonifacio may as well be the guy y’all swiped left on. And not to pull a Gretchen Weiner, but people should totally give Bonifacio more credit just as much as they do to Rizal. 

 

Invented being self-taught

You know how he was orphaned at a young age? (With how “young,” we’re not exactly sure as some accounts say he was 14 while others say he was well into his 20s.)

This prompted him to put his eldest son hat on, stopped schooling and took on different jobs to support his siblings. But even as he worked, he didn’t hold back that thirst for knowledge. According to historian Michael Chua, one of Bonifacio’s employers, Doña Elvira Prysler, noted that he often had a book in hand during his lunch breaks. 

His reading list? The Bible, Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” a novel on the French Revolution (and a staple in our high school mandatory readings for English classes), biographies of the US presidents,  books on medicine and law, and, of course, Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.” 

 

Maybe classroom debates on this forced us to put one over the other, but that’s like K-pop stans arguing who deserves the Artist of the Year award.

 

He was a writer, too

Speaking of Rizal, all this beef about “who’s the better hero” is nonsense because Bonifacio himself admired Rizal quite a lot. He was even a member of Rizal’s La Liga Filipina, which consisted mainly of ilustrados and the formally educated elite that contributed to the newspaper La Solidaridad. 

National Artist for Literature and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino chairperson Virgilio Almario calls Bonifacio’s writing style “akdang Katipunero,” which was more accessible to traditional natives at the time and easier to grasp. Bonifacio’s most notable poem, “Pag-ibig Para Sa Tinubuang Lupa,” encouraged Filipinos to join the crusade and rise up against the Spaniards. 

A side note: Apparently, Bonifacio did not write “Liham Para Kay Oryang.” As much as we’d love to believe in the crumbs left of our heroes’ love lives, it was actually a fictional piece written by playwright Eljay Castro Deldoc, which gained popularity in 2015 and resurfaces every Feb. 14 and Nov. 30. Gregoria del Pilar (or Oryang), did however write “Magmula Giliw, Nang Ikaw ay Pumanaw,” a heartfelt poem about her grief for her late husband.

 

A multi-talented king

You can say Bonifacio was kind of a Renaissance man in his own way. Aside from being a writer himself, he also had great handwriting, even using it for profit by taking commissions to do poster lettering (yes, c’mon freelance artist).

He was also a part-time theater actor, participating in moro-moro plays or village performances depicting battles between Christians and Muslims. And of course, the story we knew since childhood: He crafted canes and fans to sell to the bourgeoisie of his time.

 

Dirt-poor and “Bobong Supremo” whomst’ve?

He was considered lower middle class, was hired by foreign firms and worked as a warehouse keeper for one of those firms.

While depictions of him are camiso and red pants realness, he actually wears a suit and tie in his only surviving photograph.

We’re gonna say it - Andres Bonifacio deserved better - 002

Photo from Wikimedia Commons 

The Bonifacio Shrine at Heroes Park portrayed him as a fierce bolo-wielding leader, but his weapon of choice is a revolver―which is a story on its own, as shit went down during the Tejeros Convention. Some historical accounts say he pointed it at Daniel Tirona, who questioned his lack of formal education and his eligibility as director of interior, insinuating the “Bobong Supremo” rumors flying around the Katipunan.

 

While some personalities with questionable backgrounds get to lay rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the Father of the Katipunan himself and his brothers were never given a proper burial or a permanent resting place.

 

He deserved better (even in death) 

Think about it: How come we’re celebrating Bonifacio Day on his birthday, while we celebrate other heroes’ days on their death days? 

It’s probably because even his death wasn’t very clear. Some historical accounts say he and his brothers were shot in a forest in Cavite, some also say an already badly injured Bonifacio was hacked to death by multiple bolo-wielding soldiers. We don’t know the true story of his passing—and that’s too bad.

While some personalities with questionable backgrounds get to lay rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the Father of the Katipunan himself and his brothers were never given a proper burial or a permanent resting place. It’s slander in full play. The Bonifacio erasure is strong.

Was he a better hero than Rizal? Maybe classroom debates on this forced us to put one over the other, but that’s like K-pop stans arguing who deserves the Artist of the Year award. They’re two faces of a revolution, two heroes who knew each other and recognized the other’s role in achieving their common goal. 

Second fiddle or not, Bonifacio deserved better. 

 

Read more:
Was Jose Rizal the very first softboy?
How were we not taught these stories in Philippine history class?
The future belongs to the revolution

 

Art by Yel Sayo

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