By: Penn T. Larena
Filipino historians call Andres Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan movement, a movement which sought the independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule. He was also named as the “First President of the Philippines”, but Bonifacio does have a claim to the title, not only because he came to be elected president of the “Tagalog Republic” — which the Katipuneros organized formally as a government parallel to the Katipunan movement.
The national hero Andres Bonifacio was born Nov. 30, 1863, in the slum area of Tondo, Manila. He was orphaned at an early age when his parents died in 1870's, which he had to quit school to help support his younger siblings. He founded the Katipunan, a secret society open to both peasants and the middle class after Jose Rizal was arrested by the Spanish authorities in July 1892. Bonifacio proclaimed Filipino Independence on August 23, 1896, in the Cry of Pugad Lawin.
Andres was 19 years old when he had to forgo his dreams of attaining a college education because he had to work and earn the income to support his siblings and be their mother and father.
He worked for a British trading company, J.M. Fleming & Co., as the purchasing manager for raw materials. Later he moved to the German company, Fressell & Co., to work as the warehouseman.
According to Biography.com, he absorbed the teachings of classic rationalism from the works of José Rizal, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Eugène Sue's The Wandering Jew, books on the French Revolution, and the lives of the presidents of the United States, Bonifacio acquired an understanding of the dynamics of the sociohistorical process. This led him to join the Liga Filipina, which Rizal organized in 1892 to unite and intensify the nationalist movement for reforms.
Andres Bonifacio was the first person to initiate the revolt against the Spanish authorities, but Bonifacio is not well-celebrated as compared to Jose Rizal. The Katipunan organization also was not solely about revolution, it also provided aid to the society and education to the poor, as the less fortunate Filipinos were not allowed formal education during the Spanish Era.
Bonifacio joined Jose Rizal’s La Liga Filipina, which Rizal formed in 1892—soon after he was allowed to return to Manila from exile—to promote reforms in the Spanish colonial administration and improve the lives of the Filipinos. But the Spanish colonial authorities suspected Rizal of aiming for rebellion, revolution, and then independence, and promptly arrested Rizal after the Liga held its only meeting.
According to Dr. Gerard Jude Bumanglag, a patriot and a poet, Bonifacio's influence and legacy can be seen in every Filipino even in our present society up to now.
Despite the complication in our modern times compared to their era, his heroism is still and should always be relevant in the hearts of every Filipino.He showed great courage during the colonial times and fought in the battle which started our freedom and Philippine Independence.
Happy 158th Birth Anniversary Gat. Andres Bonifacio!