We are aware of how our history is peopled with figures who have become detached from fact and in the process become pawns in the national rigodon of precedence and ideological fashion in our national mythos. And so, despite the resources that have been made available to us, despite the face recalled by portraits, the features cast in bronze, the question must be asked: How well do we know Andres Bonifacio?—The PCDSPO Launch of the Andres Bonifacio Sesquicentennial.
The year-long online commemoration of the Andres Bonifacio Sesquicentennial, launched by the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) on November 2012, should not be seen as an attempt to present a definitive, state-sanctioned portrait of the man many known as the Supremo—who was, in fact, known within the Katipunan not by that moniker but as the Pangulo Nang Haring-Bayang Katagalugan. If anything, the review of Andres Bonifacio’s legacy seeks to encourage among the people a renewed curiosity about an all-too-familiar historical figure—going past templated and rehashed textbook profiles, to survey more in-depth academic reflection and, more importantly, surviving documents from the period and the relevant accounts of Bonifacio’s contemporaries. It is only through a tempered study of available material can we inch closer to discovering the man beneath the trappings of history.
The current installment of the commemoration features a retrospective on—if not a reenactment-on-paper of—the trial of Andres Bonifacio, a trial that was the natural progression from the events and the outcome of the Tejeros Convention. Tejeros was the gathering that, on the surface, sought to become the rudimentary foundations of a Filipino-led government. Its very existence was an act of defiance: The Tejeros Convention, and the revolutionary government that emerged from it, was a decision point with regards to what form of unified collective would ultimately seek to reclaim the country from its centuries-long conquerors.
But Tejeros, too, has been seen as the climax to Andres Bonfiacio’s fall—indeed, it signaled the hasty eviction of a leader from the very revolution that he led. An assembly tainted with its participants’ suspicions of electoral fraud, marked by accusations hurled from both increasingly territorial sides, and featuring a Bonifacio chafing from public insinuations of inadequacy and outraged by the lack of due process—what had been devised as a unifying meet between a revolutionary movement’s factions, between pueblos, between the urbanidad and the provincial only, ultimately, underscored rigid intra-movement alliances.
For Bonifacio to declare thus a mere day later—to release a manifesto describing the disorderliness and the chicanery rife within the Tejeros Estate—to ferociously reject the revolutionary government that had just been established—would cost him his life. He would be tried for treason and sentenced to death in Maragondon, Cavite.
If the Tejeros Assembly set Andres Bonifacio’s demise in motion, the trial that would forevermore bear his name ensured it. We have published the transcript of the Trial of Andres Bonifacio in full, for the public to freely peruse. As an official document of the revolutionary government, it serves as mere record of a legal proceeding—however tarnished that proceeding’s provocations were in the eyes of the accused. We have also published letters and accounts from people who were closely involved in the trial and its participants—personal, highly subjective records from personalities who were contemporaries of Bonifacio, no matter the side they had inevitably chosen—to encourage a parallel reading: on one hand, a state document that merely transcribed the events, on the other, records of prejudices, judgments, colored observations, and myriad attestations. These documents include the Supremo’s voice, and that of his wife, in a kind of counter-interpretation of the trial; and where they emerge, for the last time, as individuals, in contrast to the impersonal defendants’ voices in the judicial record.
Although all of the material have been collated from various institutions, agencies, and scholars, and have now been made available online via the Presidential Museum and Library website, we will likewise be publishing piecemeal sections of the transcript and excerpts from the eyewitness accounts and various reflections throughout the length of the trial’s anniversary, on the following platforms: On the Andres Bonifacio Sesquicentennial Facebook and its attached Twitter handle. Through this online commemoration, the PCDSPO seeks to encourage a careful reflection about the Bonifacio behind the thrust bolo—one that leads to a stronger hypothesis charting how exactly the boy from Tondo rose to our pantheon of heroes.
As we have previously asserted, “the question “How well do we know Andres Bonifacio?” must lead us to asking that perennial yet perpetually relevant question—how well do we know ourselves? For if the past is to be more than a static display of embalmed facts, then it must be become a subject engrossing—and relevant enough—to invite discussion, reinterpretation, and reappreciation by a new generation, as the torch of identity is passed from sesquicentennial to bicentennial, fifty years hence.”
- The Tejeros Convention, a meeting of two factions of the Katipunan which sought to establish a revolutionary government to supersede the Katipunan.
- The Transcript of the Trial, a collection of accounts and documents, such as the testimony of Andres Bonifacio himself.
- The following are the letters and accounts of Bonifacio’s contemporaries, a counterpoint from which to gain a more nuanced perspective of the trial:
- Andres Bonifacio’s Letter to Emilio Jacinto (April 24, 1897)
- Andres Bonifacio’s Letter to Julio Nakpil (April 24, 1897)
- Mrs. Andres Bonifacio’s Letter to Emilio Jacinto Re: Bonifacio’s Arrest
- Mrs. Andres Bonifacio’s Letter to Emilio Jacinto Re: Bonifacio’s Arrest (English Translation)
- General Pantaleon Garcia’s Account of the Revolution
- General Pio del Pilar on the Arrest of Andres Bonifacio
- Francisco Carreon’s Account of the Arrest of Andres Bonifacio
- Artemio Ricarte on the Arrest and Execution of Bonifacio