There is a move in the House of Representatives to declare Andres Bonifacio a national hero. Not the national hero, as that title has already been bestowed upon Dr. Jose Rizal, aka the Great Malayan.
Gat Andres can still be declared a national hero, as there is no rule that says only one person can be declared as such. Recall that there was a similar debate when Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was assassinated in 1986. His legions of followers wanted him declared a national hero. Not much came out of that debate, except that millions of Filipinos do consider Ninoy Aquino a national hero, be it official or not.
We daresay that the current President Aquino—son and namesake of Ninoy—would not have been elected as the Philippines’ chief executive were it not for the strength of his name and blood ties.
But heroes are as much a creation of their times as they are of their environment. One can be born to lead, while others are thrown into a situation that forces them to assume the mantle of leadership.
The latter is true for Bonifacio, who was born in the Tondo district of Manila. He refused to let his poverty bring him down, and he devoted his short life to fighting for the freedom of his country. Our country. There may not even be a Republic of the Philippines as we know it today were it not for this man who founded the Katipunan.
His ragtag crew of the first Katipuneros fought a guerilla war against the colonizers, and this paved that way for the more successful revolution against Spain, led by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.
Certainly, it can be argued that Aguinaldo might have eventually led the groundswell of discontent against the Spanish colonizers into a full-blown revolution, but without Andres Bonifacio leading the first skirmishes against the better armed invaders, it might have taken much longer to stoke the fires.
Bonifacio inspired the people, but was ill-prepared for the politics that was necessary to turn the mass movement he founded into an actual de facto government.
This then was his tragedy. He was a man of the masses, who found himself forced out of the government being created by Aguinaldo’s Magdalós, who belonged mostly to the ilustrado class.
No wonder Gat Andres remains the idol of both the nationalist and the Leftist movement alike.
And while we now believe that the Left is fighting for a cause whose time is long passed, the nationalist cause is eternal. It is for this reason that the greatness of Andres Bonifacio continues to grow a full century and a half after his birth.
There are even those who say that it is Gat Andres rather than Jose Rizal who should be the national hero.
There is no need to delve into semantics. The country has had its share of heroes, and no one can doubt that in that particular Parthenon, the Manila-born revolutionary stands tall.
Jose Rizal may be considered as the Great Malayan, but Andres Bonifacio should likewise be revered as the Great Filipino.
The spirit of Bonifacio lives on in every one of us who refuses to be oppressed and who is willing to fight for a cause we believe in.