The trivialization of Gat Andres Bonifacio

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THE Father of the Revolution — except for outlier nations —is the Father of the Republic. The tribute to a founding father is universally at a scale of Mt. Rushmore’s – so designed to make that tribute endure. And to carve the tribute into the hearts of the citizens through generations.

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Or, a tribute which magnitude is about the same as the tribute that Gran Colombia (Hispanic — America) pays to Simon Bolivar, its liberator.

Days after celebrating the de facto Bonifacio Day, this question should be asked. How, as a nation and as a people, have we honored Gat Andres Bonifacio, the Father of the Revolution? Other than the fact that he suffered from the “ great snub” and was bypassed in the choice of our national hero, we have three painful and truthful answers. These are:

By betraying his ideals.

By trivializing his greatness.
By the blissful acceptance of the rule of the local political elite who in earlier times loathed and murdered Gat Andres.

The Philippines today is nowhere near the republic that Bonifacio dreamed of building from the wreckage of the revolution. Borrowing from the high ideals of the French Revolution, Gat Andres wrote of a society based on the three principles of liberty, fraternity and egalitarianism. Egalitarianism was not only a borrowed concept. It was, for Bonifacio, a building block for the new country.

Without men being equal, Bonifacio, saw a society that was like the one he sought to vanquish —where the Indios like him had slave-like status.

Past the first ten years of the 21st century, Bonifacio’s dream to build an egalitarian society remains as elusive as ever. Deeply entrenched is patrimonial wealth combined with a new class of dollar billionaires that own much of the country, not more than 100 families really. Old wealth and relatively recent wealth control every significant economic sector, down to the brisk sale of sweetened fried bananas and sweetened chickened in the retail establishments.

Below is the teeming mass that has to make do with the crumbs that have not been captured by the superrich.

The current incarnation of Bonifacio’s Indios work as janitors, food attendants and baggage boys in the retail and food establishment of the oligarchy – whose cash registers thrive off the spending of workers in overseas diasporas so vastly spread around the globe that you can find them manning general goods store during summer in places very near the arctic.

There is no decree on what the current incarnation of Indios can wear. But the camisa chino of Bonifacio’s years is the smelly polyester shirts of the current Indios—on the brink of breakdown after a few washings.

The exploitative, closed-off society that planted the seeds of Katipunan’s founding is not much different from the closed-off society that we have today. Only the masses are fed with technology-driven diversions and circuses. There is no decree that says you cannot aspire beyond the pay grade of your father. But in a closed-off society, the barriers that one had to hurdle to get to the top are a virtual Walled City, like the Intramuros in Bonifacio’s time.

The pace of social and economic mobility today is as painfully slow and no faster, no higher now than during Bonifacio’s time.

The educational system, which abets elite rule not the promotion of meritocracy, does not really teach the ideals of Bonifacio in-depth as this would challenge the status quo, which preservation is embedded in the system. Bonifacio, at a time the buzz among the local elite was about reforms through compromises with the colonizers, argued that the only way out of our misery was an armed revolt. He was not even a wild-eyed radical. He started as a reformist within the La Liga, who gradually realized that the intelligentsia, bickering and ego-tripping most of the time, was hopelessly clinging to reforms that would never come.

At the Cry of Balintawak, Gat Andres’s cry of “ freedom” was more passionate than the pained cry of the fictional Braveheart.

There are institutional, but mostly superficial, ways of honoring Gat Andres Bonifacio. He is mostly reduced to a nomenclature: public elementary and high schools, insignificant streets, a few towns and barrios bearing his name.

Oh, there is a high-profile place named after him, a business district called Bonifacio Global City that recently got in the news for a tender of P500,000 per every square meter of land there, a record-high and a price-setter in the country. The BGC is unabashedly an enclave of big money and big business.

That the most prominent place named for him is a towering anti-thesis of the egalitarian society that he dreamed of building must have dealt Gat Andres another act of betrayal and a second death.

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8 Comments

  1. The last sentence should read ” Educating our children not to be victims is a place to start.”

  2. I don’t understand how naming every street in the country, Bonifacio facilitates awareness of the hero’s ideals or even forces people to treat each other more humanely. However, I acknowledge that the primacy of Bonifacio on the list of heroes would somehow prick the conscience of a few. Further, I would reason that it would take more than a constant preaching to those in power to change course in creating an egalitarian society. To my knowledge no country shoots for an egalitarian society anymore. It sounds noble and makes advocates feel good about themselves whenever they echo it before an audience and reverberates beyond their earshot. But this is a fool’s errand. Having Bonifacio the alpha hero of the country, I submit, is the least of the country’s problem. Absolutely, I would agree with you that the biggest chance for our people to liberate themselves from poverty is education. I am not privy anymore as to the quality of our education since I left the country more than two decades ago. But the nursing schools appear to be doing something right because hospitals here in the US continue to be staffed with Filipino nurses. I heard a US hospital administrator say of our nurses, “they are sharp as a tack.” If we could replicate how our nurses are being trained and educated, and apply them in different disciplines, we may inch up and democratize success even further. Having worked as a social worker here in the US, I would like to add that the biggest deterrent for one to succeed remains a person’s world-view. All my clients are disadvantaged by a victim mentality, so, they needed government subsidy because on their own they cannot make it. Their grandparents and parents were on government aids because they feel victimized by a government and business establishment. This world-view is passed on through generation. One or two who will blaze a different path but majority will be on government subsidy. Educating our children not be victims is place to…

  3. The Barriers are real Take for example the case of a wannabe entrepreneur. Before you can start a business you have to register it with the corresponding govt department, agency or bureau. If that particular group has been captured by an Oligarch, chances for the small fry to make a competing product wont prosper. The Govt in the person of the dept head or director himself will ask for some enormous backshish even before you can start a business.
    This is the invisible choke-hold of the oligarchs. Other examples are:

    Land Reform – Hacienda Luisita is a prime example of Reform “Gone Wild”
    Farmers – Coconut Levy hijacked by the cronies and until now 30 plus years later still being litigated. Ony the laywers and judges get “Milk from This Cow”.

    Workers- The Permanent Temp as exemplified by SM salegirls – well i for one want to see a pretty face when I shop but then…

    GOCCs – perennialy in debt and at a loss. If these were private companies they would have declared bunkruptcy. But then again nobody actually loses his money in Pilipinas. Even the well-connected can have their companies run like the “Living Dead” enterprises.

    There’s more…

  4. Its because Bonifacio lost the revolution, and the same forces that he fought are still in power. Its these same forces that have made the likes of BS Aquino’s father a national hero. Make of that what you will.

  5. Bonifacio X 100,000,000 = now a days OFWs. Both are “No Class” by the standards of the ruling elites. Greatness of both are celebrated by mere words only. Let these ruling elites know of the second coming of the revolution. This time we know how to……..you were forewarned.

  6. Bonifacio Claudio on

    Bravo !!! More of this kind in the media will certainly give credit where it is due. The elite version of Bonifacio putting his hand in signing an admission for TREASON before a tribunal had been ridiculed by our grade school social studies teacher (in 1957) on the ground that Bonifacio had his arms first debilitated by stab wounds & then to his death on a mountain earlier on by the Cavite katipuneros on orders of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the Honorable, to get rid of Bonifacio once & for all. For all indictments, why TREASON? Bonifacio founded the Katipunan for LOVE OF COUNTRY & for the fight for FREEDOM & INDEPENDENCE of his Inang Bayan from the rule of foreign invaders which he sought to overthrow. TREASON?!!!

  7. Jose A. Oliveros on

    Fifty years ago – that was 1964 – to commemorate the centennial of Bonifacio’s birth, Plaza Lawton in Manila was re-named Liwasang Bonifacio. But until today, even as the nation celebrated Bonifacio’s 150th birth anniversary last year, that place is still called “Plaza Lawton” or simply “Lawton” in signboards of public utility vehicles, in newspaper, TV and radio reports and ironically, even in government announcements about traffic re-routing or events to be held on that place. A few years back, I had a chance to talk to former Miss International Gemma Cruz-Araneta, then head of the Manila Historical Commission and I asked here whether high officials of the City of Manila noticed that while they were celebrating Bonifacio’s birthday at the Bonifacio Shrine near Manila’s City Hall, public utility vehicles passing that area carry the signboard LAWTON; and not LIWASANG BONIFACIO. All that she could say was: “Oo nga, ano? Bakit ganoon?