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.
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.