Looking Back

Who said Bonifacio overslept?

Fake news in the Philippines is not new. If one takes the trouble to trace the sources that contribute to the construction of Philippine history as we know it, one will find some glaring examples of once esteemed sources proven false. A manuscript, written in Katipunan code, acquired by the National Library in October 1927 from one David Cortes of Sta. Cruz, Laguna, was published in 1930 as “Pinagtatalunang Akta ng Katipunan.” Some Katipuneros pronounced the document spurious, others claimed it was authentic but with some factual errors. Some held that the decoded manuscript was completely false to mislead the Spaniards.

To flush out the truth, T. M. Kalaw published these “controversial” minutes, declaring: “Therefore, speak! Those who like to contradict, explain! Give your own opinion! Opinions are needed now, so that this document may be truly judged.”


In 1964 the National Heroes Commission published an English translation from the original Tagalog as “Minutes of the Katipunan” and was reprinted in 1978 by the National Historical Institute. By then people had judged the book by its cover and assumed its contents to be real. All these doubtful primary sources continue to challenge historians.

Before the Ateneo Press made Santiago V. Alvarez’s “Ang Katipunan at Paghihimagsik” accessible through Paula Carolina S. Malay’s translation from the original Tagalog into English, I had to cope with O.D. Corpuz’s grainy photocopy of the original as serialized in Sampagita from July 1927 to April 1928. Reading Alvarez was a pleasure not just for his easy conversational style but also for the many details he recounted that added flesh and color to the monochromatic representations in textbook history, monuments, and commemorations.

In Chapter 9 of Alvarez’s memoirs, the first battle cry of the Katipunan was made to coincide with the pealing of the church bells that marked 9 p.m. on Aug. 29, 1896. Contrary to popular belief, the order to charge shouted
by Andres Bonifacio was not the Tagalog “Sugod!” but the Spanish “Avance!”

Around 11 p.m. after the attack on Mandaluyong, Bonifacio and his men headed to San Juan del Monte where they were to attack the water reservoir despite the advice of a Katipunero in the area to delay for a day. Valentin Cruz and 300 men from Santolan joined Bonifacio and his men in San Juan. Before the planned simultaneous attack on Manila from different points at midnight, the Katipuneros decided to rest. And according to Alvarez:

“Ang Supremo ay nagpasya sa mga bagong dating, na huwag silang humiwalay sa kanyang hukbo; at makaraan ang ilang saglit nang pamamamahinga at pag-uusap-usap, binunot ng Supremo Bonifacio ang kanyang orasan at ganyan na lamang ang kanyang pagkakagulantang, nang makitang ika-4 oras na pala ng umaga araw ng lingo, ika 30 ng Agosto 1896. Dahil dito’y nakalampas ang ika-12 oras ng gabi na di nagawa ang pagpapalipad ng lobo o pagpapaputok ng kanyon, na siyang salitaan at gagawaing hudyatan ng pagsasabay-sabay na kilos, at pinakaaantay ng mga taga-Lalawigan….”

(The Supremo decided that the newcomers would not separate from their troops, and after a short while of resting and chatting, he pulled out his watch and was surprised and dismayed to see it was 4 a.m., Sunday, Aug. 30, 1896. It was four hours since the time agreed upon, so it was too late to release the balloons or fire the shots that were to signal to the troops in the province the start of the coordinated uprising…”)

I always understood that passage to mean that Bonifacio took a nap and overslept, leading to the cancellation of the planned attack on Manila. I stand corrected after the eminent historian Jim Richardson asked basic questions: How did the “natulog si Bonifacio” story come about when Alvarez does not specifically say he slept? How are we to understand “ilang saglit nang pamamahinga at pag-uusap-usap”? Even if Bonifacio slept, why did no one notice the signal for the uprising was four hours late? How come no one awakened Bonifacio? Did Bonifacio and his men have cannons and balloons for the signals? And if they did, would these be seen or heard outside Manila when made from San Juan?

Alvarez was not present in San Juan and merely recounted what he heard. I guess it’s time to put the “natulog si
Bonifacio” story to rest.
Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: andres bonifacio, decoded manuscript, fake news, Katipunan code, Philippine history
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