Aguinaldo’s controversial interview
A large and important painting by National Artist Jose Joya sold at auction last Saturday for a record-breaking P100 million, or about $2 million, thus stealing the limelight from the sale of three original letters by Andres Bonifacio that sold for P8.3 million together with a very, very expensive envelope that contained one of the Bonifacio letters to Emilio Jacinto, that sold for P2.8 million. If it were not for Robin Padilla who bid for one of the letters and went home disappointed and empty-handed, media attention would have only covered the Joya and other multimillion-peso works of art sold.
We do not know who bought the Bonifacio documents or if all four pieces went to just one or different bidders. Those who insist that these should have been acquired by our cultural agencies should know that they cannot spend what is not in their annual budget appropriated by Congress. Besides, the Commission on Audit will disallow acquisition at auction. Scholars have access to these papers since they have been made widely available online by the auction house. These documents are just a handful known to historians, there are a lot more waiting to be mined both in the National Library of the Philippines—that has, among many others, the thousands of documents known as the “Philippine Revolutionary Records”—and the “Sediciones y Rebeliones” bundles and other materials in the National Archives. More lie in wait in archives and libraries in Europe and the United States so instead of ranting over spilled milk, that effort is better directed at renewed archival research. Even 19th-century Spanish and US newspapers, some available online, contribute toward a clearer picture of the tragic events that gave birth to the nation.
Jose Barroso, correspondent of El Imparcial, interviewed Emilio Aguinaldo in Calumpit on Dec. 26, 1897, and he opened with these fawning lines:
“I have heard that you represent El Imparcial of Madrid. I am glad to know it. I ask you to tell: our beloved Queen, His Majesty King Alfonso XIII, the government of Señor Sagasta, Spain, and the entire world of our loyalty to Spain, our unconditional adherence to the royal family, the government and laws of our fatherland.
“The patriotism I speak of today will be unchangeable. We took the field not because we wished for separation from the mother country, which gave us her laws, her religion, her customs, her language, and her way of thinking, but because we are tired of bearing the material and moral burden of that arch, the keystone of which in our country [are] the friars.
“It is quite true that the Katipunan instilled in us another desire — that of independence — but that desire was unattainable, and moreover it was in opposition to our sentiments. It served as the banner of Andres Bonifacio, a cruel man whom I ordered shot and with his death the Katipunan disappeared.”
Our jaws dropped at these opening lines. Was Aguinaldo misquoted? Was something lost in transmission or translation because Barroso stated that: “Aguinaldo did not express himself in correct Spanish, but sufficiently clearly to be perfectly understood.”
Aguinaldo remarked that: “The combats in Cavite were directed by myself and by several of those who are here, and that of San Francisco de Malabon [now General Trias] was directed by me and not by Andres Bonifacio, as is said. He had little power with our people since no one cared for him.”
Perhaps no one in Cavite cared for Bonifacio, who should not have allowed a snap election in Tejeros without the participation of representatives from areas outside Cavite. Anyone who says Aguinaldo cheated in Tejeros should look again —Aguinaldo was not in the room when he was elected, and looking beyond the names of those elected and focusing on their affiliation, Aguinaldo was the only Magdalo elected that afternoon. All of the officials in the revolutionary government that replaced the Katipunan were Magdiwang, his faction and that of his wife’s relatives. Bonifacio was betrayed by the Magdiwang to whom he had misplaced his trust. This is a warning to all Filipino presidents, your allies will drop affiliations and swarm to the winner like bees to honey.
Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo
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