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Bonifacio’s love life

/ 05:32 AM November 30, 2018

Human beings have the inborn talent of warping the best of their creations. Gunpowder, invented in the 9th century for medicinal use and entertainment as firecrackers, were later used for warfare. Social media, originally created to bring people together, has developed into an arena for divisiveness, hate and fake news.

Three decades ago, when I took Philippine history from the academic ivory tower and, through newspapers, gave it back to ordinary people where it also belongs, I intended to entertain and inform. Research was often from primary sources, in languages I could read like Pilipino, Spanish, French and some German, Italian and Latin I could discern from context. Early on, I reexamined historical controversies, hoping to bring some to resolution through research.

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But fake news maintains a life of its own, carried not by facts but by people who cite “my information” but build on what they believe whether it is right, wrong or merely incomplete. Three decades ago, for instance, I wrote an article to disprove the persistent rumor that Andres Bonifacio sired a child in Albay. I am surprised that the issue has been resurrected.

To recap, Santo Domingo is a town in Albay whose original name Libog (pronounced Lib-og, the Bikol word for hazy or blurred) was the butt of jokes from Tagalog speakers who took the word to mean horny, lewd or lascivious. Libog, in Old Tagalog, was lust. Libog was an appropriate name for a town where Andres Bonifacio’s supposed child Francisca Baloloy was born.

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Prewar historian and collector Dr. Jose P. Bantug identified a “white” naturalist collecting specimens in Albay, sometime around 1894-1895, as John Foreman, author of “The Philippine Islands” (1899), and his taxidermist and valet as “Andres.” To cut the story short, Andres left a local girl, Genoveva Baloloy, with child, who was christened Francisca. In 1897, following the eruption of Mayon, Genoveva and her daughter Francisca moved to Irosin, Sorsogon, where they lived in quiet obscurity until a monument to Andres Bonifacio was erected in town. Genoveva then claimed that the man in the statue was Francisca’s father!

News traveled to Manila, interviews were made, affidavits were signed and notarized. It made a splash for a while, until historians pointed out that Bonifacio was never anywhere even near Albay in the years 1894-1895. Also, a check through Foreman’s book did not yield any references to a taxidermist assistant named Andres.

As late as 1957, Elias Ataviado, historian of the revolution in Bikol, found informants with stories to tell about a certain Andres Celestino, a taxidermist in the employ of the prewar Bureau of Science in Manila, who admitted to an affair in Albay.

Textbook history and Wikipedia, of course, point to Gregoria de Jesus of Caloocan as Bonifacio’s wife, she who became the Lakambini or Muse of the Katipunan. She is rather well-documented, having written a short memoir, “Mga Tala ng Aking Buhay” (1930), and left a paper trail in the Philippine National Archives, where a folder of documents details how her parents hid her from Andres by taking her from the family home in Caloocan and locking her up in an apartment in Binondo.

Gregoria or Oryang was able to write a letter to the gobernadorcillo of Binondo in October 1893 seeking his help for her release, and permission to marry against parental objection. Oryang appears again in the 1897 transcripts of Bonifacio’s trial for treason, where she reported the repeated attempts of an officer in the arresting party to rape her. Oryang’s voice speaks to us through prewar interviews and a handful of writings.

To complicate matters, the prewar magazine Lipang Kalabaw published the unsigned article “Ang Buhay sa Pag-ibig ni Andres Bonifacio” (The Love Life of Andres Bonifacio), which stated that he had two “wives” before Oryang. The first was identified as a beautiful lass named Monica who lived in a nipa hut in Palomar, Tondo. Bonifacio allegedly came to court Monica with his friend Antonio Vazquez, who was wooing Monica’s sister. Bonifacio and Monica eloped and they had three children, but Bonifacio was widowed when Monica and her children were wiped out by leprosy. Then Bonifacio holed up with a certain “Teang,” who made him a widower twice over.

If anyone can validate the above or contribute anything new to the Baloloy Baloney being spread by the ignorant, it will add to the little we know of Bonifacio’s private life.

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Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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