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Looking Back

A new — and mystifying — Bonifacio document

/ 04:04 AM November 27, 2019

Whether by coincidence or design, historical documents from the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War go on the block each November at the “Kingly Treasures Auction” at León Gallery, requiring me to examine and document stray bits of our history before they leave one private collection, only to disappear into another. I do not agree with “Sentimentals” who insist that these should be in the National Museum — whose mandate, by the way, does not cover historic materials — because it is precisely the lure of high auction returns that have brought these documents momentarily into the open.

Since I am allergic to book dust, a complete high-resolution copy works better for me than any delicate original. An antiquarian lusts after originals, the historian only needs the content.

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For many years now, I have browsed in vain in antique shops in search of cedulas or poll tax receipts from 1896, to show my students what Andres Bonifacio tore up when he incited people to join the revolution. Alas, everything I have come across are from the early 20th century or the American period, but I did stumble upon the cedula of Julian Felipe, composer of the national anthem, and which I acquired for P35. Seeing many samples of original cedulas up for auction revealed 16 different kinds, depending on income. My students will just have to bear with photos in a slideshow.

Just when I thought we had seen the last of original documents by Andres Bonifacio, something unusual and unexpected has turned up — a ciphered document that has most people scratching their heads, asking: “Ano daw?”

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The document happens to be one of the earliest Katipunan documents to have ended up in private hands. To give you an idea of what I had to decode, the opening lines read: “Sz bzyzll llg Vzyllnjz llgzyllg [Sa bayan ng Maynila ng ay ng] Nkzdzjzwz llg Sqtñqvbzq llg tzellg ñszllg [ikadalawa ng Setiembre ng taong isang] Jñbe wgjellg dzll zt sñyzvllz pxc ztdz [Libo walong dan at siyamna puc atda].”

In Manila on Sept. 2, 1892, Restituto Javier signed his Katipunan oath in blood and was given a commission to form a Katipunan cell in Mindanao —or, if there was one already existing, appointing him to head it. Only the last page of this document has been published in books by Adrian Cristobal and Jim Richardson, so just to put this in the public domain, with apologies for any minor mistakes due to my Inquirer deadline, the rest of the decoded text in Tagalog reads:

“[da]lawa nangag ipon ang Hukuman ng Kataastaaang Katipunan, upang tangapin nang tapat na panunumpa ang bagong Kakapatid na nakasanib sa mababait at matapang na Kabig ng Katipunan, sa Kagalang-galang na harap nilang Kaginoohan ay dumulog si Ginoong Restituto Habier at Agilar na iniatas na, sa lupang Mindanao, siyang maging Pinakakatawan nitong Mataas na Katipunan at pinahihintulutang mag hasik ng binhing pinakakalat, kung sakaling wala pa at kung mayron ay magtatag naman ng Katipunang magiging Bangan ng balang maani at siya ang sa ngayon ay Pangulo doon.

“Pagkatapos na mapagtalastas ang mahigpit na mga Katungkulang yaon at iba pang mga paunawa na nauukol sampuo ng mababaksik na tanga sa balang hindi tumupad ng tapat sa puso at loob at nanumpa sa aming harap na sukod ang magugol ang lahat nitanggi at buhay ay pipiliting matupad ang Kaniyang naturang Katunglulan at gayon din naman tutuparin at ipatutupad ang mga Dakilang Kautusang hinaharap at haharapin sa nitong Kataastaasang Katipunan. Matapos ang ganong panunumpa ay siya’y pinagbilinan na ang balang magagawa ay ipagbigay alam dito sa Ubod sa balang magiging pasiya.

“Ang Maginoong Nangungulo ay ang pasiya na bigyang hanga at ihinto itong pagpupulong tuloy siyang ang prima sumunod na gumagawa ang nanunumpa ng kaniyang tunay na dugo, at ang ibang kaguinoohan na Tagausig at manga Kasanguni na ngayo’y ang kakabilog at isa sa kanila’y akong Kalihim na nag papatotoo.

“Ang Nangungulo Ang Kinatwan [sgd.] Pangligtas [Teodoro Plata]. Ang nanunumpa [sgd.] Mangahas [Restituto Javier y Aguilar]. Tagausig [sgd.] Baliti [Ladislao Diwa]. Kasanguni [sgd.] Walangulat [Valentin Diaz]. Kalihim [sgd.] Maypagasa [Andres Bonifacio].”

Previous documents sold at auction were signed “Andres Bonifacio” in Roman letters that also provided his Katipunan name, “Maypagasa,” the name written in code and almost ignored in this document. What this document suggests is that the Katipunan was not just for Tagalogs, but covered Mindanao, too.

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Comments are welcome at [email protected] ateneo.edu

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TAGS: ambeth ocampo, andres bonifacio, Katipunan documents, Looking Back, Philipine history
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