Rated 4.4 over 5 stars by Google and 4.5 stars by Tripadvisor, the Andres Bonifacio Shrine and Eco-Park in Maragondon, Cavite should live up to its reputation as the “#1 Thing to do” in Cavite City. Reviewers, however, warn you that the roads to the shrine are rough, that after registering at the entrance you have to hike or bike to the actual shrine site which is some distance away, and the most important tip: Make sure the second gate that leads to the shrine is open.
I visited the site in 1996 when it was just a beat-up historical monument, ornamented by graffiti and in the middle of nowhere. When I visited again over a decade later, the site had been spruced up as an eco-resort, but it was still located in the middle of nowhere. What were the developers thinking when they built swimming pools and other forms of merriment on the site where Andres and Procopio Bonifacio were executed?
Teodoro A. Agoncillo told me that historians should make an effort to visit the sites of events they are researching on because despite the change in landscape or disfigurement by later structures, some traces of the past remain. When he visited Maragondon to write the landmark book “The Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan” (1956), the folks there told him: “Kapag nagtapis ng ulap ang Buntis, may masamang mangyayari” (When Mt. Buntis is shrouded with clouds, it is an omen of bad things to come). This bit of information led him to check on almanacs and weather reports for May 10, 1897, the day the Bonifacio brothers were executed, not in Mt. Buntis, but in nearby Mt. Nagpatong.
When I visited Maragondon in 1996, one of my informants pointed at the different mountains on the range and named each one: Pico de Loro, Ilong ng Kastila, and the others that leave a lot to the imagination when arranged in this order: Nagpatong (to lie on top), Pumutok (explode), Buntis (pregnant), and Hulog (fall).
Near the forlorn Bonifacio monument was a clump of alibangbang trees whose fruit is sometimes used as a souring agent for sinigang. The alleged bones of Bonifacio were found in January 1918 by Fr. Lupo S. Dumandan near alibangbang trees. A government committee headed by Guillermo Masangkay visited the site on Jan. 20, 1918, traveling by train from Manila to Naik and by karitela from Naik to Maragondon. They were led to the side of an alibangbang tree on a rise between Nagpatong and Marikaban, near a camarin owned by Jose Reyes, who stored sugar in it.
Excavations began at 10:57 a.m., and by the time they were completed at 12:30 p.m., an assortment of bones, including tibias and a cranium, had been recovered at a depth of three and a half feet. All these were gathered, wrapped carefully, and placed reverently in a molave box. Also found were three buttons allegedly from the shirt of Andres Bonifacio. The remains were left in the custody of the president municipal and set up for veneration, like holy relics, in a room at the casa municipal.
A physical description of the excavation site was provided by Dr. Fidel Cuajunco, who was on the team that did a more detailed analysis of the bones later. He said that they dug toward the alibangbang tree, and at 90 cm touched the forehead of a skull. “Unlike the finding of the femur, the digging of the skull is difficult for the soil around it is compact, showing it had not been touched for a long while. (The remains suggest the body was found on its side) … with lower limbs extended. The forearm must have been flexed over the chest at the time of burial as shown by the position of the radial and ulnar bones of both upper extremities. As in the case of the cranium, the other bones are, with some difficulty, dug out of the compact soil surrounding them. All of the remnants, bones, teeth and buttons, are gathered.”
Reading both the excavation report and the detailed description of the remains is something out of a CSI investigation.
Unfortunately, after the “Bonifacio bones” were exhibited in the Marble Hall of the Ayuntamiento, it generated more questions than answers. These bones then disappeared from the Templo del Legionarios del Trabajo and have not been seen since.
I don’t believe the 1918 “Bonifacio bones” to be authentic. Every year since 1996, on Nov. 30 and May 10, I pray that the Bonifacio brothers will be found somewhere in the Maragondon range, to give us closure.
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