Good Friday graffitti, 1895
April 12, 1895 is a date found in the dustbin of history. It is not familiar to many Filipinos as: June 12 (1898), Independence Day; Nov. 30 (1863), Andres Bonifacio’s birthday; or Dec. 30 (1896), Jose Rizal’s execution. These “significant” dates, drilled into our memory by textbook history, annually reinforced with national holidays, have pushed April 12 into the limbo of the insignificant, even if it is one of a handful of dates that could seriously be considered Philippine Independence Day instead of June 12.
During Holy Week 1895, from Holy Tuesday to Black Saturday, Andres Bonifacio and his men explored the Montalban area in search of a suitable base to regroup and launch a military attack on Manila at the outbreak of the Philippine revolution against Spain. Pamitinan Cave not only provided shelter, but it was also associated with “tulisanes” living outside the limits of Spanish authority. Pamitinan was also associated with the legendary Bernardo Carpio who produced earthquakes when he struggled to free himself from the chains that bound him to the cave. Two of the most devastating earthquakes to hit Luzon occurred in 1863 and 1880, the former rocked Intramuros and brought down: the Spanish Governor-general’s palace, the Manila Cathedral, and the Ayuntamiento (City Hall).
On April 12, 1895, Good Friday, Bonifacio and his men entered Pamitinan Cave and raised the cry of revolution. Teodoro M. Kalaw described this dramatically in “The Philippine Revolution” (1925) as follows:
“… [A]nd penetrating farther into the depths of the cave, in the midst of a shadowy silence, isolated from the world and protected by the solitude from the Spanish authorities they wrote on the walls with a piece of charcoal, Long Live Philippine Independence! These words written by a trembling hand, betrayed the ideal of the Katipunan and the principal objective of these conspirators, they constituted, in truth, the first cry of the rebellion against Spain.”
Kapampangan playwright, Aurelio Tolentino, in a short 1908 autobiography wrote:
“In 1894 (sic), Andres Bonifacio with more than seven companions and I went to Pamitinan Cave in San Mateo [Rizal] where we initiated into the Katipunan, an old man, Felix, chief of all the remontados and outlaws that lived in those forests. With charcoal, we wrote on the wall inside the cave the words: ‘Viva la Independencia de Filipinas!’”In Pamitinan Cave with Bonifacio were Francisco del Castillo, Candido Iban, Emilio Jacinto, Faustino Mañalak, Guillermo Masangkay, Aguedo del Rosario, Aurelio Tolentino and others. As I imagine it, April 12, 1895, being Good Friday, the Katipuneros were bound by Pinoy Lenten traditions: no baths, no laughing, no loud chatter after 3 p.m., the traditional time Jesus Christ breathed his last while nailed to the cross. Hidden inside a cave, far from the guardia civil or gossipy friars, the Katipuneros could have proclaimed Philippine independence with appropriate vigor and volume, but they had to restrain their enthusiasm because it was Viernes Santo. Instead of a loud show of defiance, Bonifacio wrote graffiti on a damp cave wall the darkness dispelled by torchlight. Under the words, Viva la independencia de Filipinas, each man in the cave signed their names as witnesses.
In 1931, Guillermo Masangkay led an expedition to Pamitinan where the faint traces of the first cry of rebellion could still be found. I have yet to find a photograph of this cave inscription but contemporary accounts provided the basis for the installation of a bronze historical marker on the cave on April 12, 1997. Marker text, translated from the original Filipino reads:
“Pamitinan Cave. A number of secret Katipunan meetings, presided over by Andres Bonifacio, were held in this cave including the initiation and oath-taking of new Katipunan members in April 1895. Townspeople know it as the Cave of Bernardo Carpio and believe that the legendary hero was imprisoned and chained within by his enemies. The cave was used by early settlers as a burial site and a place to worship anitos. Proclaimed by the National Historical Institute as a National Historical Landmark on June 21, 1998 …”
Aside from church observances, Holy Week is traditionally the time to acquire or recharge anting-anting. Good Friday 1895 should be commemorated as one of the milestones of the Philippine revolution.
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