Bonifacio’s bolo: ‘Sangbartolome’ | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

Bonifacio’s bolo: ‘Sangbartolome’

Last Sunday, I went on a road trip covering Valenzuela, Pampanga, and Bulacan, tracing the footsteps of men who figured in the birth of the nation. Over 14 hours spent in a moving van, with short stops to document: the grave of Pio Valenzuela, the home of Mariano Ponce, and the birthplaces of Marcelo H. del Pilar and Gregorio del Pilar. We visited old churches where I read history off tombstones on the walls or on the floor.


Documenting almost a dozen historical markers scattered around Barasoain church inspired more questions than answers. Why do our textbooks refer to the Malolos Republic? Should it be the Barasoain or Bulacan Republic instead? Was Malolos chosen because the church was the “presidencia,” the site of Emilio Aguinaldo’s home and headquarters? The town was groaning with history, and as we navigated the narrow and crowded Malolos streets going toward Marcelo del Pilar’s birthplace, Ian Alfonso of the National Historical Commission pointed out the sites of the different government departments. None of these sites had structures dating from the revolutionary period or earlier. Antonio Luna’s former office is now a gasoline station.

It was a tiring day that ended with a stop in front of a well-lighted barangay hall off Edsa. Frankly, all I looked forward to at that point was a hot shower and bedtime. I was too polite to say I was not in the mood for yet another historical marker, but I am glad I walked to Barangay Apolonio Samson, District 3, Quezon City to see white squat memorial erected in 1917, hidden behind a parked ambulance, on it was a marble tablet that read: “Sa pook na ito ipinasiya ng K.K.K.N.M.A.N.B. ang panghihimagsik noong ika 23 ng Agosto ng 1896.” This site perked me up: It is one of the contested sites for the so-called “First Cry” of the Philippine Revolution, officially declared in 1963 to have happened on another date, Aug. 26, 1896. And another place, Pugad Lawin. All this went against half a century of tradition that remembered and cherished the “Cry of Balintawak.”


Historians have gone through the sources many times over and, basically, these are the “facts” from various sources: For prewar historian Leandro H. Fernandez, the place is Balintawak, the date Aug. 20, 1896. For Pio Valenzuela, it is Pugad Lawin, Aug. 23, 1896. For Spanish lieutenant Olegario Diaz, it is Balintawak, Aug. 24, 1896. For Santiago Alvarez, revolutionary general who went under the name “Apoy,” it is Bahay Toro, Aug. 25, 1896. For Gregoria de Jesus, “Lakambini” or muse of the Katipunan and wife of Andres Bonifacio, it is Pasong Tamo, Aug. 25, 1896. A historical marker plots the place as Kangkong and the date Aug. 26, 1896. Historian Milagros C. Guerrero said the event happened on Tandang Sora’s farm in what is now Gulod, Barangay Banlat, Quezon City. One historian, in a 1996 forum, proposed a wildcard date: Sept. 5, 1896!

One could say that too many cooks spoil the broth, and it was only the historian Teodoro M. Kalaw who embraced all of the above dates by stating that the revolution sparked in Balintawak, “during the last days of August 1896.” Is this the reason why National Heroes Day is not specific, but changes each year depending on the date of the last Sunday in August? Is National Heroes Day pegged to the Cry of Balintawak or the disastrous Battle of Pinaglabanan that, contrary to popular belief, led to a loss for the Katipuneros? I have said this many times before, that if you plot all the contested sites mentioned on a 19th-century map, you will find them all in the area once known as Balintawak. Things became complicated later by the fluid modern boundaries of Caloocan and Quezon City.

A postscript to this historiographical debate was contributed by Ramon Lucas, whose family runs the historic Rufina Patis factory in Malabon. During the recent town fiesta, Aug. 24, he bought me a “sangbartolome,” the type of bolo used by Andres Bonifacio. It is said that on his way to Balintawak on Aug. 23, 1896, Bonifacio was challenged at checkpoints for carrying a bladed weapon. He was waved through after saying he was attending the Malabon fiesta of San Bartolome. Thus, Malabon’s contribution to Philippine history is not just pancit, patis, and pichi-pichi but Bonifacio’s iconic bolo.


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TAGS: balintawak, mariano ponce, Pio Valenzuela, Quezon City, VALENZUELA
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