Tandang Sora home on her 200th birthday
Two hundred years ago today, Juan and Valentina Aquino,residents of Barrio Banlat, Balintawak, Caloocan (now Quezon City), picked a name for their newborn daughter from a calendar. Jan. 6, 1812, was the Feast of the Three Kings, whose names are not listed in the Bible that only describes them as wise men or magi.
However, they have been traditionally known as Gaspar, Melchor and Baltazar. When the Aquinos discarded Gaspara and Baltazara for Melchora, they left a name that would be highlighted in Philippine history: Melchora Aquino.
Why is she known as Melchora Aquino if she was married to Fulgencio Ramos? In the Spanish
fashion, her married name was Melchora Aquino de Ramos. When she was widowed she became Melchora Aquino vda. de Ramos. Her husband served as cabeza de barangay and was called “capitan,” not a military rank but a civil title also conferred on his spouse. Thus, in the memoirs of the revolutionist Santiago Alvarez, she is addressed as “Kapitanang Melchora.”
A senior citizen all of 84 years when she got involved in the Philippine Revolution of 1896, she is universally known in Philippine history as “[Ma]Tandang Sora” and associated today with a busy Quezon City street.
Not much is known about Tandang Sora’s origins and early life, the vacuum filled by stray bits of information, colored differently in each retelling of her story. For example, her parents, depending on the source you are reading, are described as peasants, farmers, or prosperous peasant-farmers! We do not know if she was an only child or if she had siblings.
Melchora is believed to have been a beauty in her youth because she often played the role of “Reyna Elena” in many a May-time Santacruzan. This undocumented bit of information was the basis for the premenopausal Tandang Sora being made an image model for sanitary napkins in the late 1990s.
She is believed to have been good in music because she was in demand for Holy Week pabasa. This suggests that she had a good voice, or at least read and chanted the pasyon better than most.
Melchora’s brush with history was quite short, less than two weeks from start to finish. Andres Bonifacio and about 500 Katipuneros turned up in her farm in Gulod ng Banilad, near Pasong Tamo, a day after they tore their cedulas in Kangkong, in the farm of Apolonio Samson. This defiant act has come down in history as the Cry of Balintawak or Unang Sigaw ng Balintawak from the Spanish “El Grito de Balintawak.”
While there is controversy over the traditional Cry of Balintawak versus the official Cry of Pugad Lawin, the story of Tandang Sora is consistent, that she offered refuge and hospitality to the Katipunan. We know she opened her granary and had animals slaughtered for meals. Accounts, based on Gregorio Zaide, even provide details stating she contributed 100 cavans of rice and 10 carabaos.
On the first day the Katipuneros assembled in her farm, she fed about 500 men. The next day the crowd doubled to over a thousand. According to Alvarez, 100 bolos forged in Meycauayan were presented to Bonifacio. A meeting was held and the time and date for an attack on Manila set. The meeting adjourned to shouts of “Mabuhay ang mga anak ng bayan.” Tandang Sora fed them again a second day.
On the third day, Bonifacio was informed that the Guardia Civil was approaching. Bonifacio had food prepared for an early breakfast as well as baon (provisions) for their march out of Tandang Sora’s farm. According to Alvarez, a drunkard from San Francisco de Malabon named Gregorio Tapalla aka Matandang Leon, a bandit who escaped from jail and joined the Katipunan, was assigned to lead the troops. He shouted his orders: “Get ready, you must all do as I do and say!” He unsheathed his tabak (bolo), raised it with his right hand, and raised his left foot.
Many Katipuneros followed Tapalla’s gestures, then he shouted the incantation “Santo! Santo Kassis! Santo! Santo Kob! Sumuko ang kalaban!” Then he lowered the tabak and kicked a puddle so hard with his left foot that mud splattered on Pio Valenzuela, nearly blinding him.
Advised by Bonifacio to hide, Tandang Sora and her family fled to
Novaliches where she was arrested by the Guardia Civil on Aug. 29, 1896, in a place called Pasong Putik. After a few days detention and interrogation she was moved to Bilibid Prison in Manila.
On Sept. 2, 1896, she was deported to the Marianas [Guam]. She returned to Manila on Feb. 26, 1903, on board the American ship SS Uranus with 76 other exiles. She was then 91 years old.
Died at 107 yrs old
Tandang Sora returned to Banlat where she died on Feb. 20, 1919, in the home of her daughter Saturnina, one of her six children. She was 107.
Tandang Sora was originally buried in the mausoleum of the Veteranos de la Revolucion in Manila North Cemetery and was later moved to Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park in Quezon City.
Today (Friday) the Mother of the Philippine Revolution will be transferred a third time from Himlayang Pilipino to a newly built Tandang Sora Shrine in Banlat, Quezon City, that will hopefully be her final resting place.
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