‘Andres Bonifacio’: What have you done for your country?
The movie revolves around the heroism and tragic end of Andres Bonifacio (Robin Padilla). As its subtitle explicitly states, Bonifacio was the first president of our country. The film says he became president during the “Cry of Balintawak” in August 1896 when, as Supremo, he led the tearing of cedulas (the symbol of the people’s subjugation to Spanish rule), an act tantamount to a declaration of independence, affirming the “Haring Bayan ng Katagalugan” (Tagalog Republic) earlier established by the Katipunan, with Bonifacio as its first elected president.
The movie rightfully debunks the anti-Bonifacio interpretation of history—that he was impulsive, hot-headed, and a bad military strategist. Bonifacio was first a member of La Liga Filipina, a reformist group (headed by Jose Rizal of whom he was a fan), before being a revolutionist. Even as he spearheaded the organizing of the Katipunan, the Supremo position was first held by Deodato Arellano, then by Ramon Basa before him.
He was consultative, with Emilio Jacinto and Dr. Pio Valenzuela in his first core group. He in fact chose Jacinto’s “Cartilla” to be the official mandate on the conduct of the Katipunan over the “Decalogo” he formulated, humbly admitting that Jacinto’s was the better one.
At the fateful Tejeros (Cavite) elections, Emilio Aguinaldo’s allies, who earlier had elected him president, opposed the election of Bonifacio as interior minister. It was at this juncture that Bonifacio, as facilitator and supremo, voided the election results. Earlier, Bonifacio received reports of prefilled ballots and unqualified voters.
Bonifacio’s military-strategy weakness could be no other than black propaganda. While he and his men met “defeats,” their battles were in Manila, the bastion of enemy strength. Noteworthy to mention was that in the major battle to seize the citadel of the Spanish colonial power, the forces from Cavite failed to show up at the designated time and place.
After the execution of the Bonifacio brothers (Andres and Procopio) on May 10, 1897, by the Aguinaldo-led Magdalo faction, the Spaniards focused their attacks on Cavite. Within a week, Magdalo generals started surrendering one after the other, while Aguinaldo retreated to Biak-na-Bato (Bulacan). After only seven months (Dec. 1897), Aguinaldo surrendered to Spanish forces in exchange for money and exile to Hong Kong, and called on the revolutionaries to lay down their arms lest they be called bandits.
The story was woven by three student’s trip to the Katipunan Museum. This is a testament of the important role that museums play to link the past to the present. Heroes’ memorabilia give a glimpse of their personality and humanity, amid stories of their legendary exploits. The visual exhibits help in the recall or reinforcement of knowledge and aim to spur interest on the subject matter for further reading and study.
The museum scenes also affirm the vital role of curators as guides to the meaning and significance of the exhibits. Notable was the curator’s (Eddie Garcia) comment that Bonifacio led the revolution not for himself or his family, but for the country. At the end, he challenged the audience with the question: What have you done for the country?
—JULIE L. PO, Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino, [email protected]