When Oryang searched for Andres
Mother’s Day in Spain, Dia de la Madre, is celebrated on the first Sunday in May. But I don’t think that was exported to the Philippines because Mother’s Day was officially set here in 1921 on the first Monday of December, until it was changed by President Manuel Quezon in 1937 when fathers demanded a holiday, too, “based on the universal belief that while the mother rocks the cradle, the father builds the home for the safety, comfort, and happiness of the family.”
Quezon did not want to add another holiday to an already long list, so he employed a Solomonic solution and declared the first Monday of December as Parents Day! Then the Japanese occupation came in 1941, and I do not know if the Philippines celebrated Mother’s Day on March 6, the birthday of the Empress of Japan. Today, both Japan and the Philippines follow the rest of the world and celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May.
Last Sunday, May 10, was not just Mother’s Day but also the anniversary of the execution of Andres Bonifacio. The day before, May 9, was the birthday of his widow Gregoria de Jesus, whose second husband was Julio Nakpil, the composer of the Katipunan. She was known by her Katipunan name “Lakambini,” or, to those who knew her, as “Goria” or “Oryang.” I reread her short autobiography in Tagalog, “Mga Tala ng Aking Buhay,” over the weekend and remembered that she had written a long letter to Emilio Jacinto shortly after the execution of the Bonifacio brothers that described those troubled and troubling days.
Oryang’s husband Andres was sentenced to death at the conclusion of a military trial, but she heard that Emilio Aguinaldo had first granted a pardon, and later ordered banishment instead of execution. Nothing was clear-cut, and on a rainy day the Bonifacio brothers were taken from their prison cell. Oryang narrates:
“I beseeched their commandant, Lazaro Macapagal, who was the one who took him (Andres Bonifacio) away and killed him, not to take the sick man outside until after the rain had stopped, or until the next morning. He (Macapagal) would not agree because, he said, it was by order of the chief, but they said I could go to Capitan Emilio’s house to plead with him.
“I could not walk. My two women companions and I practically had to crawl on all fours through the darkness and the heavy rain in order to get to the other side of the river. When we arrived at Emilio’s place, I was not able to proceed straightaway because our clothes were soaking wet. When we went upstairs, Emilio hid in his room and we were told that he was ill and sleeping, but I could hear that he was awake and talking to [Gregorio] Jocson. When Jocson came out he went up to Pedro Lipana, who was said to be Emilio’s secretary. [They] then approached me, and asked what I wanted. I asked whether it would be possible for the sick man not to be taken away until the next day. The answer was that it was not possible.
“We took our leave and started to go, but as we were going downstairs we were stopped, and I was told to wait for a letter to give to the guard. Once the letter had been written, it was handed to two of their soldiers, who were told to accompany us. We were taken to the Tribunal and then on to the house of the [municipal] president, where I was imprisoned. I was told it would be justice if I were to be shot, and thereafter nobody was allowed to come near me.
“In the late morning of the following day they took the two brothers out.
“Towards the afternoon there was fighting outside the town, not far from the place where I was, and then they just let me go. Upon being released, I crossed over to the other side to search [for the two brothers], and I met those who had taken them away. They were carrying the clothes I had obtained for [Andres] through an act of charity, and also the medicine, and the blanket that my brother-in-law had been wearing round his body. When I asked them where they had taken them, they answered me that they had left them over there in the mountains, in the house of a teniente. I asked them why they were carrying the clothes, and they replied that he [Andres] had told them that I should bring them to him.
“Ay, mga kapatid! I then set off to look for them in the area they had indicated, but when I arrived there I was told they were on a mountain on the other side, which was extremely high. We climbed up, but when we arrived we found nothing, and so we trekked still further.
“Ay, mga kapatid! For two weeks I searched in the mountains, and we rested only at night. As I did not see him and there was nobody who could tell us anything, we went after their detachment, and I asked them where to look, but even then I was told nothing. I only decided to leave when my uncle told me the truth. He had given them food before they left the place where they had stopped. So just think, brothers, whether or not there was any justice in the cruelty they committed against us.
“For a whole month I was roaming about, and we had nothing to eat but unripe bananas. When my companions obtained a little rice through an act of charity, they made gruel for me to eat. The clothes I wore [were in such a state that they] would hardly burn.”
Oryang’s letter, together with other primary-source documents on Andres Bonifacio’s last days, makes painful reading and underscores a part of our history not elaborated on for the questions they raise.
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