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Walking tour of Bonifacio’s Manila

Textbook history tells us that Andres Bonifacio was born on Nov. 30, 1863. There were no NSO (National Statistics Office)-certified registry of births and security paper at the time, so the most reliable data we have for births, deaths and marriages in the 19th century come from church records.

On Dec. 2, 1863, Fr. Saturnino Buntan, parish priest of Tondo, baptized Andres, then a three-day-old infant, the legitimate son of Santiago Bonifacio and Catalina de Castro, who were joined in marriage by the same priest on Jan. 24, 1873. Santiago was a tailor, the son of Vicente Bonifacio and Alejandra Rosales, residents of Tondo. Catalina was a housewife or a worker in a cigarette factory, depending on the source you are reading; she was the daughter of Martin de Castro and Antonia Gregorio, who were originally from Zambales but were, at the time of the marriage, residents of Tondo.

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Contrary to popular belief, Andres Bonifacio, hero of the masses, was not of pure indio or native stock because his mother, according to her marriage record, was a mestiza española.

Bonifacio’s early life is familiar to all schoolchildren. He had three brothers—Ciriaco, Procopio and Troadio—and two sisters—Espiridiona (Nonay) and Maxima. Andres, Ciriaco and Procopio all died during the Philippine Revolution; Troadio survived because he had migrated to France. Andres did not finish high school or college but was educated in a school run by Guillermo Osmeña of Cebu.

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Teodoro Agoncillo wrote that Bonifacio completed the equivalent of today’s Grade 5 and had to work at age 14 when he and his siblings were orphaned. He is said to have supported his siblings by selling canes (baston) and paper fans (abanico). He was artistic, with a good hand that served him well in making posters, and was a performer in the komedya or moro-moro. He was also employed as a clerk, first in the trading firm Fleming and Company, then Fressell and Company.

Bonifacio was married twice: First to a certain Monica who died of leprosy, then to Gregoria de Jesus of Caloocan. He had no children with his first wife, but had a son, Andres Jr., with his second wife who died in infancy due to smallpox in 1896.

All these bits of Bonifacio come to mind because, weather permitting, I want to retrace the steps of the Supremo in downtown Manila. If readers want to go on their own, these are the stops in the walking tour: You must start in the Tutuban mall, the site of the former railroad station, the area where Bonifacio was born in 1863. There is a statue of Bonifacio there, writing in a very uncomfortable position. The sculptor did not give him a writing desk, so Bonifacio is depicted as signing or writing his Katipunan oath using a quill and his blood for ink. It is said that when the Manila-Dagupan Railroad Company erected a station in Tutuban, the Bonifacios moved to Trozo street. When their house on Trozo burned down, they moved to the house of Briccio Pantas near Tondo Church before moving to Calle Aceiteros (now Marcelino Santos) sometime in 1886-1892.

From 1893 to the Cry of Balintawak in August 1896, Bonifacio left his brothers and sisters and moved to a series of addresses, perhaps to avoid arrest. His first known address in his NPA (no permanent address) days was 11-E Calle de Sagunto (now Santo Cristo Street in Binondo). He lived there in October 1893 shortly before he married Gregoria de Jesus. The place seemed to have been big enough for him to offer shelter to: Ladislaw Diwa, Teodoro Plata and Aurelio Tolentino. If this spot can be located, it should be identified with a historical marker because the revolution was discussed there, and perhaps organizational meetings of the Katipunan were held there.

When Bonifacio married Gregoria de Jesus in 1894, they spent a week on Oroquieta in the home of their ninong Restituto Javier, where they were wed in Katipunan rites. Then the newlyweds found a place on Calle Anyahan, in front of the visita de San Ignacio. It must have been a small place because when Gregoria de Jesus was with child, they moved to the De Jesus home on 13 Calle Baltazar (now Zamora) in Calookan where Andres Jr. was born.

Then the family moved to a house on Cervantes Street (now Rizal Avenue), in the district of San Ignacio, Bambang. For this house we have a description from the memoirs of Santiago Alvarez: “tabla lang ang palarindingan at pawid ang bubong, kainam ang laki, bagamat mababa ang silong.” In this modest house with a nipa roof, Alvarez wrote, Emilio Aguinaldo was initiated and accepted into the Katipunan. However, in Aguinaldo’s memoirs, he recalled the house being on Clavel Street in Binondo.

Per another source, two months after the birth of Andres Jr. the Bonifacios moved to a house in Dulongbayan, Tutuban, that, according to Gregoria de Jesus, burned down on Maundy Thursday 1896 at 3 p.m. She added that they moved from house to house until they settled in 57 Calle Lavezares, the home of Pio Valenzuela, ninong of Andres Jr. who died in this house.

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The last address is on Trozo again, a very long street with two different addresses (Calle Magdalena, according to Gregoria de Jesus, and 73 San Jose, according to Valenzuela). Surely more streets associated with Bonifacio will come to light when I embark on the research, giving us the geography and history of Bonifacio’s Manila.

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Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: andres bonifacio, gregoria de jesus, History, Katipunan, MANILA, tondo, walking tour
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