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Private lives of heroes

Someone asked me on Facebook a few days ago to explain the significance of the Andres Bonifacio Monument in the town of Santo Domingo, Albay. Questions like this make me feel like I have inherited the late Ernie Baron’s mantle. I know I should be flattered that people think I have all the answers in the world to all the questions on Philippine history, but I am often tempted to reply that their questions are better answered by my best friend whose name is Google. I have seen an emoticon somewhere on the Net that drew on “OMG” (Oh my God!) by “Filipinizing” it into “GMG” (Google mo, g***!).

The question about that particular monument in Albay has an interesting history. The town of Santo Domingo was originally called Libog. In Tagalog-based Filipino Libog (pronounced Li-bog) is a word with many shades of meaning: lust, lewdness, lasciviousness, concupiscence, sensuality or luxury. In Bicol, it is pronounced “Lib-og” and translates into hazy or unclear.

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Libog in its Filipino rather than Bicol sense was quite apt because from the monument in Libog or Santo Domingo grew the urban legend that Andres Bonifacio had a little-known sexcapade in Albay, which resulted in an illegitimate and unrecognized daughter. This is something you will never find in textbooks because it is simply untrue.

The story is that sometime from 1894 to 1895, a “white” naturalist gathered specimens while conducting wildlife studies in Albay, assisted by his Tagalog taxidermist-cum-valet named “Andres.” The late Dr. Jose Bantug identified the naturalist as John Foreman, author of “The Philippine Islands” (New York, C. Scribner’s sons, 1899). To cut a long story short, Andres the taxidermist had an affair with a local lass named Genoveva Baloloy and left her with child—a daughter later christened Francisca.

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In 1897 when Mayon Volcano erupted, the Baloloy family, including Genoveva and little Francisca, escaped to Irosin, Sorsogon. No attempts were made to seek out Andres, and the Baloloys forgot all about this—until a statue to Bonifacio was erected in Irosin years before the Japanese occupation. When Genoveva saw the statue, she remembered her lover Andres (for some reason or another she never knew his surname!), and claimed the man in the statue was Francisca’s father.

News like this travels fast. Affidavits were signed and notarized, interviews were made, and the story subsequently became big news in gossipy Manila. Imagine, Bonifacio’s illegitimate daughter living in Sorsogon!

This story persisted until 1956 because in Teodoro Agoncillo’s “Revolt of the Masses” you will find a dismissive a footnote that reads: “There is nothing wrong in Bonifacio’s amorous escapades—if true.” Agoncillo declared that Foreman never mentioned Bonifacio at all in his book, and that Bonifacio was not anywhere near Albay in 1894-1895. In 1957, Elias Ataviado, an authority on the revolution in Bicol, supported Agoncillo’s accounting of Bonifacio’s whereabouts in 1894-1895 and found informants who pointed to a certain Andres Celestino, who admitted having an affair in Albay. So there is no truth to the rumor that Andres Bonifacio had a child in Albay and indications point to Francisca Baloloy’s father as none other but Andres Celestino, a taxidermist who worked in the prewar Bureau of Science in Manila.

To complicate matters, textbook history records only one Bonifacio wife, Gregoria de Jesus aka “Oryang.” But according to an article, “Ang Buhay sa Pag-ibig ni Andres Bonifacio” in the prewar Lipang Kalabaw, he had two “wives” before Oryang. The first “wife” was a beautiful girl named Monica, who lived in a nipa hut in Palomar, Tondo. Bonifacio courted her, in the company of his friend Antonino Vazquez who was courting Monica’s sister. Bonifacio and Monica eloped, and he had three children by her.

How come we don’t know anything about Bonifacio’s first wife? Sources say Monica and her children were all wiped out by leprosy (or cholera?). To take his mind off the tragedy, Bonifacio read a lot and regularly went to watch the moro-moro plays in the Porvenir Theater on Reina Regente Street. According to a cousin of Bonifacio, he then lived in with a certain “Teang,” who likewise left Bonifacio a widower again.

Bonifacio met Oryang through her cousin, Teodoro Plata, a member of the Katipunan. It is said that every time Bonifacio came courting, he always wore “amerikanang kulay abo na abyerta, pantalong puti, sapatos na tsarol at sombrerong kastorilyo.” It is also said that Bonifacio had only one suit. To make matters worse, the whole De Jesus family, especially her eagle-eyed father, sat in the sala with them during his visits. Bonifacio and Oryang eventually eloped and had both a Church and Katipunan wedding.

We know very little about Bonifacio’s personal life, because when Oryang was widowed and married Julio Nakpil, she stopped discussing her life with Bonifacio in deference to her new husband and family. I guess some things are meant to be kept private, and whatever of the more human side of Andres Bonifacio was retained in Gregoria de Jesus’ memory she took to the grave.

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Bonifacio’s love life will add or subtract little to the story of the Philippine Revolution, but one should never forget the private lives of our heroes because these remind us of their humanity and, more importantly, our own capacity for greatness.

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Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: andres bonifacio, gregoria de jesus, Julio Nakpil, private lives
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