Yesterday, Nov. 30, our nation remembered Andres Bonifacio: flags and scarves of red in the Liwasan, and Guillermo Tolentino’s “Monumento” washed and polished. Nov. 30 is Bonifacio’s birth date, a date that reflects our self-inflicted blindness and refusal to face our kasaysayan, our history.
Moving on with injustice, we do not remember Bonifacio on May 10, the day of his death.
Dec. 30 is Rizal Day. On that day, our nation remembers with much fanfare the martyrdom of Jose Rizal. His death is regarded as the country’s moment of awakening from an oppressive colonial regime.
Both National Memorial Days, Nov. 30 and Dec. 30 stand in contrast with one another. They stand for birth and death, but both affirm something: for Rizal, an affirmation of a people’s aspiration for liberation, and for Bonifacio, an affirmation of a people’s betrayal of a revolution waged for their liberation.
Rizal died a heroic death, martyred by Spain, his enemy. Bonifacio died a criminal’s death, murdered by Filipinos, his people. Both struggled to liberate the Philippines, both recognized the need for a revolution. Both died early, in the prime of their lives. It saved them from the tragedy of witnessing the Revolution of 1896 betrayed, and the Philippines sold to the enemy—first to the Spaniards, then to the Americans, by their own people and their leaders, rich and poor alike.
Today we are at it again: betraying the Revolution of 1986.
“The struggle for freedom is the next best thing to actually being free,” Lean Alejandro, a progressive student leader, once said. Lean was always in “the line of fire,” in “the place of honor,” in front of people’s protest actions that intensified the calls for the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Lean was murdered, not under the dictatorship that he fought, but under “democracy restored.”
The progressive movement offered many martyred lives, not just one, to the fulfillment of the Revolution of 1986: Liliosa Hilao, Dr. Bobby de la Paz, Dr. Johnny Escandor, Fr. Tulio Favali, Edgar Jopson, Lorena Barros, Macli-ing Dulag, Eman Lacaba, the desaparecidos, among others. These activists, communists, students, professionals, rich and poor alike, upheld with their blood the democratic principles in which they believed. Neither the “benefits” of political exile nor a quick and painless death by assassination was given to them. Why should the death of one man be regarded greater than theirs?
They were tortured for days (like Bonifacio), sexually, physically, psychologically. Their corpses were mutilated (like Bonifacio’s) beyond human expectations: Escandor’s skull was emptied of his brain and filled with dirty rags and a pair of briefs. Like Bonifacio’s death, their murders were considered legal by those in power.
Unrecognized and sidelined, they, and the progressive movement, have been demonized and branded as “hooligans” by the very people whose freedom they fervently fought for. Here’s one for the record: “Tang-ina, buti nga sa kanila at namatay sila. Mga hinayupak na mga komunista. Mamatay na kayo. Mga gago. Wala naman kayong nagawa, puro lang kayo reklamo at rally. Tang-ina nyong mga aktibista.” Ignorance and insolence that know no bounds, shared by many Filipinos today.
Nov. 18 in the year of Poong Duterte, backed by nine Supreme Court justices (who earlier also ruled in favor of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Juan Ponce Enrile), the heirs of Marcos, dictator, plunderer, murderer and fraud, sneakily buried his remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani—a cowardly act that sealed the betrayal of the Revolution of 1986.
Only those you trust are able to betray you.
The Revolution of 1896 and the Revolution of 1986 were betrayed and sold to their enemies: the former to its colonial enemies, the latter to the Marcos heirs. Like Bonifacio, most of the martyrs of martial law have neither bones to be buried nor graves to be visited by those who loved them. As in the Revolution of 1896, the politically and economically privileged Filipinos of today used legal technicalities to ultimately betray the Revolution of 1986. And as in the murder of Bonifacio and his brother Procopio, the perpetrators remain unpunished (like the military torturers and murderers, as well as their enablers), and even enjoy a place of prominence as well as support from among Filipinos. Like Manuel Quezon, Cory Aquino as leader of a new Philippine political period did not ensure that the Revolution’s struggles, memories, lessons, heroes, and villains were secured permanently through official action to prevent any form of historical revisionism or amnesia.
Our revolutions have been betrayed, and the word “people” has become a messy term. Today, the world-inspiring “People Power” of 1986 is being challenged by a “force” of “diehard ordinary people” characterized by blind fanaticism, Marcos-Aquino historical revisionist imagination, stirred up by “common-sense-appealing,” tough-acting, rough-talking personalities.
So what do we do with Feb. 25, Edsa Revolution Day? How do we celebrate it? Should President Duterte let it pass in the name of “national healing”? No. We refuse to let it pass. Let Feb. 25 remain celebrated. Let it divide this nation. Let it divide the Philippines between its revolutionaries and its traitors. Never forget. And to those who say “Move on,” hear this: Yes, we will move on to engage you on different fronts. Traitors and oppressors may win battles, but revolutionaries always win the war.
Domar H. Balmes, 25, is a Japan major at the Asian Center in UP Diliman.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.