Andres Bonifacio read a lot


Ignacio R. Bunye Ignacio R. Bunye

I find it  providential  that the last day of  National Book Week (November 24-30)  falls on the birth anniversary of  Andres Bonifacio, whose 153rd birth anniversary we are observing today.

Relatively recent  evidence effectively debunks the myth of the “unlettered” Katipunan Supremo – a demolition job obviously perpetrated by political   detractors. (Remember the myth about  syphilis being the cause of   Apolinario Mabini’s paralysis?)

La Salle history professor Michael  “Xiao” Chua  concedes that Andres Bonifacio attended the  private school of  Guillermo Osmena and attained the present day equivalent of  Second Year High School or Grade 8 under the K-12 curriculum.  But Bonifacio made up for his incomplete formal education by reading a lot. Yes, Bonifacio (like Ninoy Aquino  and the late Blas Ople)  was a voracious reader.

Historian Chua cites Dona Elvira Prysler, proprietor of a mosaic tile factory where Bonifacio used to work as a warehouse keeper. Prysler, Chua said,  recalled her impression of Bonifacio whom she often saw with open book in hand during lunch time.

What types of books appealed to Bonifacio? When hostilities broke out between the Katipuneros and the Spaniards, the authorities raided the offices where Bonifacio worked or used to work. In the German firm Carlos Fressel and Co,  where Bonifacio  worked as warehouseman and later  as sales agent,  the raiding authorities seized the following books among Bonifacio’s personal effects:

Top of the list were the two novels of Jose Rizal, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”. During that time, mere possession of these two books was enough to land anybody in jail.

Also among the “subversive books” were “History of the French Revolution” and “The Ruins of Palmyra: Meditations of the Revolution of the Empire”.

Also probably considered “subversive” was   “Lives of the Presidents of the United States” because of the role of  George Washington in the American Revolution.

A member of the Freemasons (then considered an enemy of the Catholic Church), Bonifacio  also read the Holy Bible and “Religion Within the Reach of All.”

He also read books on law (international law, civil code, penal code) and medicine.

For light reading, Bonfacio turned to Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo (Les Miserables) and Eugene Sue (The Wandering Jew).

Who  among his political detractors could have claimed that they read even half as many  of the books which Bonifacio read?

Bonifacio also wrote poetry. He wrote “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa” a 28- stanza piece  which National Artist Virgilio Almario describes as “excellent.”  A shortened version of the  poem became the lyrics of a song  (melody composed by ex-political detainee Luis Jorque) which became very popular during the martial law period.

Bonifacio also wrote essays like “Ang Dapat Mabatid ng Mga Tagalog (What the Filipinos Should Know)” and “Tapunan ng Lingap (Care a Little)."

In a previous article, we  recalled that Dr. Jose Rizal read a lot. Rizal got hooked into the  reading habit after his mother, Teodora Alonzo, read to him the story about the moth and the flame.

Bonifacio and Rizal – two great Filipinos with a common passion:  Reading!