Honoring Andres Bonifacio

Published November 30, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares

Before we honor the great Filipino whose birthday, life and heroism we celebrate today, we would like to pay tribute first to another standout Filipino who gave us “Bonifacio Day.”

That Filipino was the late Lope K. Santos – novelist, poet, champion of the rights of laborers, lawmaker and former governor of the province of Rizal during the period of its infancy. Our parents and grandparents would remember him as the author of “Banaag at Sikat,” a classic reading material for high school students of their time.

History has it that in 1920, Lope K. Santos, who was then a senator, filed a bill to declare Nov. 30 a national holiday. The then-governor-general of the Philippines (which was under American rule at that time) immediately approved the bill which became a law.

It is not clear from historical accounts if the Lope K. Santos bill was intended to honor Andres Bonifacio on the occasion of the latter’s birthday. What is clear is that the Nov. 30 holiday had since then been dedicated to honoring the founder of the Katipunan on the day of his birth and – at certain periods in our history – to honoring all of our heroes.

What is also clear is that for the past 102 years, Nov. 30 had always been a holiday in our country and that for more than a century, today has always been a day to honor Filipinos who have been officially recognized as performing heroic acts or living heroic lives.

Such is the legacy of the Rizaleño Lope K. Santos. He made sure that one day each year, the entire nation would pause to honor its heroes, among them, Andres Bonifacio. In so doing, the former governor of Rizal province helped us appreciate the fact that we are a nation of heroes and that we are a people who are capable of extraordinary vision, extraordinary lives and extraordinary deeds.

Now, to honor Andres Bonifacio.

Andres Bonifacio is recognized by many as “The Father of the Philippine Revolution” against Spain. Some historians also argue that he is “rightfully, The First president of the Philippines,” a distinction that has been given instead to the man who has been portrayed as his nemesis – the late President Emilio Aguinaldo.

To Andres Bonifacio has been ascribed the Tagalog adjective “matapang.” Brave, or more accurately, fearless.

His depiction in various art forms reinforces that sterling attribute. His image in our mind is that of an angry man, leading his troops against the superior military might of a global colonial power. We imagine him as a charismatic military leader, gifted with a magnetic personality – the kind that we would follow with near-blind loyalty.

Early portrayals of Andres Bonifacio in local movies embedded in our memories that image of him armed only with a pistol and a bolo, charging towards enemy lines, shouting that famous battle-cry, “Sugod, mga Kapatid (‘Brethren, attack!’).”

We honor him today for being the symbol of one aspect of our national character: the “fearless” in us.
Andres Bonifacio was a controversial figure in our history. Historians are divided in their views regarding his role in the revolution against Spain, on the nature of his character and on the reason for which his fellow revolutionaries decided to have him executed.

However, there are a few things about him in which we have a consensus. We agree that he was a patriot who loved his country and was more than willing to die for her freedom. We agree that he overcame many odds in life – he was born in a poor family, did not enjoy the privileges that other prominent figures in the revolution enjoyed. Poverty did not deter him from standing up for what he believed in and from earning for himself a place in our history and in the hearts of our countrymen.

Here, Andres Bonifacio fulfilled the role of a nation’s “hero.”

Writing for the international online publication Psychology Today, Dr. Scott Allison shared what the research of many social scientists bared about why we need heroes.

He wrote:

“So, there’s little wonder why we have heroes. We need them to get us through this challenging experience called life. Heroes help us survive, and they help us thrive. They help us through our worst times, and they prepare us for our best times. Heroes nurture us, save us, and help us become our best selves. Heroes truly do help us meet all the human needs that correspond to Abraham Maslow’s iconic hierarchy of needs.”

Our view is that Andres Bonifacio’s heroic life and deed had done those for us.

Faced with the many challenges in life, he reminds us of the sterling quality of the Filipino spirit — we have what it takes to be “fearless.”

When the odds are arrayed against us, this classic Andres Bonifacio battle-cry will always ring in our hearts.

“Sugod, mga kapatid!”

We salute you on your 159th birthday, hero.

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