BONIFACIO, THE KATIPUNAN AND THE INDEPENDENCE DAY
By Ian Christopher B. Alfonso
On June 13, 2013, the Brazilian nation will celebrate the 250th birth anniversary of one of the pillars of their nationhood, Jose Bonifacio (José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva). His place in the history of the Brazilian nation is comparable to his two namesakes in the history of Filipino nationhood, Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. Jose Bonifacio, like Rizal, was a polymath, saw the role and value of education to liberate his people against slavery and ignorance, and wanted to preserve Brazil from disintegration by lobbying to Portuguese Cortes (Parliament) the autonomy under Portuguese monarchy (in contrast with Rizal’s idea of recognizing the Philippines as a province of Spain).
On the other hand, Jose Bonifacio, like Andres Bonifacio, heard the desire of the Brazilian people to be free and supported the declaration of Brazilian Independence at Ipiranga Brook in São Paulo on 7 September 1822. The event is called the Cry of Ipiranga, which in the Philippines is comparable to three declarations of Philippine independence: the Cry of Pamitinan, where Bonifacio and other Katipunan leaders declared Philippine independence at the Pamitinan Cave in Montalban, Distrito de Morong (Rodriguez, Rizal) on Good Friday, 12 April 1895; the Cry of Pugadlawin where Bonifacio and members of Katipunan tore their community tax certificates (cedulas personales) as a sign of breaking from Spain’s sovereignty, although accounts provide us various dates, either 20, 24, 25 and 26 August 1896 (and actually even the site, whether in Pugadlawin, Balintawak, Pasong Tamo, Kangkong or Bahay Toro); and lastly the Declaration of Independence in Kawit, Cavite on 12 June 1898, not by Bonifacio but the one who succeeded him, Emilio Aguinaldo, at the window of house.
Following the stories of these events leads us to the realization that there were assorted ways and places of how and where our founding fathers proclaimed Philippine independence. Every event has its own significance and credence, depending on what the time necessitates.
The Filipino nation asserted to accept as our national day the first widely recognized declaration of independence, and that was the Kawit declaration. The Philippine Historical Association convinced then President Diosdado Macapagal in 1962 to move the celebration of Philippine independence from July 4 to June 12. Macapagal realized that June 12 was more symbolical than the other date to the history of the Filipinos’ struggle to become one nation.
The Kawit declaration was witnessed by the representatives of the provinces which recognized Emilio Aguinaldo’s authority (although most of the Philippine provinces were still at fighting with Spain that time). A document of independence, the Acta de la Proclamacion de Independencia del Pueblo Filipino (The Act of Independence of the Filipino People), authored by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, was read, sworn to and signed after. The declaration in Kawit led to a much higher affirmation of the Filipinos’ dream to become a nation-state through four significant acts leading to full sovereignty. These were the creation of a Congress (15 September 1898), the ratification of Philippine independence by the Congress (29 September 1898), the creation of the constitution (21 January 1899) and the birthing of the first democratic constitutional republic in Asia (23 January 1899), all taking place in Malolos, Bulacan. According to Aguinaldo, the president of the said republic, the birth of the Republic justified the Filipinos’ fight for independence and assertion for internal and external sovereignty, despite the Treaty of Paris’s discounting the Aguinaldo government’s existence as a mere insurgent government. The same republic defied United States’ intervention to Filipino nationhood, leading to the outbreak of hostilities on 4 February 1899, the Philippine-American War. The memory of this short-lived republic later became the springboard of the Filipinos’ demand for autonomy from the United States government. This led to ten years of Commonwealth government that in turn was interrupted by World War II. The end result was the July 4, 1946 establishment of the current Republic of the Philippines.
Choosing June 12, 1898 as the date of Philippine Independence does not necessarily lessen the value of July 4, 1946. The latter date is still recorded and being taught in History as the grand day of complete, uninterrupted sovereignty (kasarinlan) and independence (kalayaan) that gave birth to our present republic. The move of Macapagal in 1962 only galvanized our determination to decide our own fate and history as a nation.
In the same manner, having our Independence Day on June 12 will not diminish the value of Cry of Pamitinan of 1895 and Cry of Pugad Lawin of 1896. These events will be forever remembered by generations as part of our efforts to move nationhood forward and into reality. However, one must not look at the attributes of a completely independent nation in a modern context when revisiting the three declarations of Philippine independence. One must consider the fact that our forefathers were still struggling for complete independence, believing this could be achieved by first freeing the provinces from the Spaniards. Our revolutionary fathers may have fought independently of each other, in terms of strategy and means, since the early days of the revolution from Pinaglabanan to Cabiao to Cacarong to Arayat to Noveleta to Salitran. But they were united in one goal – to realize the independence of the Philippines by means of revolution led by the Katipunan and Bonifacio. The United States had beginnings like this. The thirteen British states of East Coast in the Americas when they announced independence on 4 July 1776 were still at war with Great Britain.
Tracing the Filipinos’ struggle for independence undeniably forces us to go back to our origins as a nation. The Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan was the spark that lit the fires of freedom in the heart of the Filipinos – spreading the cause of independence from Luzon to the Visayas and up to Mindanao. Although Bonifacio did not live to witness the realization of his dreams, he remains in his exalted place as the “Father of the Philippine Revolution” without which we would not be celebrating Araw ng Kalayaan every 12th of June.