Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro (November 30, 1863 – May 10, 1897) was a Filipino nationalist, revolutionary leader, and the first president of the Philippine archipelago which he preferred naming Bansa ng Katagalugan or Tagalog Republic instead of Philippines due to its origin was derived from the Spaniards. He is often called “the Father of the Philippine Revolution and Filipino Nation”.
He was a founder and later Supremo (“supreme leader”) of the Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or simply and more popularly called Katipunan, a movement which sought the independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule and started the Philippine Revolution.
He is considered a de facto national hero of the Philippines, and is also considered by some Filipino historians to be the first President of the Philippines (through the revolutionary government he established), but officially he is not recognized as such.
Andres Bonifacio was born in Tondo, Manila, the son of Santiago Bonifacio, a native of Taguig, and Catalina de Castro, a native of Iba, Zambales. He was the eldest of six children.
His siblings were Ciriaco, Procopio, Troadio, Esperidiona and Maxima. His father was a tailor who served in the colonial government as a teniente mayor of Tondo, Manila, while his mother was a supervisor at a cigarette factory in Manila and was a mestiza born of a Spanish father and a Filipino-Chinese mother.
As was custom, upon baptism he was named for the saint on whose feast he was born, Andrew the Apostle.
Bonifacio learned his alphabet in 10 years through his mother’s sister and he was first enrolled in a private school of one Guillermo Osmeña where he learned Latin and mathematics though his normal schooling was cut short when he dropped out at about fourteen years old to support his siblings after both of their parents died of illnesses one year apart.
Bonifacio was blessed with good hands in craftsmanship and visual arts that he made canes and paper fans, which he and his young siblings sold, and he made posters for business firms.
This became their thriving family business that continued on when the men of the family, Andres, Ciriaco, Procopio and Troadio, became employed with private and government companies which provided them decent living condition.
In his late teens, he worked as a mandatorio for the British trading firm Fleming and Company, where he rose to become a corregidor of tar, rattan and other goods.
He later transferred to Fressell and Company, a German trading firm, where he worked as a bodeguero (storehouse keeper) where he is responsible for warehouse inventory. Bonifacio also founded a theater company with his friends, Macario Sakay and Aurelio Tolentino, where he was also a part-time actor performing in moro-moro plays.
Not finishing his normal education, Bonifacio enriched his natural intelligence with self-education. He read books about the French Revolution, biographies of the Presidents of the United States, books about contemporary Philippine penal and civil codes, and novels such as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Eugène Sue’s Le Juif errant and José Rizal’s Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo.
Aside from Tagalog and Spanish, he could speak and understand English, which he learned while working at J.M. Fleming and Co.
Bonifacio was married twice: first to a certain Monica of Palomar. She was Bonifacio’s neighbor in Tondo. Monica died of leprosy and they had no recorded children.
In 1892 Bonifacio, a 29-year-old widower, met the 18-year-old Gregoria de Jesús, through his friend Teodoro Plata who was her cousin. Gregoria, also called Oriang, was the daughter of a prominent citizen and landowner from Caloocan. Gregoria’s parents did not agree at first to their relationship as Andres was a freemason and freemasons were then considered enemies of the Catholic church.
Her parents eventually gave in and Andrés and Gregoria were married through a Catholic ceremony in Binondo Church in March 1893 or 1894. The couple also were married through Katipunan rites in a friend’s house in Sta. Cruz, Manila on the same day of their church wedding.
They had one son named Andrés, Jr., born on early 1896, who died of smallpox in infancy.
In 1892 Bonifacio was one of the founding members of José Rizal’s La Liga Filipina, an organization which called for political reforms in Spain’s colonial government of the Philippines. However, La Liga disbanded after only one meeting as Rizal was arrested and deported to Dapitan in Mindanao.
Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini and others revived La Liga in Rizal’s absence and Bonifacio was active at organizing local chapters in Manila. He would become the chief propagandist of the revived Liga.
La Liga Filipina contributed moral and financial support to the Propaganda Movement of Filipino reformists in Spain.
Andrés Bonifacio was also a member of Freemasonry with the lodge Taliba headed by Jose Dizon; and his pseudonym was Sinukuan, possibly taken from a Philippine mythological character Maria Sinukuan.
In April 1897, Aguinaldo ordered the arrest of Bonifacio after he received a letter alleging that Bonifacio had ordered the burning of the church of Indang after townspeople refused to give him provisions. On April 25, a party of Aguinaldo’s men led by Col.
Agapito Bonzón and Major José Ignacio “Intsik” Paua caught up with Bonifacio at his camp in barrio Limbon, Indang. The unsuspecting Bonifacio received them cordially.
Early the next day, Bonzón and Paua attacked Bonifacio’s camp. Bonifacio was surprised and refused to fight against “fellow Tagalogs”, ordering his men to hold their fire, but shots were nevertheless exchanged. Bonifacio was shot in the arm by Bonzón and Paua stabbed him in the neck but was prevented from striking further by one of Bonifacio’s men, who offered to be killed instead.
Andrés’s brother Ciriaco was shot dead, while his other brother Procopio was beaten, and his wife Gregoria could have been raped by Bonzón. From Indang, a half-starved and wounded Bonifacio was carried by hammock to Naic, which had become President Aguinaldo’s headquarters.
Bonifacio’s party was brought to Naic, where he and Procopio stood trial on charges of sedition and treason against Aguinaldo’s government and conspiracy to murder Aguinaldo. The jury was composed entirely of Aguinaldo’s men and even Bonifacio’s defence lawyer himself declared his client’s guilt.
Bonifacio was barred from confronting the state witness for the charge of conspiracy to murder on the grounds that the latter had been killed in battle, but after the trial the witness was seen alive with the prosecutors.
The Bonifacio brothers were found guilty despite insufficient evidence and recommended to be executed. Aguinaldo commuted the sentence to deportation on May 8, 1897 but Pío del Pilar and Mariano Noriél persuaded him to withdraw the order for the sake of preserving unity.
In this they were seconded by Mamerto Natividád and other bona fide supporters of Aguinaldo. The Bonifacio brothers were executed on May 10, 1897 in the mountains of Maragondon.
Apolinario Mabini wrote that Bonifacio’s death demoralized many rebels from Manila, Laguna and Batangas who had come to help those in Cavite, and caused them to quit. In other areas, Bonifacio’s close associates like Emilio Jacinto and Macario Sakay continued the Katipunan and never recognized Aguinaldo’s authority.