The death of Andres Bonifacio
Every year on Nov. 30 wreaths are offered at Andres Bonifacio monuments nationwide. Media often covers the official rites of the inspiring song in bronze by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino in Caloocan, or the tacky komiks re-presentation by the late Eduardo Castrillo in Manila.
This year I dug up from my notes a Philippines Free Press article from Dec. 1, 1928: Lazaro Makapagal’s account of the execution of the Bonifacio brothers. Andres and Procopio were executed on May 10, 1897, their brother, Ciriaco, was killed in Limbon by the Magdalo forces who entered the Bonifacio camp guns blazing to take Andres Bonifacio dead or alive; he was preferred dead, but Bonifacio survived a bullet wound on his shoulder and a stab wound on his neck. He was brought to Maragondon for trial by a military court that sentenced him to death for treason. Emilio Aguinaldo commuted the death sentence to banishment but was later influenced by generals around him to withdraw the commutation.
The Bonifacio brothers were executed in the Maragondon range, and while most Filipinos were taught that the execution site was on Mt. Buntis (pregnant), the historical marker is placed on nearby Mt. Nagpatong (to get on top of), close to another place called Mt. Hulog (fall). The account of Lazaro Makapagal, translated from the original Spanish or Tagalog, was preserved in the Archives of the Veteranos de la Revolucion:
“I received orders from General Mariano Noriel, to take over Andres Bonifacio and Procopio Bonifacio from the place where they were detained [Maragondon], and to conduct them to the hill of Tala in Maragondon, Cavite. General Noriel handed to me at the same time a sealed package with orders that it be not opened until we reached the place mentioned. I was charged to follow to the letter, the instructions contained within the package.
“In compliance with these orders I took with me the two brothers to the place mentioned, together with four soldiers, under my command. On the road, we conversed as were friends. But I already had a presentiment of the order contained within the parcel.
“On reaching Tala hill in Maragondon. I opened the order, read it, and then let the brothers read it. It was an order for the execution of the brothers. The two brothers were terror-stricken; Andres told me in Tagalog: ‘Patawarin ninyo ako kapatid.’ [Brother, forgive me.] I answered that I was very sorry, but by military discipline, I had to carry out the unhappy task.
“I conducted Procopio, who was stronger, to a wooded place, and on reaching the top of the hill, I ordered one of the soldiers to shoot him in the back. This done, I and the soldiers, using bayonets and bolos, dug a pit where we buried Procopio.
“When I approached the place where Andres was, he said, ‘Patay na ang kapatid ko’ [My brother is dead], and he added [again in the third person], ‘Patawarin ninyo ako kapatid.’ I replied that I was sorry but it was my military duty to follow the order.
“Andres Bonifacio tried to escape, but he could not go far because of the thick shrubbery around. One of the soldiers reached him, firing at him from behind and shooting him in the back. After digging one more grave with our bayonets and bolos we buried Andres in it.
“Procopio and Andres were not taken to Tala hill bound, but free. Andres had only one wound, in one of his arms. From the top of the hill where Procopio was buried to the grave of Andres, on a hill slope facing a rivulet, there were only twenty-five steps; while from Andres’ grave to the brook the distance was about five brazas [in Tagalog, a dipa, the length, tip to tip of one’s outstretched arms, about 1.67 meters].
“The brothers were buried in the morning. This was before the fighting with the Spaniards took place, when they captured Maragondon.
“Andres Bonifacio wore a white camisa de chino on the day of his execution. The gun used was a Remington. The four soldiers who accompanied us were natives of Kawit, and they are all dead. I am the only survivor of the occurrence.”
Heroes, like saints, are usually commemorated on the day of their death, their transition into history. Bonifacio is commemorated on his birthday because his death raises painful questions. Bonifacio was killed by the very revolution he started. Colonizers are the villains in our history, but Bonifacio’s death points to Filipino villains.
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