Art by Ruth Catabijan
Culture Books

This Bonifacio biography for kids presents the latest findings on the Katipunan

Telling the story of the KKK and its popular supremo is a difficult, challenging task. But in the past few years, documents have come to light that fill some of the knowledge gaps—summarized excellently in a book by John Ray Ramos and Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua.
John Ray Ramos and Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua | Oct 14 2019

The "Bayani Biographies" is a series of books for young readers. Through engaging narratives that look into the lives of our heroes, it aims to let young readers realize that they are no different from the young Andres, the young Rizal, that they read about. The series is a category of Kahel Press, the children’s book imprint of St. Matthew’s Publishing Corporation.

In this excerpt shared by the authors, they introduce us to an Andres and a Katipunan that burned with a sense of justice, and a fierce desire to be free. 

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This is the story of Andres Bonifacio, someone who dreamt of a better future for his countrymen. For more than three hundred years, Filipinos were subjected to unfair colonial rule. They were not treated as equals in their very country. Despite the many odds Andres faced, he took on the dangerous task to start the fight for freedom and for the birth of the Filipino nation.

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The sources about Andres vary in detail as well as in perspective, many of which conflict with one another as many people have different opinions about him. Aside from this, the story of Andres’s life is full of misconceptions. He had the reputation of being uneducated, badly tempered, and violent. This narrative includes the Katipunan which was mistaken to be composed only of poor, uneducated people who quickly charged into battle. 

But historians, through time, have corrected many such misconceptions and myths surrounding Andres’s life. This biography looks at Andres as a brother, a best friend, an artist, a thinker, an entrepreneur, an activist, a leader and a revolutionary who inspired the Filipino people to fight for liberty.

An excerpt from “Bayani Biographies: Andres Bonifacio” written by John Ray Ramos and Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

Leading the Katipunan

In late December of 1894, Andres was elected as Kataas-taasang Pangulo or Supreme President of the Katipunan. He became responsible for the overall leadership of the Katipunan and all its chapters. Andres looked for locations where the katipuneros could establish their base at the start of the revolution. They went to the mountains of Morong and Bulacan looking for areas where Spanish forces would find a hard time attacking, where katipuneros could retreat, organize and launch attacks. Andres was preparing his reales or strongholds.

Art by Ruth Catabijan

On one such occasion, a Good Friday, Andres and fellow katipuneros went to the mythical mountain of Bernardo Carpio, believed to be in Mt. Tapusi in Montalban, Morong. In a symbolic gesture, they wrote on the walls of the Pamintinan cave, “Mabuhay ang Kalayaan!” (Long live freedom!) as a reaffirmation of their readiness to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of the nation.

In December 1895, Oriang gave birth to a baby boy. They named the baby Andres as well. Andres, Jr. was baptized on Christmas eve with Dr. Pio Valenzuela as godfather. For three years, the Katipunan had only 300 members. Then, it was suggested that to propagate the goals of the Katipunan and recruit more members, the organization must publish a newspaper. Pio Valenzuela asked to be the one to carry out the publication. Andres agreed and entrusted him with the task. Emilio Jacinto then became its editor.

The first and only edition of Kalayaan came out in March 1896. It had the writings of Andres, Emilio Jacinto and Pio Valenzuela. Andres’s poems, Emilio Jacintos’s treatise, and Pio Valenzuela’s stories stated the harsh conditions under Spanish colonial and friar rule. It also promoted the ideals of the Katipunan of seeking true freedom through love of one another and working towards the good and well-being of the motherland. 

Copies of the Kalayaan were distributed by Katipunan members in secret. Many read the Kalayaan and were inspired to join the Katipunan. With this, their numbers swelled from about 300 to 30,000. Andres also inaugurated new chapters of the Katipunan. He went around Bulacan, Cavite, and Morong where new chapters were opened, with new members learning about the movement through the local chapters and a publication. 

Life as a leader of the Katipunan was difficult. Andres and Oriang had to move from one address to another to avoid the danger of being caught and questioned by colonial authorities. From 1894, they moved several times to different addresses like in Calle Anyahan, to Dulumbayan in Santa Cruz, and in Calle Cervantes in Bambang north of Manila.  

On Maundy Thursday of 1896, while Andres was away in Cavite, tragedy struck as fire broke out in their house in Calle Cervantes. Andres and Oriang’s possessions were lost in the fire. After the fire, they stayed in the house of Dr. Pio Valenzuela in Binondo. Not long after, Andres and Oriang’s baby boy, Andres Jr., who was afflicted with measles, died. 

Despite the personal tragedies, Andres continued to work and lead in preparing for a revolution. He knew that when the revolution came and the Katipunan had established a revolutionary government, recognition from other countries was needed. 
 

An excerpt from the foreword by Katipunan expert, Jim Richardson

Telling the remarkable story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan is a difficult, challenging task for historians. On countless details, the sources are few and conflicting, and leave so many secrets untold.

In the past few years, however, documents have come to light that fill some of the gaps in our knowledge and correct some of our past misunderstandings. This excellent book by John Ray Ramos and Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua is one of the first to take account of the latest discoveries about Bonifacio and the Katipunan. Though aimed mainly at younger readers, it therefore deserves to be read too by college students, who will find that it augments and updates earlier works. 

The authors are also to be commended for recounting Bonifacio’s life against the background of his times, for setting his heroic patriotism in its economic, social and political context. For some, the rapid changes seen in the late nineteenth century Philippines brought a new prosperity. But in the hearts of Bonifacio and his fellow Katipuneros they aroused a burning sense of justice, and a fierce desire to be free. 

 

John Ray Ramos is a part-time instructor at History Department of Ateneo de Manila and at the Institute of Formation and Religous Studies. He finished his bachelor’s degree in History and is taking his Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of the Philippines. He is pursuing a multidisciplinary career in the field of public history, heritage conservation and cultural policy. He co-founded PROYEKTO, a project-based movement aimed at promoting history and heritage awareness and education. He served as the Chapter Commander of the Sucesos Chapter of the Order of the Knights of Rizal. He is the author of Bayani Biographies: Jose Rizal also published by Kahel Press.

Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua is an assistant professorial lecturer at the De La Salle University History Department and a senior lecturer at the UP Department of Broadcast Communication. He finished his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in History and is a Ph.D. Anthropology candidate at the University of the Philippines. He served as vice president and currently public relations officer of the Philippine Historical Association. He is the co-author of Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo and was historical consultant of the television shows History with Lourd, Katipunan, and Ilustrado. He created the “Xiao Time” television segment for the government television channel episodes of which are still accessible online. He currently writes a Saturday English column at the Manila Times and a Filipino Sunday column in Abante. He is the most active historian in the Philippine media.

 

For more information on the book, visit St. Matthew’s Publishing’s website.