Major participants of the Philippine revolution against Spain were assassins and heroes, sinners and saints - as shown by their own hand-written and typewritten manuscripts, including first editions of their books – all of which will be auctioned to the highest bidders in Makati’s Leon Gallery on February 23.
The Asian Cultural Council’s auction at Leon has raised relevant questions: Are the rare manuscripts authentic? Are the historical narratives true or mere cover-ups of past misdeeds? Have historians helped sanitize the evils of the ruling elite, or have they identified the oppressors of heroes from below (the social ladder) who wanted independence from Spain?
“The Leon Gallery is known for its integrity and the exceptional quality of the items in its collection,” said historian Mila Guerrero, an expert of the 1896 revolution. “Only Filipinos are allowed to bid,” said Lisa Nakpil, historical consultant since Leon’s auction of historical documents began in 2016. “The Filipino spirit is easily seen in original and hand-written manuscripts. Owning them in the age of digital technology is becoming addictive,” she added.
On top of Leon’s list is the defense of Emilio Aguinaldo (1869-1964), the country’s first president; said defense was crafted because of allegations that he was responsible for the unconstitutional killing of Andres Bonifacio at Bundoc ng Tala near Maragondon on May 10, 1897. The rare collection of the elder Epifanio de los Santos, his publisher-son Jose P. Santos, and an unknown second owner has an initial bid of P 1.250 million.
In Aguinaldo’s two-page handwritten statement dated March 22, 1948, and one-page typewritten statement dated May 11, 1948, he claimed he lowered to exile the death sentence of the Council of War for Bonifacio and his brother Procopio for their failed coup plot, the Naik Military Agreement, which Bonifacio and Aguinaldo’s generals forged on April 18, 1897. Aguinaldo said Bonifacio’s death sentence saved the revolutionary government, and was advised by Council head Gen. Mariano Noriel and Council’s eyewitness, Gen. “Pio” del Pilar. Aguinaldo’s type-written statement said the same thing, but it carried a phrase which claimed that his order to exile Bonifacio did not reach his men – it was crossed out or edited. He was then 79. He was president at 30, and was 28 when his rival Bonifacio died at 34.
Also securing a top slot on Leon’s list is a five-page handwritten document of Major Lazaro Macapagal, Aguinaldo’s Council secretary, who described Bonifacio’s death. Given to Santos for publication on June 27, 1929, the manuscript’s initial bid is P 150,000.
Macapagal said he opened the sealed envelope that Council head Gen. Noriel gave him, and read the death sentence of the Bonifacio brothers at Bundoc ng Tala in May 1897. Procopio howled, Bonifacio kneeled and begged for his life, then both ran deep into the forest where they were shot to death. Ciriaco Bonifacio was hacked to death after the arrest of the family.
Ironically, Noriel and del Pilar had forged the Naik Military Agreement with Bonifacio who was then worried that Aguinaldo might surrender to Spanish Governor General Camilo de Polavieja, after the last had regained one third of Cavite from the Filipino revolutionaries. Bonifacio’s Agreement was hatched after Aguinaldo won 146 over Bonifacio’s 80 votes at the Tejeros Convention in San Francisco del Monte (Rosario, Cavite), on March 22, 1897.
Bonifacio, his wife and brothers, Emilio Jacinto, secretary of the Katipunan, and troops went to Cavite in December 1896 to help mend the rift between Katipunan’s rival factions there – the Magdalo headed by Aguinaldo’s cousin Baldomero Aguinaldo, and the Magdiwang, headed by Mariano Alvarez, the uncle of Bonifacio’s wife. At that time, Aguinaldo’s Magdalo had established a provisional government in Cavite’s “pacified areas” in October 1896, following the success of both factions in attacking Spanish forces in Cavite.
“The Bonifacio brothers were killed outright. They could not have run because their wounds were not treated for days,” observed Nakpil.
Historian Teodoro Agoncillo in “Revolt of the Masses,” (published in 1956), has projected everything that Lazaro said as absolute truth. But other historians like Domingo de Guzman have questioned Lazaro’s testimony. “Being the assassin himself and secretary of the Council’s fake trial, everything that Lazaro said should be rigorously questioned. As testimony, his letter should be deemed worthless,” said de Guzman.
The first edition of “Mga Tala ng Aking Buhay,” a 17-page handwritten account of de Jesus, dubbed the Katipunan’s “lakambini,” is another one of Leon’s exciting offers. It goes up with an initial bid of P400,000. In the account, she talks about her life as a woman guerilla, and shares anecdotes like that time she kept important revolutionary papers hidden in her clothes, and was never found out. She also did not talk about her alleged rape after the arrest of Bonifacio. I admire her courage,” said Nakpil whose relative Julio Nakpil of the Katipunan married de Jesus at Quiapo Church on December 10, 1898. They bore six children.
“In the records of the trial (not part of Leon’s auction), de Jesus talked about being raped by Col. Agustin “Inton” Bonzon, - the arresting officer of the Bonifacio family. Apolonio Samson, a Katipunan member from Caloocan also gave a statement that he witnessed how Intong pulled her up to a house in Limbon,” de Guzman mentioned related documents. A collector who requested for anonymity showed to ANC X de Jesus’ detailed statement about her harrowing experience. Beneath her name in the unsigned document is a comment: “Es enfirmido del autor!” “Women in the revolutionary forces should now start talking about sexual abuse,” advised Wilhelmina Orozco, a feminist.
Fifteen pages of Jacinto’s papers, dated 1896-1899 are also up for auction, and have an initial bid of P 900,000. Not at Leon’s auction are Jacinto’s minutes of the Katipunan which have important details of “the association’s 200,000 followers, funds of P 264,000, and Bonifacio’s disappointment about guns that were not bought in Hong Kong,” said de Guzman. It is not known if Leon’s current collection from Madrid’s military archives has the story of Jacinto’s bone, which was given to de Jesus after his hip was hit by a Spanish mortar , and was taken to be a sure and definite sign of love.
At the same auction, a first edition of Jose Rizal’s anti -Spanish novel, Noli Me Tangere (printed in Berlin, Germany, in 1886), will go for a starting bid of P 1.5 million.
The Noli ante-dated the birth of the Katipunan by ten years. Rizal’s second novel, El Filibusterismo(not part of Leon’s auction), published in 1891, angered Spanish authorities who implicated him to the anti-Spanish revolt. Although a reformist, he was exiled to Dapitan from 1892 to 1896; arrested while en-route to Cuba to serve as a doctor; and executed by a firing squad at Manila’s Luneta Park on Dec 30, 1896. Another interesting Rizalian item, also on auction, is a copy of Tomas Kempis’ “De La Imitacion de Cristo (The Imitation of Christ),” which was published in Barcelona in 1890, and which was given by Fr Pablo Pastells to Rizal, ostensibly to lure him back to Catholicism.
Photographs courtesy of Leon Gallery