Detail of Andres Bonifacio’s signature in the Acta de Tejeros where he signs Ang Haring Bayan
Culture Spotlight

ANCXclusive: Government asks Leon Gallery to stop sale of wartime objects and Bonifacio documents

Gallery owner Jaime Ponce de Leon says he will relay the government’s request to the sellers, but ultimately the decision rests with those who own the historic pieces which include a map, a dagger, a telegram and other historical documents. 
Ces Oreña Drilon | Nov 28 2018

The government is asking Leon Gallery to stop the sale of a number of historical documents and items it is auctioning this Saturday, December 1, as part of its Kingly Treasures Auction, featuring art works, antiques and furniture.

Jaime Ponce de Leon, director of Leon Gallery, received a letter from the National Historical Commission requesting that eight items be withdrawn, including a dagger that once belonged to General Manuel Tinio, a hero of the Philippine-American War.

In his appeal to Ponce de Leon , NHCP acting Executive Director Ludovico Badoy asked that he hold off the sale so government itself can buy the items.

But Congress, Badoy said, has to be given the time to include funding for the acquisition under its 2019 budget.

Here’s a rundown of the historic articles up for sale and are now on public preview.

• An anonymous letter of a Katipunero to D. Hairdo S. Jose; “relating the ‘secret’ causes of the feud between General Emilio Aguinaldo and Andres Bonifacio.”

• A declaration by General Artemio Ricarte; “The document was first mentioned by Andres Bonifacio in his very last letter before his death, written to his best friend Emilio Jacinto. In this declaration, Ricarte denounced the ‘dirty and shady election practices’ at the Tejeros Convention and for this reason confirmed his ‘great disagreement’ on the proceedings of the oathtaking (of Aguinaldo).”

• A map of North Cavite, hand-drawn and signed by General Artemio Ricarte with his alias, “Vibora”

• An unpublished foreword, handwritten and signed by General Artemio Ricarte, “who is considered the Father of the Philippine Army”

• Acta de Tejeros, signed by Andres Bonifacio and 44 others important personalities in the Philippine Revolution. “Written and signed on the day after the tumultuous Tejeros Convention, this was Bonifacio’s outraged response to Aguinaldo’s election as President."

• Acta de Naik (The Naik Military Agreement) “The document takes the Acta de Tejeros a step further - it proclaims, says noted Katipunan scholar Jim Richardson that some leaders (meaning but not naming Emilio Aguinaldo) have betrayed the revolution.”

• A dagger with the initials T.B or Tinio Brigade. “The steel blade with an accompanying scabbard is dated 1899 and recalls one of the most heroic Filipino conflicts: The Philippine-American War.”

• A telegram from Emilio Aguinaldo to General Antonio Luna, dated June 4, 1899. The telegram is proof that Aguinaldo sent his summons to make sure Luna went to Cabanatuan, summoning him to his death.

Click on the image below for slideshow


Counterclockwise from top: Declaration by General Artemio Ricarte. Dated: 23 March 1897; Map of North Cavite, Hand-Drawn and Signed by General Artemio Ricarte; “Paunang Salita (Foreword)”, Handwritten and signed by General Artemio Ricarte


Acta de Tejeros (Tejeros Proclamation), Signed by Katipunan Supremo, Andres Bonifacio and 44 men, many of them important personalities of the Philippine Revolution. Dated 23 March 1897. P1,000,000 starting bid


Hen. Luna Telegram from Emilio Aguinaldo summoning him to his death. Dated 4 June 1899. Provenance: The Estate of Grace Luna de San Pedro, widow of Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of Juan Luna. P500,000 starting bid


A dagger dated 1899 belonging to the brilliant military strategist General Manuel Tinio. P50,000 starting bid


‘Acta de Naik’ signed by Andres Bonifacio and 41 other men who are important historical personalities in the Philippine revolution. P1,000,000 starting bid


General Artemio Ricarte aka Vibora


General Manuel Tinio 


“Paunang Salita (Foreword)”, Handwritten and signed by General Artemio Ricarte


“Paunang Salita (Foreword)”, Handwritten and signed by General Artemio Ricarte


“Paunang Salita (Foreword)”, Handwritten and signed by General Artemio Ricarte


“Paunang Salita (Foreword)”, Handwritten and signed by General Artemio Ricarte


The items’ descriptions are quoted from the Leon Gallery’s catalog for the Kingly Treasures Auction, given out to prospective bidders.

The items the government wants withdrawn, have starting bids ranging from PhP50,000 for the dagger to PhP 1M each for the Tejeros and Naik documents.

Ponce de Leon says he will relay the government’s request to the sellers, but ultimately the decision rests with those who own the historic pieces.

The auctions by Leon Gallery, Ponce de Leon asserts, have ferreted out a veritable treasure trove of historical documents and personal effects of revolutionary heroes that would have otherwise been lost to oblivion. The record breaking sale by Leon Gallery was in March this year, when Andres Bonifacio’s last letter was sold for PhP5.256M (hammer price plus 16.8 percent premium). Dated 24 April 1897, it was written days before he was arrested on 27 April 1897.  

Just this September, Andres Bonifacio’s personal flag, sewn by his wife, was sold for almost PhP 10M. “It's only by doing this, selling things at auction and fetching good prices that materials like these are coming out,” says Ponce de Leon. “Just like in the last auction, there were some documents that no one knew existed, so if not for that, there are a lot of pieces of a puzzle in the last century that would have been lost because we didn't know of their existence. Actually the discovery would not have been made if not out of the enticement of a sale.’

Ponce de Leon adds he is hopeful these acts by the government won’t become a deterrent to custodians of historical objects and documents. “Because things like these will never be found again, will never be seen. Like even now, someone just called, (about) a letter of Mabini to del Pilar, and they want to show it to us. So things like these will never come to light. So, I think this is the thing that should loom larger in the picture.”

The moneyed buyers of Leon Gallery also have the means and access to be better custodians of the valuable artifacts. “I’ll give you an example: the KKK flag in the last sale was in a very bad state. A few more years and we would have lost it in the dust. So now, I am aware that the owner will have it restored, and have all the correct measures to get it back to its original state.”

Ponce de Leon is aware a restoration of such an item would cost a fortune. But on the other hand, he says, “I am sure that these buyers will be very happy to show it back to the country.”

Leon Gallery has kept museum quality copies of all historical documents they have sold since day one. They have provided access to historians like Ambeth Ocampo and Xiao Chua for study and research. The buyers, he attests, are the best caretakers of these pieces of our history. “There was one important collector who painstakingly sent the document to a very very important institution who specializes in the restoration of paper and the cost of restoration was even more than the acquisition price. Now it’s in mint condition.”

Love of country is what buyers of these letters and notes have in common, says Ponce de Leon. “Without a doubt, they love this country very much. These are collectors who want to have a piece of history of this country, and the making of this country, because these are, these pieces, are part and parcel of how the Philippines came to be.”