MANILA — Emilio Aguinaldo's "confession" about ordering the assassination of revolutionary Andres Bonifacio is up for auction Saturday at the Leon Gallery.
Writer-curator-rock band manager Lisa Guerrero Nakpil, great grandniece of Gregoria "Oryang" de Jesus, Bonifacio's widow, said the letter is among "blood-curdling" accounts that make it an imperative to retell dark episodes in the country's history and even revise textbooks.
Aguinaldo's letters were written in the comfort of his retirement from politics. In these hand-written accounts, he admitted he was the one who ordered the deaths of Andres Bonifacio and his brother Procopio.
Another letter was written by one of Aguinaldo's generals, Lazaro Makapagal, who led a group of soldiers loyal to Aguinaldo in the execution of the Bonifacio brothers on the mountains of Maragondon, Cavite.
For the longest time, these letters were in the collection of Jose P. Santos, son of eminent historian and scholar Epifanio de los Santos, after whom EDSA was named.
"Each generation needs a retelling of these blood-curdling accounts. The truth of the matter is that the Makapagal letter was printed in the Philippine Free Press in the 1920s, or a hundred years ago! The Aguinaldo letters were written 75 years ago and reprinted in Adrian Cristobal’s 'Tragedy of the Revolution' some 30 years ago. Some may say they’ve been seen before — but that was several generations ago. It’s always exciting when a new generation discovers them," Nakpil told ABS-CBN News.
Nakpil's great grand uncle, Julio Nakpil, was De Jesus' second husband.
Nakpil emphasized the exact words Aguinaldo used: "I had to yield."
"There’s nothing fancy about the word 'confession.' It is what it is — an admission of guilt," Nakpil wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday, just a few hours before the auction.
"What Aguinaldo meant by 'I had to yield' is that he saw the wisdom in his men’s advice and so freely chose to order Bonifacio killed. It did not mean 'I had no choice in the matter.' Of course he did. He was the commander and decision-maker. By his own account, his guys did not act unilaterally, not without his knowledge, not without consulting him and never without getting a by-your-leave on any decision, big or small. He was after all ‘Dictator’ and master of the universe," Nakpil said.
"Aguinaldo didn't just own up to Bonifacio’s execution, he even tried to convince his audience that it was the wise thing to do. 'I had to yield' not because they put a gun to my head but because I saw the wisdom of their reasons," she added.
"The startling--and yes, shocking because it is troubling to see such an admission--set of confessions are on the block this afternoon at the León Gallery auction," Nakpil said.
[BOLD] Oryang's version
It may have been overshadowed by these "blood-curdling" letters but part of the auction is an original copy of Oryang's autobiography.
"Gregoria de Jesus wrote her autobiography at the invitation of Jose P. Santos, who was a publisher. Her account of the events of May 1897 was a best-seller," Nakpil told ABS-CBN News.
"It’s stunning piece. Jose P. Santos asked her to come up, like a true journalist, with her own Dekalogo, as a companion piece to Bonifacio’s and Jacinto’s Kartilyas," Nakpil added.
Incidentally, Repertory Philippines is re-staging "Miong," the musical on Emilio Aguinaldo at the Onstage Theater in Greenbelt 1, which is just a few hundred meters from Leon Gallery. It is written and directed by Joy Virata, wife of Aguinaldo's great-grand nephew, the former Prime Minister Cesar Virata.
When we asked Nakpil about this coincidence, she gave no answer but rest assured there will be more of this kind of "blood-curdling" auctions at Leon Gallery.