By Manny Villar
Andres Bonifacio is known by many titles and monickers. The Supremo. The Father of the Philippine Revolution. The Great Plebeian.
Today, in a world where people idolize fictional characters out of comic books or sometimes even serial killers, criminals, and gangsters, I submit that Bonifacio is the best character out of our history as a free nation who should be idolized by the Filipino youth.
Bonifacio was a self-made man.
Frederick Douglass, the great African-American writer and orator who fought slavery in the US, defined self-made men as “men who, under peculiar difficulties and without the ordinary help of favoring circumstances, have attained knowledge, usefulness, power, and position, and have learned from themselves the best uses to which life can be put in this world, and in the exercises of these uses to build up worthy character.”
He continued, rather eloquently and poetically:
“From the depths of poverty, such as these have often come. From the heartless pavements of large and crowded cities; barefooted, homeless, and friendless, they have come. From hunger, rags, and destitution, they have come; motherless and fatherless, they have come, and may come. Flung overboard in the midnight storm on the broad and tempest-tossed ocean of life; left without ropes, planks, oars or life-preservers, they have bravely buffeted the frowning billows and have risen in safety and life where others, supplied with the best appliances for safety and success, have fainted, despaired, and gone down forever.”
Andres Bonifacio fits this definition perfectly. Born on November 30, 1863, in Tondo, Manila, he was the eldest of a brood of five. His was not a rich, comfortable life, so when they were orphaned, Andres had to assume responsibility of heading the family at age fourteen.
“Motherless and fatherless,” he worked relentlessly to feed his siblings and studied tirelessly to feed his hunger for knowledge. While selling paper fans and canes, he also worked as a messenger and later a bodeguero or a warehouse man. While working, he also found time reading books to sharpen his intellect.
For a long time, Bonifacio was portrayed as an unlettered revolutionary. But the accounts of Pio Valenzuela belie this. He read “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo, “Lives of the Presidents of the United States,” “History of the French Revolution,” “La Solidaridad.’’ He also read Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere,” “El Filibusterismo,” and of Morga’s “Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas.”
He was merely 29 years of age when he co-founded the Katipunan, a secret society which was established to fight for complete independence from the Spaniards. What were you doing when you were 29? What have you done for your country?
These are important questions as we celebrated Bonifacio Day last November 30, 2017.
I am not suggesting that young people establish a revolutionary movement. I do not mean that the Filipino youth should die like heroes. What I am saying is that our young should idolize heroes like Bonifacio by discovering a cause they are willing to die for. Learn. Work hard. Become independent. Have patience and persistence. Serve your country in whatever small way you can.
I am sure that when Bonifacio was founding the Katipunan or “living his life,” he was not thinking about what future generations would think of him. He, just like many of our national heroes, responded to the call of the times, the need to defend the freedom and independence of the country. He lived his life preparing himself to be equipped to help his country.
Yes, Bonifacio is a worthy lodi to be emulated by young Filipinos. He is not Thor. He is not Batman or Superman. He is the Supremo.
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