Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Where are the bones of Bonifacio?

Where are the bones of Bonifacio?

Updated 01:56am (Mla time) Dec 01, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the December 1, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

YESTERDAY, I found myself on a hill known as Nagpatong in Maragondon, Cavite. It is "officially" the place where Andres Bonifacio and his brother Procopio were executed by a team led by Lazaro Makapagal on May 10, 1897. I put the word "officially" in quotation marks because personally I don't think anyone really knows where the brothers Bonifacio were killed and buried. As a matter of fact, I believe that the so-called Bonifacio bones dug up in 1952 in the area now marked by the Philippines Historical Committee are not those of Andres Bonifacio. These bones were brought to Manila with much fanfare but they have disappeared since. I am sure these bones would not have withstood closer scrutiny. That is another story detailed in my book "Bones of Contention" (Anvil, 2001).

When I first visited Nagpatong seven years ago, I traveled on foot from Maragondon passing through a rickety suspension bridge, two streams and largely uninhabited terrain. It was a desolate place. The historical marker had been vandalized, covered with graffiti (of the type that goes "Loloy loves Mary" and "Bawal omehe deto").

Today, a dirt road makes the place accessible to tourists in cars. There are some scattered houses now, as well as a visible military presence in the area that suggests Nice People Around. Through the efforts of Maragondon Mayor Monte A. Andaman this place may yet see some development. A huge tableau by Toym Imao is rising on the site, changing the landscape we hope, for the better.

This development will surely spark some historical controversy. Worn-out questions will resurface like: Who was responsible for the death of Bonifacio? Who should rightfully be our National Hero?

If the monument will inspire patriotism, then it is worth all the trouble. But if it simply becomes another excuse to divide, another way to indulge in historical sabong, then it has no place anywhere in the Philippines.

What will be overlooked again is that our textbooks do not agree on the site of the execution of the Bonifacio brothers. Some books, following tradition, say they were executed on Mt. Buntis; others, towing the official line, say Mt. Nagpatong. I have no clear answer except that they were buried somewhere in this mountain range.

When I asked people to point out Buntis to me yesterday, I got the same vague answer as seven years ago. Nobody seems to know anything specific. From Nagpatong where we stood, Buntis was just a mountain away separated by Naputok. This is not a joke. The traditional names of the hills or mountains on the Maragondon range are very suggestive: Nagpatong, Naputok, Buntis and Hulog.

Until the National Historical Institute corrects history, as it did recently when it moved the site of the beginning of the Filipino-American War on Feb. 4, 1899 from a bridge in San Juan to a spot in Sta. Mesa, then we are stuck with Nagpatong. For whatever it is worth, I reproduce excerpts from a letter of Fr. Lupo Dumandan published in Taliba on Jan. 12, 1918 narrating the finding of the alleged Bonifacio bones on Nagpatong:

"In the town of Maragondon, Cavite, in a place called Hulog, on the hacienda of Jose Reyes, on the libis of a hill called Nagpatong and under the shade of an alibangbang tree, I found the burial place of the Supremo...I asked the residents of the area of the cause of death of the Supremo of the Katipunan. Some said that before the Spanish soldiers entered the town of Maragondon the revolutionaries took the wounded Supremo to the site I have mentioned, where he was shot and buried...

"Many people saw the Supremo...being carried in a hammock by two men because he was wounded....According to the people, Bonifacio was wounded in a battle that happened between the revolutionary soldiers...due to the delicacy [kaselanan] of my present state and due to my being a Catholic priest, I should not get involved in politics and in this way I am announcing the discovery of the skeleton of Andres Bonifacio so that those encouraging love of country can see if they should be moved to a place that is more fitting."

We now have many monuments to Bonifacio (and street names, too) all over the Philippines, among the most significant being that in Caloocan by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino (in the junction now popularly known as Monumento). There is another in bronze by National Artist Napoleon Abueva in Balintawak (the older statue in plaster, the one with white shirt and red pants, is now in front of Vinzon's Hall in UP Diliman]. Part of the mural by National Artist Carlos V. Francisco in Manila City Hall has Bonifacio leading his men to battle. There is also a sole figure of Bonifacio standing in front of the Manila Post Office, now the Liwasang Bonifacio, also by Guillermo Tolentino, and a rather tacky but striking three-dimensional tableau on Mehan Garden by the prolific Eduardo Castrillo who is sometimes mislabeled as a "National Artist." It is the Castrillo piece that spawned the one in Maragondon by Imao.

There will be more monuments to follow, and it is unfortunate that the remains of the Bonifacio brothers have not been found and given a proper burial. Till that day comes, let's hope historians and forensic doctors can piece together what happened to the Bonifacio brothers and why this happened.


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