His Excellency, President Andres Bonifacio?

Jee Y. Geronimo

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A resolution by the Philippine Historian Association's general assembly wants the government to acknowledge Andres Bonifacio as the country's first president

NOBLE. Historian Michael Xiao Chua says this monument in Liwasang Bonifacio is an accurate depiction of the national hero. Photo by Wikimedia Commons/User Karla Mae Brazil

MANILA, Philippines – Ask anyone to dress up like national hero Andres Bonifacio, and he’d probably be in a white camisa de chino, with a red handkerchief around the neck and a bolo in one hand.

After all, this is the image we see in most of his monuments in the country, even in history books that attempt to illustrate Bonifacio the fighter, or Bonifacio the leader of the masses.

But what does Bonifacio, the president, look like?

Debunking stereotypes

Historian and De La Salle professor Michael Xiao Chua found it curious that history textbooks and monuments are replete with Bonifacio’s “farmer” outfit when the only surviving photo of him is this:

WHERE'S THE BOLO? This is the only known surviving photo of Gat Andres Bonifacio. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Tama ang depiksyon [ng mga monumento] sa Lawton at Caloocan – may karangalan, (Bonifacio’s monuments in Lawton and Caloocan depict him rightfully and with dignity,” he said.

For National Artist and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino chair Virgilio Almario, bad stories and misconceptions about Bonifacio (which all started in Cavite, Chua said) overshadow the fact that he is not only the Father of the Philippine Revolution, but also the first to establish an anti-colonial revolution in Asia.

Chua and Almario shared their thoughts during a talk on Bonifacio’s heroism hosted by histo-cultural organization MAYPAGASA on Friday, October 11, in the home of the national hero, Manila.

BONIFACIO AS INTELLECTUAL. National Artist Virgilio Almario lauds Andres' Bonifacio's skills in writing. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler


Almario also argued that Bonifacio is a better writer than Rizal because his works – dubbed “akdang Katipunero” – were more easy to grasp for the masses than the writings of the ilustrados.

Perhaps the best example of this is Bonifacio’s “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Bayan,” a compelling poem about one’s love for the nation  an ideology at the very heart of the revolution.

For Bonifacio, the end goal of this love is to go back to freedom, the country’s original state. And every person has a stake in it.

Kailangang maginhawa muna bago lumaya ang tao – ginhawa mula sa kabutihan ng kalooban. Kapag di tayo mabuti sa kapwa natin, ‘di magkakaroon ng kalayaan,” Chua said. (The person must find rest first before he becomes free  rest that comes from goodness within. Without this, we will never have freedom.)


Today, all these credentials strong, intelligent, nationalistic  would be enough to elect Bonifacio as president. But a group already claims they have proof that Bonifacio is actually the first president of the Philippines. 

As far as Chua and the general assembly of the Philippine Historian Association (PHA) is concerned, there is “overwhelming” evidence that points to the legitimacy of Andres Bonifacio’s presidency.

Last August 23, they signed a resolution urging both President Benigno Aquino III and the Congress to acknowledge Bonifacio as the first president of the Philippines.

Alam mo, hindi ito senseless eh. May gobyerno si Bonifacio noon, at may ebidensya tayo dyan. Gumana yung Katipunan as government, and from Aug 24, 1896, hindi na siya Katipunan revolutionary society but a government already. Yun yung pinapanindigan natin,” Chua maintained.

(This is not senseless. Bonifacio had a government then, and there’s evidence of that. The Katipunan functioned as a government, and from Aug 24, 1896, it was not merely a Katipunan revolutionary society but a government already. That’s our stand.)

A National Commission for Culture and the Arts article mentioned the establishment of a national government as one of the 3 major decisions made during the convention of the National Assembly of the Katipunan on Aug 24, 1896.

Chua said the PHA board has not yet decided if it is going to support the resolution.

The organization, according to Press Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, previously pushed for changing the date of Philippine independence from July 4 to June 12. PHA also made Emilio Aguinaldo an honorary member, The Philippine Star reported.

SYMBOLIC. Historian Michael Xiao Chua says recognizing Andres Bonifacio as the first president may be the inspiration the country needs today. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

Thru social media

The bid to recognize Bonifacio as the first president, Chua said, has now become symbolic in light of recent events.

“Kahit naman alam natin yung nangyayari sa lipunan natin di ba, baka kailangan natin ng ‘oomph’ that will inspire us (Even if we know what’s happening in our society right now, maybe this is the ‘oomph’ that will inspire us),” he said.

If back in 1994, the call was ignored, today Chua is hopeful that social media can aid them to create noise, raise awareness, and make public pieces of evidence to prove Bonifacio’s presidency.

As of this writing, an online petition with more than 7,000 supporters is urging the government to give Bonifacio a state funeral. Quezon said the law specifies presidents, vice presidents, speakers of the House, Senate presidents, national artists, and medal of valor winners should be given state funerals.  

“We would just wait and in time, we’re going to look [and] see that the people [themselves] will ask the government. And the government shall follow,” Chua said. – Rappler.com

Bonifacio image from Wikimedia Commons

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.