Andres Bonifacio

Filipinos mark Bonifacio Day with calls for higher wages, lower prices

Ryan Macasero
Filipinos mark Bonifacio Day with calls for higher wages, lower prices

BONIFACIO DAY. Activists hold a protest rally at the Plaza Miranda in Manila, demanding a wage increase, on November 30, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(3rd UPDATE) 'We vow to pursue Bonifacio’s struggle under new conditions. Workers fight for wage hikes, secure jobs and labor rights to defend their living conditions,' says labor activist Wilson Fortaleza.

MANILA, Philippines – Labor groups and activists across the country commemorated the 159th birth anniversary of revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio on Wednesday, November 30, with protests and calls for better living conditions, especially for ordinary workers.

It was the first commemoration of Bonifacio Day led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who keynoted the flag raising and wreath-laying ceremony at the Bonifacio Shrine in Caloocan City.

While the Philippine government led solemn ceremonies honoring the writer and revolutionary figure, progressive groups held protests across the country typical of Bonifaco Day celebrations.

For activists, Bonifacio would have supported the right to protest for important causes.

Wilson Fortaleza of Partido Manggagawa (PM) said Bonifacio’s struggle for independence and social justice “should be reinterpreted by today’s workers and the youth to understand the challenges of the situation.”

“Bonifacio has a clear concept of ‘kaginhawahan (prosperity)’ which to him can only be achieved under conditions of freedom and solidarity, conditions we enjoyed prior to colonization,” Fortaleza said, referring to the spirit of the Katipunan, described by Bonifacio as Kapatiran, Kabutihang-Loob, Kaginhawaan, Kalayaan (brotherhood, generosity, prosperity, freedom).

“We vow to pursue Bonifacio’s struggle under new conditions. Workers fight for wage hikes, secure jobs and labor rights to defend their living conditions,” the labor rights activist said.

PROTEST. Activists hold a Bonifacio Day rally at Plaza Miranda in Manila to protest on Bonifacio Day, November 30, 2022.

Progressive group Anakbayan held a protest at 9 am in Plaza Miranda, before making their way to Liwasang Bonifacio and then Mendiola. The protest will call for national democracy, the increase of wages, and the lowering of the price of goods.

Kabataan Partylist also joined demands for a general wage increase, lower prices of basic commodities, and cash assistance for the poor, noting that “young workers are the lifeblood of our labor force and deserve better and fair working conditions.”

“Mahalaga na may oportunidad sa disenteng trabaho at sahod ang mga kabataan upang mahikayat silang ipaglingkod ang talento at husay nila sa pangangailangan at pag-unlad ng bayan. Panawagan natin sa Malacañang na maglabas ng Executive Order para sa umento sa sahod at i-certify bilang urgent ang mga katumbas na panukalang batas para dito,” Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Instead of rushing the revival of Mandatory ROTC which is set to impose heavier economic burden on workers’ families and eat away funds for economic aid, pagpokusan natin ang pagpasa ng mga batas na magsusulong ng kabuhayan at pagbangon ng bansa sa pandemya (let us focus on passing laws that would provide more jobs and held the country recover during the pandemic),” he added.

NO TO MANDATORY ROTC. Activists gather at Plaza Miranda in Manila to protest on Bonifacio Day, November 30, 2022.
Living out ‘Bonifacio’s story of heroism’

Akbayan celebrated Bonifacio Day with a vow to “build upon Bonifacio’s dream,” it said in a statement.

“We will take government to task as we confront the most pressing issues affecting every Filipino family– soaring inflation, the rising prices of goods, and the availability of meaningful and productive work.

“In the same vein, Akbayan will sustain the struggle against the ills that have plagued our laborers for so long. We will continue to fight for just wages, fair treatment of every worker, and an end to the oppressive practice of ENDO and contractualization. Defending the rights of our nation’s workers is the foundation of a truly humane society,” Akbayan added.

Migrante International called for the continued “fight for the ideals that Bonifacio devoted his life to – national freedom and democracy.”

“Let us continue his fight, which remains relevant 159 years after his birth and more than 126 years after the start of the revolution that he led. Our present is not the future that Bonifacio dreamed of and died for,” Migrante said.

BONIFACIO DAY PROTEST. Militant activists march along Manila on the way to Mendiola on Bonifacio Day, November 30, 2022.

In Cebu, left-leaning organizations held joint protests from Plaza Independencia to Colon starting at 9 am.

For LGBTQI+ advocate and content creator Mela Habijan, other advocates can learn from Bonifacio’s heroism in pursuing gender equality rights in the Philippines.

“Bonifacio’s story of heroism lies in his desire to free his fellows from oppression and discrimination,” Habijan said.

“He did not see himself as powerless, but rather a person worthy of the right to liberty and respect from others. No matter how tough and dangerous the fight was, he dared to pursue it. And this is what LGBTQIA+ people like me should emulate as we also fight for equality and human rights in the Philippines,” she added.

Public historian Xiao Chua says while it’s correct to celebrate Bonifacio’s bravery and heroism, it’s important for Filipinos today to also view him as someone who knew how to love, and showed Filipinos how to do the same.

Lagi nating sinasabi na si Andres Bonifacio ay atapang-a-tao. Laban lang siya ng laban. Tama naman, pero, tinuruan niya rin tayong umibig (We always say that Andres Bonifacio was a brave person. He just continues fighting. That’s correct, but he also taught us to love),” Chua said.

Bonifacio’s most well-known poem, Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa (Love of the Motherland), talked about fighting for the country as an expression of love.

Cebu-based academic Laila Labajo, who teaches at the University of San Carlos, said that amid challenges of difficult social and economic conditions the average Filipino faces today, everyone can learn from Bonifacio’s dedication to fighting for justice.

“Bonifacio’s story is very relevant to all Filipinos…. It will inspire people to be humbly fighting for what is right and just. It will instill heroism and nationalism. That even in limited resources and very challenging times, Filipinos should rise up for self, others and for our country. Nothing will substitute with honesty, integrity and love of country,” Labajo said. – Rappler.com

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at ryan.macasero@rappler.com