When I try to reminisce about Filipino heroes taught us during grade school years, I think of their portraits hanging in our classrooms. Although I must admit that some of our so-called heroes --based on what I later learned and understood about the term and them now-- were not really deserving to be my (or our) heroes.
What or Who is a hero? A hero is someone whom we admire and wish to emulate; someone who has done something beyond what we would consider the normal scope of human experience, who has left us a lasting or immortal memory of deeds that benefit us so-called "normal or average" people.
A hero is not perfect --as he is human-- but he defines the limits of our aspirations or ideals, i.e. courage, honor and justice. In terms of nation-building, a hero fights consistently and bravely for the homeland, for its true independence and sovereignty; and therefore for the common good of its native majority.
Let us remember that a hero does not have to be a "dead hero" or martyr. Right now, we hope native leadership to be more of the Apolinario Mabini or Claro M. Recto-types versus the Andres Bonifacio(s); though we need them all together in the nationalist struggle, for the long haul.
We native Filipinos seem to have a shortage of heroes. But not really. We have just neglected learning or teaching about many of them throughout our generations or worse, that we have been misled about them and instead conditioned/instructed to remember more about the heroes of our former colonizers or about native Filipinos that were useful to these colonizers..
We native Filipinos had many heroes and we need to know and be inspired by them. As the enemy, the anti-native Filipino, is among us working and collaborating with foreigners for their mutual selfish gain, all at the expense of the native Filipino majority --entrapped in the self-perpetuating vicious circle of impoverishment, illiteracy and ignorance.
Not being aware of our own native heroes, not knowing that we had many admirable native Filipino men and women whom we can emulate, we have become cynical about ourselves, we native Malay Filipinos.
Below is a short essay about our unrecognized heroes, written by Mrs. Leticia R. Constantino. It behooves us to follow her advice about learning more about our heroes so that we native Filipinos will not be so cynical, discouraged and apathetic about our homeland --though admittedly, given our state-of-affairs in the past generations that worsen to the present, there are humongous and true reasons to feel and think so. Let us therefore seek for and recognize more of our still unknown heroes, most of whom had to make the ultimate sacrifices for our future generations of native Filipinos.
Let us join, by informing ourselves of our nationalist history, in the struggle to defeat this massive illiteracy and ignorance in our homeland to obtain the necessary social transformations for true political and economic independence that will serve the common good.
Our Unrecognized Heroes
- Mrs. Leticia R. Constantino, Education Forum, Teacher Assistance Program (TAP) Director
As we celebrate Bonifacio Day and recall that great patriot's struggle for Philippine independence, it would be fitting to rescue from oblivion others who like him sacrificed their lives to free our country from colonial rule. It is appropriate that we commence this task on the day set aside to honor the father of the Katipunan for two reasons:
- first, because Bonifacio's own stature as a hero of our country remained officially unrecognized for fully 25 years after his death, and
- second, because these unsung or even maligned patriots shared Bonifacio's unflinching devotion to the cause of national freedom.
While Rizal gained the official status of national hero as early as 1901 upon the suggestion of Gov. William H. Taft, had a province (Morong) renamed after him, a monument at the Luneta, his face on a postage stamp and on Philippine currency, and his death anniversary declared an official holiday, Bonifacio remained in limbo.
It was only in 1922 when Senator Lope K. Santos authored the law making the birthday of Bonifacio a national holiday that the founder of the Katipunan was officially recognized as a Filipino hero. The contrast in the treatment of these two heroes made perfect sense from an American perspective.
Taft considered Bonifacio's uncompromising, anti-colonialist stand "too radical", but Filipino veneration of Rizal could be safely encouraged because, as another governor-general, W. Cameron Forbes, said: "Rizal never advocated independence, nor did he advocate armed resistance to the government. he argued reform from within by publicity, by public education, and appeal to public conscience."
The American viewpoint continues to color our attitudes towards other Filipino patriots, particularly those who sustained the resistance against American colonization even after Aguinaldo's capture in 1901. Considering themselves the rightful masters of the country, the Americans branded all those who resisted them as bandits and ladrones (thieves).
Although the revolts against Spain have gained recognition along with the heroes of our revolution, the Filipinos who led the post-Aguinaldo resistance against the Americans remain forgottten.
Let us take the case of Faustino Guillermo, a Katipunero who had fought with Bonifacio and Jacinto in the battle of San Juan del Monte. Guillermo lead several armed groups active in northern Rizal. The American authorities called them the Diliman gang and claimed they were mere cattle rustlers. In fact, Guillermo was second in command to General Luciano San Miguel who established the New Katipunan in 1902.
Guillermo assumed leadership after San Miguel died in combat. He was an intrepid and colorful fighter. In one encounter where his men captured the entire Constabulary garrison in San Jose, Bulacan, his adversary was Constabulary Lieutenant Licerio Geronimo. This was the same Geronimo who as general of the Revolution had commanded the forces that killed Gen. Lawton in December 1899 but had later joined the American-led constabulary as a mere lieutenant.
Guillermo was captured and executed in the public square of Pasig in 1904. That same year, Lt. Geronimo was dismissed from the Constabulary for gambling. A school in Manila today bears the name of Gen. Licerio Geronimo and for many years we even honored Gen. Lawton with a plaza (now Liwasang Bonifacio), but no one remembers Faustino Guillermo, leader of the new Katipunan.
QUINTIN & ANATALIO TABAL
In Cebu two brothers, Quintin and Anatalio Tabal, led a fierce and popularly supported resistance which forced Colonel Taylor, Constabulary Chief of Cebu, to institute an extensive re-concentration camp. Five thousand barrio folk were relocated in fourteen camps, each surrounded by a stockade and guarded by a Constabulary force. The farmers went out to their fields under guard each morning and returned before dark.
More re-locations followed in 1905 and 1906. This was the only way to deprive the resistance of popular support in terms of food and new recruits. Gov. Sergio Osmena finally effected the surrender of the Tabal brothers. Osmena is well remembered, but few Cebuanos know about the resistance led by the Tabals. Don't they deserve even a street in their name?
Macario Sakay, leader of the guerrillas in the Rizal-Cavite-Laguna-Batangas region established and became president of the Tagalog Republic. Sakay, a barber from Tondo, had been one of the early Katipuneros. He helped run the Katipunan press and fought alongside Bonifacio Even after the Aguinaldo takeover, when the Katipunan was supposed to have been superseded by Aguinaldo's Republic, Sakay continued to go from town to town forming Katipunan chapters.
Jailed under the Sedition law for his attempts to revive the Katipunan in Manila, he was released in 1902, whereupon he promptly went to the mountains to resume the Katipunan activities. Sakay's republic had a constitution patterned after the Katipunan constitution. signatories included many original Katipuneros.
In a manifesto issued in 1904 and addressed to all foreign consulates, he sought to inform the world that he and his men were not brigands as the United states claimed they were, but real revolutionaries fighting to preserve the independence of their country.
Sakay adhered to the egalitarian ideals of the Katipunan and its belief in mass mobilization In a War Order issued in May 1902, he criticized the way the ilustrado-led Revolution had been conducted, saying that there had been no unity because "all people cared for were silver, wealth and education; thus there was no willingness to defend as a whole" as concern for self was paramount.
Sakay's Republic was faithfully supported by many including some municipal officials. constabulary cordons failed because secret adherents helped the guerrillas escape capture. Supporters contributed money, stole arms from Americans to supply the resistance, gathered intelligence for Sakay's men while feeding wrong information to the Constabulary.
As in many instances, the Americans succeeded in capturing their enemy through the use of deception. He was prevailed upon by a compatriot, Dr. Dominador Gomez, to end his resistance on the ground that ti was the only obstacle to the establishment of the national assembly which would be the first step to independence. No less than Gov. Gen. Wright led Sakay to believe that his personal safety and that of his officers were assured. Instead he was captured, charged under the Brigandage Act, accused of all sorts of crime - robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder --and hanged.
The judge who presided at his trial, Ignacio Villamor, eventually became President of the U.P. and later Justice of the Supreme court. Sakay's patriotism and dedication to the Katipunan ideal of independence has received no official recognition. He remains a brigand in the eyes of many.
DIONISIO MAGBUELAS (PAPA ISIO)
In Negros the leader of the principal resistance to the Americans was Dionisio Magbuelas, popularly known as Papa Isio. His group has been fighting against Spanish rule since 1896, attacking towns where Spaniards and pro-Spanish Filipinos lived. Their battle-cry was: "Viva Rizal: Death to the Spaniards!" Since many of Isio's men were sacadas who had gone to the mountains to escape some charge or other, Negros landlords were apprehensive of and hostile toward Papa Isio. They helped the Guardia Civil in hunting him and his men whom they branded as bandits and anarchists.
When the Americans came, the Negros landlords quickly shifted their allegiance to the new colonizers while Papa Isio redirected his struggle against American rule. Though poorly-armed, Papa Isio's followers gave the Americans such a hard fight that they had to ask repeatedly for reinforcements. Just as he had attacked pro-Spanish hacenderos, Isio and his men now burned the haciendas and destroyed the mills of the hacenderos who had turned pro-American. He also ordered the burning of the sugar cane of those hacenderos who did not pay their laborers regularly.
Although the Malolos Government preferred to deal with the Negros ilustrados and ignored papa Isio, he continued to declare his allegiance to the Philippine republic and remained faithful to the Katipunan goal of independence. To the hacenderos and the American army, Papa Isio was a fanatic, a religious charlatan, a tulisan, but the people supported him, shielded him from his enemies fought with him.
Once, when it was falsely reported that Papa Isio had been killed, the word spread quickly and thousands of cane-cutters went to work wearing black armbands. Papa Isio tried to continue his struggle but his support dwindled especially after the bountiful sugar harvest in 1905 eased the people's poverty. In 1907, when he realized he had lost support, Papa Isio surrendered, was tried and sentenced to death.
The Negros hacenderos prospered under the Americans Their early collaboration earned many of them high positions and political power. Papa Isio's devotion to freedom earned him nothing but death and near-oblivion.
Many more names can be added to the roster of unrecognized patriots It is time to seek them out and give them belated recognition. In this way, we will be making our own judgments rather than following the judgments of our colonizers in whose eyes all resistance to their rule was banditry or a form of lunacy.
- Teodoro A. Agoncillo and Milagros C. Guerrero, History of the Filipino People, Malaya Books, Quezon City, 1970.
- Renato Constantino, The Philippines: A Past Revisited, Tala Publishing Services, Quezon City, 1975.
- Jonathan fast and Jim Richardson, Roots of Dependency, Foundation for Nationalist Studies, Quezon City, 1970
- Reynaldo C. Ileto, Pasyon and Revolution, Ateneo Univ Press, 1979
Source: Issues Without Tears, A Layman's Manual of Current Issues, Volume III (1984),
Teacher Assistance Program (TAP) - Leticia R. Constantino, Director
" Fear history, for it respects no secrets" - Gregoria de Jesus (widow of Andres Bonifacio)
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