ANDRES BONIFACIO SHOULD HAVE BEEN OUR NATIONAL HERO
From the Moon King
By Atty Alma Luna-Reyes
September 29, 2012 was a day of celebration among Filipinos in Southern California. But, of course, they have a reason to celebrate. An 8 foot statute of the Philippine National hero, Jose Rizal, was unveiled in the City of Carson in the morning and a thanksgiving gala was held at the Westin LAX in the evening.
The events had all the elements of festivities and the usual incidents that come along Filipino organized events. There were minor issues on seating arrangements, sound system glitzes and not only numerous but long speeches. The program was too long that some attendees, including a lady seated by our table (who happens to be a President of one organization) fell asleep during the program. In general, however, I did enjoy the evening. It was an opportunity to see and be with friends and do a couple of dance pieces.
What I want to take a closer look in the midst of all this celebration is whether Jose Rizal deserves all of the accolades. Should he be our National Hero? Or is Andres Bonifacio more deserving of the deference?
Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio opted for different courses of action. Rizal fought against the friars with the use of his pen. Bonifacio advocated for revolution. There is nothing wrong with advocating for something without revolt. In fact, a nonviolent means is the best way of achieving political change. Although I admire Rizal’s accomplishments, it seems like Rizal opted against the revolution because he was for the preservation of the status quo. This is why according to author Renato Constantino, the reason Rizal was given special attention as a hero by the American colonial administration because Rizal was interpreted to represent peaceful political advocacy, unlike more radical people whose ideas could inspire resistance against American rule.
If we look at Rizal’s life circumstances, he is among the rich. His family is one of the landed gentry of the province of Calamba. Rizal was able to travel and study abroad at a time when most Filipinos were not even able to leave their home province. The success of Bonifacio’s Revolution may mean that Rizal’s family would lose their privileged position. There are also some historians who believe that Rizal did not actually advocate independence but merely wanted representation and better rights for Filipinos while remaining under Spanish rule. Bonifacio’s cause was more people-oriented. There was no indication of any type of self-service or of any type of self-preservation. He just fought to end the foreign rule. No properties to protect, no interest group to favor, no allegiance to anyone other than to the Filipinos. Contrary to popular belief and urban legends, Bonifacio was not an uneducated brute. He was self-educated and was well-read. He spoke Tagalog and Spanish and a little English as well. Despite this, his image is still that of the bare-chested insurgent and common man who launches himself into battle without regard for his safety.
Choosing Rizal as the national hero is for the benefit of the ruling class who will always favor preservation of the status quo. But in terms of nobility of the cause, passion, dedication and price of sacrifice, Bonifacio is by far more deserving of all accolades.
It bears noting that Jose Rizal is not the official national hero of the Philippines. In fact, the country does not have any official national hero. There has never been any law passed to recognize a national hero in the country.
Any Rizalitas out there? What do you think?