Friday, January 18, 2013

Spinning Andres Bonifacio the other way around

The only known photo of Bonifacio (from Philippine government website)
Starting November 30, 2012 and to climax on November 30, 2013, the Philippines will be marking the sesquicentennial of the national hero Andres Bonifacio. Bonifacio is the founder of the revolutionary society Katipunan which organized itself as a military force to prosecute the Philippine Nationalist Revolution in August 1896.

As part of the celebrations, Malacanang Palace has created the Bonifacio sesquicentennial portal wherein events and essays appraising and reappraising the role of Bonifacio in the Revolution and beyond it will be posted.

Andres Bonifacio unlike Rizal had only one known photograph and its shows a revolutionary in a suit and not in the iconic white camisa and red trousers raising a bolo and the flag in a revolutionary cry. This representation forever characterized Bonifacio as one of the peasant class. The first Bonifacio statue which became the quintessential icon was sculpted by Manuel Artigas in 1911 and now stands in front of Vinzon's Hall in UP Diliman.

Thus two representations emerged. The photo depicting the revolutionary in a suit and the imagined one with the bolo and red trousers. Which then is the real Bonifacio? The photograph according to Professor Ambeth Ocampo is the starting point for understanding the revolutionary. And like all revolutionaries, the man has many contradictions, contradictions that should break revered icons of the man. Prof Ocampo details the shifting addresses of the newly married Bonifacio, an NPA (no permanent address) and so is characteristic of the renting lower middle classes in 21st century Manila, those who can't pay the amortization of the cheapest condo without starving.

What we know of Bonifacio's early life has been caricatured. He was a "bodeguero" according to some biographies, a clerk-messenger for a British trading and brokerage firm, a "corregidor"or a collector. beforehand he sold canes and fans to augment his meagre income. The hagiography which all Filipino schoolchildren know is these odd jobs prepared him for Revolution. This is probably one of the first spin doctoring on his life. We do know he was an autodidact having read books on the French Revolution, lives of the American Presidents, Hugo's "Le Miserables", "The Wandering Jew" by Eugene Sue, law books, penology and of course, Rizal's novels. If there be a Bonifacio in the second decade of the 21st century, this revolutionary would have taught himself using Wikipedia and all its links! He could be one of the petitioners questioning the constitutional basis of the Cybercrime Law and would come up with more logical arguments than what the legal eagles can dish out in front of the Supremes!

Such national hero with only two representations can be easily spin doctored or appropriated by the ideologues. During the American occupation of the Philippines, nationalists had to come up with paeans describing the revolutionary as the "Great Plebian"  In the post 1968 era of youth militancy, militants appropriated Bonifacio as one of the lumpen masses of Marxism. (He was not even of the masses!) The Marcos dictatorship appropriated him for self reliance in defence (a gross hypocrisy since the Marcos regime was armed by Cold War America). The superficially democratic Cory Aquino regime appropriated him within the construct of People Power. (This was ridiculous since  Bonifacio right from the start had an ideology to prosecute. The revolution was to be planned, directed to eventual victory with the conscious participation of the people and victory not due to a chance failure of an Enrile coup d' etat!) The succeeding presidencies of Fidel Ramos, Erap Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appropriated Bonifacio in line with their regime's taglines "Philippines 2000 for Ramos", the seductive and proletarian but without a revolutionary ideology "Erap para sa mahirap" and the corporate state-Fascist sounding "Strong republic" of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Ideologies and presidencies is another topic we can discuss but if one does read written works by our presidents, the closest we had was Marcos' "revolution from the centre" but that was rather contrived and it is debatable if Marcos was serious in furthering that ideology. This would require more historical research and perhaps the Imeldific penchant for edifices and shoes should provide us with the clue!

The sesquicentennial comes at a time when Mrs Aquino's son is now the Malacanang tenant and from the official spin doctoring of Bonifacio continues and now he is a man of action!

Well Superman was too and so was Batman and so was Spiderman!

Such cliches are typical of the social media world where Revolutions can be hatched and with people participating on the streets, make them victorious.

The official logos provide us with the reality of the ideological split personality of the Noynoy Aquino administration  where it panders to neoliberal capitalism (e.g. selling public hospitals) and at the same time to nationalism (e.g. rearming the navy), but with little of the ideological moorings needed to secure national sovereignty, whether it is to oppose foreign intrusion to our territory or to ensure the liberation of the people from economic want and hardship.



The official logo for print shows the Bonifacio with arms outstretched at 180 degrees as if to offer his blood to sign the Katipunan membership papers. The logo has an underemphasized Equality triangle which has Masonic connections. This is ideologically neutral and should not alarm the middle class (the traditional liberal constituency of the Aquino administration)  which years of Cold War propaganda have made averse to the political positions of the Left. This even if the Cold War is part of history!

The official online logo is more "red" meaning it is more revolutionary with the Masonic Equality triangle so much emphasized. We have to recall that the Katipunan chose red for its standard because it represented blood that needs to be shed in revolution. The official blurb spins the revolutionary symbolism and intention with the "man of action" theme but the Bonifacio here is defiant and was inspired by the Guillermo Tolentino sculpture in Monumento. The Bonifacio here is not the action type (the stereotypical "lusob mag kapatid" icon is more apt) but the ideologue at arms using both arms planning and prosecuting the Revolution.

Of course we know that the Nationalist Revolution of 1896 fell into infighting and like any Revolution ate its children. Bonifacio may have known this and perhaps this is why Tolentino made his magnum opus as such. Tolentino based his image of Bonifacio from recollections by the Katipuneros and from his Spiritualism.

Malacanang Palace asks the Filipino people "How well do we know Andres Bonifacio?"
A decent question, but this should not be as part of ideological spin doctoring. Andres Bonifacio stands for Revolution and Revolution only. He has to be remembered for Revolution and sadly for the Tragedy of the Revolution. Bonifacio is Revolution, will inspire Revolution and will symbolize the eventual triumph of the Nationalist Revolution.

A Revolution is always the overthrow of an oppressing class always with the goal of Liberation. Malacanang's ideological split personality has the record spinning in both ways. This will confuse the young and the metaphorical record will break.

Perhaps we have to live through the limitations imposed by the remaining three years of the Noynoy Aquino presidency!










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