Seven Little-Known Facts About the Supremo

The life and death of Andres Bonifacio were filled with tragedy as well as mystery. Sadly, for most Filipinos, the Great Plebeian is nothing more than a face etched in our coins or an eponymous hero behind Fort Bonifacio. 

So how well do we really know our national heroes beyond our boring history class? In the case of Bonifacio, do we know anything about this revolutionary leader besides being the founder of Katipunan?

In celebration of Andres Bonifacio's heroism, we're giving you some of the lesser-known facts about him, his interesting life, and his tragic death that forever changed Philippine history. 

7. Bonifacio was hacked to death with a bolo.

A painting depicting the execution of Andres Bonifacio

A painting depicting the execution of Andres Bonifacio

Accused of treason, Andres and his brother, Procopio Bonifacio, were sentenced to die in the hands of Aguinaldo's men.

On May 10, 1897, the execution team led by Lazaro Makapagal brought the Bonifacio brothers to the bushy mountain of Maragondon. There, several gunshots instantly killed the two--at least, according to orthodox interpretations.

And then came Gen. Guillermo Masangkay. According to his accounts, one of Makapagal's men admitted that while Procopio was shot to death, Andres was stabbed using a bolo (large Filipino machete).

In 1918, skeletal remains--allegedly of Andres Bonifacio--were exhumed in Maragondon. It included a fractured skull which supported Masangkay's version of story.

The "death by bolo" theory has long been supported by several historians as well as the hero's great-great-grandnephew himself, Atty. Gary Bonifacio.

6. Bonifacio as a theater actor.

A comic book on Bernardo Carpio by Mario "Guese" Tungol with art by Ricky A. Serrano.

A comic book on Bernardo Carpio by Mario "Guese" Tungol with art by Ricky A. Serrano.

Prior to the founding of Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio was a part-time actor who appeared in several moro-moro plays.

As a theater actor, he often played the role of Bernardo Carpio, a fictional character in Tagalog folklore. Other notable historical figures who were also well-known theater actors include Aurelio Tolentino and Macario Sakay.

5. Bonifacio was a middle-class Filipino.

Andres Bonifacio (Source: Flickr)

Andres Bonifacio (Source: Flickr)

Contrary to popular belief, Bonifacio was not a downtrodden indio who barely managed to eat three times a day.

Born to a half-Spanish mother, Andres Bonifacio actually came from a middle-class family.  Jim Richardson, a British historian, discovered that out of 200 Katipuneros, only one worked as a laborer. The rest--including Andres Bonifacio--were mostly white-collar employees.

As a bodeguero, Bonifacio worked for a German-owned company not to carry heavy stuff, but to manage its warehouse inventory.

4. Bonifacio was home-schooled

Although historians, including Teodoro Agoncillo, claimed that Bonifacio only finished today's equivalent of Grade 4, the Supremo was anything but illiterate.

Thanks to his father who was a highly-paid tailor at that time, Bonifacio was able to learn how to read and write with the help of a tutor.

In the book "Rizal's Teeth, Bonifacio's Bones" (Looking Back 5), historian Ambeth Ocampo revealed that Andres Bonifacio grew up to be a voracious reader. Included in his reading list are History of the French Revolution, The Bible, and Victor Hugo's Les Miserables among others.

3. His favorite food is...

Lechon manok (Source: Adora's Box)

Lechon manok (Source: Adora's Box)

We all love lechon manok but Andres Bonifacio preferred cooking it the traditional way.

Featured in Milagros S. Enriquez’s Kasaysayan ng Kaluto ng Bayan, the "nilitsong manok sa zaha" is prepared by wrapping the chicken in banana and sampaloc leaves before grilling it in charcoal. It is then served with a sarsa made from chicken liver and lemongrass.

Gregoria de Jesus, Bonifacio's wife who was 12 years younger than him, also had her own favorite: the "pinatisang alimango." It is made by cooking blue or mud crabs in fish sauce (patis) to make the aligue extra saucy.

Other well-loved Katipunan dishes include nilasing na manga, pinalundag na bulig, and pindang ng kalabaw.

2. His ONLY existing photograph.

The only photograph of Andres Bonifacio

The only photograph of Andres Bonifacio

Mention "Andres Bonifacio" and most people, students even, will imagine a man in his early thirties wearing camisa de chino and red shorts. However, history reveals that Bonifacio's only existing photograph is the one in which he wears a coat and tie.

According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, it is believed that Bonifacio only rented his middle-class attire for the studio portrait. Others suggest that the now faded photograph was taken on his wedding day.

1. Bonifacio once dressed as a woman.

That's what historian Ambeth Ocampo revealed in his book, "Dirty Dancing" (Looking Back 2).

Armed with his legendary bolo, Andres Bonifacio was about to pass through a Guardia Civil checkpoint in Balintawak. To conceal his identity, he decided to wear woman's clothes. Our cross-dressing hero then handed his weapon to an unidentified friend.

Of course, Bonifacio eventually outsmarted the Spanish soldiers, but his weapon--allegedly destroyed during the Liberation of Manila--has never been found.

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