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Andres Bonifacio read a lot

I FIND it providential that the last day of National Book Week (November 24-30) falls on the birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, whose 153rd birthday we are observing today.

Relatively recent evidence effectively debunks the myth of the “unlettered” Katipunan Supremo – obviously a demolition job perpetrated by political detractors. (Remember the fake news about syphilis being the cause of Apolinario Mabini’s paralysis?)

La Salle history professor Michael “Xiao” Chua concedes that Andres Bonifacio attended the private school of Guillermo Osmena and attained the present day equivalent of Second Year High School or Grade 8 under the K-12 curriculum. But Bonifacio made up for his incomplete formal education by reading a lot. Yes, Bonifacio (like Ninoy Aquino and the late Blas Ople) was a voracious reader.

Historian Chua cites Doña Elvira Prysler, proprietor of a mosaic tile factory where Bonifacio used to work as a warehouse keeper. Prysler, Chua said, recalled her impression of Bonifacio whom she often saw with open book in hand during lunch time.

What types of books appealed to Bonifacio? When hostilities broke out between the Katipuneros and the Spaniards, the authorities raided the offices where Bonifacio worked or used to work. In the German firm Carlos Fressel and Co, where Bonifacio worked as warehouseman and later as sales agent, the raiding authorities seized the following books among Bonifacio’s personal effects:

Top of the list were the two novels of Jose Rizal, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”. During that time, mere possession of these two books was enough to land anybody in jail.

Also among the “subversive books” were “History of the French Revolution” and “The Ruins of Palmyra: Meditations of the Revolution of the Empire”.

Also probably considered “subversive” was “Lives of the Presidents of the United States” because of the role of George Washington in the American Revolution.

A member of the Free Masons (then considered an enemy of the Catholic Church), Bonifacio also read The Holy Bible and “Religion Within the Reach of All”.

He also read books on law (international law, civil code, penal code) and medicine.

For light reading, Bonfacio turned to Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo (Les Mesirables) and Eugene Sue (The Wandering Jew).

Who among his political detractors could have claimed that they read even half as many of the books which Bonifacio read?

Bonifacio also wrote poetry. He wrote “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa” a 28- stanza piece which National Artist Virgilio Almario describes as “excellent”. A shortened version of the poem became the lyrics of a song (melody composed by ex-political detainee Luis Jorque) which became very popular during the martial law period.

Bonifacio also wrote essays like “Ang Dapat Mabatid ng MgaTagalog (What the Filipinos Should Know)” and “Tapunan ng Lingap (Care a Little).”

In a previous article, we recalled that Dr. Jose Rizal read a lot. Rizal got hooked into the reading habit after his mother, Teodora Alonzo, read to him the story about the moth and the flame.

Bonifacio and Rizal – two great Filipinos with a common passion: reading!

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