Bolo ni Bonifacio: Andres Bonifacio revisited
The queue to have Prof. Ambeth Ocampo’s autograph was already shorter by the time my friend and I returned to the main hall of the Ayala Museum. An hour or so earlier, this venue was packed to overflowing with a mixed crowd of students, museum patrons, and old fans of the the widely-read columnist and well-loved Filipino historian. He has just concluded his series of lectures for this year’s History Comes Alive!.
In each installment of the HCA, Mr. Ocampo would engage the crowd with seemingly useless information, obscure historical anecdotes and meaningful discourse. For an hour or even more afterwards, he stays like a willing hostage to those who would like to have not only his signature on the free book that comes with the very affordable entrance fee (Php 350 for adults, Php 200 for students) but also a photo with him (which they would later upload in their Facebook profiles).
Last Saturday, Ambeth talked about Andres Bonifacio, one of the national heroes of the Philippines. This topic was quite timely too since this year is also the sesquicentennial of Bonifacio’s birth. Why we don’t commemorate his death, compared to Rizal, is a difficult subject that Mr. Ocampo tackled in the latter part of the afternoon.
Ambeth began the lecture by asking us if Bonifacio really looked like the bolo-wielding, angry man depicted in the few monuments dedicated in his honor. Did he actually go to the battle garbed in that camisa de chino and shockingly red kundiman (trousers) ensemble? And what did he shout especially in that Carlo ‘Botong’ Francisco mural?
The last question in particular brought down the house when he proposed that Bonifacio must have shouted the ‘P.I.’ expletive, instead of ‘Sugod!‘ (Charge!) to further stoke the fiery sentiments of his fellow Katipuneros.
The mood was more subdued however when Mr. Ocampo talked about Pinaglabanan, Tejeros and Marigondon. The events that took place here were grimmer than your local soap opera’s plotlines. These may also have been every highschool history teacher’s dilemma. How could he or she explain to the students that the brave Bonifacio never won a single battle, that the founder of the Katipunan was cheated during the election and that he was executed by his own fellowmen?
I’ve been to a few of Ocampo’s lectures but the hall at that time was perhaps the most silent by far. Prof. Ambeth added that he was a bit apprehensive to end the afternoon on such a sad note, but I think that there was no better way around a dark chapter in our history than to shed light on it. Because when you come to think of it, what Bonifacio went through was not at all different from what we have seen in recent news.
He then ended with a challenge, that it is important that we not only learn from our mistakes the in past, but also, especially in the case of Bonifacio, be liberated from our own history.
For inquiries regarding next season’s History Comes Alive lectures, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +63 2 757-7117 to 21 local 24/25/35. You can also follow Dr. Ocampo in his official FB page for other announcements.