Filipinos celebrate Bonifacio Day

Filipinos celebrate Bonifacio Day

Column: Thoughts by Armenio Manuel

Today’s celebration of Andres Bonifacio’s birth anniversary, popularly known as Bonifacio Day, will be the last this country will be marking on this date as a legal holiday, following a Presidential Proclamation signed earlier this month by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Next year, the birth of Bonifacio, founder of the militant secret society Katipunan, as a legal holiday will be moved to November 27, pursuant to what officials described as “holiday economics.”

The proclamation issued to the media says that Bonifacio Day will be on the nearest Monday to the date Bonifacio, also known as the Great Plebeian, was born in Tondo, Manila.

“There is a need to adjust these holidays (regular and special non-working days) pursuant to the principle of holiday economics wherein a longer weekend will help encourage domestic travel and increase tourism expenditures in the country,” the proclamation read.

The term “holiday economics” became a hackneyed phrase during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration when a 2017 law – Republic Act 9492 – moved certain holidays to Mondays.

In observance of Bonifacio Day (which falls on a Thursday in 2023), the proclamation declared November 27 – the nearest Monday to November 30 – as a non-working holiday pursuant to RA 9492.

Even a holiday falling on a Wednesday may be moved to the Monday of the same week.

If it falls on a Sunday, the holiday may be observed on a Monday that follows.

For the other holidays that could be moved, the president is required under RA 9492 to issue a proclamation on the changes at least six months before they occur.

Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Frasco immediately welcomed the prospect of longer holiday weekends as from next year.

Some looked at the longer weekends as an opportunity to go on what was described as “revenge travels” after they were grounded for more than two years by the infectious Covid-19, which has killed more than 60,000 and infected more than four million since it stormed into the country last March 2020.

There have been hopes of reviving tourism through holiday economics are being buoyed by the easing of pandemic restrictions since the start of the year, particularly for foreign visitors.

As of Nov. 14, the Department of Tourism said visitor arrivals to the Philippines reached 2.025 million since the gradual easing of pandemic restrictions in late 2020.

Of this number, 1.5 million, or 73 percent, are foreigners while 538,078, or 27 percent, are overseas Filipinos while visitor arrivals between February and September this year generated an initially estimated P100.7 billion in tourism earnings, according to the DOT.

Historically, the celebration of November 30 as Bonifacio Day started when the Philippine Legislature, approving a bill filed by Senator Lope K. Santos, enacted Act 2946 on February 16, 1921, making the date of each year a legal holiday to mark the birth of Bonifacio in Tondo, Manila in 1863.

As has been the case in recent years, the center of the Bonifacio Day celebrations will be the obelisk in Caloocan called Monumento.

This is in the area of the 13.7-meter tall Bonifacio Monument, sculpted by Guillermo Tolentino, in Caloocan, which recalls the Philippine Revolution headed by Bonifacio who had urged his men to rise against the colonial rule of Spain.

It was on November 30, 2013, the sesquicentennial of Bonifacio’s birth and the 80th anniversary of the monument’s unveiling, that the obelisk area became the center of the celebration of Bonifacio Day.

The obelisk is made up of five parts representing five aspects of the society “Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Venerable Association of the Sons of the Nation).”

The octagon represents the eight provinces that fought against Spain and also represents the eight rays of the Katipunan flag.

The main central image of the monument holds a bolo or machete in the right hand and a gun in the other hand.

At the back of the central figure, a flag of the Katipunan in an unfurled state is depicted.

Historical documents show Bonifacio’s call to take arms against the Spanish rule was given on August 23, 1896, now known as the “Cry of Pugad Lawin.”

The cornerstone was formally laid by Aurora Quezon, wife of Senate President and later President Manuel Quezon.

Bonifacio was one of the founders and later the Kataastaasang Pangulo (Supreme President, Presidente Supremo in Spanish, often shortened by contemporaries and historians to just Supremo) of the Katipunan, a movement that sought the independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule and started the Tagalog Revolution.

Bonifacio Day ceremonies are usually held at the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan, one of the rising cities of the metropolis, and is usually led by the incumbent president.

From the 1950s to the early part of the 1960s, many northerners traveling to Manila, on a business trip or educational stopover, became all too familiar with the welcoming monument of Bonifacio in Caloocan City, part of the province of Rizal until 1975.

The area had in fact been known to many as Monumento, a euphemism for the 413-7-meter pylon and figures cast in bronze at the intersections of Samson Road, MacArthur Highway, Rizal Avenue, and Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, heretofore known as Highway 54.

In 21st-century Metro Manila, the place has become also the start of the line for the Light Railway Transit (LRT) that begins at the Monumento Station on the north end of Edsa and leads all the way up to the Baclaran Station in Pasay City on the southside.

With the 85-km North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) now a major highway for travelers from the north since the 1960s, not as many as decades back has been given the opportunity to wake up from their speeding buses to see the silhouette of the monument of Bonifacio, the Filipino nationalist and revolutionary.

The expressway begins in Quezon City, formerly the country’s capital, at a cloverleaf interchange with EDSA: a continuation of the Andres Bonifacio Avenue.

It then passes through Quezon City, Caloocan, and Valenzuela in Metro Manila. Meycauayan, Marilao, Bocaue, Balagtas, Guiguinto, Malolos, Plaridel, and Pulilan in Bulacan, San Simon, San Fernando, Mexico and Angeles in Pampanga.

Some historians consider Bonifacio a de facto national hero of the Philippines, colonized by Spain for nearly 400 years while others describe him as the first President, although he is not officially recognized as such.

Some critics find it ironic the monument of Bonifacio in Caloocan is better known than the one in Tondo, his birthplace – in front of Tutuban Center mall on C.M. Recto Avenue or the old Azcarraga in the waterfront district of Manila.

Bonifacio is depicted in the usual – but false – bolo and trousers outfit, with historical critics suggesting Bonifacio was not stupid enough to wear red trousers and be an easy target of his Spanish enemies.

And so today we join Filipinos, young and old, who will gather in their respective towns to pay silent homage to the Supremo of the Katipunan. (ai/mtvn)

Leave a Reply