By Neni Sta. Romana Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Friday, December 13th, 2013
I knew I was off to a great start when I began my private celebration of Andres Bonifacio’s 150th birth anniversary with the Gantimpala Theater musicale “Mga Anak ng Bayan,” written by Bonifacio Ilagan and directed by Joel Lamangan.
Despite the initial frustration resulting from a lack of information on performance dates, I caught it in an ideal setting—the al fresco theater at the Bonifacio Street Open Field that was literally open to the public, free of charge. I was initially concerned about the quality of the production in such a public setting but was immediately assured as soon as the play began, as it was apparent that every detail had been taken into account. The sound system was excellent, there were seats in front of the stage for guests who did not wish to use the amphitheater steps/seats around the park, and a large protective tarp had been put up both for the production and in the eventuality of rain. This was a program envisioned to appeal to all, and the presence of uniformed college students was encouraging.
It seemed logical that Bonifacio Global City would pay special tribute to the hero after which it is named. But there was a new piece of historical trivia announced at the start of the show: that Andres’ father, Santiago, was born in Barangay Tipas in Taguig. (Mayor Lani Cayetano would confirm this with another piece of “new” information: that Andres and his fellow Katipuneros had secret meetings in 1896 in the Taguig lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Napindan Channel, where the Pasig River meets Laguna de Bay. A Bonifacio historical tour in Taguig seems a possibility.)
“Mga Anak ng Bayan” was a lively and quick-paced show that made history come alive. Through clever choreography and music and song, the excesses of Spanish rule were depicted, segueing to the logical rise of the Katipunan. There was the expected collective “kilig” when the Gregoria de Jesus-Andres Bonifacio romance was highlighted. It was a moving production that would be well received by students and schools—a worthwhile cultural and historical treat.
I was disappointed that the musicale ended just when Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto were immersed in the struggle, but was reassured by Lamangan that Bonifacio’s execution would be material for a 2014 musicale. Assistant director Jun Pablo said it was hoped that the focus on Bonifacio and the Katipunan would arouse the students’ curiosity, leading them to read up on the rest of the hero’s life.
Even I became curious and had this sudden obsession to visit Maragondon in Cavite, the execution site of Bonifacio, made more significant and intriguing because his remains were never found.
Approaching it from Tagaytay via Alfonso was not the best route, for when we got to Magallanes and asked a barangay official for further directions, for the first time we did not get the usual vague Pinoy answer, “Malapit na (You’re almost there).” Instead, he was amused that we were daring to get to our destination, which he said was still a long way off. I could tell he was sure that we would never get there.
Moving on, over long stretches of well-paved roads that seemed endless, we serendipitously found an old house in the town proper of Maragondon where Bonifacio’s trial was held. The house has this National Historical Commission marker stating: “Bahay na Pinaglitisan kay Bonifacio.”
Originally owned by a Teodorico Reyes, the circa-1889 house was where the brothers Andres and Procopio Bonifacio were tried by a military court headed by Gen. Mariano Noriel. On the ground floor is a simple museum on the Katipunan that appears to be a work in progress. Its most interesting feature is a room upstairs where life-size statues of the members of the military court, the accused, and Gregoria de Jesus are shown seated as they would have been during the 1897 hearings.
Prominently displayed is a large framed poster of Bonifacio’s “Pahimakas,” the very first translation of Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios.”
This chance stopover was a necessary prelude to the Maragondon memorial in the rugged and mountainous side of the town, which truckloads of students visited last Nov. 30.
The way to the memorial is forested and hilly, and it gives one an idea of the perilous trail taken by the Bonifacio brothers on the way to their death. Were it not for the assistance of museum curator Mel Guevarra and guide Rolly Rebostes, it would have been impossible to find. The memorial itself is impressive, with the large sculpture of Bonifacio and scenes of the struggle of the Katipunan. One is moved to reverential silence and belated gratitude for Bonifacio’s idealism and bravery. A 1953 National Historical Commission marker states that it was on Bundok Nagpatong, near Bundok Buntis, where Andres and Procopio Bonifacio were executed.
The place is well-maintained and the flag-lined path to Bonifacio’s statue is inspiring, despite the garden stones and pots painted in aquamarine and yellow, with the letters “KKK” in bright yellow. Unfortunately, a distance away is an eyesore: two new swimming pools rendered inutile with no proper drainage system. What would the Supremo say to that?
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is chair of the National Book Development Board, a trustee of Teach for the Philippines, and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.