Andres Bonifacio as a Communications Specialist (Independence Day Article) by Eero Brillantes

Andres Bonifacio as a Communications Specialist  – Eero Brillantes

(This article was originally written as a feature  for Andres Bonifacio Day. It was posted in certain blogs some years ago. It is updated as my contribution in giving honor to our country’s greatest hero. Contributors to the original article include Geraldine Torres Brillantes and Kaye Domingo-Coronel).

ImageAndres Bonifacio, the supremo, a self-taught revolutionary, a national hero. It can be said that Bonifacio’s masterful use of his communication skills triggered the downfall of the Spanish rule over the Philippines.  Knowledgeable of spoken Spanish and English languages, Andres was able to conceptualize and apply in the Philippine setting the tenets culled from the French Revolution, as well as from literature which elaborated on brotherhood, equality and freedom.

The website dedicates a whole web page on Andres Bonifacio and how communication has molded his principles. Other websites such as Wikipedia, and South East Asean site of the Northern Illinois University made similar claims. Lack of formal education never stopped Andres Bonifacio to continue learning and practicing his knowledge. He capitalized on his spoken languages English and Spanish; and his reading skills to learn the principles of rights and freedom. He read about history, politics, law and religion.   Ambeth Ocampo, a historian, mentioned that among Andres Bonifacio’s reading list were: Lives of the Presidents of the United States”; “History of the French Revolution” (two volumes); “La Solidaridad” (three volumes); “Noli Me Tangere”; “El Filibusterismo”; “International Law”; “Civil Code”; “Penal Code”; “Ruins of Palmyra”; “Religion within the Reach of All”; “The Bible” (five volumes); “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo; and “The Wandering Jew” by Eugene Sue.  Aside from being a voracious reader, Bonifacio wrote poetry, and was a moro-moro actor – very typical of great communicators.

Based on

“Bonifacio was probably one of the greatest motivational writers and speakers of his generation, along with Dr. Jose Rizal. Using his native language, Bonifacio wrote with full passion and compassion. In his essay “What the Filipinos Should Know,” Bonifacio wrote in Tagalog: “Reason tells us that we cannot expect anything but more sufferings, more treachery, more insults, and more slavery. Reason tells us not to fritter away time for the promised prosperity that will never come. Reason teaches us to rely on ourselves and not to depend on others for our living.  Reason tells us to be united that we may have the strength to combat the evils in our country.”

Bonifacio also wrote about how the Filipinos were tortured by the Spaniards. They were bound, kicked, and hit with gun butts. They were electrocuted and hung upside down like cattle. He said that Filipino prisoners were “thrown into the sea, shot, poisoned.” To further illucidate his mastery of verbal and non-verbal communication as a way to agitate for social upheaval, Bonifacio intricately organized an underground movement patterned after the “triangle organizing” concept.   Bonifacio and his followers couched  organizing work in millenarian revolutionary language and rituals.  Conceptual combinations of pagan mysticism, folk Christianity, and symbols/rituals culled from the freemasonry movement provided the organizational culture. The blood compact ritual and the tearing up of the cedula provided the context and backdrop by which to ignite revolution.  It can be deduced that Bonifacio’s organizational communication acumen as applied to revolution was indeed effective.

A whole book entitled Pasyon at Rebolusyon by Renato Lleto was dedicated to the subject matter of conjuncture and national consciousness from the point of view of the critical mass during the Spanish occupation. It theorized on folk culture, folk Christianity, and revolutionary fervor against colonial rule as defining ingredients in the Philippine revolution.

ImageOn the night of July 7, 1892 “ the same day he heard that Rizal had been exiled to Dapitan”, Bonifacio met his friends secretly, at a house on Azcarraga Street (now Claro M. Recto) in Tondo. Together with his two friends Ladislao Diwa and Teodoro Plata, he formed the first triangle of a secret society which bore the initials K.K.K. The three letters stood for Kataastaasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan nang manga Anak nang Bayan, or Katipunan. Instead of using the old Spanish spelling of the letter “c,” Bonifacio used the Tagalog spelling of “k.” Rizal had suggested the change in an article published two years earlier in the newspaper La Solidaridad. The “k,” pronouched ka, was based on the ancient Tagalog script (I). The letter K symbolizes revolt by bringing forth into attention that the Filipino culture existed before Spanish hegemony. The Katipunan thrived as an underground society through the use of secret codes and passwords. Keeping secrets from the Spaniards during those times was very difficult. To keep the whole organization from being discovered, Katipunan employed the triangle method: a system of enlistment wherein a recruiter would ask only two members to join. Only the recruiter would know the names of both recruits while the recruits would not each other. Thus, the organization is encapsulated into three-man units and a direct command chain resulting to a very efficient personnel management. Though some members were middle class, the Katipunan membership was dominantly from the poor and working classes, thus its membership grew to the thousands.

The Katipunan had three aims: First, it wanted to free the Philippines from Spain, by force of arms if necessary. Its members, called Katipuneros, were taught to make and use weapons. Second is the the moral, or spiritual, aim. The Katipunan saw all men, rich or poor, as equals. Third, the Katipuneros were taught to care for one another in times of sickness and need. The society took care of its sick. If a member died, the Katipunan helped to pay the cost of a simple funeral. After October 1892, all Katipuneros could recruit as many members as they could. To prove courage and sincerity, any man who wanted to join the Katipunan had to pass a number of tests. One of them was answering these questions: In what condition did the Spaniards find the Filipino people when they came? 
In what condition do they find themselves now? 
What hope do the Filipino people have for the future? 
The final test was the “sandugo” (blood compact). The recruit was asked to make a small cut on his left forearm with a sharp knife, then sign the Katipunan oath in his own blood. Afterwards, the new member chose a symbolic name for himself. For example, Bonifacio was called “May pag-asa” (Hopeful).

ImageAbout thirty women, limited to wives, daughters and close relatives of the Katipuneros, joined the Katipunan. The women’s chapter of the Katipunan was formed in July 1893. However, the women did not have to seal their membership with a blood compact. During Katipunan meetings, they wore green masks, and white sashes with green borders. Sometimes they carried revolvers or daggers. They usually served as look-outs in the outer sala (living room) while the men held their secret meetings in the backroom. 
The Katipunan was discovered before they were ready for a full-armed struggle. Father Mariano Gil, the Augustinian parish priest of Tondo, learned it from Teodoro Patino, an unhappy member of the Katipunan. The Spanish police moved quickly to stop the revolution. Many Filipinos were arrested, jailed, and shot. But Bonifacio knew that the die had been cast. There was no turning back. The time had come for the Filipino people to engage the enemy in battle. Bonifacio met with other Katipunan leaders in a place called Pugadlawin, on August 23, 1896. They tore up their cedulas (residence tax papers) and cried “Long Live the Philippines!” They vowed to fight the Spaniards down to the last man.”

Following these stories are insights that made Andres Bonifacio one very compelling communicator. The Katipunan organizational dynamics , its doctrines, and praxis resulted  in a counter culture that fanned the flames.   Employing the triangle method, asking patriotic questions, The Sandugo and the Cry of Pugadlawin were symbolic actions of freedom and revolt. The role of women in the revolution was never neglected. More importantly, Bonifacio started all these with the basic communication skills: spoken language, reading, and writing. Though Jose Rizal and his peers had formal education, Bonifacio, a natural genius, did very well through self-study.  Bonifacio was able to listen to the cries of the oppressed Filipinos. Bonifacio, an idealist, was able to live his learnings by embarking on a historic revolution. Having tangible focus, his faith on  Filipinos was so immense – that he was somehow thought of as a fool by the formally educated.  Bonifacio knew what Filipinos wanted at that time. Through his strategic plans and innate communication skills, he was able to organize the poor, the uneducated, the masses and together, they fought for freedom.  Without the Katipunan, did you ever ask where will we be now?

Heroes of the Revolution: Andres Bonifacio (2007)Bakbakan International. South East Asian site (no date). Northern Illinois University, USA
(Seasite, Andres Bonifacio)


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