By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes

Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers

(August 1996)

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HE LAST SUNDAY of August every  year  has  been officially designated as  National Heroes' Day. Years and years ago it was moved out of November 30, birthdate of Andres Bonifacio, in order to give the Great Plebeian appropriate honor of his  own  birth anniversary.

          Aside from having these final days of August to remind us of our heroes, there is a set of dates in the same period that come in  the same stream as the Cry of Balintawak  (August  23)  On August 29-30, Bonifacio led the Katipunan in a massive blitzkrieg assault on Manila that almost succeeded.

          This  may raise quite a few eyebrows. Those who  have  heard about this military operation would likely harbor the  impression that it was a disastrous operation, a suicidal one, an  adventure that  only the  "brave  but  dumb" Katipuneros would plunge themselves into.

          In  fact, we have a prolific literary writer saying this on the subject:

          "If  the  Katipunan could dream of restoring a  prehistoric paradise, it was because of research done by the ilustrados  and propagated  by  theír revived national pride.  Bonifacio,  their ardent student and apprentice, followed their words so  closely, it's even said he took the idea of storming the powder house in San Juan and then advancing down Sta. Mesa into Manila  from   El Filibusterismo,  where  Simoun  had a similar plan  of  entering Manila by way of Sta. Mesa. (Nick Joaquin, A Question of Heroes, 1977)

          I have stated on other occasions that Rizal and  the  other ilustrados  were only one among three distinct sets of  references ["constellations," Virgilio S. Almario calls them in his Panitikan ng Rebolusyon(g 1896)] studied  and integrated in a superb manner by Bonifacio  and  the Katipunan. Let me now concentrate on the subject of this military operation.

          For  those  who  are interested  to  read  the  blow-by-blow account  culled from both Filipino and Spanish sources, there  is this  book,  titled,  Agosto  29-30,  1896:  Ang Pagsalakay ni Bonifacio sa Maynila, authored by Zeus A. Salazar, Dante  Ambrosio and Enrico Azicate, and published by Mirandá Bookstore.

          In  my  own recently-published work, Bonifacio: Siya  Ba  Ay Kilala Ko?, I quoted from Salazar's book the Tagalog  translation (by Monico Atienza) of these lines:

          "As for General Echaluce (of the Spanish forces), he was so shattered by the Filipino assault on 29-30 August that he thought the Filipinos were actually capable of taking Manila then. Upon his repatriation in Madrid, he was saying to everyone "that all Spaniards in Manila could have been murdered on the night of the 30th, if the rebels who had gained the upper hand at the time had not (suddenly become so cowardly). For his part de Berard (dean of the diplomatic corps here) thought it was rather extraordinary to see "...the audacity of these first insurgents who, knowing that measures had been taken (against them) on all sides, passed between the lines of defense and came to the farthest districts of Manila, and at that in badly armed bands which nonetheless appeared to obey their chieftains with a particular discipline." [My italics. - EACR]

          Six points can be extracted from this heavily-loaded narration from Salazar: (1) the Katipuneros lacked arms; (2) they were disciplined; (3) they were brave, they attacked with full knowledge that there were measures being taken against them on all sides; (4) they were good militarily, and were thus able to penetrate the lines of defense of the Spanish forces and got far in the attack; (5) they were, in fact, able to get the upper hand, and were perceivedto have had the capability to kill all the Spaniards in Manila; and (6) they suddenly "became utterly coward" in the perception of General Echaluce.

          These lines carry a lot for deep analysis. Why did they become "cowardly" when they had already gained "the upper hand"?

          These Katipuneros did not become cowardly. But it appeared that way because the Katipunan contingent that was tasked to capture the greatly-weakened Intramuros, the contingent from Cavite, did not show up. And, as Salazar and his colleagues said they found out from their research, this contingent was predisposed not to come.

          The Katipuneros from all over who had participated in the attack stopped when they had accomplished their mission to draw out the Spanish forces from the much-fortified Intramuros.

          Meanwhile, Cavite's Katipuneros took advantage of the pullout of much of the Spanish forces from that province as a direct effect of the Katipunan assault in Manila. They captured towns in that province and proclaimed "liberated areas" out of them, completely out of tempo with the rest of the entire Katipunan organization and government.

          A few weeks later, Emilio Aguinaldo of Cavite issued a manifesto calling upon the people of the Philippines to rise up in revolution. This Katipunero did not at all mention the Katipunan or Bonifacio in his manifesto, an omission that foreshadowed his later moves.

(Kamalaysayan Media Service)


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