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The Historian as Inventor
Milagros C. Guerrero and Ramon
Inventing a Hero: The Posthumous Recreation of Andres Bonifacio. By
GLENN MAY.Quezon City: New Day Press, 1997.
he Philippine edition (New Day) of Inoenting a Hero: Thc Posthumous Re-creaiion of Andres Bonifacio by Glenn May was launched this year at the Far Eastern University. The American edition, published bv the Universitv . of , Wisconsin's Center for Southeast Asian Studies, was released earlier, in 1996. In this bock, May's thesis is that the national hero, Andres Bonifacio, "is mostly an illusion, the product of undocumented statements, unreliable, .doctored, or otherwise spurious sources, and the collective imagination of several historians and a memoirist." According to May, our knowledge of Bonifacio was shaped by; first, questionable works and spurious documents purportedly written by Bonifacio; second, by the memoirs of Artemio Ricarte; and PUBLIC POLTC\'
third, by the historiographic works of Manuel Artigas y Cuerva, Epifanio de los Santos and his son Jose Santos, Teodoro Agoncillo, and Rafael I1eto. i\ lay declares that these "rnvthmakers" have bent (he canons of historical disciplines in their' desire to make Bonifacio the national hero of the Philippines. Hc states that: In addition to being historical studies, and contributions to an ongoing nationalist discourse, [their narra rives] arc, at: their core, modern-day Philippine varieties of 'hero myths' -stories in the tradition of Greek tales about Theseus and Herakles and Indian onesabout Krishna and Kama .... the exposure of hero myths invariably cause pain, since ail of us, regardless of our nationality, have a deeply felt need for heroes. Doubtless admirers of the mythical Bonifacio will find it difficult to accept the notion that he was probably not the humble pleOctober! December 1997
As Bonifacio's contemporaries. It was transcribed and attributed to Bonifacio by Wcnceslao Retana and also referred to by Manue l Artigas y Cuerva and others. But no copy of the original publication has been located whi. Artigas. an original founder of the Kati purian.ado or isinaulo) the whole Florante at Laura which he transcribed. There were also Ladislao Diwa.such as Mabini. Cecilio Apostol. In fact Apolinario Mabini had in his head (cabez. ORAL HISTORY Bonifacio. those who had the language also knew who was the Volume 1 No. Aurelio Tolentino. cabinet member in the Balintawak government. Furtherrnore. nonc of whrim arc reliable.le the National Library copy is presumed to have been destroyed during World . That rnost of Bonifacio's literary and political works are not physically present and that we know of rhern onlv through attribution "without conclusive proof" are tha main points raised by Mav.1 138 PUBLIC POLICY .ide Ios Santos and other writers had access to Espiridiona Bonifacio Distrito.re qui te vociferous when they disagreed with "facts" published by writers in the early decades of this century. and. Their oral history was not footnoted while their interviews were nor structured and specified. As participants in that culture. In seeking to transfer information from the realm of remembrance to the p errnanerice of documenration. He cites. For May. But while they are called the . Thus. which be finds unacceptable on the following counts: first. Sofronio Calderon. the super patriot he has long been thought to be. particularly letters. However. AJzg Dapat 1110batid ng mgt:! Tagalog. Briccio Pantas. Glenn May deplores the biographical material of Bonifacio by de los Santos. because no manuscript or printed copy of Bonifacio's works can be physically examined. have been attributed to Bonifacio without conclusive proof. the Tagalog language of that time lived largely through its oral tradition. . language. and Gregoria de Jesus. ". the literary master.give an overview of the events (sal-dJ'say) and their interpretation (sayscy) from the standpoint of personal authority rather than academic expertise. Pia Valenzuela. Guillermo Masangkay and other intimates of ~UTHENTICATION OF SOURCES May also attacks the two sets of primary sources used by Filipino historians. One set consists of the literary and political works that. and others sought to . Villegas beian. May casts doubt on their having been authored by Bonifacio himself.111ilagros C. In writing their kasa_ysayan (storyl history). Andres' sister who died in the late 1950s. for example. Isabelo de los Reyes. and Rafael Palma were also writing as participants and witnesses of the Revolution. Clemente jose Zulueta. Kalaw and others of their generation." the early writers were actually not trained in historiography. the marunong or may pinagaralan . II. which appeared in the Katipunan ne'wspaper Ka/ayaan. These personalities 'we.Va. and third. Bonifacio's wife who later m~d--1-1±lio Nakpil. head of the officeof the supremo in late 1896. according to hirn. not the reportage of previous historians. the brothers Leon and Fernando Guerrero. provenance. second. a historian must hirnself be able to exarnine the evidence. The other set consists of actual documents. who did not provide footnotes and citations. the)! were racing against failure of memory. penmanship. de los Santos."pioneer historians. the readers kriew that Artigas. Artigas. Guerrero and Ramon N.
May wonders: "Givcn the central place occupied 1:.lf What is incomprehensible is that May did not even physically examine the Bonifacio-Jacinto correspondence. "-Nevertheless. however." He also declares that Santos. (At this point.nlv) to Jose Santos (1948) also differ from the language of theactual documents.. May then takes a shotat linguistic analysis.These were kept by Jacinto whose heirs sold thorn to Epifanio de los Santos early in this century. shouldn't Santos have . . what is so strange to. Amberh Ocam po. who was the first to point out the discrepancies berween the laflguage of the acrual doournc nts now in the Encarnacion collection and the Aaoncillo transcriptions appended to Revolt of the A1asses (1956). The authors of this article introduced May to the present custodian of the letters.ever been. told her they had no money and referred her instead to his friend. He attacks. May . Glenn May even finds unacceptable the documents that are physically present. May said. Epifanio de los Santos recognized the irriportarrce of the Bonifaci. the transcriptions= which he attributes (rnistake.. It: was not even necessary for the printed version to have the author's byline. having come to the conclusion that the Bonifacio letters in the family's possession are' fakes. May is merely taking his cue frorn his colleague. the antique dealer Severina de Asis. Pangan offered to sell them (()the governrnerit. Mayhimself asserts that "after examining the photocopies . that he had no time and that. have been pilfered from the National Archives and the National I • Library. the s~t of letters Bonifacio sent to Emilio Jacinto. and the widely recognized historical value of the Bonifacio-jacinto correspondence. [he coneluded}. are thernselvesflawed because their language is not of thc nineteenth century.canyway. who was very willingto show them to him. two private collectors. Nor have they. then the Director of the National Historical Institute.. in all likelihood.y Bonifacio in Philippine history. May adds another. one [night expect that the four letters are safely preserved behind bullet-proof glass or inside a theft-proof vault in one of the Philippine Republic's official manuscript ~_-~~positories.o letters to Filipino history. Ernmarruel Encarnacion. From the beginning." Having passed such kind of judgment on the provenance of the Bonifacio docurnents. purchased part of the lot from de Asis. In. that the famous Bonifacio letters were. destroyed these documents and perpetuated only his own transcriptions?) Maychen goes into an elaborate dis1997 PUBLIC POLICY October I December 139 . They were then passed on to Epifanios son. Jose Santos.May is very cornpreherisible to Filipinos.h. To this puzzle. forgeries. the limited number of surviving sources concerning his life.But they are not. Teresita Santos Pangan.m was to keep -t.. he had photocopies of thorn . in particular. . and chen to his granddaughter.[otthe author to affix his real name to any 'work that "wasintended to rouse political unrest. Jorge de los Santos (no relation to Epifanio) and Ernmariuel Encarnacio"l.The Historian as Irroenror aut hor of which work.. Serafin Quiason. had published rewritten versions of the forgeries which. In this. speculates that Santos "hac! doubts about their authenticity. Countless documents. in the case of revolutionary propaganda. the book. Lncleed. including the transcripts of Bonifacio's trial (later returned through the efforts of Encarnacion). In the early 1990s. it 'would have been folly.. In the early 1980s.c rri hirnsc. and believed that the best way to safeguard rhe.
Ileto link.or "straight.. instead. of linguistic nuance... the rule of law and not of men. would have had a number on should also have known that the root word of katuiran is tiild. Lenten rituals. This flash of insight led to (May's) "unsurprising conclusion .-~ -rrance oIcl::e doeoments needs to be of katuiratl to justicia indicates a investigated. i. verb foci. and that. I-Ie alleges that the 1948 through peasant uprisings and articulated "Santos" transcriptions were an attempt in a language based on the pasyon. For example. After presenting his case in such a manner. Dereeho in allegations beyond reasonable doubt. The-translation can 0nly aeree with IVIaythat the prove:=::-. equity-and reason. he himself knocks down Spanish it could be sol or dia. but to mistranslations. and Revolution: PopularMuvements in the on the individual's intellect and moral Philippines. '." of letters. Ilero translates katuiran as "reason. Guerrero and Ramon N." But in the next paragraph... We that language also refers to justice and law.. Director of the No reliable evidence links the Katipunan UP Sentro ng Wika. work. But "Villegas' protests became muted" as theycompared the forma-ion disputes Ilew's translation. written with a different hand from the Here. since the nuance of penned the letters. penmanship. [and] Bonifacio to th~ pasyon and the ments: the shift of focus from goal to Philippine millenarian tradition . the to bring the language closer to the Christian religious epic chanted during "authentic" language of Bonifacio's time. dismisses May's argu." call.Il1iiagros C.. of ang aiY!'?m ng katl/iran into "the sun of reason. as Spanish version. May supremo. focused. lVlabatid ng mga Tagalog from what May He recounts how one of the authors of assumes to be Jose Santos' re-translation this critique "was taken aback and hesitatinto Tagalog of Retana's Spanish translaed to concede" that one of the letters was tion from the original Kalayaan article. however. May is still unable to prove his which is dereeho in Spanish. torian Reynaldo Ileto's thesis in Pasyon for whom social order is based. that severalhands indeed European translator. certainly." Virgilio Almario. Ileto's translation "any scholar familiar with nineteentl. cenmay be validated by context. May again attempts a critique. May claims that "there which "tended to be rnor e actorare major flaws in Ilero's discussion .ed Bonifacio and the It is quite apparent that May's arguKatipunan not to the reformist program ments rest on unreliable transcriptions. translation into English ofAng Dapat May also tries his hand at graphology.~ ------- 140 PUBLIC POLICY Volume 1 No. Nonetheless. May attempts to disprove histranslation is reasonable to a Filipino. In that rectitude.1 . Ileto's Next. In Tagalog.l agalog has curious quirks. /840-1910 (1979).. he' others." Bonifacio." tury Philippine bureaucratic documents knows that a large percentage of them which May claims is justieia in the were written by scribes.that it which May says may not be valid since seerncd highly doubtful that the the Spanish translation is el dia de Bonifacio 'originals' owned by justieia.. To a this line of reasoning by adrnittirig that Filipino. " actor is integral to the language. there is onlyaraw for both "sun" .arid "day" whereas in ~ Encarnacion were authentic. that word in thatsocial order is basedon . and is Among these "major flaws" is Ileto's not specific to any historical period. shaped by European liberalism. Vz//egas cussion of "goal-focus" versus "actorthe millenarian tradition developed focus" verbs.
't:li shortly after the Ph ilip pirics had finally achieved independence . Bonifacio.volutiori of 1896.~: \!.. in the final anaivsis. l\L: u [IIL Bonifacio papers! co be f1!SC in terms Df content and int~x. etc.r hc. In that historical context. and they have criticized severely the policies and actions of both Spanish and colonial overlords.have be-en skeptical of Ricane's rrierno irs because.. But since we have been discussing speculative allegations.the celebratory message of earlier gener8tions of Philippine nationalists. it was important for Agoncillo to present the revolution of 1896 as a popular." May singles out Agoncillo: 1 \Vc should Icnlell'. reactionary and American writers. But that is not new inforrnation." And if Bonifacio is divested of his myth ifled properties. what counts. _. Perhaps.quotation marks hi s) "have tended to glorify the past exploits of native Filipinos.. de los SanTOS arid Santos. while it had been previously honored by horne-grown nationalists like Artigas.\. a struggle that.~ ph orocopic s. Philippine historians were particularly inclined to rethink and rewrite their country's past.l. we rnay as well posit another: Could 1\ 1a:-. then. Ricarte went into self-exile in Japan rather than live under the American ±lag? Is it because Ricartes sense of nation 'was able to resist the personal comfort and accommodation wh ich the American colonial masters provided to all the revolutionaries who surrendered? It is this -SaIne rrotiori of nation wh ich runs through the works of Filipino historians that so offe'nds May's idea or historiography. i1ctl'Cf1 rhl~' :!~k. which is. NATIONALISM May says that Arrernio Ricarte. of their accounts of the Tejeros Convention.. Ul. Iv. as an effort to valorize the revolution.~p ~.. -se Glenn May's own characterization of Bonifacio is that of a man who "squabbled with fellow katipuneros in Manila. especially Filipinos of humble origins. y i1 H. May says. That he continued to be allied with Bonifacio e vc n as he was preparing to assume the post (0 which he was elected in the corrccrition. "1 do not know if he willstill qualify for inclusion in the ranks of national heroes. :. pelling . The "nationalist school" (the . for that reason. mass movement. AgonciHo's book might be seen." It is in PUB LIe POL I CY October! December 1991 141 . of all the revolutionary generals.. had not always received favorable treatment frorn earlier clerical.nal evidcncc.ber that AgoJlcillo prod uced [Tar: Reoo/r of //r«. upon whose memoirs historians have based part. ~!~'''':"\' these papers. was a dissembler.. rescue it as well as its heroes from the critics and reiterate . we must recognize that at bottom The Revolt of the Masses is a misleading account of Andres.1t \\h~1L (i[ they !_l1C~1 \ l~l 'h ~l~ 11 n.. even though his evidence was not especially corn . and one event that would have been a likely candidate for rethinking was th ere. That: his memoirs served to hide his being a O(flimoil1g.ernoir s are precisely a personal account and need to be verified by other sources.and to a certain exten-t update . The Bonifacio depicted in that book is Teodoro Agoncillo's invention . iJ(f.
That is the ineluctible fact of Philippine history. Agoncillo and Ilcto. Indeed Bonifacio is a national hero ill spite of.ll as through graphology and questionable provenance.'("I!:I:. those who would seek redress f01" their grieva:1ce~ flock to the unattended and grimy Bonifacio moriumerits not because they have read Artigas..(I. But his own work is littered wir h presum"p(ions and allegations.111(\ \\OflL (hen so 1)L" if 'j"hL' '"I[ii'iI1. each one prefaced by condiriorial terms such as "if.' . Fathers told sons that it was Bonifacio (not del Pilar." wove historical narratives for the purpose of man ufacturing mv chs.' "in alllikelihood. in the process of writing the h is tory T~i//(:c.. the Filipino models of investigative historiograpby are studies bv two Americanborn historians: those of 'Yin iam He nrv Scott on the so-called Codi' otKa/anriao». Jose Burgos documents. 142 PUBLIC POLICY Volume 1 No.' "which Glenn \Ll\ \\Ti(C:-. much less as a "nationalist school." t of ~\ n a r io n.1 . Historians can only dig out records. But Ivlay presents no proof at ail r hat any one of these historians. But they _<. de los Santos and Santos. Aguinaldo or anyone else) who initiated a national and dernocratie revolution against what "vas once the largest ernpire in (he world. Guerrero and Ramo!!. Lronica lly. Rizal.Y passages such as these that May's agenda bocornes clear. Heroes cannot be foisted on a people." "presumably. not perfect and toral lx innocent o t hidden agendas and persona] morivar ion s. GJenn May reveals his own misunderstanding of historical rnerhod. he fu ults Filipino historians for lack of method or for using Hawed mechodologv. seek first-hand accounts. And if. hc v . Mabi ni..il1ifagros C. analyze facts. In fact.i l u n tr \\jrll such condescension arc ccrt.." In presenting his arguments." "n1<1Y" or "might. It is not to seek the truth about Bonifacio and the events of 18<)6. as we." "could have .of 1896 in Kangkong was erected by public subscription.d "nar iona lisr" <1:> if it \\"eIL' 3 1." "probably.. on the alleged Fr.t i ul-." "rnav be. Filipino historians and their fellow elite. arid of JOhl1 Schumacher.:annot change history.i rc lu bc llc. the unreliability of the particular sets of documents they had scrutinized. Even Guillermo Tolentino's magnum opus in Kalookan is not considered a national monurnerit by certain officials of the National Historical Institute. In his determination to support his hypothesis. Both writers were able to prove through internal evidence. The 1911 monument to the Revolution. It is not to analyze the historiography of early twentieth century Filipino writ¢rs. The common folk have a simple but profound understanding of their country's history. and not because of. What "May fails to understand is that Bonifacio was not a creation.
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