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Joana Rizza A.

Bagano 2009-57685 Teodoro Agoncillos The Revolt of the Masses

Kas 1 WFX3 February 24, 2010

All periods of history show a strain of madness and all are chaotic. - Jacques Barzun1 Teodoro Agoncillo begins the book with his own foreword, giving the readers a caveat in the first sentence: It is with great difficulty and trepidation that I was finally able to persuade myself to sit down to attempt a biography of Andres Bonifacio.2 From reading this, I thought that the whole book was really going to be an attempt a trial, more likely a document of assumptions and theories on Bonifacio. But reading on, I was able to understand that it was because of Bonifacios rather obscure origin that Agoncillo thought of challenging himself by pouring out all effort on writing the biography a record of factual events, not theories or opinions. I agree with what he said further in the foreword that the fame of an author is not sufficient guarantee of reliability and competence since all works still have to be looked at with severe scrutiny, whoever their author may be.3

Teodoro A. Agoncillo (1912 1985) is known for his contribution to the history of the Philippines. My father has taught Philippine History to college students and he has always recommended Agoncillos books whenever I ask him events of the past. Agoncillo has written more than 20 books and a lot more articles about the history of the Philippines. He was awarded as one of the "Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM)", of the Junior Chamber of the Philippines in 1963 and "Distinguished Scholar of the University of the Philippines" in1968.4

His most valuable legacy5 to the Filipino people is his collection of published books written from the point-of-view of the Filipino. These books include Ang Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, The Revolt of the Masses, The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan, Malolos, the Crisis of the Republic and The History of the Filipino People.

A historian, according to Agoncillo, must be a good writer in order to make his data interesting and to recreate the past. A historian must be a master of literary ability. You cannot recreate if you do not have the mastery of your medium of expression.6 If truly this is the definition of a historian, then I give all recognition to Agoncillo. Throughout the two weeks that I read the book, I was able to enjoy reading and be a part of the events because of Agoncillos eye for detail. In his conversation with Ambeth Ocampo, Agoncillo continues to define a historian as one who should see even the small details which are useless to people who have no power of observation. This eye for detail, he mentions, is important in narration and description.7 The Revolt of the Masses by Agoncillo was entered in a Government-sponsored biography contest on the national hero, Andres Bonifacio, during the years 1947-1948. The original manuscript was dated April 12, 1948. It won first prize and Agoncillo was awarded P3,000 by the Government.8 Being entered into a biography contest, I assume the book was done with the very best the author could do. If it wasnt, it couldnt have also won. P3,000 during those times was big money though the honor of winning a biography contest on Andres Bonifacio was far worth more than all the pesos in the country put together. Also, though it was the best of the entries, it still needed double-checking

by authority since best doesnt always mean accurate.9 Agoncillos main objective in writing the book was, as I understood in the foreword, to write an accurate and concrete but unofficial biography of Andres Bonifacio. During those times, the Plebeian Hero, as Bonifacio was called, didnt have a clear and accurate data on his early life. There was, though, an overabundance of documents on his trial and death that an ordinary student could pick out which is reliable and sort out that which is not. Agoncillo also claims that although this was a biography on Bonifacio, the reader would observe that the spotlight was not focused on Bonifacio rather it was on the Katipunan as a whole.10

If I were to base this part of the review on opinion and not on anything written regarding this book of Agoncillo, I would say he was able to make clear and relay well how Bonifacio lived his life, especially during the revolution. The facts were, for me, consistent, as I was trying to look for loopholes but ended up finding nothing to point out. And although constantly looking for loopholes was a distraction to my reading, I found the book quite interesting in terms of style and sequencing of events.

On the contrary, I also found the book somewhat deviating with regards to language. For example, some chapters begin romantically with that short-story feel as with Chapter 13, named Intrigues and Traditions: The belligerent mood surrounding the session hall at the estate-house of Tejeros that late afternoon when Bonifacio and his men left disquietude, confused in mind and deeply hurt in feeling, was ripe for a tragic interlude After a few minutes of reading, I would unknowingly get surprised at the turn of events, primarily because of language. A new

paragraph would begin, speaking in technical tongue, bombarding me with dates and places I would have never heard of in my life, and I would find myself suddenly bored in the middle.

Although the language was a bit deviating, I also found it capturing my emotions. I seldom find a book which could connect to me and relate to my feelings, since most books I read always have that wall between the writer and I which I couldnt bring down. Whenever I would read books, too, I will not read further if the first chapter wont interest me. In this case, the first chapter was able to keep me glued to the book. Throughout my reading I held a pen in hand, ready to write down whichever paragraph appealed to my emotions. While reviewing the notebook I used, I found happy faces and sad faces, question marks and exclamation points, all because I was moved. For example, when it was time for Bonifacio to learn that he was at Mt. Tala to die11, I almost cried. Then I remembered it was all part of the biography, which was about his birth and death and everything in between. So I choked back tears.

Aside from this part, there were other important events recorded in the book that I found quite remarkable. In Chapter 1: Night Over The Philippines, which by the way, is for me a fitting title for the chapter, Agoncillo notes that the administration of the provinces was, till 1896, in the hands of provincial governors who were also judges. This, Agoncillo said, was a set-up which was so stupid that any appeal against the decision of the governor must necessarily be coursed through and judged by the governor himself. I found this an awkward and funny set-up and imagined if this were still used today. The governor is like a person trying to rebuke himself/herself when he/she has sinned and still something inside him/her believes he/she did nothing wrong. Its all too much confusing and crazy especially when the governor is living up

to certain moral principles. Also, a few paragraphs after this, it was mentioned: Schools were conducted in the stables of the friars, and as learning was by rote and knowledge was predicated upon the ability to memorize long passages without any attempt at making the pupils understand themthe poor pupils went out of the schools as ignorant as when they first entered it. This is absolutely agreeable and though we are no longer under these friars, it seems that a bit, if not a large chunk of our education is still like this. I have plenty of head knowledge from grade school but it is all I know and when people ask me to go deeper into a subject, I begin changing the topic since I dont know beyond surface facts. Some things taught in grade school, and even in some high schools, are good only for quiz bee competitions but not essay exams. Also, the book shed light on the reformists whom I also believe contributed a lot to our history. In Chapter 2: The Awakening, I learned that it was not only Rizal who strongly advocated education, but also a number of intellectuals like Marcelo H. del Pilar. I When I read this, I was made to rethink how and why Rizal is distinct from all the other men we term as heroes. One of my favorite chapters, Chapter 5: Canes and Paper Fans, discussed Manila in its late 1800s state then went into Tondo where Bonifacios family lived. It was one of the childhood stories that I used to hear from my father, the story about canes and paper fans, about how Bonifacio worked hard every day to help his family. This story, among many other hard work stories, moved me for a long time. It was a story of humility, of patience and Filipino diligence. But beyond Bonifacios hard work, he was still able to face his need for education. I come back to it again, since it is an argument that knows no limit. Education, after all, was prized by Bonifacio. He didnt have formal schooling but he tried his best to learn from the resources he had. In the next chapters, we find Bonifacio becoming a man, more of the typical brave, muscular man, as I was made to imagine. He eventually finds his purpose, and that is to lead the country into independence. In the last

chapter, The Summing Up, present-day Filipinos were described to have been taught to believe that Bonifacio succeeded because of his aggressiveness and recklessness. In the book, though, Bonifacio was described to have been mindful of his actions, modest and tolerant all the opposite of what most Filipinos perceive him to have been.

There are tens more of noteworthy ideas, events and facets of the year 1896 and what appeared to be one of the most life-changing events in the life of the Filipino that I was able to appreciate and learn from. Since most of the book was on the Revolution and the Katipunan, a majority of the events appeared chaotic to me. For example, the system of government within the Katipunan and the way the members elected their leaders was somehow disheartening and at the same time disturbing since I liken it to how we elect our leaders today. Indeed, Agoncillo was able to make the Revolution come to life in my mind. Agoncillo was also able to make the readers know what was in the minds of the characters their feelings on different subjects, their plans for themselves and their organization and what they thought was going to be the best way to independence, not just how they acted and what they looked like from the outside. He didnt leave out anything, since I wasnt looking for anything more (the book, as I said, contained the most specific details it could cover), and all parts were significant to the whole.

As for the technical part of the book, I was able to find minor typographical errors such as frairs for friars12 which happened in the older edition that I first borrowed. When I checked the 1996 edition, which I am using for this review, the typographical errors have been corrected. I also found some problems in word usage such as not unaware which could be substituted with just the word aware. These are just examples of minor errors which could be

corrected with every edition and would not affect the books reliability and consistency. The language used as a whole was understandable but not by everyone. I reckon one needs to have had high school education so one could comprehend the words, the discourse and the flow of events.

Connectively, I agree with Agoncillo when he mentioned in the foreword that to include the discussions of doubtful points and the footnotes in the main text would be to make the book a dull and protracted law brief. It is as if in the midst of a lively conversation between two friends, a maid suddenly appeared to tell the host that a salesman was at the door. As an ordinary book reader, I find it distracting to see footnotes on the bottom of pages, especially if these footnotes occupy a larger space than the text. This is reason why I choose to put the notes of this review at the last page.

As a summary for everything which has been said above, I found the book appealing and interesting despite its length and some pages which appeared to be a bore to me. Whenever I get bored in the middle of my reading, I try to defamiliarize myself of the book and begin again. It helps especially when the book I am reading is a requirement. Besides appealing and interesting, the book is also something from which we can learn even the most specific details of the Revolution. Nevertheless, I believe that after reading the book, only a small portion of it all would be retained in the mind. This is where the last chapter comes in. I am thankful that Agoncillo was able to think of a chapter where he would summarize everything. It was not only a summary, though. Chapter 16: The Summing Up, contained new thoughts which were not in the main text. It explained the main idea of every chapter plus the story behind it. If youre a history

buff, an avid reader, a student bored with irrelevant readings or a plain Filipino, if you classify yourself to be one, this book is a recommendation. There are not many books like this and while everyone else is relying on the Internet for a good biography of Bonifacio, I suggest you run to the nearest library and ask the librarian for a copy of Teodoro Agoncillos The Revolt of the Masses. You may not want to read everything but I suggest you do since when I first began, I didnt want to continue until I was finding myself getting immersed in all the happenings. Be in the know, read this book.

If you want to make sure that the book is will bear fruit in you after you have read it, consider this passage from Dr. Gilbert S. Perez, one of our best elderly scholars and educators: It is an unusually and refreshingly well written Philippine document. I do not know Mr. Agoncillo personally, but from his biography I believe he was the making of a scholar, a researcher and wroter of the type of my old friends, Pardo de Tavera, Epifanio de los Santos, Palma, De Veyra and Kalaw: all seekers of truth wherever and whenever truth is to be found....13


1. Jacques Barzun is a French-born U.S. writer, cultural critic, and educator. Microsoft

Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

2. Teodoro Agoncillo, The Revolt of the Masses (Quezon City: University of the Philippines

Press, 1996), VII.



4. Wikipedia, Teodoro Agoncillo, Wikipedia, ang malayang ensiklopedya, http://www.
5. ibid. 6. Ambeth Ocampo, Talking History: Conversations with Teodoro Andal Agoncillo

(Manila: De La Salle University Press, Inc., 1995), 91.

7. ibid. 8. Jose Hernandez, The Revolt of the Masses: The story behind Agoncillos story of Andres

Bonifacio (1956). Copyright page missing

9. Best doesnt always mean accurate. Best may be best of the worst or best of all that

which is present, but best may not always be perfect.

10. Teodoro Agoncillo, The Revolt of the Masses (Quezon City: University of the Philippines

Press, 1996), VIII.

11. ibid., p. 270 12. The edition could have been the latest before the 1996 edition. 13. Jose Hernandez, The Revolt of the Masses: The story behind Agoncillos story of Andres

Bonifacio (1956), 52.