National Artist and poet Virgilio Almario, a k a Rio Alma, spent all morning of Wednesday, December 15, texting friends to remind them it’s the 135thbirthday of Emilio Jacinto. The pre-law student, barely out of his teens, joined the Katipunan when its membership was but a handful, authored itsKartilya, and put together almost single-handedly the revolutionary movement’s newspaper Kalayaan. Though they may not know his name, grade school pupils today may still recognize the face of this hero who stylishly sheltered part of his broad forehead with a layer of well-combed hair.
Other than that he was Andres Bonifacio’s brain trust, the one who fought by his side, little else is known of this Tondo-born Katipunero who went by the nom de guerre “Pingkian” (friction or flint). The Supremo, who was twelve years older, called him the “soul of the Katipunan.” A letter Bonifacio wrote to Jacinto, dated April 24, 1897, one month after the fateful Tejeros assembly, might have been among the Supremo’s last. He wrote it just three days before his arrest for sedition by Emilio Aguinaldo’s forces, and sixteen days before his execution.
In this letter, the beleaguered leader poured out his grievances after the stunning humiliation he suffered at Tejeros. Feeling sharply his isolation in Cavite, Bonifacio planned to return to Manila to consolidate his forces. This was where he felt most secure in his leadership, among the plebeians he had originally recruited into his secret society. He particularly needed to secure the full trust of the young Jacinto by providing him a personal account of what happened in Cavite and the people who betrayed him. One has to take this letter in the light of the deep resentment he felt at the time. I’m rendering here a loose translation of portions of that letter:
“One infuriating piece of news I am conveying to you is about the treachery of the leaders of Magdalo who had acceded to the Spanish offer of amnesty. These are Minister of War Daniel Tirona, Minister of Interior Jose del Rosario, Lieutenant-General Jose Cailles, and almost all those from Tanza, including the priests. All of them are followers of Capitan Emilio. That is why many strongly suspect that behind their great insistence that they be the government is their plan to surrender the whole Revolution.”
This belief permeated Bonifacio’s assessment of the Magdalo’s ulterior design. Although the subsequent events leading to the compromise known as the Pact of Biak-na-Bato appear to validate this theory, it nevertheless glosses over the complexity of the situation of the revolutionary forces at that point.
A week after the assembly at Tejeros, whose actions Bonifacio summarily nullified, Emilio Aguinaldo, the elected president of the newlyestablished “Pamahalaan ng Sangkatagalugan,” visited Bonifacio at the latter’s quarters in Naic. He was accompanied by Baldomero Aguinaldo, his brother. I quote from O.D. Corpuz’s “Roots of the Filipino Nation.” Corpuz’s account of that visit is based on the memoirs of Santiago V. Alvarez, a member of the Magdiwang and a loyal follower of Bonifacio.
“One of the sore points that the latter (Bonifacio) held against the Magdalo at this time was the surrender of Tirona, a Magdalo, under the amnesty declared by Lachambre. Bonifacio and Aguinaldo exchanged views; the latter declared that he likewise condemned the surrender of Tirona and Cailles, at which S.V. Alvarez records that the two leaders embraced fraternally.”
Bonifacio made no mention of his meeting with the Aguinaldo brothers in his letters to Jacinto. Clearly, he did not trust Aguinaldo; he might have thought he was very much a part of the Magdalo conspiracy that ousted him as head of the revolution. Moreover, Bonifacio appeared to cling to the belief that this whole sordid episode was purely a Magdalo scheme. He failed to see that the Magdiwang group was very much an integral part of the new government and readily accepted Aguinaldo’s leadership.
As things turned out, Bonifacio never made it back to Manila. In the midst of the Spanish assault on the Katipunan’s strongholds in Cavite, he was tried and convicted for sedition by the Aguinaldo-led revolutionary government. Although Aguinaldo commuted the death sentence to indefinite exile as soon as it was promulgated, his order failed to stop the Supremo’s execution.
We don’t now how Jacinto took the Supremo’s account of the events that transpired in Cavite, or, even more, Bonifacio’s death in the hands of fellow revolutionaries. He appeared to have fled to the mountains after the signing of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, refusing, like many leaders of the revolution, to lay down their arms. In 1898, following Aguinaldo’s return from exile, and the subsequent declaration of independence at Kawit, Apolinario Mabini, then adviser to Aguinaldo, wrote to Jacinto asking him to “come down from the mountains and live in the revolutionary capital of Malolos.” I quote from Cesar Majul’s work on Mabini: “Jacinto was somewhat cautious about this return to the lowlands; he was fearful lest his close associations with Bonifacio might be counted against him.” Jacinto never came down to Malolos; he died of a fever on April 16, 1899at the age of 23.
In our respective households, Jacinto’s memory lives on in a little girl named “Jacinta,” the precious broad-headed granddaughter that the Almarios and the Davids share and dote upon.