FEATURES | Now Showing: The Legacy of Bonifacio in Today’s Crisis
By Tonyo Aguilar and MD
Everyone’s life has instantly become a blockbuster movie over the past year. It feels like the world is going through a lot of surreal events that one would only expect to see on the big screens, accompanied by an epic soundtrack, and filled with Computer Generated Imagery edits, just like a fictional film that makes long lines outside the theatre even if it is on its third week already. Life is getting more challenging each day as we deal with unemployment, poor healthcare and education systems, circus politics, and other societal issues, topped with a global pandemic that has been going on for almost two years now. Luckily, everyone has a chance to be called a hero. All they need to do is follow the script and deliver what it asks. Those who do otherwise are automatically cast as villains.
The ad-lib of Revolution
Andres Bonifacio, a messenger and a housekeeper from a poor family in Manila took arms and fought the Spanish forces in our country over a century ago. Along with the Katipunan, a revolutionary society he led, Bonifacio bravely faced the Spaniards and ignited the fire of revolution, ultimately liberating our country from the colonizers. Attempts for a peaceful societal reform were made during the earlier days of the revolution. Ilustrados initially led a propaganda movement in the hopes of improving the socio-political and economic conditions of the Filipinos’ lives by showing the real situation experienced by the Filipinos. Despite sticking to the script, the movement failed to achieve its goal of better life conditions, replacement of Spanish friars by Filipino priests, and an equal footing for the Spaniards and the Filipinos in the eyes of law. The Spanish friars successfully stopped the Ilustrados’ attempts through their power and influence. From that moment, Bonifacio knew that as long as the Spaniards remained in power over the country, a legal move would never be able to liberate the Filipinos from the colonizers. He decided to take arms and spark the revolution. Bonifacio is our country’s hero — but he did not follow the script.
As soon as Duterte rose in power, many have hoped for genuine change since he opened doors in solving the societal ills. Yet it was a failure as time progressed since bloodshed and disorder loomed in impoverished areas that were once promised to be given immediate change by the populist leader. Duterte, who acted as a good samaritan prior to him bagging the position, just showed who he really is serving for and definitely, it was never for the masses.
In these times of political and social turmoil, many Filipinos have followed Bonifacio’s impromptu and turned away from the screenplay. Some farmers who lost lands to till, changed their arms from sickle to guns to fight the system that oppresses them. Student leaders and activists take the streets to resist the attacks from state forces, organize the masses and assert Filipinos’ rights as citizens and as beings. Workers have taken the picket lines notwithstanding what future awaits them to demand for humane working conditions. Yet, these people will never be recognized as heroes — not in this movie’s sequel, not in this movie’s script, not in this cinema called Society, and definitely not in the camera lens of this administration. The moment they deviated from the script, they had already named themselves the villains of this film directed by dictators, fascists, and lapdogs of imperial powers.
A Villain Origin Story
For the past years, more and more people have been very vocal about the social and political situations in our country. Several groups and sectors have been asking for accountability from the government because of its failed pandemic response that forced millions of Filipinos to suffer inside their homes. The outcome of their incapacity for the past six years was also put in the spotlight as people became more critical of the news and information they consume on different media platforms. Nothing can cover up the stench of the administration’s incompetence that have put the country in this spiral.
But, being the directors that they are, they respond to these criticisms by twisting the narratives in an attempt to save their faces. Instead of actually listening to the people, the government turns their resistance against them, while dismissing the important calls they bring. People who stand up against the anti-poor and anti-people policies and acts performed by the administration are being tagged as rebels who threaten the security of the state. Some are being intimidated by the people of authority, some have become political prisoners, and some have been silenced, literally and figuratively. These people will never have their chance to reappear in this film and will only have their names noticed on the after credits once this movie has ended. Instead of owning up to their shortcomings, actually doing something about the people’s concerns, and trying to be real heroes for the Filipino people for once, they just create their own antagonists in this narrative that they manipulate — a poor attempt at scrapping the villain origin story in this movie.
Only through the Revolution
History is a testament that these people deemed as heroes are truly the villains in Society. For more than centuries of ruling the nation, legitimate calls of civil society and the marginalized were put at the backseat and worse, when the rulers’ narratives are challenged, they don’t hesitate to pull the trigger. The people have always been involved in democratic processes through voting and elections, but throughout the years, the parliamentary remains as the bailiwick of criminals, murderers, and enablers of the suffering of the people. Rulers until the current regime may have participated in peace processes among the so-called villains, yet always ending with unresolved agreement as elites would never give up their wealth for the people. This strongly indicates that societal ills that indefinitely plagues the Filipino people cannot in any way be solved through elections nor dialogues.
Reflecting after more than a century, Bonifacio’s decision to choose the path less traveled remains relevant. A lot have risked their lives and bite the bullet as it is the sole choice the society has to offer, yet they are still branded as the antagonist especially today. The state wages terrorist-tagging through the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force To End Local Communist Insurgency) that, throughout its establishment, have only proven to create false narratives of fake surrenderees and redbaits and does trumped-up charges against those fighting even in the legal sphere.
This just proves that deviating from the script is justified. While this narrative is continuously being demonized in the mainstream by imperialist and local comprador directors, Bonifacio’s resistance reminds the people that for them to be able to resist the status quo, the legal arena can never be the avenue. It is and will only be through a revolution can we reclaim a narrative where the directors of Society are the masses themselves.