Bonifacio The Supremo

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

I watched the movie, Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo. My wife had been wanting to since before Christmas but there were just too many things to do, too many events to attend. I did not want to rush things, not the kind that I felt would mean so much to me. Taking a trip back in time and imagining Bonifacio in that time of our history needed my full attention, I thought.

A movie is a movie, so people say. But once in a while, a movie is more than a movie to a person. “Bonifacio” is one such movie. Andres Bonifacio is one such personality in our history that he commands, even more than a century later, my respect and my admiration. The movie “Bonifacio” is not just a trip to history. The movie and the man are relevant today and should be more relevant in the days to come.

Because the freedom he longed for, he sacrificed for, he fought for, and was murdered for, is not yet there for the Filipinos he offered everything for. That makes the man and the cause not only meaningful but urgently so today.

When Spain colonized us, it was not just our freedom it snatched from our hands. If that had been so, the disappearance of foreign masters, the Spaniards, the British, the Americans and the Japanese would have settled the issue. We do have a facsimile of political freedom. This is visible and measurable by available options – more options, more freedom.

Our society has a few Filipinos on the list of global billionaires. According to some published research, the top richest 50 individuals have a combined wealth equivalent to one fourth of the nations’ gross domestic product. Another report said that 40 families controlled 76% of our GDP growth. If we look at them, how can we deny that they have freedom beyond Bonifacio’s dream?

Unfortunately, there are more than 99 million other Filipinos who will have to divide the rest of the pie. The first one million from the top will take a great chunk of what is left. The bottom 30 million will have nothing, and the next 30 million above them will have, as you can guess, next to nothing. Therefore, to more than half of Filipinos, more than 50 million of us, the options are few, if at all. Believe it or not, the options may have been more for them when foreigners ruled the land. Freedom, then, to them, is still a part of the imagination, still a deep ache in their hearts, still the cause that Andres Bonifacio wanted so much to win for them.

It was not long ago when Philippine demographics had Economic Classes A & B so small that they had to be combined to make 1%. Class C was then 9%, D at 55% and E at 35%. Frankly, I do not know anymore what the new figures are, except to say that what was once the 55% D was so large that it had to be subdivided as Upper D and Lower D. Upper D must be the OFWs and their families, now earning more income than ever historically. If traditional Class C and Upper D are combined, I believe we have the emerging middle class, or at least the most dominant sector at 40% of the population and rising.

The bottom 55%, though, remains largely with little or no options, living with little or no freedom. All throughout the movie, I thought Bonifacio was speaking of them, to them, about freedom and about the sacrifice of blood and sweat. And I felt that if a Bonifacio spoke to them today, the poor would declare him Supremo, still.

When poverty was more overwhelming in the 60’s, the Left staged what it believed was the revolution that would change forever the political, social, economic and religious landscape of the country. It must be that they felt the anger of Bonifacio, enough for many of them to fight and die for the freedom they sought. But the anger of Bonifacio was not Bonifacio, and the solution the Left offered was not Filipino either. That is why it has failed to win what should have been a game stacked in their favor with Classes D & E at 90%.

The revolution for freedom must be fought, and won, not for a few but for the vast majority. It cannot be fought with arms because the military of the present elite is far more powerful than the military of Spain at that time. It cannot be fought with violence because the anger is not seething in the hearts of the impoverished. Whatever little freedom they have is vent enough to avert bloody rage.

However, the inability of the poor and the weak must not be used to prolong their suffering. Democracy must not be a system that tolerates poverty for fear of what is bureaucratic. The freedom and democracy that government and many Filipinos are so proud of must return to the basic rights that Filipinos are entitled to – by simply being human and Filipinos. The first human right is dignity. The first Filipino birthright is opportunity from the motherland. It is not money, it is not economics – it is dignity and opportunity.

If the economic and political geniuses of this land cannot find a formula to assure dignity and opportunity, then they must step aside and let others provide the alternatives. It is not so complicated, after all. Security is the foundation for dignity, and natural resources the capital of opportunity. Let patriotism be the genius of our times, first for the poor majority, then to strong minority. The future of the Filipino lies in all the people, together,

In the movie, many scenes of a revolution that started in homes and buildings of the city found their ending on the earth of the countryside. The sacrifice and death of revolutionaries, including Andres Bonifacio, were all buried in the bosom of motherland. Somehow, the mother speaks mostly through her earth, her soil. Land is birthright, land is dignity, land is freedom. This must have been what Bonifacio saw, and what he died for.

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