What makes a hero?

Many years ago, while rummaging through costly books in one popular bookstore, I found for the first time Dr. Onofre Córpuz’s famous work, “The Roots of the Filipino Nation”. I didn’t have money then, so I just leafed through the pages. On page 223 (of volume II), I found a commentary of his about the “Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng̃ mg̃á Anak ng̃ Bayan“, popularly known as the Katipunan. On that page, Córpuz wrote that this time-honored “revolutionary group” was “the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation”.

During that time, I had just reconverted to the Catholic Church (after a couple of years toying around with godlessness and other “isms”). My zeal back then towards the faith of my forefathers was freshly strong, and so I immediately sensed —with much chagrin— that there was something disturbingly wrong with Dr. Córpuz’s assertion. I asked myself, how could someone like him, a giant in the academe, had written something as incomprehensible as the Katipunan embodying a Christian nation when that group was an offshoot of Freemasonry? As many Dan-Brown-educated kids should know by now, Freemasonry is the ancient enemy of the Church. As a Christian student of history, I was deeply intrigued toward the extent of the late Dr. Córpuz’s knowledge about the role of Freemasonry during those tumultuous final years of our country’s history under Spain. But was Dr. Córpuz really unaware of the Katipunan’s Masonic roots as well as its motives? I find it hard to believe that. Or did he leave that fact out conveniently because he was a Freemason himself, or perhaps its sympathizer? But if he was, wouldn’t it still be ridiculous for a Mason like him to say that a violent group who tortured and chopped off the heads of friars just because they were Spaniards embodied the Christian Filipino nation?

To those who are still unaware, Freemasonry has been condemned numerous times by the Catholic Church. To my knowledge, there had been at least 24 papal pronouncements regarding this matter (perhaps the most famous was Pope Leo XIII’s papal encyclical  “Humanum Genus” which was released in 1884). As one of the best academicians our country ever had, it strikes me as odd as to why Dr. Córpuz had failed to emphasize the Masonic origins of the Katipunan in that controversial conclusion of his. A little research will show that the Katipunan’s third and final Supremo, Andrés Bonifacio (you read that right: he wasn’t the first), joined the Logia Taliba (No. 165) and from there imbibed his radical and anti-friar ideas. Bonifacio also joined Rizal’s Liga Filipina in 1892. The group was in fact a Masonic lodge in the making (or was it already?). These organizations, not to mention their members, were hardly Christian at all, if we are to view them from Catholic lenses.

La imagen puede contener: una persona

After the failure of the Liga Filipina and the arrest and deportation of Rizal to Dapitan, the campaign for peaceful reforms had hit the glass ceiling. Thus, an agitated and disenchanted Marcelo H. del Pilar, himself a high-ranking Mason and a rabid propagandista who had been on self-exile in Spain for years, wrote to his brother-in-law Deodato Arellano and urged the latter to form a much more radical and violent group to finally end Spain’s reign in Filipinas. Arellano thus gathered other members of the beleaguered Liga to form the Katipunan (yes, it was Arellano, and not Bonifacio, who founded the Katipunan as instigated by del Pilar).

When government forces discovered the existence of the Katipunan in late 1896, what happened next was bloodshed and the senseless killing and torture of innocent Spanish friars and other individuals who went against the Katipuneros’ way. Did ordinary civilians welcome the “revolution” participated in mostly by Tagálogs? No they didn’t. For most Filipinos living far from where the action was, life went on. There was no national sentiment that supported the Katipunan rebellion against Spain (see “One Woman’s Liberating: The Life and Career of Estefanía Aldaba-Lim” by Nick Joaquín).

It should be noted in the preceding paragraph that the Katipunan was discovered by accident. Keep in mind that it was an underground organization. Simply put, the Katipunan was an ILLEGAL ASSOCIATION no matter how hard one tries to paint it with dainty colors of patriotism and love of country. One might say that it had lofty ideals of freedom and nationhood, thus excusing it from illegalities. But so does the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf who try to picture themselves as the martyrs of their delusional Bangsamoro. Should we consider them heroes too?

Mimicking the Katipunan’s belligerence towards lawful society, Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV and his Samahang Magdalo did the same thing twice in the past against the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Should we, therefore, erect monuments to Trillanes as well and consider his rebellious friends as the new Katipuneros? After all, they fought corruption and injustice, didn’t they?

Seeing now that the Katipunan was a bastard child of Freemasonry, the ancient enemy of the Christian religion, how in the world did Dr. Córpuz come up with the idea that the Katipunan was the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation? The Katipuneros made incisions on their arms to sign membership papers using their own blood. They swore loyalty to the Katipunan in front of a human skull. They swore to kill even members of their families for the sake of the Katipunan’s secrecy. Where is Christianity in all that?

This is not to say that Bonifacio was an evil man; only God can judge whether he was or not in spite of the many friars he had shamed and ordered tortured and killed, and churches burned and desecrated. Going beyond the rebellion, we will never know much about his character for he was not as chronicled as Rizal. For all we know, Bonifacio could have been a virtuous man. But that is not the point. Whatever personal distinction he may have had was not the reason why we now have several monuments for him, nor was it the reason why we commemorate his birthday every November 30th.

On 16 February 1921, the Philippine Legislature, under the auspices of US Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison, enacted Act No. 2946 making November 30 of each year a legal holiday to commemorate the birth of Bonifacio. The holiday has since been known as Bonifacio Day, ultimately making the Katipunan a Filipino national hero.

But in view of the foregoing Masonic events surrounding Bonifacio and the Katipunan, especially from the lens of a Christian observer, should a Catholic still consider him a hero?

It is, of course, difficult to accept that Bonifacio should be removed from our pantheon of heroes. After all, we’ve been hearing about him even before we started going to school (I still remember clearly how my dear paternal grandmother —may she rest in peace— was teaching me how to recite that “Andrés Bonifacio / hatapang hatáo” mock poem when I was around three years old so that it would evoke in her a hearty laugh!). But isn’t it about time that we all start to think on our own instead of relying on years of spoon-fed artificial food? You will say, of course, that the Katipunan was formed as a reaction towards Spanish tyranny. But what tyranny to be exact? I’ve been hearing about this tyranny all my life yet no one could still point out accurately what exactly it was all about. What’s always been taught to us are hazy and hasty generalizations. Is there tyranny in the towns that Spain created for us? Was Spain tyrannical when it shipped to our country countless items (tomato, calendar, piano, wheat, books, polo, pantalón, chico, bougainvillea, violin, watermelon, guava, printing press, etc.) and concepts (chivalry, palabra de honor, philosophy, law, land ownership, Western art, age/birthday, Christianity, etc) that have made us what we are today — as Filipinos? We adore old mementos from our past (bahay na bató, traditions, etc.) and decry their dwindling number and alarming disappearance. But such mementos were from the hated Spanish period. So why bother saving and conserving them if they all come from such a tyrannical era?

We all miss our grandfathers who used to bring us to Church on Sundays and carry us on their shoulders so that we’d be able to see saints’ processions from right above a thick crowd; we all miss our grandmothers who never tire praying the rosary day and night. All these are vestiges from that tyrannical period. Why bother missing them at all?

Spain virtually created this country. We wouldn’t be having Luzón, Visayas, and Mindanáo today if not for Spain. What kind of tyranny is that? Numerous tribes (the politically correct will tell me it should be called ethnolinguistic instead) such as the Tagálogs, the Visayans, the Bicolanos, etc. were united under one language (Spanish), under one government, under one faith (Roman Catholicism) so as to keep us one, so that we will no longer be at war against each other. We were given schools (escuelas pías, Universidad de Santo Tomás, etc.). Pray, tell, where is the tyranny in that?

This is not to say that all Spanish officials and even friars during the Empire days were all good and just. No, of course not. But that is not the point. The point here is what untold promises did Freemasonry inspire upon Rizal and del Pilar to rebel, and for Bonifacio and his band of Katipuneros to rise against civil society. “For the sake of freedom”, is the usual answer. But what freedom did violence bring? No wonder the late Fidel Castro was both hated and loved by his people. The support for and against him is heavily polarized to this day.

We have had so much distrust towards our government. From Ferdinand Marcos all the way to President Rodrigo Duterte. Shouldn’t we all follow the Katipuneros of old and organize stealth groups to undermine the present government, all for the sake of freedom?

If I will use the hashtag #NotAHero, it would be appropriate to attach it to that Masonically misled man from Tondo whose birthday we methodically commemorate today, because instead of thinking something that would have truly helped and uplifted the lives of the unfortunate Filipino masses of his time —by establishing something such as the Kadiwa Public Market, for instance— Bonifacio brought instead bloodshed which led not only to his own death but also to the downfall of what Spain had strongly forged for more than three centuries.

And if I may add: no, he was not our country’s first president. Don’t even start with me.

So what makes a hero? ¿Mag-rebelde ca lang, bayani ca na caagád? At capág nasa poder ca at nilabanan mo ang isáng rebelión, ¿masamá ca ná?

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Where have our heroes taken us?

All writers seek fame, or at the very least, a certain level of attention from a niche audience. Those who deny this are downright liars. For what writer wouldn’t wish for his works to be read? That’s the purpose of writing something in the first place, in order for it to be read.

I might never become a well-known writer anymore for various reasons (or excuses): I’m a full-time, night shift employee; I have a severe case of complex regional pain syndrome, thus debilitating my thought processes, and; I procrastinate too much. My circumstances at home are not what one might consider as conducive for a writer, let alone researching. Then there’s this cute little thing called the Internet taking much of my time. But why shouldn’t I use it? After a stressful night’s work and a horrible commute to and from the office, I’m left with less energy to even lift a book. I’d rather watch Momoland’s mind-boggling choreography just to relax my mood (yes, I am a frustrated dancer, no kidding), or check for updates regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or look for some annoying celebrity to bash on Twitter.

Having been exposed to too much Internet usage through the years, I also noticed that my attention span has gotten short. While researchers are still divided on the issue, I can tell from experience and self-observation that it has really contributed to my reading and writing woes. There were times that whenever I read a book, I couldn’t finish a page without doing something else on the side. And while browsing through pages, my mind compels me to look for links to click whenever I encounter unfamiliar words or terms, or to even scroll down further to hasten my reading, looking for just the juicy parts. It’s gotten that bad.

You might say that at least, I can still blog. Well, yeah, but not as prolific and as capable as I used to when I was still blogging in ALAS FILIPINAS or FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES. So if the skies have dimmed my chances of becoming a writer, what more of becoming a well-known historian? At any rate, whether or not my above-mentioned reasons (excuses!) hamper my researching and writing, I still find it impossible for me to become recognized as a historian, no matter how hard my wife tries to market me as a “young historian” (what the hey, I’m nearing forty, and there are many other historians younger than me who are now rivaling the great Ambeth Ocampo in terms of prominence).

I don’t want to sound like I’m self-pitying or anything like that, but it’s true. I cannot become a recognized historian for three major reasons. Number one, I’m not a good public speaker. Number two, I do not belong to the academe (I’m not a history teacher, just a corporate slave). And lastly, my views on Filipino History are raging against the flow. Like mad, I should add.

If you notice, many popular historians today deliver speeches and give out lectures, seminars, and interviews (that’s why I call them celebrity historians, haha). While I may have done the same a few times in the past, I didn’t sound as good nor as convincing as they are. As I always say, I’m more of a scribbler than a talker. Whenever I receive invites to do speaking engagements, there is always hesitancy from my part. It’s either I find it hard to say no, or my excited wife successfully prods me to accept them. Then there’s the second part: I am not a history professor. Many people online have mistaken me for one, and I find it very flattering, of course. But I am a mere slave to my corporate boss, always cowering down whenever I receive bad grades at work (and I always do, maybe because my heart and mind are somewhere else — treading the cobbled streets of 19th-century Intramuros, haha 😔).

But even if I could talk like a mesmerizing statesman and teach history in a famed university, I still find it highly unlikely that I’d become a well-known and respected historian. As I have mentioned earlier, I go against the flow. I’m not saying that many other historians before me didn’t. Many of them up to now still disagree with each other. But my views regarding popularly accepted history are so unpopular that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines might as well send me to jail. 😂

I don’t consider Andrés Bonifacio and his KKK cohorts as heroes; I brand them as terrorists. I don’t consider Ninoy Aquino, Jr. as a martyr; I brand him as a traitorous opportunist. I don’t consider Juan Luna as a patriot; I consider him only as the greatest painter in our country’s history; I don’t consider Marcelo H. del Pilar as the “Father of True Filipino Masonry”; I’d rather call him as a True Filipino Penitent. I don’t consider the Silang couple of Ilocos as heroes; to my eyes, they were traitors. I don’t consider Lapu-Lapu as the “first Filipino hero”; I brand him as a delicious fish served in Magallanes Square Hotel.

Poor Pedro Paterno has been painted as a villain to the point that we have become convinced to ignore his contributions to scholarship and literature which I believe are still important (El Problema Político de Filipinas; Nínay [the first Filipino novel]; La Antigua Civilización Tagala; etc.).

I refer to my country as Filipinas whether in English or in Spanish; Philippines and Pilipinas are aberrations created by misled/twisted nationalists schooled in an English-only educational system (that’s why I use “Filipino History” instead of “Philippine History”). Unlike many Filipinos, I do not disrespect my national identity by calling myself as Pinoy or even Pilipino. I abhor Taglish. I still use the original orthography whenever I write in Tagálog. And the only national language that I still recognize —as recognized by most national heroes that we enshrine today— is the Spanish language.

I do not and cannot accept that the three centuries of Spanish colonization were generally oppressive and cruel in light of clear documentation to the contrary. I couldn’t for the life of me even call it “colonization”. The polo y servicios were boon, not bane. And the uprising that occurred during the late 1890s was not a revolution but a rebellion.

Today, we again celebrate National Heroes Day to remember the heroism of our forefathers who fought against foreign oppression. But what foreign oppression comes to mind whenever we are called to remember the sacrifices of our patriots? In the introduction to the first book that I wrote (the biography of World War II hero Abelardo “Captain Remo” Remoquillo), I took the opportunity to rant about this.

Perhaps due to either rote memorization or desensitization, or both, Filipino students have somehow become accustomed to the idea that all of our National Heroes existed in the same era. This is understandable because whenever we speak of our country’s past, it would almost always be about our three centuries under the Spanish Empire. But then, there’s always this sinking feeling that most of our heroes existed only during the Spanish Occupation. For instance, the bulk of our National Heroes comes from that bygone era: José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Emilio Aguinaldo, etc. Only to an interested few will the realization sink in that some of those heroes who we thought were from the Spanish era were in fact more active during our country’s war against the United States of América than they were against the Spaniards. These were Apolinario Mabini, Antonio Luna, and Miguel Malvar to name a few.

But when it comes to the three-year Japanese regime, we could hardly remember names. There’s Josefa Llanes Escoda, José Abad Santos, and Vicente Lim, but they ring a bell only because their faces and names are plastered in one thousand-peso notes. Outside of currency, do we even know what kind of heroism did they display during those fearsome years under the Land of the Rising Sun?

All this doesn’t mean that I refuse to accept historical facts. Of course I do. I simply refuse to accept opinions. Facts and opinions are different from each other. I accept hard data presented by historical research, but not opinions formed by them, especially opinions formed by an English-only education with an agenda that has little to zero understanding of our country’s Spanish past. Take the Katipunan rebellion of 1896, for instance. When government forces discovered the existence of the Katipunan in late 1896, what happened next were bloodshed and the senseless killing and torture of innocent Spanish friars and other individuals who went against the rebels’ way. Did ordinary civilians welcome the “revolution” participated in mostly by Tagálogs? No they didn’t. For most Filipinos living far from where the action was, life went on. While it is a fact that there were Katipunero recruits from all over the country, the truth was that there was no national sentiment that supported the Katipunan rebellion against Spain. Civil society was against it.

It should be noted in the preceding paragraph that the Katipunan was discovered by government authorities. Keep in mind that it was an underground organization. Simply put, the Katipunan was an ILLEGAL ASSOCIATION no matter how hard a Pantayong Pananaw zealot will try to picture it with dainty colors of patriotism and love of country. Such zealots might argue that the Katipunan had lofty ideals of freedom and nationhood, thus excusing it from illegalities. But so do the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf who try to picture themselves as the patriots and martyrs of (their fantasy land called) Bangsamoro. Should we consider them heroes too?

Mimicking the Katipunan’s belligerence towards lawful society, Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV and his Magdalo group did the same thing twice in the past against the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Should we, therefore, erect monuments to Trillanes as well and consider his rebellious friends as the new Katipuneros? After all, they rebelled against the Arroyo government to fight corruption and injustice, didn’t they?

The New People’s Army has been waging a “revolution” for decades. If they win, Bonifacio will surely displace Rizal as our country’s leading national hero. That’s why most of the time, I’m tempted to believe in that cynical saying that history is written by the victors.

One man’s hero is another man’s villain, so the saying goes (hello, Apo Marcos!). So after reading this, I entreat you, dear reader, to reflect the significance of today’s celebration. It’s a holiday, anyway. Ualáng pasoc, cayá maraming horas para mag-isíp-isíp. Having said that…

Why are we so obsessed with national heroes? It seems to me that we are the only country in the world with a surfeit of patriots. And we keep on looking for more. Our government has enshrined such heroes as models that we should look up to and emulate. And yet we are still one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Where have our heroes taken us? Or better yet: what has our idolatry for these heroes done for our country?

Oh, and one more thing: Rizal retracted and there’s really NOTHING you can do about it.