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President Andres Bonifacio

by Ed Aurelio Reyes
Kampanya para sa Kamalayan sa Kasaysayan
from Health Alert, August 1993. Reprinted with permission

It is common knowledge that Andres Bonifacio was founder and Supremo of the Kataastaasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or Katipunan. What is not widely known is that he was the first president of the Philippines, the Father of the Philippines nation.

The government bore the seal of Haring Bayang Katagalugan which roughly translates as Sovereign Country of the Tagalog Archipelago. To the Katipunan, as declared in the cover page of its Carilla, small pamphlet that served as a handbook, containing the rules, the 14-point code of ethics and the recruitment process), the word Tagalog stood for "all who were born in this archipelago ...hence Visayans, Ilocanos and Pampangos were all Tagalogs." The word Filipino at that time was used to refer to the insulares, or Spaniards born in the Philippines, as opposed to the peninsulares who were born in the Iberian peninsula. The Spaniards called the natives indios.

On August 24, 1896, according to historical documents, the following were elected to lead the de-facto government of Haring Bayang Katagalugan: Andres Bonifacio, as president; Emilio Jacinto, Minister of State; Teodoro Plata, Minister of War; Aguedo del Rosario, Minister of War; Briccio Pantas, Minister of Justice; Enrique Pacheco, Minister of Finance; Daniel Tirona, Secretary General; and Silvestre Baltazar, Treasurer General.

It is interesting to note that Daniel Tirona was one of those elected with President Bonifacio in 1896, a good seven months before he questioned the election of Bonifacio as Secretary of Interior in the Tejeros Convention which elected Emilio Aguinaldo as President. The book Katipunan and the Revolution: Memoirs of a General by Santiago Alvarez (translated by Paula Carolina Malay) reveals interesting incidents about Tirona's shifting behavior toward Bonifacio.

It is also interesting to note that while Aguinaldo took his oath as president the day after the Bonifacio-annulled Tejeros Convention in March 1897, he deferred using the title "Presidente" until after bonifacio had been "salvaged" the following May.

Some parents who have come to know of the fact of Bonifacio's presidency are hesitant to tell their children about it. The current textbooks still have Aguinaldo as the first president, and the teachers might simply mark the children's answer wrong if they say it is the Great Plebeian himself. A solution is underway, however. A book, tentative titled Pangulo ng Haring Bayan referring to Bonifacio and carrying adequate historical documentations is currently being refined by Dr. Milagros Guerrero, Emmanuel Encarnacion and Ramon Villegas for publication within the next few months.

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