In commemoration of Andres Bonifacio’s 154th birth anniversary, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will circulate a new 5-peso coin from the New Generation Currency series featuring the Father of the Philippine Revolution himself starting December 2017.
From pale gold to silver, the coin’s updated look will include the de facto national hero’s portrait on the obverse with the markings, “ANDRES BONIFACIO”, “5-PISO” and “REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS” while the reverse side will don the Tayabak, a Philippine endemic plant that climbs tall forest trees.
Bonifacio, who was also called The Great Plebeian, will be replacing the man who ordered his execution 120 years ago, the first Philippine President General Emilio Aguinaldo. The latter is the face of the pale-gold 5-peso coin currently in circulation.
It seems as though the hero is only taking his rightful place back as his portrait used to be in the 10-peso bank note alongside Apolinario Mabini. In case you’re unconvinced, however, here are 5 compelling reasons why he deserves to be in the 5-peso coin:
1. He was a fearless leader.
Bonifacio would not be called Supremo for nothing. He was the head and creator of Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) or simply known as Katipunan. It was the secret society that fought for the country’s absolute independence from Spanish rule, as opposed to mere political reforms Jose Rizal and La Liga Filipina called for. Bonifacio was also at the helm of this society when the Philippine revolution officially began in 1896, despite the lack of firearms.
2. He was self-educated and self-made.
Calling Bonifacio uneducated just because he was orphaned and supported his siblings at a young age is not only unfair but false. While he did not finish schooling and only reached what would be present-day Grade 8, he did help himself and caught up on his education through voracious reading. His rich reading list included Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, History of the French Revolution, The Wandering Jew by Eugene Sue, adventurous historical novels by French writer Alexander Dumas, The Ruins of Palmyra: Meditations on the Revolution of the Empire, The Holy Bible, Religion Within the Reach of All, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo by Jose Rizal, Lives of the Presidents of the United States and books on law and medicine. He went on to become a clerk-messenger for the English firm J.M. Fleming and Company and later a sales agent at the German firm Carlos Fressel & Company, among many other jobs.
3. He was a writer with a purpose.
Bonifacio, apart from being Supremo, was also a writer himself. At a time of turmoil and confusion, he wrote easy-to-grasp writings for the masses who barely understood any other language than Tagalog, something that even Rizal rarely did. At the time, most Ilustrado writers wrote in Spanish. Though he was self-educated, Bonifacio wrote just as well and as substantially as his schooled counterparts. Even National Artist Virgilio Almario argued that he is a better writer than Rizal. Among his akdang Katipunero are “Ang Dapat Mabatid ng Mga Tagalog (What the Filipinos Should Know)”, “Tapunan ng Lingap (Care a Little) and his most prominent “Pag-Ibig sa Tinubuang Bayan (Love of the Fatherland)”.
4. He loved his country deeply and fully.
Risking his life to lead a violent revolution to achieve independence from the oppressors was a clear indication of Bonifacio’s deep and full love for the Filipinos and for his country. In his captivating poem “Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa (Love of the Fatherland)”, he wrote about love for the nation which is an ideology that is at the very heart of the uprising. “Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya / Sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila / Gaya ng pag-ibig sa Tinubuang lupa? / Aling pag-ibig pa? Wala na nga, wala.”
5. He was brave despite the adversities he faced.
The year 1896 was filled with unfortunate events for Bonifacio. The nipa-roofed house of Bonifacio and his wife in Sta. Cruz was burned down during the Holy Week. Their baby boy died of smallpox shortly after. An unhappy member of Katipunan, Teodoro Patiño, told a Spanish priest about the secret society, eventually exposing it. Many Filipinos were arrested, jailed and shot. Despite this, Bonifacio and the entire Katipunan declared defiance and resistance to the Spaniards just five days later by tearing up their residence tax papers called cedulas in the famed Cry of Pugad Lawin. The first of the many battles that will take place in the next two years commenced a week later, led by Bonifacio himself and his adviser and close confidante Emilio Jacinto.
Photo from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas