Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kaarawan ni Andres Bonifacio

Mayroong dahilan bakit nagiging isang bayani ang isang indibidwal, at karaniwang ito ay may direktang kinalaman sa kapaligirang kanyang ginalawan. Ika nga ni Louis Kossuth, nagiging isang bayani ang isang tao kapagka nalalampasan niya ang mga pagsubok sa kanyang buhay. At tunay nga, sa hindi iilang pagkakataon, hindi pa nga batid ng isang tao na siya na pala'y isang bayani sapagkat para sa kanya, ang kanyang mga ginawa o ginagawa ay isang reaksyon lamang sa mga pagsubok ng kanyang kapaligiran.


Nang isinilang si Andres Bonifacio noong 1863 (halos tatlong taon ang tanda ni Jose Rizal sa kanya) sa may tubaan sa Tondo, yaon ay isang panahong may kalungkutan. Katatapos lamang ng isang makapanghihilakbok na lindol noon.


Isang 6.3 magnitude quake ang tumama sa kamaynilaan. Halos madurog ang mga kabahayan at istruktura sa Pilipinas. Ilang libo ang namatay dahilan sa lindol (para sa karagdagang information, i-request ang aking libro, " Bagong Istorya: Great Stories of the Filipino People"). Naganap ito noong Hulyo, 1863.



A thick black smoke from an incessant fire rages in Manila, capital of the Spanish regime in Asia. The smoke can be seen almost a mile away. For someone unfamiliar with how things are, these columns of smoke may mean war or another pirate attack against the city.  The smell of rotting flesh however, belies a far deeper cause of this conflagration.

The year was November 30, 1645, feast day of Saint Andrews, patron saint of the Manilenos. A year ago, Manilenos were feasting on roast pig and lighting their Indian-made incenses. For religious Manilenos, the feast day was the most important in the liturgical calendar. The feast day signalled the start of the Feasts of the Saints, a month-long series of celebrations.

Today, however, Manilenos were neither rejoicing nor worshipping. Manila, the pride of the Far East, the so-called Venice of Asia, has just been hit by a powerful earthquake.

The entire city was a disaster zone, likened to Hiroshima or Nagazaki, or that of a city pillaged by thousands of barbaric hordes. Everywhere you look, devastation and desolation.

There were no tall buildings left standing. Piles of crushed adobe blocks were all that were left of those fabled European-styled palatial stone houses of Manila’s elites. The quake, a 7.5 magnitude in the Richter scale, reduced everything to rubble.

Those left standing looked like twisted Rubick’s cubes, with huge cracks in their walls. The proud structures of Spanish colonial power—Malacanang palace and Manila Cathedral—were both pulverized. Curiously, only those made of nipa straws and bamboos withstood the tremendous power of Nature. Six hundred to 3,000 people were killed and many left homeless.[1] For those who survived, it was the blackest day to hit Manila in centuries. [2]

Was this a sign from above, a portent of things to come? Years before, hordes of conquered natives assisted by marauding Chinese and Indian migrants, stormed the capital and left it for dead. They killed every Spaniard in sight, only to be repulsed by Tagalog mercenaries.[3]

Some people even whispered that the quake could have been part of Ladia’s revenge. Ladia, a Bornean and descendant of Lakandula tried to rouse the Manilenos to revolt against the Spaniards. That was two years ago. Ladia, old people say, has supernatural powers. Could it be that this was his way of avenging his dastardly death?[4] Or, this was punishment from God against Manilenos for not supporting their compatriots in Zambales and Pampanga who are now rising against the Spanish?

For whatever it was, the quake reminded Manilenos of how deadly Nature’s wrath was. For many Filipinos and Chinese living in Manila at that time, this was not just a quake. It was a portent of dire things to come.

A generation, however, passed before these scenes of devastation were repeated in the capital. Two hundred and fifty years past, and the same destruction struck Manila again. That day was June 3, 1863.

Manilenos had just finished saying the Angelus and most were enjoying their simple meals together when, at half past seven, the church bells rang. It was customary to ring the bells thrice.

This evening, it was different. The bells rang in continuous fashion, the sounds grew louder and longer, accompanied by loud crashing and thrashing sounds. It was horrifying, as everything started swaying and thrashing wildly, even violently.

After a minute, silence came. Then, moans, screams, shrills and wailings began. A 6.3 magnitude quake hit the capital and nearby provinces.[5] It was stronger than the 1645 quake because the epicenter was just in the East Zambales fault line near Manila bay. [6]

In a blink of a minute, everything changed—from a city filled with pleasurable sights—to a desolate, howling wilderness. All churches, except one, were completely obliterated from the face of the earth. Nothing was spared—the Palacio del Governador, the military barracks, hospitals, buildings and stone houses—all were left in ruins. Stone churches bore the brunt of the strong earthquake similar to the big one which occurred in 1645.[7] Nature’s wrath was so strong; many analysts say that this was probably an intensity 10 earthquake.[8]

Stone structures built along the banks of Manila Bay and the Pasig River were heavily damaged. Many residents of Tanay, Pilillia, Taguig, Cainta and San Mateo were left homeless. Scores of Bulakenos in San Isidro and Guinguinto died. A large avalanche claimed the lives of people in the mountains of Angat while those in Lubao Pampanga were mortally injured.

Houses and churches were wiped out in Cabugao and San Pedro in Laguna, as well as in Tunasan in Muntinlupa. Coastal towns in Cavite were likewise destroyed, most swept away by a huge tsunami.[9] Only Pangasinan and the Ilocos provinces were spared.

All in all, about 1,172 structures collapsed while most were heavily damaged. More than 400 people died and 2,000 injured. [10] 

In Manila alone, 300 people died. [11]  The districts of Binondo, Santa Cruz, Tondo, San Miguel, Quiapo, Lipa, Tambobo and Navotas were completely ruined. A church and portions of a garrison collapsed in the district of Santa Cruz, with thirty five people in it. Forty six public buildings and 570 houses crumbled. Based on accounts, cracks were seen on the ground. [12]

Ships littered the coasts of Manila Bay and fragments of destroyed trading vessels were all about, most seen floating in the murky waters. The force of the quake was so strong, it created a 20-foot tsunami that literally swallowed caracoas and ships docked in the bay. Before the waters receded, the floods swamped Cavite first, before the ocean returned in an opposite direction.[13]  Aftershocks were strong enough to reach even the sleepy town of Hinulawan in Cebu.

Manila and nearby provinces were left desolate and in complete disarray. What the Filipino rebels and insurgents failed to do for decades, Nature destroyed in minutes.  The political and economic structures of the Spanish government were completely destroyed. [14]  Property damage was estimated at US$ 3 million.[15]

German traveler Jagor Fedor[16] in one of his writings vividly narrated the state of destruction wrought by this devastating earthquake.

Manila is situated on both sides of the river Pasig. The town itself, surrounded with walls and ramparts, with its low tiled roofs and a few towers, had, in 1859, the appearance of some ancient European fortress. Four years later the greater part of it was destroyed by an earthquake.

On June 3, 1863, at thirty-one minutes past seven in the evening, after a day of tremendous heat while all Manila was busy in its preparations for the festival of Corpus Christi, the ground suddenly rocked to and fro with great violence. The firmest buildings reeled visibly, walls crumbled, and beams snapped in two. The dreadful shock lasted half a minute; but this little interval was enough to change the whole town into a mass of ruins, and to bury hundreds of its inhabitants. A letter of the governor-general, which I have seen, states that the cathedral, the government-house, the barracks, and all the public buildings of Manila were entirely destroyed, and that the few private houses which remained standing threatened to fall in. Later accounts speak of four hundred killed and two thousand injured, and estimate the loss at eight millions of dollars. Forty-six public and five hundred and seventy private buildings were thrown down; twenty-eight public and five hundred twenty-eight private buildings were nearly destroyed, and all the houses left standing were more or less injured.

At the same time, an earthquake of forty seconds' duration occurred at Cavite, the naval port of the Philippines, and destroyed many buildings.

Three years afterwards, the Duc d'Alencon (Lucon et Mindanao; Paris, 1870, S. 38) found the traces of the catastrophe everywhere. Three sides of the principal square of the city, in which formerly stood the government, or governor's, palace, the cathedral, and the townhouse, were lying like dust heaps overgrown with weeds. All the large public edifices were "temporarily" constructed of wood; but nobody then seemed to plan anything permanent.

Manila was a disaster zone, littered with animal carcasses and rotting corpses. Swarms of flies and birds of prey feasted on the bodies. It took two months before authorities were able to clear the streets of debris, rotting bodies, mud, and shards of glass.

Compounding the problem, huge torrential rains inundated the city for days. Waist-deep floods submerged large portions of the city. Mud affected those in higher areas.  

Barely three months past, another quake, stronger than the previous one, struck the city once more. A 7.4 magnitude quake hit Manila on September 27. A full month later, another big one destroyed all that were left standing after the June and September earthquakes.

The Birth of the Supremo

It was the twenty seventh day of October, a full month before the feast day of Saint Andrews. The year was 1863. Four months had passed after the strong quake of June and a few days after the 7.4 September quake.

Though this one was just an aftershock, the quake still destroyed newly constructed shacks built in the swampy Tutuban area, while newly paved roads cracked open due to strong aftershocks.

Men, women and children all lay lifeless in the streets, most mortally wounded from fallen trees and adobe blocks. Survivors all rushed to get the bodies to the hospital. But not all were recovered.

Days past before medical teams recovered the rotting corpses. Most were thrown in hastily dug burial pits and covered with soil. Neither pitch nor salt was ever put in their bodies. No effort was made to clean the streets, all muddied up because of torrential rains. Mud was a foot high in most places.

Like in previous years, huge floods came shortly after the quakes. Bodies buried in shallow graves were reportedly washed up and the bay ate them. Some were left rotting in the streets. Those who survived nature’s wrath died one after another, victims of the dreaded cholera and Malaria.[17]

In the newly established community in Tutuban, Santiago Bonifacio, the local teniente mayor, was deathly worried. His beautiful Spanish mestiza wife Catalina de Castro was nine months pregnant. They survived the quake, but barely had the resources to survive another one. Catalina was worried for her relatives in Zambales,[18] as reports came that her hometown was also damaged. Fortunately, her father, a Spaniard and her Chinese-Filipina mother survived the disaster.

The Bonifacios lived in a small nipa hut built in a swampy, shrubby area fronting the place where the central train station was soon to be constructed.[19] Azcarraga street, where the Bonifacios built their shack, was a busy street. People come to that area, especially local wine makers, to get the sap juices of nipa shrubs which abounded in the swamps.

When authorities cleared the place, and announced plans of building a train station, many Filipinos, especially budding entrepreneurs like Santiago, decided to build their houses there. They all thought Tutuban was the next boom town.[20] Tutuban was very near the docks, and the first place where traders load their cargoes sent to Divisoria, Quiapo and San Nicolas.

When the quake struck, Tutuban was heavily damaged, both by the aftershocks and the tsunami. The rise of sea water reached Tutuban, and flooded the swamps. Binundok, the center of Chinese trade, was also affected. The disaster happened so fast that not many people were able to save themselves. Many Manilenos died, including Santiago Bonifacio’s friends and big named clients. Some of those who survived, left the capital and went Southward. Many abandoned Tutuban, most except the Bonifacios. They had just migrated from Tipas Taguig. Santiago had to abandon his work as a ferry operator plying the Taguig-Pasig riverine route to make his fortune with his young family at Tutuban.

The strong quake eroded the soil and made huge cracks on the roads. What made it worst, torrential rains flooded the streets and made the roads un-passable. Many people got stuck in one foot high mud.

1863, was by far, the worst year for Manilenos. For one hundred and twenty two days, it rained in the capital, a record compared with only 26 the year before. [21] Manila, particularly, its sub-district of Tondo, was the perfect disaster area.

This day, however, was not all gloom. Several midwives were called, and attended to Catalina’s needs. After several hours of labor, a baby boy was born.

Santiago named him Andres in honor of his patron saint. He was his first born, a son who will eventually take care of his family. The proud father raised his baby boy unto the air, as if he is offering the young one to the gods.

“ Andres, to you O God, we offer this baby. Let his future be bright and despite of our hardships, let his be joy and happiness, “ prayed the young father, as his wife, tired yet happy that she was able to survive the terrible ordeal, uttered a small prayer, while she slowly went to sleep.


[1] Jagor, Fedor, de Comyn, T., Wilkes, C., and Virchow, R. (2004). The Former Philippines Through Foreign Eyes, Kessinger Publishing, 500 p.
[2] According to Tsunami, it was the movement in the San Manuel and Gabaldon faults that caused the earthquake. Tsutsumi, H., Daligdig, J.A., Goto, H., Tungol, N.M., Kondo, H., Nakata, T., Okuno, M., and Sugito, N. (2006). Timing of surface-rupturing earthquakes on the Philippine fault zone in central Luzon Island, Philippines. EOS Transactions, American Geophysical Union 87, Supplement.
[3] The 1602 Chinese revolt which led to the capture and burning of Manila and Tondo. It nearly succeeded in toppling Spanish power when the rebels tried to enter Intramuros.
[4] Ladia led some natives to revolt against Spain only to be arrested and executed.
[5] Officially, according to Philvocs, it measured 7.9, not just 6.3. Recent studies however established it as 6.3. The reason why many cities were destroyed because of ground cracks and a tsunami.
[6] Bautista, Maria Leonila P. Historical Earthquake Damages to Intramuros, the walled city of Manila. Philvocs. 2009, p. 17. This is part of a powerpoint presentation.
[7] This earthquake killed 600 people and destroyed the Manila Cathedral. Philvocs said that the quake measured 8.4 in the Richter scale.
[8] Garcia, L.C., R.G. Valenzuela, and E.P. Arnold 1985 Southeast Asia Association of Seismology, U.S. Geological Survey, Vol. IV - Philippines, June.
[9] Soloviev, S.L., and Ch.N. Go 1974. A catalogue of tsunamis on the western shore of the Pacific Ocean. Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Nauka Publishing House, Moscow, 439 p. [Canadian Translation of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences No. 5077, 1984, translation available from Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, National Research Council, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A OS2, 447 p.]
[10] Maso, Rev. Miguel Saderra 1910 Catalogue of Violent and Destructive Earthquakes in the Philippines, with an Appendix, Earthquakes in the Marianas Islands; 1599-1909. Department of the Interior, Philippine Islands Weather Bureau, Manila Central Observatory, 1910.
[11] Lomnitz, C. 1974 Development in Geotectonics #5, Global Tectonics and Earthquake Risk, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Co., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1974.
[12] Ibid, Soloviev.
[13] Milne, J. 1911 Catalogue of Destructive Earthquakes, Report of the 81st Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Portsmouth, London, United Kingdom, pp. 649-740.  Sevilla, Valenzuela and Bellosiool 1965 Seismicity of the Philippines. Individual Studies by Participants to the International Institute of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering, Tokyo, Japan, December 1965, Volume 2, Part 1, p. 34-63.
[14] Ramirez Martin, Susana Maria. El terremoto de Manila de 1863: medidas, politicas y economicas. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 2006. Pp. 1-155.
[15] http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/idb/struts/results?EQ_0=928&t=101650&s=8&d=22,26,13,12&nd=display. Fedor’s account however pegged the destruction at US$ 8 million.
[16] Jagor's Travels in the Philippines in the “The Former Philippines thu Foreign Eyes” (The out-of-print 1875 English translation corrected from the original German text).
[17] Diseases spread very rapidly in Manila during colonial times because of unsanitary conditions and lack of an immunization program by the government.  Linda A. Newson, “Conquest, pestilence and demographic collapse in the early Spanish Philippines. “ in Journal of Historical Geography, Volume 32, Issue 1, January 2006, Pages 3-20.
[18] Catalina is a Spanish-Chinese mestiza from the province of Zambales.
[19] Hermenegildo Cruz. Ang Kartilya ng Katipunan, November 1922, p. 6. From the Gutenberg Project.
[20] The place was then a very promising area for Filipinos who want to become traders. It was on June 28, 1875 when a royal decree from Spain was passed regarding the establishment of a railway system in Luzon, with its key central station in Tutuban Tondo Manila.


[21] J.M. Vaquero, “ Early Meteorological records of Manila: El Nino episode of 1864” in Atmosfera 18(3), 149-155 (2005).