THE debate as to who between Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio should be proclaimed as the foremost national hero resumes today, Bonifacio Day, between the followers of these great personages in history.
But if Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate had their way, they would enshrine Andres Bonifacio as the national hero in place of Jose Rizal, who is acknowledged as the greatest Filipino that ever lived.
“The difference, in so far as contribution to society is concerned, lies in the ability of Bonifacio to translate Rizal’s writings into a language understandable to the Filipino masses and to transform and develop them into practice,” the two lawmakers say in House Bill 3431.
“Because of his actual participation in the KKK, Bonifacio was able to organize and mobilize thousands of Katipuneros in a revolution that ended the regime of Spanish Colonization and led towards a Filipino nation’s independence.”
Colmenares says that, at a time when the nation is under threat of foreign intervention, the need for a national symbol that will represent patriotism, nationalism and the resolve to fight any foreign intervention becomes a vital element in nation-building.
“However, there has never been a legislation declaring a national hero,” Colmenares said.
“Instead, there was only a number of proclamations that gave recognition and honor to a few historical figures for their contribution to society, the most famous of whom are Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio.”
Zarate says it has long been debated in schools and other learning institutions—even among ordinary Filipinos—who between Rizal and Bonifacio should wear the title National Hero.
“It is true that Jose Rizal, through his writings, was able to put across the need for changes in the country that was dominated by Spanish colonial power. His writings influenced intellectuals who actively participated in the fight for reforms in society,” Zarate says in the bill.
“Andres Bonifacio, on the other hand, was an intellectual impassioned by the need to change the oppressive and exploitative system not merely by writing about it but also by acting on it.”
Rizal is generally considered as the greatest Filipino hero, but he has never been explicitly proclaimed as a National Hero by the Philippine government.
The National Heroes Committee recommended Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat, Juan Luna, Melchora Aquino and Gabriela Silang to be recognized as national heroes on Nov. 15, 1995, but no action has been taken for any of them.
Rizal was executed for treason on Dec. 30, 1896, by the Spanish colonial government, but his writings helped inspire the Philippine Revolution against Spanish rule.
When the Americans took over Spain at the start of the 20th Century, Rizal was given special attention as a hero by the American colonial administration. This was because the Americans thought he represented peaceful political advocacy, unlike the more radical whose ideas could inspire resistance to American rule.