PROCORPIO C. BONIFACIO
The third child of a poor but hard-working couple, Catalina de Castro and Santiago Bonifacio, Procorpio Bonifacio was born in 1873. He became one of the revolutionary organization called Kataastaasang Kagalanggalang Katipunan nang mga anak nang Bayan, or “K. K. K. A. N. B.,” founded by his eldest brother Andres. His other siblings were Ciriaco, also a Katipunero; Esperidiona, Troadio, and Maxima.
Procorpio and his siblings were orphaned at very young age and, thus, had to learn to fend for themselves by making canes and paper fans, which Andres sold.
When he came of age, he must have found a better-paying job, like his brothers before him. As a consequence, he was able to contribute more to the family coffers. It is known that he worked as a factor at the railway station in Tutuban, where his brother Ciriaco was employed as a train conductor. They acquired their jobs through Andres able intercession. Andres, by then, was an employee of good standing at Fressel and Company, a German firm.
It is said that it was on a boat bound for Manila, around 1895, that he met Candido Iban and Francisco del Castillo, two sea divers from Capiz who have lived for a while in Australia and who, having won a big prize in a lottery, decided to return to the country. That meeting proved significant for the two, sponsored by Procorpio and initiated into the Katipunan by Andres, would be instrumental in providing the organization with the money to buy its own printing press.
Giving way to his brother’s leadership as Supremo, Procorpio served in the Katipunan in a low-key and quiet manner, but held great responsibilities, such as heading Tanglaw, one of the two sections (the other being Dimasalang, headed by (Restituto Javier) of the Katipunan council of Dulumbayan or Sta. Cruz, called “Laong-Laan.” The latter, no doubt named after Jose Rizal’s pen name, was then led by Julian Nepomuceno.
About two months after his sister-in- law Gregoria de Jesus gave birth to a son, Procorpio joined his brother Andres, Dr. Pio Valenzuela, the Katipunan treasurer; Emilio Jacinto, author of the Katipunan Cartilla, and Candido Tirona, who would become the hero of the Battle of Binakayan, in touring and organizing Katipunan branches in the Cavite town of Imus, Noveleta, and Kawit. It was in April 1896 that he, together with the others, organized a branch in Kawit, whose president was Emilio Aguinaldo. When they returned to Kalookan, where Gregoria had been left behind, they found the Supremo’s house razed to the ground by fire, but Gregoria and the baby were able to escape.
On August 19, 1896, Teodoro Patiño confessed to Spanish friar,fr. Mariano Gil, of the existence of the Katipunan. A crackdown on its suspected supporters and members immediately followed and hundreds of people, mostly innocent men, and including prominent and wealthy members of the colonial society, were rounded up and incarcerated. Subjected to torture or threats of death, many were forced to confess to untruths. Meanwhile, the Katipuneros lost no time in regrouping and devising contigent plans for the start of the uprising despite a lack of guns and ammunition. Andres immediately decided to convene a final general assembly on the Tagalog region to inform all the Katipunan leaders, including Aguinaldo, about it.
That the same day, together with Teodoro Plata, Aguedo del Rosario, Jacinto, and Andres himself, Procorpio surreptitiously left Manila and journeyed to Balintawak, a suburb of Manila, where the meeting was to be held. Eluding the dragnet of the Guardia civil, the group reached their destination that same night. Two days later, on August 21, Andres, Procorpio and the others, now joined by some 500 rebels, left Balintawak and hiked to Kangkong. They arrived in the house of Apolonio Samson, where they temporarily rested. They journeyed a new the next day, this time towards Pugadlawin. They reached the house of Tandang Sora’s son, Juan A. Ramos, on August 23. There, the rebels, among them Procorpio, engaged in a debate, on whether they should begin the revolution on the 29th of the same month or not. Teodoro Plata, Andres brother-in-law, argued that the date was not propitious, since they had very few arms and ammunition. Nevertheless, it was finally resolved to carry out the planned revolt on that particular date. Where upon, the Supremo exhorted his compatriots to signify their fight against Spanish tyranny by tearing their cedulas. With the rest, Procorpio tore this symbol of oppression.
On August 24, the rebels transferred to the residence of Tandang Sora (Melchora Aquino) where on the next day, the revolution unexpectedly began, for they were surprised by the attack by the Guardia Civil, who, being outnumbered, were unable to rout them. Consequently, the rebels decided to proceed to Balara.
In a respite from battle, Procorpio joined his brothers and sister-in-law, Gregoria, in leaving for Cavite, in December 1896, upon the invitation of the Magdiwang Council, to settle their dispute with Magdalo. They were met at Zapote by Emilio Aguinaldo, Candido Tirona, and Edilberto Evangelista. A convention was held by both councils in Imus on December 31, 1896, but no settlement or understanding was reached. Finally, the Magdiwang called for another general assembly, in Tejeros on March 22, 1897, to resolve once and for all the issue of which faction had the right to rule over certain territories in Cavite. In the process, the formation of a revolutionary government was proposed, and subsequently carried out. This was followed immediately by the election of its officers.
From the start, the forum made it clear that the rule of the majority would be respected. However, when the roster of the official, headed by Aguinaldo as President, had been filled up, the choice of Andres Bonifacio, as Minister of the Interior, was disputed by Magdalo officer, Daniel Tirona. The latter questioned Bonifacio’s level of education and Masonic beliefs, and averred that others, Caviteño’s particularly, were better qualified for his position. Enraged by the insult, the Supremo demanded an apology from Tirona who, however, refused to give one, thus, provoking the threat of bloodshed. Amidst this confusion, and Bonifacio’s declaration nullifying the elections, the assembly ended.
Two days later, Andres, assisted by Procorpio and the followers, issued the “Acta de Tejeros,” a document renouncing the convention’s election results, and stating his defiance of the Tejeros government.
Unaware that their arrest had been ordered by General Aguinaldo, the Bonifacio brothers, Gregoria, Francisco Carreon, and the others proceeded to the barrio in Indang,Cavite, where they attacked by Col. Agapito Bonzon and his forces on April 28, 1897. Ciriaco was killed, while Andres was shot and stabbed. Procorpio himself was hit on the nose with the butt of gun by Bonzon’s soldiers. The surviving brothers, together with Gregorio and the rest, were then arrested and taken, initially, to the revolutionary government’s capital in Naic and later, to Maragondon, where they underwent trial for their alleged crimes of sedition, treason, and counter-revolution. The trial was conducted by the military court headed by Judge Advocate Pedro Lipana.
Despite the testimonies given by Gregoria, Francisco Carreon,and others, the Bonifacio brothers were found guilty and given the capital punishment. Procorpio, who was absolved of guilt by all witnesses, and fairly defended by Teodoro Gonzales, was adjudged as an accessory in the counterrevolution charge. Although Aguinaldo commuted the death sentence to mere exile, he was later persuaded by Generals Mariano Noriel and Pio del Pilar to withdraw his order of pardon in order, to protect the revolution from any future counter-moves.
On May 10, 1897, Andres and Procorpio were roused from their prison sleep and marched towards the area of Mt. Buntis by Maj. Lazaro Makapagal. Little did they know that it was to be the last of their earthly days. When they reached the mountain, Major Makapagal, as ordered, read the contents of a sealed letter, and forthwith carried out its instructions. Procorpio, still in his youth, was shot just a few minutes before his brother Andres.
KAREN V. JAVIER