"Mga Tala ng Aking Buhay", autobiography of Gregoria de Jesus wife of Andres Bonifacio

Tuesday June 26, 2012 ()
Gregoria de Jesus
(Gregoria de Jesus. Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons)

( This is a translation of the "Mga Tala ng Aking Buhay", an autobiography by Gregoria de Jesus, the wife of Andres Bonifacio. This translation was done by Leandro H. Fernandez, a University of the Philippines History Profesor, and published in the June 1930 issue of the Philippine Magazine, Volume XXVII, No 1. The original copy of the document was furnished to Hernandez by Jose P. Santos.)

Autobiography of Gregoria de Jesus

I am Gregoria de Jesus, native of the town of Caloocan in Rizal province. I was born on Tuesday, May 9, 1875, at number 13, Zamora Street, then Baltazar, a place where thousands of arms used in the revolution were buried, and where the Katipunan leaders met to make the final arrangement for the outbreak. My father was Nicolas de Jesus, also a native of this town, a master mason and carpenter by occupation, and an office holder during the Spanish regime, having been second lieutenant, chief lieutenant, and gobernadorcillo. My mother was Baltazara Alvarez Francisco of the town of Noveleta in Cavite province, a niece of General Mariano Alvarez of (the Katipunan center of ) Magdiwang in Cavite, the first to raise the standard of revolt in that province.

I attended the public schools and finished the first grades of instruction, equivalent to the intermediate grades of today. I still remember that I was once a winner in an examination given by the governor-general and the town curate and was the recipient of a silver medal with blue ribbon, a prize bestowed in recognition of my little learning. To enable two brothers of mine to continue their studies in Manila, I decided to stop studying and to join my sister in looking after our family interests. Often I had to go out in the country to supervise the planting and the harvesting of our rice, to see our tenants and laborers, or to pay them their wages on Sundays. Also now and then I did some sewing or weaving, and always assisted my mother in her house work.

When I was about eighteen years old, young men began to visit our house, and among them was Andres Bonifacio, who came in company with Ladislao Diwa and my cousin Teodoro Plata, then an escribano, but none of them talked to me of love, since parents in those days were extremely careful, and girls did not want people to know that they already had admirers. The truth, however, was that my parents had for about one year already been informed of Bonifacio's courtship although I knew nothing about it. Three months thereafter, just as I was beginning to like him, I learned that my father was against Bonifacio's suit because he was a freemason, and freemasons then were considered bad men, thanks to the teachings of the friars. Six months later I had earnestly fallen in love with him, and my father, though opposed at first, in the end gave his consent because of his love for me and because I told him the whole truth.

In deference to my parents, we were married in the Catholic church of Binondo in March, 1893, with Restituto Javier and his wife as sponsors. But the week following, we were remarried in the house of our sponsor in what was then Calle Oroquieta before the katipuneros at their request, since they gave no importance to the Catholic ceremony. I remember that there was a little feast, attended, among others, by Pio Valenzuela, Santiago Turiano, Roman Basa, Mariano Dizon, Josefa and Trining Rizal, and nearly all the dignitaries of the Katipunan. That very night I was initiated as a member of the Katipunan3 and assumed the symbolic name "Lakambini" in order to obey and practice its sacred principles and rules.

After staying about one week in Mr. Javier's house, we decided to look for a residence of our own and we found one on Calle Anyahan in front of the San Ignacio chapel, and after that I began to do all I could for the propagation and growth of the K. K. K. (Kataastaasan Kagalanggalang Katipunan) of the A. N. B. (Anak ng Bayan). For this reason, certain belongings of the Katipunan, such as the revolver and other weapons, the seal, and all the papers, were in my custody, since in those days Emilio Jacinto, the Secretary of the Katipunan, lived at our house.

He (Emilio Jacinto) was in charge also of the printing press used by the Katipunan and was the first to print the Kartilla and the "ten commandments" that were drawn up by Andres and himself, who were like two brothers, so much so that they worked together in all the balangay. Andres was the author of the first regulations or ten commandments, Emilio Jacinto of a later one (i. e. the Kartilla), so that it could be truthfully said that Andres was the author of the idea; but because of his affection for and in deference to Emilio Jacinto, the Kartilla written by the latter was made to prevail and put into effect by the katipuneros. Bonifacio's decalogue was never published and I am told that the same now is in the collection of Mr. Pepe Santos, son of the late Don Panyong Santos.

Those days were extremely full of danger for us since the sons of the nation, already chafing under bondage, rose to a man and quickly swelled the ranks of the K.K.K., and every night our house was nearly filled with men who came to listen to the voice of the fatherland, among whom were Enrique Pacheco with his two sons, Cipriano and Alfonso, Tomas Remigio, and Francisco Carreon, members of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan, and others who later joined in the "cry of Balintawak". Often these people remained till dawn busy administering the Katipunan oath. Once or twice a month, those in charge of the propaganda met, and consequently the printing press, managed by Emilio Jacinto, was busier than ever and he was obliged to devote his whole day to this work, and I nearly clothed myself with the katipunan documents that were so danger ous to keep in those days. It is useless to conjecture what would have been my fate had those papers been discovered on my person and the fate of those liberty-loving sons of the Philippines whose names were inscribed on them, for it sometimes happened that a mere denunciation would cause many deaths. Many times on receiving some warning that the house would be searched by the police (veterana), irrespective of the hour, I would immediately gather all the papers, the arms, and the seal, and order a quiles and in it without eating-for this often happened at noon or at eight o'clock at night —I would go driving till midnight along the bay front of Tondo and the streets of Binondo in order to save our countrymen from danger. The thing that grieved me, however, was the fact that there were among our friends some who instead of protecting me refused to give me help and even kept away from me upon finding that I was carrying dangerous things. News was then transmitted not by telephone but verbally from one man to another, and in this way I knew whenever the danger was over and I could go back home for some rest and peace.

The time passed and after more than a year I was about to become a mother. Andres Bonifacio temporarily moved me to my parents' house where I had been born, and there, too, our eldest child saw the first light of day, a boy, whom we christened also Andres Bonifacio and whose godfather was Pio Valenzuela. After two months, I returned to Manila, and before the end of the year we were victims of a fire in Dulong Bayan, which occurred on Holy Thursday, and caused no little trouble. We were forced to move from one house to another until one day our child died in the house of Pio Valenzuela, on Calle Lavezares, Binondo. In this house we lived together for a while; then we moved to Calle Magdalena, Trozo. By this time, a close watch on the Katipunan was already being kept by the Spanish government.

Having extended (the association's activities) to all parts of the Archipelago so that some of its secrets had already been divulged, we returned to Caloocan. But because we were closely watched, most of the men, including Andres Bonifacio, after a few days left town, and then the outbreak began with the cry for liberty on August 25, 1896. I was then with my parents, but when I learned that I was about to be apprehended I decided to leave and did so at once at eleven o'clock at night, with the intention of returning to Manila under cover, through the rice fields to Loma. I was treated like an apparition, for, sad to say, I was driven away from every house I tried to enter to get a little rest. But I learned later that the occupants of the houses I visited were seized and severely punished and some even exiled-one of them was an uncle of mine whom I visited that night to kiss his hand, and he died in exile. My father and two brothers were also arrested at this time.

My wandering continued and by four o'clock in the morning I reached Lico Street, now Soler, and went to the house of an uncle of mine, Simplicio de Jesus, sculptor, but near a police station, and after five hours I left there in a carromata to look for a safer place to live. I found a refuge in Calle Clavel and there, with my sister-inlaw, Esperidiona Bonifacio, I stayed quietly for a month under the name of Manuela Gonzaga. Being a member of the Katipunan, however, and hearing the country's call, I decided to come out of hiding and left for the mountains on November 1, 1896. My husband met me at San Francisco del Monte, and we proceeded to the historic mountain of Balara where the sons of the country had their headquarters, between the towns of Caloocan and Mariquina, from which place we entered Cavite province.

My second husband is Julio Nacpil. He was secretary to Andres Bonifacio and the one given command of all the troops in the north, which put an end to the fighting in Montalban and San Mateo. We met again as he retired to Pasig, fell in love with each other, and were later married in the Catholic Church of Quiapo, December 10, 1898. The Philippine revolution at an end and peace restored, we made our home with the well known philanthropist Dr. Ariston Bautista and his wife, Petrona Nacpil. With us also lived my mother-in-law, and brothers and sisters-in-law. Together we lived like true brothers and sisters, born of the same mother. By my second husband I have eight children, two of whom, Juana and Lucia, are now dead, and six, Juan F., Julia, Francisca, Josefina, Mercedes, and Caridad, are living. They were all sent to school by Dr. Ariston Bautista, who also made it possible for my son (Juan F.) to complete his studies, and who treated me like a daughter and sister while he lived.

With respect to the controversy between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo which originated from the troubled elections held in Tejeros, and the persecution of and the cruelty committed against our family by the Aguinaldo faction, which culminated in the execution of Bonifacio, I will say nothing here, since (an account of) the same can be read in a letter of mine to Emilio Jacinto, which, according to General Pacheco, is now in the collection of Jose P. Santos.

Further, with respect to what I know regarding the Katipunan, I will say, so that all may know, that I was the first to translate or decipher the (Katipunan) acts in code which Emilio Jacinto sent to me in Pasig with a piece of bone extracted from his thigh when he was hit by a bullet at an engagement in Nagcarlan, Laguna. I was then in Pasig, now a part of Rizal province, and it was there that I deciphered the Katipunan acts already referred to.

The first printing press, the revolver and other weapons, the seal, and other articles were all bought by the supreme council, although gifts were also received from Messrs. Francisco and Valeriano Castillo, men of the right spirit, patriotic, and of high ideals, who, when informed of the aims of the Katipunan, immediately purchased a bigger printing press in order to rush the printing of the Kartilla, the newspaper, and the rules (of the society). So Emilio Jacinto, Aguedo del Rosario, and Alejandro, Cipriano, and Marciano Santiago from Polo, Bulacan, worked together (in the printing office) while Macario Sakay and other leaders took charge of the distribution and attended to errands. Some people consider him (Sakay) a bad man, who in the end became a bandit, but I know (literally "saw") that he helped the Katipunan a great deal. Macario Sakay was a true patriot and I can hardly believe that he ended his life on the gallows.

I went through a number of adventurous experiences during the revolution. I had no fear of facing danger, not even death itself, whenever I accompanied the soldiers in battle, impelled as I was then by no other desire than to see unfurled the flag of an independent Philippines, and, as I was present in and witnessed many encounters, I was considered a soldier, and to be a true one I learned how to ride, to shoot a rifle, and to manipulate other weapons which I had occasions actually to use. I have known what it is to sleep on the ground without tasting food the whole day, to drink dirty water from mud holes or the sap of vines which, though bitter, tasted delicious because of my thirst. When I come to think of my life in those days, considering my youth then, I am surprised how I stood it all, and how I was spared.

As I remember it, the punishment given those who failed to obey the precepts of the Katipunan, for example those who committed adultery, was to summon them immediately their guilt became known, and to admonish them to respect women as they respected themselves. The admonition was read to them in these words: "If you do not want your mother, wife, or sister abused, you should likewise refrain from abusing those of others, for such an offense is fully worth three lives. Bear in mind always that you should never do to others what you do not want done to you, and in this way (i. e. observing this rule of conduct) you may count yourself an honorable son of the country."

With respect to gambling, he who was found guilty upon investigation by the balangay prosecutor, was dropped from the society (and was not reinstated) till he changed his conduct. Every one thus admonished or punished, then, changed his behavior.

At the request of Mr. Jose P. Santos to whom this account of my life is dedicated, I conclude by giving our youths of whom he is one, the following counsel or advice in the form of decalogue:

  1. Respect and love your parents because they are next to God on earth.
  2. Remember always the sacred teachings of our heroes who sacrificed their lives for love of country.
  3. Acquire some knowledge in the line or field of work for which you are best fitted so that you can be useful to your country.
  4. Remember that goodness is wealth.
  5. Respect your teachers who help you to see and understand, for you owe them your education as you owe your parents your life.
  6. Protect the weak from danger.
  7. Fear history, for it respects no secrets.
  8. Greatness begins where baseness ends.
  9. Promote union and the country's progress in order not to retard its independence.

Here ends this short account of my life written in my leisure moments when alone and free to commune with the past so that all its contents are true to the facts.

Caloocan, Rizal,
November 5, 1928.

Autobiography of Gregoria de Jesus, Philippine Magazine, Volume XXVII, No 1, June 1930 (from the collection of the University of Michigan Digital Library, 2005)


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