By Atty. Jojo M. Liangco
Why did historians and legislators change the date of National Heroes Day?
Understanding Philippine historical dates and facts
As a young student growing-up in the Philippines, I remember that November 30th was celebrated as a holiday. Teachers at school told us that November 30th was “National Heroes Day.” This date marks the birthday of Andres Bonifacio (November 30, 1863), the founder of the Katipunan. Bonifacio was the great Supremo of the secret society that spearheaded the Philippine Revolution of 1896.
I often wondered then why Bonifacio’s birthday was a holiday, and yet, his death (May 10, 1897) was not commemorated. And why did historians and legislators decide to observe Bonifacio’s birthday as “National Heroes Day” or the day to celebrate Philippine heroes (which coincidentally, includes General Emilio F.Aguinaldo)? We remember General Aguinaldo as the first President of the Philippine Republic. History also tells us that the good general grabbed the leadership of the Philippine Revolution from Bonifacio, and that he was responsible for Bonifacio’s arrest, detention, and execution (where Bonifacio was buried with his brother, Procopio, in unmarked gravesites somewhere in the mountains of Maragondon, Cavite).
National Heroes Day is one of the national holidays observed every year in the Philippines. It is celebrated so that Filipinos can pay their respects to their national heroes. But recently, the date when the holiday is observed has been changed. National Heroes Day is now celebrated every fourth Monday of August. Why did historians and legislators change the date of the holiday?
The reason according to the Pambansang Komisyong Pangkasaysayan (National Historical Commission) is as follows: “By virtue of Act No. 3827 of 1931 enacted by the Philippine Legislature, the last Sunday of August was declared an official holiday known as National Heroes Day. . . The civilian proponents (most probably historians) and the legislators who authored the law perhaps believed that an unjust gap existed in the national memory because heroes other than Rizal and Bonifacio had been forgotten, their heroism unsung. While these two headed the pantheon of the nation’s heroes and their sacrifice honored with legal holidays on December 30 (Rizal Day) and November 30 (Bonifacio Day), the others, the authors believed, also deserved to be remembered and acknowledged. Legislating a special holiday honoring the other heroes, known and unknown would be a means to enlighten the Filipinos on the richness of their heritage and thus inspire them to be better citizens. Thus, National Heroes Day was legislated. August 1896 was a turning point in our nation’s history.”
Now, that the dates are settled--- National Heroes Day on the fourth Monday of August, Rizal Day on the 30th of December, and Andres Bonifacio Day on the 30th of November--- I still wonder why historians and legislators chose December 30th for Rizal Day. December 30, 1896 marks the death and execution of Dr.Rizal. Why not celebrate Rizal Day on his birth anniversary (June 19, 1861)? After all, didn’t Filipinos celebrate Dr. Rizal’s 150th birthday earlier this year as a non-working holiday?
On the other hand, this is what I found in Wikipedia regarding the reason why Bonifacio Day is celebrated every November 30th: “Bonifacio is remembered on his birthday, rather than the date of his death, May 10, 1897, for historical reasons. Unlike Rizal and other heroes who died at the hands of the enemy, Bonifacio was executed by his compatriots. General Emilio Aguinaldo ordered his execution, as he was considered an enemy of the state after the events at the Tejeros Convention.”
Andres Bonifacio, enemy of the state? This can’t be right. I believe that historians should not only be concerned about marking the correct dates of our historical celebrations. They should also double-check historical information that many consider as “historical facts.”
Until next week!
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336. You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.