Saturday, November 30, 2013

Earthquake and monsoon rains in the life of Andres Bonifacio

Commemorative events on the Supremo Andres Bonifacio’s 150th birthday this Saturday, November 30, have somehow been dampened by the grim aftermath of two calamities that came almost a month apart: the earthquake of intensity 7.2 that ravaged Bohol in October, and the super-typhoon Yolanda that devastated Tacloban and other Visayan towns and cities two weeks ago.

While looking for significant markers in the country’s historical timeline, we incidentally found that there were two distressful natural events in 1863 that occurred when Catalina de Castro, wife of Santiago Bonifacio, was several months pregnant of Andres who would be born on November 30. According to the Supremo’s biographical accounts, the couple were married on 23 January 1863 in a Tondo church, which we believe to be the Sto. Niño de Tondo Church. 

We can imagine a shocked Catalina, four months pregnant, cowering in fear while violent tremors of intensity X shook Intramuros and the suburbs like Tondo on the night of 03 June 1863.  It was Corpus Christi and solemn rites were going on at the newly restored Manila Cathedral.

In his Catalogue of violent and destructive earthquakes in the Philippines (1910), Jesuit Fr Miguel Saderra Masó wrote that the “disastrous earthquake [was] comparable with that of 1645. Laid in ruins the cathedral and nearly all the other churches, except San Agustin, the palace of the Governor-General, the Audiencia, the barracks, warehouses, etc... Total, 1,172 buildings in ruins or badly damaged. The number of victims was appalling. It is estimated that in Manila and the surrounding towns alone the number of killed reached 400, that of the injured 2,000. The catastrophe likewise involved many towns in Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite, where it destroyed churches and a great number of houses.”  The clergy, choir and faithful attending services at the Cathedral were buried by the rubble.

Catalina could have been further distressed by another violent earthquake of intensity VII on 09 June, which “brought to the ground several buildings left in a tottering condition by the preceding disturbance.”

Andres Bonifacio was baptized amidst the ruins of the Tondo church, which was also heavily damaged by the 03 June earthquake.   

The monsoon rains of August also figured in the life of the Supremo.

Catalina was already in her sixth month of pregnancy when a strong typhoon hit Manila on 29 August 1863.  In Typhoons in the Philippine Islands 1566-1900 (Garcia-Herrera, Ribera, Hernandez and Gimeno), this was described as “a furious typhoon with strong westerly winds from the fourth quadrant. The waves broke heavily against the shore and wharves producing an inundation which destroyed the Bagumbayan drive and covered the Sta. Lucia road with boulders. Several trees along the roads were uprooted; important specimens of plants of the botanical garden were lost; the water level rose 1.5 yards in the Quinta market; and several houses were unroofed.”

The Bonifacio house in the Tutuban area, where the Philippine National Railway station now stand, could have been one of the many that were flattened to the ground or whose roofs were blown away.  Like the hapless victims of Yolanda, the Bonifacios could have been a shivering, wet and hungry homeless couple after the typhoon left.

Rains also accompanied the Supremo and his brothers in the K.K.K.N.M.A.N.B. (Kataastaasang, Kagalanggalang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) as they mustered strength to rise up in arms against Spain.

In his Memoirs on the Katipunan and the Revolution, Santiago V. Alvarez described the Katipuneros moving and assembling under heavy downpours.  It rained heavily on the night of 03 May 1896 when various Katipunan councils converged in Pasig for a crucial meeting with the Supremo because the K.K.K. has already been exposed.  They were to decide if they ‘shall rise in revolt now’.  Emilio Aguinaldo, among others, was not in favor.  The consensus was to defer decision until Dr Jose Rizal has been consulted to secure his consent. Dr Pio Valenzuela was designated to go to Dapitan with a blind man as a ruse.

The monsoon rains were heavy during the period 21-29 August 1896, when the Katipuneros were on the move eluding the Spanish forces. 

Bonifacio called a general meeting on the night of 21 August in Caloocan, which was moved to the outskirts in Kangkong.  Alvarez wrote that they had to “walk through the rain over dark expanses of muddy meadows and fields.  Our clothes drenched and our bodies numbed by the cold wind, we plodded worldlessly.”  The next day, Bonifacio asked Emilio Jacinto to notify the chairmen of the councils to come to Kangkong.  Again, the meeting was moved to Bahay Toro, which they reached in the morning of 23 August.  Here the Katipuneros agreed to start the uprising at midnight of 29 August.

There were unsuccessful encounters with the enemy on 25 and 26 August, and the Katipunero forces got scattered.  “[T]he group of the Supremo Bonifacio rested at a site between Balara and Krus-na-Ligas. They sent Katipunero Genaro de los Reyes to Mandaluyong to apprise the chapter there of the encounter with the enemy that morning.  They also asked him to collect donations of food and clothes, for they were hungry and their clothes were wet from the continuous rain.”  The Katipuneros needed relief goods!

On his way back from Mandaluyong on 27 August, Reyes had to look for “the Supremo over muddy and slippery paths as the capricious weather alternated between sunshine and rain. ... The wind and the rain grew stronger toward the afternoon.”  Reyes told the Supremo that the councils want him to go to Mandaluyong because of the 29 August agenda.
Before they reached Mandaluyong, the Supremo and company rested in Barangka, Marikina.  Their host Gregorio de la Cruz provided them food, clothing and shoes.  “What funny-looking lot they were,” Alvarez described the scene, “after they had put on the clothes which did not belong to them.  Some looked like Chinamen, others like Indians, some had shoes too big for them, while others had sleeves too long.”  Relief goods in Marikina!

There were more than 500 Katipuneros with the Supremo when they reached Hagdang Bato in Mandaluyong on 29 August.    The signals to begin the revolution however did not go up that night. 


  • Alvarez, Santiago V. (1992).  The Katipunan and the revolution / Memoirs of a General with the original Tagalog text. (Malay, Paula Carolina S., trans.).  Ateneo de Manila Press.
  • Ventura, Sylvia Mendez. (2001). Supremo. The Story of Andres Bonifacio. Manila: Tahanan Books for Young Readers.

  • Saderra Masó, Miguel. (1910). Catalogue of violent and destructive earthquakes in the Philippines. With an appendix: Earthquakes in the Marianas Islands, 1599-1909. Manila: Bureau of Printing. Retrieved from


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