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First Cry

A couple of months from today we will be celebrating the 126th year of Philippine Independence. On June 12, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines in Kawit, Cavite. The proclamation was followed by the ratification of the Malolos Constitution that paved the way for the establishment of the first free and independent republic in Asia.


But in just a couple of days, some Filipinos and a number of historians will commemorate the 129th year of the FIRST declaration of Philippine Independence. On April 12, 1895, more than three years before Aguinaldo’s proclamation, Andres Bonifacio, the Supremo from Tondo, the father of the Philippine Revolution, first declared the independence of the country from Spanish rule inside the mystical Pamitinan cave in Montalban (now Rodriguez), Rizal province. 

The historian Ambeth Ocampo described the momentous event by citing the accounts of Teodoro Kalaw and the playwright Aurelio Tolentino, who was actually in the cave with Bonifacio on that day! The Pamitinan cave was apparently used by the Katipuneros to conduct initiation rites for the rebel leaders of Morong. 

After the rites, Bonifacio and his companions went deeper into the cave. Aside from Bonifacio, Francisco del Castillo, Candido Iban, Emilio Jacinto, Faustino Mañalak, Guillermo Masangkay, Aguedo del Rosario, Aurelio Tolentino and other revolutionaries were there. And then “in the midst of a shadowy silence, isolated from the world and protected by the solitude from the Spanish authorities they wrote on the walls with a piece of charcoal, Long Live Philippine Independence!” Under those heroic etchings of independence, each man in the cave signed their names as witnesses.

This happened during the Holy Week of that year and this important event specifically transpired on Good Friday lending the historic event more solemnity and profound meaning. Adding more mystic and symbolism to the event was the fact that the cave is said to be the prison where Bernardo Carpio was bounded. Bernardo Carpio was  the hero of 19th century folk literature and a mythological figure who is said to cause earthquakes whenever he shrugs his shoulders.


Tolentino would later describe the event in the cave as the “first cry” for liberty by the Katipunan, hence, the Cry of Pamitinan. According to Dr. Pablo Trillana III, in his Manila Bulletin column, other historians “like Esteban de Ocampo, Teodoro M. Kalaw, Teodoro Agoncillo, and O.D. Corpuz” have noted that it was in fact the first proclamation of independence by Filipinos. 

I am no historian, only a Filipino with a keen interest in Philippine history, but I like the idea of Bonifacio’s Cry of Pamitinan being the first declaration of Philippine independence. Aside from the mythology and mysticism surrounding the cave, I like the fact that the father of the Philippine revolution also proclaimed his motherland free from colonial rule. Bonifacio, for all his human frailties and faults, was a Filipino revolutionary hero who founded the Katipunan, led the fight for independence against Spain, and, truly, laid the groundwork for the first Philippine Republic.

Dr. Jose Rizal was known as the First Filipino because he was the first one to articulate, quite forcefully, the idea of a Filipino identity separate from the identities we had back then as a colony of Spain. Bonifacio is indeed the “Father of the Nation” because he made that vision happen. He led a movement that forged the creation of a Republic where that identity might take root. 

Today, that identity is continuously reshaped by events around us. Identities are evolving, not static. But as we continue to struggle to fashion that identity let us not forget those who used their intelligence, talent and might, and in fact, gave up their lives to begin the process for the building of our great nation.




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar