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The Teodorico Reyes Ancestral House looks like most antique houses of Spanish-Filipino design. It has capiz style windows on the mostly wooden second floor and an adobe base first floor. In spite of its familiar unassuming façade, it holds a significant role in the nation’s history. It was used as a courthouse to try the case of Andres Bonifacio on May 10, 1897. The house bore witness to a guilty verdict of treason over an extraordinary patriot by a biased military tribunal.
Laying the Precedent
Andres Bonifacio was widely regarded as the Father of the Philippine Revolution. He was among the founders of the Katipunan movement. It was the driving force that initiated the rebellion and brought about independence from colonial Spain. Bonifacio was the Supreme Leader or “Supremo” of the movement. Regrettably, he was executed by the same countrymen he sought to liberate during the early stages of the revolution.
His guilt was based on his refusal to recognize Emilio Aguinaldo as the first president of the revolutionary government. Such election was decided on March 22, 1897, during the Tejeros Convention, presided over by Bonifacio. This was voted upon by the rival Magdalo and Magdiwang factions of the Katipunan movement. Bonifacio was instead elected as Interior Secretary; however, it was contested based on supposed lack of qualifications. This seriously offended Bonifacio, which led to him invalidating the proceedings through the Acta de Tejeros signed a day after.
He would eventually draft the Acta de Naik within a month, implicating certain leaders of the Katipunan of treason. This alluded to Aguinaldo, who was seen as leaning towards negotiating a peace agreement with the Spanish. The revolutionary government, in general, did not subscribe to any type of compromise whatsoever.
Capture and Trial
Regardless of acts to nullify what took place during the Tejeros Convention, Aguinaldo still took his oath of office, albeit clandestinely. He assumed his presidency in April 1897 and thereafter had Bonifacio arrested. The leader of the revolution was betrayed by fellow Tagalogs whom he welcomed into his camp. His brothers Ciriaco was shot to death while Procopio was assaulted. Andres himself was also shot and received a knife wound to the neck.
Along with Procopio, he was brought to the Teodorico Reyes Ancestral House in Brgy. Poblacion, Maragondon, Cavite to stand trial. They were to answer the charges of sedition, treason and conspiracy to murder the president, Aguinaldo. The court found them guilty and moved for their execution. There was clearly a lack of evidence to convict them on such grounds and were not given the opportunity to confront any witnesses against them. The brothers were said to be executed at the foot of Mt. Buntis and buried in shallow graves.
Self-interest over Patriotism
There are some who believe that what took place in the Bonifacio Trial House was a farce. The Father of the Philippine Revolution was in the way of those who sought personal gain during the revolution. As such, the outcome of his trial was railroaded in order to be declared guilty of supposed crimes he did not commit. His authority as Supreme Leader of the Katipunan movement was unquestionable. It is disputed that there was already a government existing through the Katipunan prior to the Tejeros Convention.
Bonifacio had the power to invalidate it. Such convention was also said to serve the interests of the upper class. They resented the Supremo’s leadership since he came from a modest background. The illustrados mostly came from the Magdalo group which had Emilio Aguinaldo as one of its most prominent members. There were accounts that the elections which transpired on that day were rigged, with ballots already filled prior to the voting.
A Testament to the Past
The Teodorico Reyes Ancestral House now stands as one of the historic houses in the country. It was formally declared as such by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. A marker indicates that it is the “Bahay ng Pinaglitisan Kay Andres Bonifacio” or the Bonifacio Trial House. The property was officially converted into a museum on November 28, 2014.
Visitors can relive the story surrounding Bonifacio’s trial on the ground floor. There are various exhibits that offer details into the past events which led to his execution. The second floor has a diorama on display which re-enacts a supposed scene from the hearing. Those who happen to be in the area during Bonifacio Day can catch a sense of this historical development. It has undoubtedly contributed to the political culture of the Philippines.
Main photo via the National Historical Commission of the Philippines