The Philippine Revolution

Struggle Between the Masses and the Elite

Aside from ethnicity and gender, class conflict was central to the Revolution. In the aftermath of the outbreak of the revolution, most of the ilutstrados or the nineteenth century middle class denounced the Katipunan and renewed their loyalty to Spain. Many ilustrados immediately condemned the revolution as an irrational action of uneducated masses. Some, like Rizal, believed that it was an ill-timed and ill-prepared struggle. But many did so out of allegiance to Spain. Later when the Katipunan was winning battles, some ilustrados gradually turned around and embraced the revolution. These ilustrados, though driven by nationalism like the masses, fought to preserve their social status and economic wealth. Their interests and agenda vastly differed from the objectives of the Katipuneros. Other ilustrados preferred to remain fence-sitters until the tide of the Revolution was clear. In a study of the municipal and provincial elite of Luzon during the Revolution, Milagros C. Guerrero concluded that well-to-do Filipinos as well as municipal and provincial officials refused to join the Revolution during 1897 and early 1898. There was even hesitancy even after they did join.

Many history books assert that class conflict was symbolized by the leadership struggle between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo. In contrast to the working class background of Bonifacio, Aguinaldo was an ilustrado and a former gobernadorcillo or town executive in his home province of Cavite. Aguinaldo’s ascendance to prominence as a result of his strategic victories in battles naturally brought him into conflict with Bonifacio over the leadership of the Revolution. In a sense, their bitter struggle reflected the falling out of the masses and the ilustrados during the Revolution.

It started as a result of the intramural between the two factions of the Katipunan in Cavite - the Magdiwang and Magdalo. Their conflict had deteriorated such that each one refused to assist the other in battles. Moreover, in one of the battles in Manila, the Caviteno forces even failed to provide assistance to the revolutionaries of Manila. Bonifacio as Supremo of the Katipunan was invited to Cavite to resolve the factional differences and thus ensure a united front against the Spaniards in the province. Once in Cavite, the ilustrados maneuvered to ease Bonifacio from the leadership. In the Tejeros Convention of March 22, 1897, they voted to supersede the Katipunan with a revolutionary government and an election of the officers of the new government was conducted. Aguinaldo was elected as President while Bonifacio lost in several elections for key posts before he finally won as Director of the Interior. But a Caviteno, Daniel Tirona, immediately questioned his lack of education and qualification for the post, and insisted that he be replaced instead by a Caviteno ilustrado lawyer, Jose del Rosario. Insulted and humiliated, Bonifacio as Supremo of the Revolution declared the election and the formation of the new government void. What followed was a black mark in the history of the Revolution.

Aguinaldo, upon the prodding of his fellow, ilustrados, ordered the arrest and trial of Bonifacio on the grounds of treason. A bogus trial found Bonifacio and his brother, Procopio, guilty, and they were sentenced to death. Aguinaldo gave his approval and the Bonifacio brothers were shot on May 10, 1897, at Mt. Tala, Cavite. In rationalizing the fate of Bonifacio, Aguinaldo and his men claimed Bonifacio was establishing his own government which would have subverted the revolutionary cause. His elimination was necessary to maintain unity under Aguinaldo’s leadership. Ironically, Bonifacio, the father of the Revolution, became a victim to the ambition and self-serving interests the ilustrados as personified by Aguinaldo.