Bonifacio was born to a Tagalog father, Santiago Bonifacio, and a Spanish mestiza mother, Catalina de Castro of Zambales, in Tondo, Manila. He was the eldest of six children; he had three brothers and two sisters: Ciriaco, Procopio, Espiridiona, Troadio and Maxima. His father was a cabeza de barangay (a leading barangay official). His mother died of tuberculosis in 1881 and his father followed suit a year after. He was forced to drop out of secondary school and work to support his family. According to popular anecdote, he made and peddled canes and fans and acted in moro-moro plays.
He worked as a bodeguero (warehouseman/clerk/messenger) and sales agent for Fleming and Company, a British trading firm, then transferred to Fressell and Company, a German firm, both in Manila. He married twice - his first wife was a woman named Monica, who died of leprosy, and Gregoria de Jesus, daughter of a wealthy family in Binondo. They were married in Binondo church, despite her parents' objections. They had one son who died in infancy.
Bonifacio was known to have read books on the French Revolution, the lives of Presidents of the United States of America, the local penal and civil code, international law, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Eugène Sue's The Wandering Jew and local reformist Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
He was a Freemason, a member of the Taliba Lodge under the Grand Lodge Gran Oriente Español. In 1892 he joined Rizal's La Liga Filipina (Spanish "The Philippine League" wink , a society that called for reforms in Spanish rule. However, the Liga Filipina was disbanded shortly after Rizal was arrested and deported to the town of Dapitan in Mindanao shortly after the group's only meeting. Together with other members, Bonifacio revived the Liga Filipina and was active at organizing local chapters.
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