The Rape of Gregoria de Jesus, Lakambini of the Katipunan
The year was 1892 and the Philippines was on the brink of war: The economy was in tatters and the Spanish colonial government in the country was being challenged by forces within and outside the country. Across the archipelago, growing unrest was unsettling the Governor General and the Church, while outside the country, the British-led free trade in Asia had eroded Spain’s relevance in the world economy.
It was during this period when Gregoria de Jesus met Andres Bonifacio. Shortly after joining and co-founding La Liga Filipina and then establishing the Katipunan in 1892, Bonifacio met De Jesus. He was 29 and she was 18 when they fell in love with each other. Although their age gap was apparent, this was not uncommon at the time when young women were often betrothed to much older men.
We can surmise why De Jesus was stricken with Bonifacio: He was a highly intelligent, daring, and dashing young radical and leader of a secret society. He also had a stable job that paid him well.
When De Jesus’ parents, who were staunchly devout Catholics, learned of their daughter’s relationship with Bonifacio, who was a known dissident and freemason, they objected fiercely.
Later, however, unbeknown to “Oriang,” as she was affectionately called, Bonifacio worked his charms and convinced her parents into agreeing to their marriage. With disbelief and joy at Bonifacio's audacity, De Jesus married him at Binondo Church in a Catholic ceremony, and again in the Katipunan in a separate masonic ceremony.
But the life that would follow for the two lovers would prove difficult and tragic.
Gregoria de Jesus’ Life as the Katipunan’s Lakambini
Women were initially not allowed to join the ranks of the Katipunan. It was only because the wives of its members began to suspect something fishy going on that Bonifacio allowed the wives to become members as well (their husbands passed off Katipunan meetings as “overtime” at work, and their financial contributions to the secret society resulted in smaller take-home pays such that their wives thought they were cheating with other women).
De Jesus was among the first women inducted into the Katipunan. She took charge of the very delicate task of gathering intelligence and helping to keep the society a secret.
Together with other women of the Katipunan, De Jesus intercepted valuable information from the Spanish, and hosted fake banquets with accompanying live band to mask their meetings.
During the darkest hours of the Revolution, she crawled through mud, drank muddy water, and fought alongside Bonifacio when they were caught in skirmishes with Spanish forces.
The Rape of Gregoria de Jesus
At the height of the Revolution, two factions grew within the Katipunan: those loyal to Bonifacio and those loyal to Aguinaldo. Bonifacio was eventually ousted by Aguinaldo’s men at the Tejeros Convention, and subsequently declared a traitor and fugitive.
When De Jesus was 22 years old, she and Bonifacio were captured by Aguinaldo’s men. Bonifacio was shot but was only grazed in the arm, but he was nonetheless tied up.
What happened next is detailed by Ambeth Ocampo in his book, Bones of Contention:
“Bonifacio in his testimony told the court that Col. Yntong was forcing his wife into an empty house ‘sa talagang kilos na ilugso ang kapurihan’ but this was averted when the other officers objected.
Later in Indang, Col. Yntong attempted to rape Aling Oryang again but this time, Bonifacio pleaded with Tomas Mascardo who mercifully intervened... It was possible that one of the motives for raping Aling Oryang was that it would further humiliate Bonifacio.”
Colonel Yntong is Agapito Bonzon, a loyalist of Aguinaldo.
Although Ocampo was indirect in implying the rape of De Jesus, he mentioned this in a story he wrote for the Inquirer:
“Then of course, the catalog of rape in the Philippines will not be complete without mention of Gregoria de Jesus, wife of Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio, who was raped by Col. Agapito Bonzon. The colonel was neither investigated nor punished by Emilio Aguinaldo for this crime.”
The Bereavement of Gregoria de Jesus
After the bogus trial of Bonifacio in a court peopled with Aguinaldo’s men, he was sentenced to die. On Mt. Tala in Maragondon, Cavite, Bonifacio was repeatedly hacked until he died. Aguinaldo’s men decided the use of bolo would spare them wasting bullets for the execution. It was the ugly culmination of a tussle for power and control of the Katipunan.
Gregoria de Jesus was inconsolable.
In her grief, she wrote a heartbreaking poem titled “Mula Giliw, Nang Pumanaw Ka” (Ever Since You Passed Away, My Dear).
In her later life, she married Julio Nakpil, who was a loyal ally of Bonifacio. They had six children. The Lakambini of the Katipunan lived out her life as a loving mother and wife until her death in 1943 during World War II.