By Severino Samonte
MANILA – On August 29 in 1896, the 84-year-old revolutionary heroine “Tandang Sora,” or Melchora Aquino in real life, was jailed by the Spanish government at the old Bilibid prisons in Manila for refusing to disclose the hiding place or places of “Katipunero” leader Andres Bonifacio and his men.
Philippine history books said that prior to her incarceration, the then 84-year-old Tandang Sora, also commonly called as the “Mother of the Revolution,” was arrested by the Spanish authorities in Barrio Pasong Putik in the then municipality of Novaliches in the old province of Manila.
She got the ire of the foreign colonizers because she became an active supporter of the revolution raised by the members of the Kataastaasan, Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) against the more than 300 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines.
Prior to her arrest, she was advised by Bonifacio to seek shelter at the house of her relatives in the then remote and mountainous Novaliches town.
Despite intensive grilling by the authorities, she refused to divulge the whereabouts of Bonifacio and his men who often converged at the forest in Novaliches, and in the then Barrio Binugsok (now Barangay Kaligayahan), where an ancient duhat (native blackberry) tree was renamed as “Katipunan Tree” in 1980 to perpetuate the memory of Tandang Sora, Bonifacio and the KKK.
It was under the shade of that duhat tree that Tandang Sora often fed and gave medical attention to sick and wounded Katipuneros, while also giving motherly advice to them.
After five days in jail, she was banished on September 2, 1896 to yje Marianas islands, where she joined many other exiled Filipino rebels and supporters, including Apolinario Mabini, considered as the “Brains of the Revolution” and the “Sublime Paralytic.”
During the American regime that started following the arrest of Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901, she was freed by the Americans because of old age. She was 91 years old when she returned to Manila in February 1903.
She went back to her birthplace in Banlat and stayed with one of her daughters until her death in March 1919 at age 107. She was buried at the Veterans’ Mausoleum at the Manila North Cemetery.
On her 158th birthday on January 6, 1970 and 51 years after her death, Tandang Sora’s remains were exhumed and transferred to her shrine at the Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park in Barangay Pasong Tamo, Novaliches.
A final transfer of the heroine’s remains was made on January 6, 2012, her 200th birth anniversary. This time, she returned to where she was born in 1812 — in Banlat, Balintawak, which eventually became a part of Novaliches when it was created as a town of Bulacan province in September 1855.
There have been conflicting dates of her death, although occurring in the same year.
According to the marker at the Tandang Sora Shrine in Banlat, the date of her death was February 19, 1909.
On the other hand, most history books, including that of Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide, a noted Filipino-Asian historian, and his daughter, Dr. Sonia M. Zaide, a professional lecturer in several Metro Manila universities, Tandang Sora died on March 2, 1919. (PNA)