Bonifacio and the fish
By Fr. Charlie Gervais, S.F.M.
Bonifacio was an alagad (Christian leader) of a village called Nakabuklad. The Tigwa River made a left turn near it. Over the years the river had cut into the right bank at the turn and created a little lagoon where the fish would spawn. When any family needed extra food for their next meal, they could catch a fish or two in this lagoon.
One day a group of soldiers went to this riverbank for a picnic, expecting to cook up a few fish over a fire. Not having a fishing rod, they threw an explosive device (grenade or dynamite stick) into the water and then gathered the fish that were either dead or stunned by the explosion. This of course is an illegal act because it destroys the fishing ground. Bonifacio reported this in the diocesan newspaper Ang Bandilyo.
When the soldiers of Halapitan read the report, they were furious. They were drinking one night and decided they would shoot Bonifacio and report that he was a rebel. One civilian who was a member of the army reserve and was at the drinking party came to see me early the next morning when the rest of his drinking buddies were still sleeping. He told me about the plan to shoot Bonifacio and was afraid they might carry it out. I thanked him for warning me and immediately went to find Pancho, a parish catechist, and asked him to take a letter to Bishop Claver, bishop of our Diocese of Malaybalay, Bukidnon, explaining the danger that Bonifacio was facing.
Pancho came back the same day with a letter from Bishop Claver for the commander of the military in the town of Halapitan with a copy to me. After 25 years, I still remember the essence of the letter. As usual, Bishop Claver was strong and to the point. It went something like this:
"A very disturbing report has been sent to me. I have been informed that Bonifacio, the church leader of the village of Nakabuklad, may be salvaged because of his reporting that the military threw an explosive device into the lagoon. (Salvaged was the term used for outright elimination.) You had better protect this man, Bonifacio, or you will be held personally responsible for his murder. Control your soldiers or suffer the consequences."
Bonifacio was not bothered and the soldiers did not return to the lagoon.