| Long ago, in the days when
was a town dotted with rice fields, a poor
couple was married in Tondo church. The
groom was a short muscular Filipino named
Santiago Bonifacio. He was a boatman who
rowed people from Taguig, Rizal, to other
towns along the Pasig River. The bride,
Catalina de Castro, was a mestiza born of a
Spanish father and a Filipino-Chinese mother
from Zambales. She worked as a maestra, or
supervisor, in a cigarette factory in Meisic
("Maintsik"), which today is Manilaís
Rosario Street in Binondo
during Spanish Regime
Young Andres learned to read
and write the alphabet in Tagalog and Spanish from a caton,
or primer book, given to him by an aunt. Later he went to school in Meisic. His teacher was
Guillermo Osmena, a schoolmaster from Cebu.
Tondo had always been a poor
manís town. People from all over the country who came
looking for work in Manila made Tondo their first home. In 1877, when Andres was 14 years
old, 10,620 Spaniards and their household helpers lived in the walled city of Intramuros. By
comparison, 26,266 people lived in Tondo.
Poor families like the Bonifacios
had to work very hard just to make ends meet. But the
1870s was a time of great hardship. Outbreaks of cholera and rinderpest disease spread
throughout the city. People fell ill and many work animals, such as carabaos and horses, died.
Typhoons destroyed a lot of homes and farms. The price of food and other goods soared.
The money Andresís mother
earned in the cigarette factory was not enough to feed a family
of six growing children. By this time Andresís father was working as a cargador at the busy
docks of Binondo. He carried heavy loads of muscovado sugar and bundles of rattan. He
had even served as a teniente mayor, or vice-mayor, of Tondo. But now he had caught
a deadly disease called tuberculosis. He became too weak to keep his job. At home Santiago
made walking canes and paper fans out of rattan. He also sewed other peopleís clothes, a
trade he learned from his father. Then Andresís mother caught tuberculosis too. She died in
1881. Andresís father died a year later.