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Monday, February 1, 2010

The Katipunan

The Katipunan

The Katipunan was a secret organization organized along Masonic lines.  It was formed soon after Rizal's exile to Dapitan.  

On the night of July 3, 1892, at a house in Tondo, Jose Rizal founded and inaugurated "La Liga Filipina".  The organization lasted only after three days as, he was caught, convicted and deported in Dapitan. On July 7, 1892, upon learning that Rizal was deported, a secret council was called in at # 72 corner of Azcarraga Street and Elcano, San Nicolas/Binondo. In attendance were Andres Bonifacio, Deodato Arellano, Valentin Diaz, Teodoro Plata, Ladislao Diwa, Jose Dizon and few members of La Liga Filipina. The Liga membership split into two groups: the conservatives formed the "Cuerpo de Compromisarios" which pledged to continue supporting the reformist propaganda group "La Solidaridad." The radicals led by Bonifacio devoted themselves to a new and secret society, the Kataastaasang Kagalang-Kagalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan was born. The objectives of the Katipunan, as a socialist brotherhood was popularly known, were:
1) To advocate complete independence from Spain, to be achieved through armed struggle.
2) To take back lands, gold, personal savings, personal properties "confiscated" by the church and Spanish Cortes from the poor masses. They also saw it as their personal responsibility to help the poor, the oppressed and to teach them good manners, hygiene and morality.
3) To dismiss the elite society and social classes, instead create an equal social status.

Andres Bonifacio, one of the more prominent founders of the Katipunan was not its first Supremo or the President of the Supreme Council. On July 15, 1892, the members of the Supreme Council were Deodato Arellano (Supremo), Andres Bonifacio (Comptroller), Ladislao Diwa (Fiscal), Teodoro Plata (Secretary) and Valentin Diaz (Treasurer). The legislative body of the Katipunan was known as the Katipunan Assembly and it was composed of the members of the Supreme Council, along with the presidents of the popular and provincial councils. Judicial power rested in the "Sangguniang Hukuman," which were provincial courts that decided on internal matters; however, judgement on grave matters (such as betraying the Katipunan or committing acts penalized by the organization’s laws) were meted by the "Secret Chamber," composed of Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto and Dr. Pio Valenzuela.

Members of the Katipunan were unsatisfied with Arellano's performance as Supremo, Bonifacio and the Sangguniang Hukuman later had him deposed and elected Roman Basa as Supremo on February 1, 1893. The Supreme Council was then composed of Basa, Jose Turiano Santiago (Secretary), Andres Bonifacio (Fiscal) and Vicente Molina (Treasurer).

Bonifacio would only become the Supremo on January 5, 1894, with Santiago (Secretary), Emilio Jacinto (Fiscal) and Vicente Molina (Treasurer). Further reorganization in 1896 led to Jacinto becoming Secretary and Pio Valenzuela as Fiscal. The Supreme Council in August 1896, preceding the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution, was led by Bonifacio as the Supremo with Jacinto as Secretary of State, Teodoro Plata as Secretary of War, Briccio Pantas as Secretary of Justice, Aguedo del Rosario as Secretary of Interior, and Enrique Pacheco as Secretary of Finance. Before the outbreak of the revolution, therefore, Bonifacio organized the Katipunan into a government revolving around a "cabinet" composed of his trusted men.

A meeting was held on August 24 and was decided to notify the Katipunan councils of the surrounding towns that a general attack on the capital Manila was planned for August 29. Bonifacio appointed generals to lead rebel forces to Manila. Before hostilities erupted, Bonifacio also reorganized the Katipunan into an open Revolutionary Government, him as President and the Supreme Council of the Katipunan as his cabinet. The Supremo formed the "Kataastaasang Kapulungan" (Supreme Council), declaring an armed revolution against Spain. It was in the same meeting that they established the Katipunan as a national government and held an election of officials to lead the army and the nation. The intention of Supremo Bonifacio was to have the Katipunan govern the whole Philippines after the overthrow of Spanish rule.

Official letters and one appointment paper of Bonifacio addressed to Emilio Jacinto reveal Bonifacio's various titles and designations, as follows:

# President of the Supreme Council
# Supreme President
# President of **"Haring Bayang Katagalugan" (Sovereign Nation of Katagalugan or Sovereign Tagalog Nation)
# President of the Sovereign Nation, Founder of the Katipunan, Initiator of the Revolution
# Office of the Supreme President, Government of the Revolution
The Katipunan was a Philippine revolutionary society founded by anti-Spanish Filipinos in Manila in 1892, which aimed primarily to gain independence from Spain through revolution. The society was initiated by Filipino patriots Andrés BonifacioTeodoro PlataLadislao Diwa, and others on the night of July 7, when Filipino writer José Rizal was to be banished to Dapitan. Initially, Katipunan was a secret organization until its discovery in 1896 that led to the outbreak of Philippine Revolution.

Andres Bonifacio
Ladislao Diwa

Through the efforts of Katipunan members like Emilio Jacinto and Macario Sakay and hundreds of nameless contributors to the cause, the organization grew from a small, Luzon based organization, to a national organization which the Spaniards were unable to completely defeat.  

The earliest dated and only known 1892 Katipunan document, authorizing the establishment of a Katipunan Sangunian balangay or chapter council, in Mindanao.  Sworn statement of Restituto Javier dated 2 September 1892, with Andres Bonifacio signing as the society’s Secretary for Deodato Arellano, President, among others. 

The Katipunan newspaper - "Ang Kalayaan"

An account on the start of the 1896 revolt
(From General Santiago Alvarez's account)

On August 21 1896, at the home of Katipunera Vidal Acab in Caloocan, a general meeting of Katipuneros was held to discuss the plans for the uprising.  This meeting was disrupted by a false alarm when Katipunero guards stopped an Englishman riding in a rig.  As the atmosphere was already tense, it was decided to move the meeting to Kangkong, Caloocan.  In Kangkong, letters were written to the head of various Katipunan councils, inviting them to a meeting.  By August 24, the Katipuneros in Kangkong swelled to more than a thousand.  A meeting was then conducted, in it the following were approved:

1.  An uprising to defend the people's freedom was to start Saturday, August 29, 1896.
2.  The organization of the revolutionary forces under the following recently named brigadier generals:
  • Aguedo del Rosario
  • Vicente Fernandez
  • Ramon Bernardo
  • Gregorio Coronel
3.  The planning of tactics for taking of Manila at an agreed time by the four generals
4.  To be in a state of alert so Katipunan could strike should the situation arise even before August 29.    
     Everyone should steel himself and be resolute in the imminent struggle.
5.  The immediate objective was the capture of Manila.

After the adjournment of the meeting at twelve noon, there were tumultuous shouts of "Mabuhay ang mga Anak ng Bayan!"

The following is a partial list of people and their occupation who attended the meeting and notes from the source:

Amidst all the debate about precisely when and where the revolution started, historians have often neglected to ask exactly who gathered in Balintawak or thereabouts in August 1896. In the absence of a complete roster – clearly an impossibility at this distance in time – the fullest listing is to be found in an interview given by the KKK veteran Guillermo Masangkay to the Manila newspaper Bagong Buhay in 1952. In this interview, Masangkay recalled the names of 56 men who had met in Balintawak prior to the first encounters with Spanish forces. In the great majority of cases, he also recalled their occupations, and it is fascinating to note that nearly half the patriots on his list worked in some capacity or other for branches of the Spanish administration. The three ‘government secret agents’, it is presumed, had in the preceding months been supplying useful information to the Katipunan and misinformation to the Spaniards.

Masangkay’s list is reproduced below; the occupational descriptions have been translated into English from the original mix of Tagalog and Spanish, and in a few cases have been amplified. Since the list was reconstructed from memory more than fifty years after the event, erroneous inclusions are likely and omissions are inevitable. Any corrections or other comments will be most welcome.   Pictures if available are placed above their respective names.

Katipunan Member
Known image
Aguedo del Rosario              
Printer at the Diario de Manila

Apolonio Cruz
Printer at the Diario de Manila

Alejandro Santiago
Printer at El Resumen

Deogracias Fajardo              

Juan Fajardo                       

Tomas Alegre                      
Master cigar maker

Pio H. Santos                      
Master tobacco worker

Patricio Belen              
Tobacco worker

Crispulo Chacon                  
Tobacco worker

Lorenzo Martinez
Tobacco worker

Tomas Villanueva              
Tobacco worker

Procopio Bonifacio              
Railway baggage-master

Rogelio Borja                      

Isaac del Carmen                  

Hilario Sayo                        

Melecio Ruestra                  

Pastor Santos                      

Guillermo Masangkay            
Kuridor [buyer and seller]

Pedro Zabala                        
Kuridor [buyer and seller]

Macario Sakay                          
Sales agent [personero]

Salustiano Cruz                            
Master tailor

Juan de la Cruz                            
Barber; playwright

Emilio Jacinto                             

Andres Bonifacio                 
Warehouse employee at Fressel & Co.;  walking cane maker; calligrapher              

Nicomedes Carreon            
Cobrador, salesman at Casa Chofre

Miguel Resurreccion            
Grass (fodder) cutter

Vicente Leyva          
“Heneral Kalentong”          
Milk seller

Cipriano Pacheco                

Briccio Pantas                      
Assistant to Court of First Instance judge

Teodoro Plata                      
Clerk, Mindoro Court of First Instance

Jose Trinidad                    
Clerk, Tondo Court of First Instance

Hermogenes Plata                
Court clerk

Tomas Remigio                    
Government treasury clerk

Pantaleon Torres                  
Government treasury clerk

Vicente Molina                          
Government treasury caretaker

Enrique Pacheco                  
Manila city government clerk

Faustino Manalac                      
Manila port administration clerk

Calixto Santiago                    
Customs official

Restituto Javier                  
Customs official

Hermenegildo Reyes            
Customs official

Valentin Lagasca                  
Customs guard sergeant

Eugenio Santos                    
Customs guard sergeant

Francisco Carreon                
Customs guard

Sarhento Marcelo                
Customs guard

Roman Ramos                      
Government arsenal employee

Tito Miguel                          
Government arsenal employee

Julio Navarro                      
Government secret agent

Alejandro Andaya                
Government secret agent

Marcelo Badell                    
Government secret agent

Geronimo Medina y Cristobal      
Army corporal

Cosme Taguyod                          
Fire Department lieutenant

Rafael Gutierrerez                        
Fire Department captain

Estanislao Vargas                        
Property owner

Apolonio Samson                        
Property owner

Pio Valenzuela                          

Ramon Bernardo                        
Municipal captain of Pandacan

Highlighted are names of familiar personalities from Philippine history textbooks.

Guardia Civil with a captured Katipunero from the 1st skirmishes

1917 marker of the 23 August Cry at Kangkong, installed by the veterans of the revolution.

Gathering of Katipunan veterans

The Katipunan met its demise at the hands of one of its members, who during the Tejeros Convention, succeeded in forming a new government under the most controversial of circumstances.  This ultimately led to the capture and execution of the Katipunan's supremo- Andres Bonifacio.

The impunity at Tejeros convention and its aftermath—the slaying of the Bonifacio brothers—were apparently done not to pursue the revolution to its successful conclusion but to stop it. It is not for the sake of unity that the Bonifacio brothers were killed as Aguinaldo and his apologists later claimed.

In an interview with the newspaper El Imparcial on Dec. 27, 1897, a few months after ordering the death of Bonifacio and 13 days after the signing of the Pact of Biak na Bato where he sold out the Kawit revolt, Aguinaldo explained “the patriotism I speak of today will be unchangeable. We took to the field, not because we wished for separation from the mother country [Spain]. But because we are tired of bearing the material and moral burden of that arch, the keystone of which in our country is the friars.”

“It is quite true that the Katipunan instilled in us another desire—that of independence —but that desire was unattainable, and moreover, it was in opposition to our sentiments. It served as the banner of Andres Bonifacio, a cruel man whom I ordered shot, and with his death the Katipunan disappeared,” Aguinaldo said.

This interview made crystal clear why Bonifacio had to be murdered. It is now also no longer surprising that Aguinaldo immediately ended the revolt and agreed to live in exile in Hong Kong after Bonifacio’s death. The end of the revolution ensured that Aguinaldo and his men will never be prosecuted for any crimes against Spain and more especially the killing of Bonifacio.


  1. Greatly appreciating this site. So detailed and informative and the photos are amazing. I stumbled upon this site searching for any history on my family name "Acab" and father being from Caloocan, I am wondering if there is any relationship to Vidal Acab. Would you happen to know where I could find that kind info? Or would there be a map or address where this meeting took place. Anyways thank you! Abel Acab