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The Philippine Revolution: How Katipunan became the catalyst

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “colonization”?

According to Encyclopedia:

…extension of political and economic control over an area by a state whose nationals have occupied the area and usually possess organizational or technological superiority over the native population. It may consist simply in migration of nationals to the territory, or it may be the formal assumption of control over the territory by military or civil representatives of the dominant power.

Speaking of colonization, did you know that some countries were colonized for more than a hundred years? One of them is the Philippines which was colonized by the Spaniards from 1521-1898.

That is a staggering three hundred and thirty-three years of being under the Spanish regime! Add in the 48-year rule of the Americansfrom 1898-1946 and you get 381 years of being colonized by foreign invaders.

Being under a colonial rule for hundreds of years awakened a proud sense of nationalism for Filipinos, which ensued in numerous insurgencies and battle outcries. Indeed, the Philippines revolution from 1896-1902 was one of the most important events in the country’s history.

But what really sparked the revolution was the discovery of Katipunan, an underground Filipino revolutionary society. Let’s go back in time and discover the secrets of the Katipunan:

What is Katipunan?

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The society was founded after the Filipino patriots learned that Dr. Jose Rizal was captured and sentenced to death in Dapitan. Not a mere doctor, Rizal is an author of two prominent novels detailing the dark aspects of Spain’s colonial rule in the Philippines.

His novels made Filipinos hunger for more. While Rizal only campaigned for equal treatment of Filipinos, not everyone was on the same page as him.

Thus, Katipunan was founded. It filled the void that was not satiated by the call for peaceful reforms which was left unheard, unfortunately.

Katipunan is also known as KKK or “Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng̃ mg̃á Anak ng̃ Bayan“. In English, it means Supreme and Venerable Society of the Children of the Nation.

Established on July 7, 1892, in Manila, it is a Philippines’ revolutionary society whose aim was to free the nation from the Spanish regime through revolution.

The members of the society were called Katipuneros. An aspiring Katipunero has to go through a rigorous initiation process before becoming an official member of the society. In the beginning, only males were allowed to enter the society but, later on, females were welcomed as well.

Who are the people behind Katipunan?

The society was primarily led by Andres Bonifacio and other members of the La Liga Filipina including Valentin Diaz, Jose Dizon, Deodato Arellano, and Teodoro Plata.

It was a secret society not until the Spaniards discovered it in 1896. Its discovery eventually awakened the Filipinos, paving the way for the Philippine Revolution.

What are the aims of the Katipunan?

The Katipunan had three primary aims – political, moral, and civic.

The political aim was total independence of the Philippines from Spain.

The moral aim was education for the Filipinos specifically when it comes to cleanliness, fine morals, good manners, and how to guard themselves against religious fanaticism.

The civic aim was for the Filipinos to be encouraged to help themselves and to defend the poor and the oppressed.

What is Katipunan’s role in the Philippine Revolution?

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The Katipunan was discovered when Teodoro Patiño, who was a member of the society, told his sister about it. His sister was upset about this news and confessed to the Mother Superior of the orphanage where she lived.

One thing led to another and it reached the Parish Priest of Tondo. Upon hearing the confession, the priest together with some Spanish soldiers went to the location.

It no longer remained a secret when pieces of evidence about the existence of Katipunan was found. Hundreds of Katipuneros were arrested which lead to the Cry of Pugadlawin and started the Philippine Revolution.

The Katipunan served as an awakening call for the Filipinos to fight for their freedom. When they started, there were approximately 4,000 pioneer members. But it grew as much as 400,000 when it was discovered – a sign of how it has awakened the nationalism of the Filipinos.

What you need to know about the Katipunan

1. Katipunan had a ‘secret chamber’ for those who disobey orders

The Katipunan operated just like a normal government except for the fact that its existence is a secret. It has its own legislative, executive and judiciary functions but the latter one was more concealed.

History says that the secret society had a so-called Camara Secreta or Secret Chamber which is a council composed of Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, and Dr. Pio Valenzuela. The council was also called as Camara Reina or Supreme Chamber and Camara Negra or Black Chamber.

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The function of the council was to punish the members of the secret society who broke the rules set by the Katipunan, or worse, betrayed the Katipunan.


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The member who broke the rule or betrayed the Katipunan faced death through a cup where a serpent is curled. It was said that five members of the Katipunero faced this tragic death.

2. Katipunan created the first-ever Philippine Republic

It has been debated for years whether Katipunan was a de facto government or not. But, it does not change the fact that it has successfully organized and established its own republic way before the Malolos Republic.

3. They chose the letter K because it is a Filipino adaptation of the C /k/ sound

No letter in the alphabet is as controversial as the letter K. This unfortunate letter was oftentimes associated with mutineers, militant groups, and modern revolutionaries.

But the truth is the creation of a new orthography was already proposed by Jose Rizal to help simplify and systematize the Tagalog dialect, Philippine’s national language.

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It has been favored that letter C will be replaced with letter K since letter K was already used by the Filipinos even before Spaniards colonized them.

When Andres Bonifacio established the Katipunan, he used KKK instead of CCC as a symbol of liberty and independence.

4. Bonifacio is not the only Supremo

Many Filipinos would say that there is only one Supremo. But little do they know that there were actually three Supremos – Deodato Arellano, Roman Basa, and Andres Bonifacio.

The first Supremo was Deodato Arellano, who is also one of the founders of Katipunan. But Bonifacio deposed him because of his inefficiency.

Another round of elections resulted in Roman Basa becoming Supremo but was also deposed by Bonifacio when the former criticized the latter over the recruitment process and his handling of the organization’s funds.

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Bonifacio became the last Supremo of the KKK movement.

5. Katipunan has its own National Anthem

Juan Felipe’s “Lupang Hinirang” is not actually the country’s first National Anthem. The first one is titled “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan” which was composed by Julio Nakpil in 1896.

Nakpil composed it since Bonifacio requested him to do so. When Bonifacio died, Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan was overlooked by the composition of Felipe.

Bonifacio mentions in his letter that he has received a copy of the “Himno Nacional” that Nakpil had sent. Julio Nakpil later recalled that he composed a piece—also known as the “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan”—at the request of Bonifacio when they were encamped with Katipunan troops in the vicinity of Balara in November 1896. He remembered the hymn still being played in Cavite and Laguna in 1898, but as the history textbooks tell, Aguinaldo then chose as the national anthem the composition by Julian Felipe, originally titled “Marcha Filipina Magdalo.” In 1903, Nakpil reworked his “Marangal na Dalit” as tribute to Rizal under the title “Salve, Patria,” but the only surviving copies of the original score were destroyed in 1945, during the battle for Manila. The version of “Marangal na Dalit” we have today was reconstructed by Nakpil from memory when he was in his eighties. — From The Light of Liberty by Jim Richardson

6. Rizal was called a coward by the Katipunan Supremo

Rizal’s writings became the guiding force for other patriots to rally for the country’s cause. But Rizal, Philippine’s national hero, was religiously held aloof from all politics since his deportation.

Bonifacio sent a messenger to Dapitan to ask for Rizal’s advice. But the Katipunan plan was denounced as a premature move. Upon hearing the reply, Bonifacio called Rizal a coward.

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This fact led Filipino professor, Renato Constantino, claim that Rizal was not a leader of the Philippine Revolution, but a leading opponent of it.

In the manifesto of 15 December 1896 written by Rizal himself, he said:

“I had no notice at all of what was being planned until the first or second of July, in 1896, when Pio Valenzuela came to see me, saying that an uprising was being arranged. I told him that it was absurd, etc., etc., and he answered me that they could bear no more. I advised him that they should have patience, etc., etc. He added then that he had been sent because they had compassion on my life and that probably it would compromise me. I replied that they should have patience and that if anything happened to me I would then prove my innocence. Besides, said I, don’t consider me, but our country, which is the one that will suffer. I went on to show how absurd was the movement. Then later, Pio Valenzuela testified. -He did not tell me that my name was being used, neither did he suggest that I was its chief, or anything of that sort.”

“Those who testify that I am the chief (which I do not know, nor do I know of having ever treated with them), what proofs do they present of my having accepted this chiefship or that I was in relations with them or with their society? Either they have made use of my name for their own purposes or they have been deceived by others who have. Where is the chief who dictates no order and makes no arrangement, who is not consulted in anything about so important an enterprise until the last moment, and then when he decides against it is disobeyed? Since the seventh of July of 1892 I have entirely ceased political activity. It seems some have wished to avail themselves of my name for their own ends.”

But as we all know, the revolution ensued even Rizal disagreed with it because of the discovery of the Katipunan.

In Conclusion:

Katipunan played a major role in the Philippine’s revolution. And no mention of Katipunan is complete without Bonifacio’s name attached to it.

Katipunan and Bonifacio became synonymous mainly because of the Supremo’s willingness to give his life for his country’s freedom.

But along with Bonifacio, let us not forget the other heroes who fought in the Philippine revolution. All their lives became a sacrifice for their beloved Pearl of the Orient.

And it’s a sacrifice that Filipinos are eternally grateful for.

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Written by Jude Paler

I am a poet with a positive outlook in life and a writer with a purpose in mind. I write to express my thoughts so that others will be inspired.

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