The Philippine Revolution

The Katipunan

The Katipunan (meaning "Association") planned and initiated the Philippine Revolution. It was founded in Tondo, Manila, by Andres Bonifacio and a few other fellow urban workers on July 7, 1892. Its full Tagalog name is Kataastaasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan nang manga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Venerated Association of the Sons and Daughters of the Land). From its inception, Katipunan was forged by blood, with all its members enacting the traditional blood compact and signing their names with their own blood. The foremost goal of the Katipunan was political, the separation of the Philippines from Spain. Its members also recognized and performed a civic duty which was mutual assistance and the defense of the poor and the oppressed.


The Katipunan was steered by Bonifacio, who became known as the Supremo (Supreme) of the Katipunan, and he was ably supported by Emilio Jacinto, who emerged as the "Brains of the Katipunan." Philippine historians regard Bonifacio as the "Great Plebeian" because he came from a poor family in Tondo and worked as a warehouse clerk. Despite his poverty, Bonifacio was able to educate himself by reading the works of Rizal and the French revolutionists.

Because of its brotherhood appeal, Katipunan was swift in recruiting members from the peasants and the working class. Philippine historian Reynaldo Ileto points out that the Katipunan belonged to a long tradition of social movements in Philippine history which fortunately have been disparaged and branded by authorities and the elite as "illicit associations" and its members as bandits. Like most of these popular movements, the Katipunan was clothed in millenarianism. In their writings, Bonifacio and Jacinto described the pre-Spanish period as an era of kasaganaan (great abundance) and kaginhawaan (prosperity). The demise of this glorious era was a result of the tyranny of Spanish colonial rule. The Katipunan then envisioned the future as one marked by kalayaan (independence), a state of being where there would once again be liwanag (knowledge) and kasaganaan (prosperity). Kalayaan would mean a return to the pre-Spanish condition of prosperity, bliss, and contentment. But it entailed cutting ties with the colonial mother, Spain, and the birth of a nurturing real mother, Inang Bayan or Motherland, meaning Philippines.

From the start, the Katipunan drew inspiration from Jose Rizal, whose nationalist writings stirred an oppressed nation into action. His two novels, the Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) and the El Filibusterismo (The Subversive), denounced the decadent colonial order presided by the incompetent and abusive colonial officials and the backward and immoral frailocracy. In the 1880s, Jose Rizal and his fellow ilustrados launched the Propaganda Movement in Europe where they vigorously campaigned for the implementation of the much needed reforms in the Philippines. Their failure to force Spain to institute reforms convinced the Katipunan that the call must be for revolution and not reform. In 1892, Bonifacio sought the counsel of Rizal on their planned revolution and the latter cautioned them because of its untimeliness and the people’s unpreparedness.

Events forced Bonifacio and the Katipunan to launched the revolution. On August 23, 1896, the Katipunan was discovered by the Spanish authorities, prompting Bonifacio and the Katipuneros to tear their cedula (identification card), which symbolized their colonial oppression, and to declare in Pugad Lawin the beginning of the Philippine Revolution. The Spanish execution of Rizal on December 30, 1896 further emboldened the religious Filipinos who saw Rizal’s martyrdom as similar to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, i.e., to redeem his people.