On July 7, 1892, upon learning that Dr. Jose P. Rizal was to be deported and that his works were to be banned in the country, a secret council was convened in No. 72 Azcarraga Street. In attendance were Andres Bonifacio, Deodato Arellano, Valentin Diaz, Teodoro Plata, Ladislao Diwa, Jose Dizon, and a few others, all members of La Liga Filipina, a progressive organization founded by Rizal. The men assembled came to the agreement that a revolutionary secret society must be founded, and thus the Kataastaasang Kagalang-Kagalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan was born.
The objectives of the Katipunan, as the brotherhood was popularly known, were threefold: political, moral, and civic. They advocated for freedom from the yoke of Spain, to be achieved through armed struggle. They also saw it as their personal responsibility to help the poor and the oppressed, and to teach them good manners, hygiene, and morality.
New recruits to the secret society underwent a rigorous initiation process, similar to Masonic practices. A neophyte, dressed in black and accompanied by his sponsor, was brought to a small room decorated with patriotic posters (1), in front of a cabinet draped in black. He was then seated at a dimly-lit table, on which rested a bolo (2), a revolver (3), and a set of questions which he must answer to the satisfaction of the members assembled: What was the condition of the Philippines in the early times? What is the condition today? What will be the condition in the future?
The candidate was expected to respond that the Filipinos were once independent, and that the Spaniard colonizers had not improved the conditions of the Philippines, but that soon the Philippines would be free once more. The master of ceremonies would once more try to discourage him by telling him to back down if he does not have enough courage; should he persist, he is led blindfolded into another room for a physical test. The final rites involved the neophyte signing the oath of membership in his own blood, usually drawn from a cut made by a scalpel to the left forearm.
The organizational structure of the Katipunan entailed three ranks of membership, with new members starting out as “katipon,” then moving up to “kawal” and eventually to “bayani.” Members were to pay an entrance fee of one real fuerte, a unit of currency equal to 1/8 of a silver real peso, as well as monthly dues and other fees paid exclusively to the Benefit Fund and collected at every session or meeting.
Though the organizational structure of the Katipunan was constantly in flux, it is generally believed that they formed small branches, governed by the sangguniang balangay, and these small branches would form larger provincial councils, governed by the sangguniang bayan. All these would be overseen by the Supreme Council of the Katipunan (Kataastasang Sanggunian), which was composed of a president (pangulo), secretary (kalihim), fiscal (tagausig), treasurer (tagaingat yaman), and six councilors (kasanguni).
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.
Contrary to popular belief, Andres Bonifacio—though undoubtedly 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), Bonifacio (Comptroller), Ladislao Diwa (Fiscal), Teodoro Plata (Secretary), and Valentin Diaz (Treasurer).
Unsatisfied with Arellano’s performance as Supremo, Bonifacio later had him deposed, and supported the election of Roman Basa as Supremo on February 1, 1893. The Supreme Council was then composed of Basa, Jose Turiano Santiago (Secretary), Bonifacio (Fiscal), and Vicente Molina (Treasurer).
Bonifacio would only become Supremo on January 5, 1894, with Santiago (Secretary), Emilio Jacinto (Fiscal), and Molina (Treasurer). Further reorganization in 1896 led to Jacinto becoming Secretary, and Pio Valenzuela becoming Fiscal.
The Supreme Council in August 1896, prior to 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.
Much discussion surrounds who was actually in Balintawak at the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution in August 1896. Perhaps the closest one can come to a definitive list is based on an interview given by Guillermo Masangkay to the newspaper Bagong Buhay in 1952, almost 60 years after. This was reproduced in Jim Richardson’s site Katipunan: Documents and Studies and have been translated into English from the original mix of Tagalog and Spanish.
- Agoncillo, Teodoro. The Revolt of the Masses. Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 1956.
- Agoncillo, Teodoro A. History of the Filipino People. Quezon City: Garotech Publishing, 1990.
- Kalaw, Teodoro M. The Philippine Revolution. Rizal: Jorge B. Vargas Filipiniana Foundation, 1969.
- Ricarte, Artemio. Memoirs of General Artemio Ricarte. Manila: National Heroes Commission, 1963.
- Richardson, Jim. “Katipunan: Documents and Studies.” Katipunan: Documents and Studies. http://www.kasaysayan-kkk.info/.