Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Written for Bulatlat

1. The decision to adopt the acronym KKK was a radical act. The letter K was not part of the Tagalog alphabet during the time of Rizal and Bonifacio. Since Filipinos at that time were using the Spanish writing system, the letter K was represented by letter C. The Kataastaasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan should have been spelled as Cataastaasan Cagalang-galang na Catipunan or CCC. There were many katipunan groups during the last decade of Spanish rule in the Philippines but what distinguished Bonifacio’s Katipunan was its adoption of the letter K on its name and even on its flags. While Filipino intellectuals were debating the merits of devising a new orthography, Bonifacio already recognized the political value of using the K symbol to propagate the creation of a new government and a new society. Thus, the KKK.

2. Which is correct: Cry of Pugadlawin or Cry of Balintawak? Did it take place on August 23 or 26? Historians are still debating whether it happened in Pugadlawin, Caloocan, Bahay Toro or Balintawak; and there is still no consensus on the exact date of the ‘cry’. But historian Teodoro Agoncillo used his considerable influence to force the government to proclaim that the historic event took place somewhere in Pugadlawin on August 23. What is certain is that a Katipunan gathering took place in the northern suburb of Manila on August 1896 which signaled the start of the armed revolution against Spanish rule. But the first declaration of independence was made by Bonifacio and comrades in Pamitinan cave in Montalban a year earlier.

3. Are these lines familiar to you?

Si Andres Bonifacio, atapang a tao.
A putol a paa, di dadapa
a putol a tenga, di bibingi
a putol a kamay, di papasma
a putol a ulo, di tatakbo
a putol a buho, di kakalbo
a putol a sinturon, di huhubo
a putol a itak, di iiyak
a putol a buhay, di mamamatay

This Putol-Putol poem is purportedly a retelling of how Bonifacio was murdered by Aguinaldo’s troops led by Lazaro Macapagal, the grandfather of Gloria Arroyo. The supremo and his brother were reportedly hacked to death by fellow Katipuneros who used bayonets and bolos.

During the 1935 presidential election, Manuel Quezon accused his rival Aguinaldo of ordering the execution of Bonifacio. So powerful was the propaganda that Aguinaldo even lost in Kawit, Cavite.

On March 22, 1948, Aguinaldo issued a handwritten note admitting that he was responsible for the killing of Bonifacio.

4. This is how Bonifacio and Katipunan prepared to invade the city from the suburbs and mountains: From the vantage point of his rebel base in Montalban, Bonifacio directed his troops to attack Manila from several key locations. From the east, the San Mateo and Marikina forces would attempt to shut down El Deposito in San Juan, which, at that time, controlled Manila’s water supply. From the north, Caloocan and Tondo forces would attack Binondo churches, hospitals, and the telegraph and railway lines. From the south east, Taguig, and Pateros forces would cross the Pasig River, establish a base in the hills of Hagdang Bato (Mandaluyong) and Guadalupe (Makati), and proceed to attack Pandacan and Sta. Ana. From the central suburb, Sampaloc forces would attack Sta Mesa and Quiapo. From the south, Cavite forces led by Aguinaldo would attack Ermita, Luneta, and finally Intramuros. The plan succeeded in overwhelming the Spanish forces but the Cavite contingent failed to show up during the planned uprising.

In the second phase of the revolution, Bonifacio’s idea of establishing a mountain rebel lair was successfully realized in Biak na Bato.

There is a persistent myth that Bonifacio didn’t win a single battle as leader of the Katipunan. But the Nagsabado sa Pasig event (which is still being commemorated up to this day) involving 2,000 Katipuneros who attacked a Spanish cuartel, proves that there were numerous local battles that Bonifacio and Katipunan spearheaded that eventually led to the military defeat of the Spaniards.

5. The Katipunero in front of Vinzons Hall in UP Diliman is not Bonifacio. The UP Oblation is inspired by Bonifacio’s sacrifice for the nation. Gregoria de Jesus, Bonifacio’s widow, was guest of honor during the unveiling of the Oblation monument. Bonifacio was depicted at Monumento (Caloocan) and Liwasang Bonifacio (Lawton) as a fighter who carried a revolver and bolo. Meanwhile, Plaza Bonifacio in Pasig (erected in 1931), is the only Bonifacio marker which honored him as a triumphant revolutionary general riding a horse.

6. Bonifacio was an actor. He was a member of the Samahang Dramatista ng Tundó. He helped establish El Teatro Porvenir. As an artist, he knew how to effectively communicate with and use the language of the masses. Not surprisingly, his poems (Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa, Katapusang Hibik) are rated as among the best in Tagalog literature. Aside from being well-read, Bonifacio had deep knowledge of local narratives like Bernardo Carpio and Florante at Laura, both of which have subversive undertones.

7. It is not only Rizal who is considered the ‘pride of the Malay race’. Tan Malaka, one of Indonesia’s national heroes and founding leaders, recognized the heroism of both Rizal and Bonifacio. He specifically cited the revolutionary legacy of Bonifacio and his influence in sparking the anti-colonial movements across Southeast Asia. Professor Ramon Guillermo translated this quote from Tan Malaka: “Si Bonifacio ang pinakauna, hindi lamang sa Pilipinas, kundi sa buong Indonesia, oo, sa buong Asia na nanggaling sa, at edukado bilang, proletaryado, na nag-organisa ng mga proletaryo.”

8. Was Bonifacio the country’s first president? Some historians believe that the Katipunan had become a de facto open government after August 1896. John Taylor, custodian of the Philippine Insurgent Records, described Bonifacio’s supreme council as the ‘insurgent government of the Philippines.’ An article in the 1897 issue of La Illustracion Espanola y Americana referred to Bonifacio as Presidente de la Republika Tagala.

One Response to “Eight Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Bonifacio and the Katipunan”

  1. Thank you for these little known informations. Need to be propagated. Confronting our past may well guide us understanding our present and inspire us to overcome our weaknesses as a people.

    Beth gonzales

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