Monday, June 27, 2011

On the Trail of Rizal's Relation with the Katipunan

Rizal's Stance?

Primary sources and established facts point out clearly that José Rizal disowned the 1896 Revolution led by Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan.  In his manifesto to the Filipino people written during his trial he wrote:
"On my return from Spain, I learned that my name had been used as a war cry among some who were in arms". ....

Then he wrote further: "From the beginning, when I had news of what was being planned, I opposed it, fought it, and demonstrated its absolute impossibility. this is the truth, and there are living witnesses of my words. I was convinced that the idea (the revolution) was highly absurd and what was worse, would bring suffering. I did more. When later, in spite of my counsels, the movement broke out. I spontaneously offered not only my services but my life and even my name to be used in any manner
thought opportune in order to suppress the rebellion.

Finally ending with this words: "Holding this ideas, I cannot do less than to condemn, and I do condemn, this absurd and savage rebellion, plotted behind my back, which dishonors the Filipinos and discredits those who could can be our advocates. I abhor this criminal activities and reject any manner of participation in them, condoling with all heartfelt sadness with those who have been unwary enough to have been fooled. Return then, to your homes, and may God forgive those who have acted in bad faith."

The said manifesto was never published. The Spanish Judge Advocate General recommended to Governor Polavieja to suppressed it. Many historians believes that Rizal was saved from shame of his manifesto being misinterpreted and disobeyed by the Filipinos in arms.

In his defense against charges of his association with the Katipunan Rizal pointed out to the court: "I know nothing of the Katipunan and have had no relations or correspondence with them. I do not know Andres Bonifacio, even by name...
Further on with his defense:"I have absolutely nothing to do with politics from the 6th July 1892 until the 1st of July 1896  when I was informed by Pio Velenzuela that an uprising would be attempted, I advised against it and tried to reason him out of it.

Andres Bonifacio

Flashback: Before 1896

On 3rd July 1892, a week after his return from Hong Kong, Jose Rizal founded the "Liga Filipina." It was inaugurated  that July night at No.176 Ilaya , Tondo Manila with  Ambrosio Salvador elected as President, Agustin de la Rosa, Fiscal; Bonifacio Arevalo, Treasurer: and Deodato Arellano, Secretary. On that same event, Rizal also met prominent patriots, members of the newly formed "Liga", who would later then play a big role in our history. Patriots like Apolinario Mabini, Andres Bonifacio, Pedro Serrano Laktaw, Timoteo Paez etc. The aims of the "Liga Filipina" were:

  1. To unite the whole archipelago into one compact and homogeneous body.
  2.Mutual protection in every want and necessity.
  3. Defense against all violence and injustice.
  4. Encouragement of instruction, agriculture and commerce
  5. Study and application of reforms.

Four days after the founding of the "Liga Filipina",  Rizal was arrested then deported to Dapitan. His deportation, signaled the end of the moderate path.  It was the start of the belief in arm struggle. On that same day, in a secret conclave Andres Bonifacio and  his colleagues in the beleaguered "Liga ", founded the Kataastaasan Kagalangalangan Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or simply, Katipunan. It was a more radical group for it's main  objective was the independence of the whole archipelago through armed struggle; Revolution.
Bonifacio's Banner

 One perhaps could not think of a better Tagalog word to translate the Spanish "La Liga",  one word fits: Katipunan

The secret society grew from day to day. But even in exile José Rizal played a prominent role at least in it's rituals and daily practices. Teodoro Agoncillo in his book "The revolt of the Masses" wrote "In studying the method, procedure, structure of the Katipunan, one is inevitably moved to the conclusion that the society, such as it was, drew its inspiration from Masonry in matters of initiation rites and partly from Rizal's La Liga Filipina in matters affecting structures."

Rizal name was a Katipunan pass word and a battle cry. His pictures adorned most of it's secret conclave. To simply state it: José Rizal was the living inspiration of the Katipunan.

Never Knew or heard the Katipunan before?

When was the first time Rizal heard the existence of this secret society? (A society that was  becoming from day to day, evident even to the Spanish authorities) If he ever heard the word "Katipunan" did it  came to him that it was somehow  almost a perfect translation to the word Liga? Was he too busy with exile and with Josephine Bracken not to bother?

The Women's Chapter of the Katipunan (A Clear Evidence?)

Josefa Rizal
Again in Teodoro Agoncillo's "The Revolt of the Masses: "Prominent women in various communities were initiated in the Katipunan in the mid 1893. Among these women were Josefa Rizal (sister of Jose Rizal) and Angelica Rizal Lopez.(niece). Both women subsequently became officers of the women's chapter. Josefa Rizal was President  while Angelica Rizal Lopez was Fiscal."    Agoncillo  in quoting the memoirs of Gregoria de Jesus, also mentioned the Katipunan wedding rites of Andres Bonifacio  and Gregoria de Jesus whereby officer- members of the secret society was in attendance among them were Trinidad and Josefa Rizal. Relying on this sources, can it be speculated that there were substantial contacts between the Rizal sisters and the Katipunan before the revolution? Could it be that Jose Rizal had foreknowledge of the existence of the Katipunan long before that fateful meeting with Pio Valenzuela in Dapitan mid July of 1896? It is highly improbable that with his stature, Rizal would not be consulted by his sisters about the existence of the Katipunan. Perhaps Rizal was too busy to listen to them or maybe they did not mentioned it at all? Which is very remote. Rizal's reputation was so big for his family to be ignored. It is unthinkable that they did not even consulted him about this secret society.

And when Pio Velenzuela consulted Rizal in Dapitan, he came on the same ship which Trinidad took, coincidence?

Trinidad Rizal

A Family Oppressed

If there was a family in 19th century Philippines  who we can say really suffered under the yoke of the friars and a dysfunctional colonial system then it would have to be the Mercado-Rizal family of Calamba Laguna.

Starting with matriarch Doña Teodora Alonzo,  who was arrested on malicious charges of attempting to poison  her brother's wife, She was ordered to walk from Calamba to to the provincial capital of Santa Cruz, a distance of 50 km. She was then imprisoned in the capital for almost 2 and a half years.

Then there was the Calamba land row in the 1890's, were the Rizals and other families of the town were forcibly evicted from their homes and from the land they were tilling by the Spanish authorities acting on the request of the alleged owner of the estate, the Domnicans. Paciano and two brothers in law were exiled to Mindoro another was banished in Bohol. Doña Teodora and sisters Josefa and Trinidad was then summoned by the authorities. And for the second time Doña Teodora was a victim of another absurd accusation. She was charged of declaring her name improperly. The authorities pointed out that she should declare herself as Teodora Realonda y Rizal and not the mere Teadora Alonso. For the second time the mother of Rizal,  by that time aged  64 and almost blind, was forced again to walk the whole afternoon going to Santa Cruz,  with a daughter guiding her steps.

Who would not turn radical with this injustice? Who would not find the Katipunan unattractive?  Do the he women of the Rizal family saw the Katipunan as a means to gain justice to the wrongs done to them?  Revenge?

Jose Rizal in Survival Mode

The defense of Rizal, including his denial of the Katipunan, was the time when Rizal was fighting for his own survival . What went into his mind? Somehow there could be this thought of trying to evade death, to stay alive and fight another day. Did he already knew the existence of the Katipunan long before that meeting with Pio Valenzuela and  that he discouraged the armed struggle, not because he was against it completely but because it was simply premature?

He still held two options in his mind. First , was reform through negotiation and positive action. The last option; Revolution. It was too late to realize that he has no option after all.  From the very beginning,  events would actually find a way to resolve itself.

Overtaken by Event. Devoured by Saturn

Overtaken by the events, overtaken by the revolution,  that's how one can describe  Rizal during his last days. Pondering upon it deeper it was not only Rizal who was overtaken by the events.  Everybody involved in this history were overtaken. Bonifacio, the Katipunan, the Rizal Family, the entire country. The idea that Rizal spread, the inspiration of 1872 etc.,  was like a wildfire that went out of control. The changes Rizal dreamed of, the kind of revolution he wished had acquired a different face.

Goya's opus "Saturn devouring his children"

 Like that  painting of Spanish artist Francisco de Goya "Saturn devouring his Children", one by one the children of the revolution were devoured. Rizal was one of the first victims. Bonifacio would follow others would be swallowed. Same was true with the Katipunan as an organization itself.

Uncommon Silence

Did Rizal rectify the issues about him and the Katipunan? Perhaps he did. Before his execution he stacked his shoes and maybe also his clothes with papers and with messages. One of those those could be another manifesto supporting the revolution?  We will never know.

Days after the execution the Rizal family retrieved a piece of paper inside Rizal's gas burner. It was a verse, his swan song, the poem now known as "Ultimo Adios. The first who got hold of a copy were the Katipuneros, sent to them by the Rizals.

Paciano- Older brother of Jose Rizal
Rizal and the Katipunan,  leads also  to one personality, Paciano Rizal,  perhaps the person who knew more. It was Paciano during his early association with father Burgos who opened the sensibilities of the young Rizal towards socio- political issues, like the events of the Cavite Mutiny of 1872. Brothers are said to have made a mutual pledge, that Jose Rizal would continue his studies for the redemption of the country. It was Paciano who sent his brother Jose to Spain. It was Paciano who guided him trough in his studies.(Even deciding the best school for his younger brother) Paciano was the the leader of the Calamba tenants who challenged the Dominicans. Paciano was tortured and questioned by the authorities about his brother's association with the Katipunan. He was also the one who discouraged the planed rescue of Rizal by the Katipunan.

 Paciano was the "hidden Katipunero" of the family, (even reached the rank of General). Judging from the command he had among it's leaders one could not help conclude that he had long association with them, perhaps longer than we thought.

 But after the revolution and America took over. Paciano became silent. It was said that he never talked  about his younger brother ever again. Why the uncommon silence? Something heavy to bear?


Rizal the enigma, despite all the contradictions we see, he still looms larger and ever, a beacon. Truly the Laong Laan and the Dimas Alang that he wished to be.

 In the end, whether he had foreknowledge of the Katipunan or whether he supported it or not, Rizal would still be the foremost Filipino, a hero for the ages.

Rizal Monument, Manila


  1. kung sakaling nakinig sila kay rizal, di magsisimula ang rebolusyon at tatagal ang paghihirap ng pinoy sa kamay ng kastila.
    umaasa si rizal sa katuwiran at mapakingan ang hinaing ng mga indios. bibitiwan ba ng espanya ang ganzang umiitlong ng ginto ?
    sadyang nasa linya tayong sa mga bibiktimahin ng kastila, pagtapos kano naman. ilan besis tayong niloko, pero kapit tuko pa rin sa kano.
    mas maraming karapatan ang kano keysa sa pinoy sa pilipinas noon. mabilis lang tayong makalimut
    kailan tayong maninidigan ? para sa atin sarili at kababayan ?

  2. Hi "Town Fiddler"
    I wish to congratulate you on your well-thought out blogs--particularly this one, which I've come across only just now. I wonder if you've heard of my book, A NATION ABORTED: RIZAL, AMERICAN HEGEMONY AND PHILIPPINE NATIONALISM (1999; rev. 2nd ed. 2008? Chapters 1 and 2 of my book discuss in detail (using all relevant archival documentation) the very topic you're discussing here. Perhaps you might want to correspond with me (we share the same interest in history, particularly Rizal). I'm on facebook, and my email is All the best, Floro Quibuyen