The word "Katipunan" comes from the root word "tipon", an indigenous Tagalog word, meaning: "society" or "gather". Its official revolutionary meanings are translated as Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Supreme and Venerable Society of the Children of the Nation). The word were used by Filipino revolutionary rebel leaders. Katipunan is also known by its acronym, KKK (not to be mistaken with the "Ku Klux Klan").
The Katipunan and the Cuerpo de Compromisarios were, effectively, successor organizations of La Liga Filipina, founded by José Rizal. Katipunan founders Andrés Bonifacio, Ladislao Diwa and Teodoro Plata were all members of La Liga and were influenced by the nationalistic ideals of the Propaganda Movement in Spain.
Marcelo H. del Pilar, another leader of the Propaganda Movement in Spain, also influenced the formation of the Katipunan and historians believe he had a direct hand in its organization because of his role in the Propaganda Movement and his eminent position in Philippine Masonry. Most of the founders of the Katipunan were freemasons. The Katipunan had initiation ceremonies that were copied from masonic rites. It also had an order of rank, similar to that of freemasonry. Rizal's Spanish biographer Wenceslao Retaña saw the formation of the Katipunan as Del Pilar's victory over Rizal: La Liga dies, and the Katipunan rises in its place. Del Pilar's plan wins over that of Rizal. Del Pilar and Rizal had the same end, even if each took a different road to it.
Captured Katipunan members (also known as Katipuneros), who were also members of La Liga, revealed to the Spanish colonial authorities that there was a difference of opinion among members of La Liga. One group insisted on La Liga's principle of a peaceful reformation while the other espoused armed revolution.
The revolutionists, led by Bonifacio, Diwa and Plata, decided to form the Katipunan on the day the Spanish colonial government announced Rizal's banishment to Dapitan in Mindanao. Despite their reservations about the peaceable reformation that Rizal espoused, they named Rizal honorary president without his knowledge. Rizal would later be criminally accused of treason for leading the Katipunan although he expressly disapproved of an armed uprising at that time, believing it premature. However, Tito Miguel and Roman Ramos were caught by the Spanish colonial authorities when they stole arms from the Maestranza for the Katipunan.
The Katipunan's real leaders, Diwa, Bonifacio and Plata gathered a few other members of La Liga at a house on Calle Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto Avenue) near Calle Elcaño in Tondo, Manila on July 7, 1892. The meeting was also attended by Deodato Arellano, Valentín Díaz and José Dizon. The men agreed to secretly prepare for an armed revolt which aimed to gain independence from Spain.
Over the next four years, the Katipunan founders would recruit new members. By the time the society was uncovered, the American writer James Le Roy estimated the strength of the Katipunan at 100,000 to 400,000 members. Historian Teodoro Agoncillo estimated that the membership had increased to around 30,000 by 1986. The Ilocano writer Isabelo de los Reyes estimated membership at 15,000 to 50,000.
Aside from Manila, the Katipunan also had sizeable chapters in Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija. There were also smaller chapters in Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan and the Bicol region. The Katipunan founders spent their free time recruiting members. For example, Diwa, who was a clerk at a judicial court, was assigned to the office of a justice of the peace in Pampanga. He initiated members in that province as well as Bulacan, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija. Most of the Katipuneros were plebeian although several wealthy patriots joined the society and submitted themselves to the leadership of Bonifacio.
New recruits underwent the initiation rite three at a time so that no member knew more than two other members of the society. They would be brought to a dark room with black curtains. An admonition was posted at the entrance to the room: If you have strength and valor, you can proceed. If what has brought you here is only curiosity, retire. If you cannot control your passions, retire. Never shall the doors of the Supreme and Venerable Society of the Sons of the People be opened to you.
Inside the candle-lit room, they would be brought to a table adorned with a skull and a bolo. There, they would condemn the abuses of the Spanish government and vow to fight colonial oppression. They would then sign their membership papers in their own blood.
When the Katipunan had expanded to more than a hundred members, Bonaficiao divided the members into three grades: the Katipon (literally: Associate) which is the lowest rank, the Kawal (soldier), and the Bayani (Hero or Patriot). In the meetings of the society, Katipon wore a black hood with a triangle of white ribbon having the letters "Z. Ll. B.", corresponding to the roman "A. ng B.", meaning Anak ng Bayan (Son of the People). Kawal wore a green hood with a triangle having white lines and the letters "Z. LL. B." at the three angles of the triangle, and also wore a green ribbon with a medal with the letter (ka) in Baybayin script above a depiction of a crossed sword and flag. The password was Gom-Bur-Za, taken from the names of the three martyrs Gomez, Burgos and Zamora. Bayani wore a red mask and a sash with green borders, symbolizing courage and hope. The front of the mask had white borders that formed a triangle with three Ks arranged as if occupying the angles of a triangle within a triangle, and with the letters "Z. Ll. B." below. Another password was Rizal. Countersigns enabled members to recognize one another on the street. A member meeting another member placed the palm of his right hand on his breast and, as he passed the other member, he closed the hands to bring the right index finger and thumb together.
Katipon could graduate to Kawal class by bringing several new members into the society. A Kawal could become a Bayani upon being elected an officer of the society.
The central leadership of the Katipunan was the Kataastaasang Sanggunian (or Supreme Council) which administered the provincial councils (called Sangguniang Bayan). The provincial councils in turn administered the Sangguniang Barangay (or popular councils) in their jurisdictions. The society also had a Sangguniang Hukuman (or judicial council) which settled disputes among members.
In 1892, after the Katipunan was founded, the members of the Supreme Council consisted of Arellano as president, Bonifacio as comptroller, Diwa as fiscal, Plata as secretary and Díaz as treasurer.
In 1893, the Supreme Council comprised Ramon Basa as president, Bonifacio as fiscal, José Turiano Santiago as secretary, Vicente Molina as treasurer and Restituto Javier, Briccio Pantas, Teodoro Gonzales, Plata and Diwa as councilors. It was during Basa's term that the society organized a women's auxiliary section. Two of its initial members were Gregoria de Jesus, whom Bonifacio had just married, and Marina Dizon, daughter of José Dizon. It was also in 1893 when Basa and Diwa organized the provincial council of Cavite, which would later be the most successful council of the society.
The Filipino scholar Maximo Kalaw reports that Basa yielded the presidency to Bonifacio, who was then called Supremo, in 1894 because of a dispute over the usefulness of the initiation rites and Bonifacio's handling of the society's funds. Moreover, Basa refused to induct his son into the organization.
It was also in 1894 when Emilio Jacinto, a nephew of Dizon who was studying law at the University of Santo Tomas, joined the Katipunan. He intellectualized the society's aims and formulated the principles of the society as embodied in its primer, called Kartilla. It was written in Tagalog and all recruits were required to commit it to heart before they were initiated. Jacinto would later be called the Brains of the Katipunan.
At the same time, Jacinto also edited Kalayaan (Freedom), the society's official organ, but only two editions of the paper were issued. Kalayaan was published through the printing press of the Spanish newspaper Diario de Manila. This printing press and its workers would later play an important role in the outbreak of the revolution.
That same year, Bonifacio was president of the Supreme Council with Emilio Jacinto as fiscal, Jose Turiano Santiago as secretary, Vicente Molina as treasurer and Pantaleon Torres, Aguedo del Rosario, Doroteo Trinidand and Pio Valenzuela as councilors.
In 1895, Jose Turiano Santiago, a close personal friend of Bonifacio, was expelled because a coded message of the Katipunan fell into the hands of a Spanish priest teaching at the University of Santo Tomas. Since the priest was a friend of Santiago's sister, he and his half-brother Restituto Javier were suspected of betrayal, but the two would remain loyal to the Katipunan and Santiago would even join the Philippine revolutionary forces in the Philippine-American War. Jacinto replaced Santiago as secretary.
The members of the Supreme Council in 1895 were Bonifacio as president, Pio Valenzuela as fiscal, Emilio Jacinto as secretary, Vicente Molina as treasurer and Enrique Pacheco, Pantaleon Torres, Balbino Florentino, Francisco Carreon and Hermenigildo Reyes as councilor
In August 1896, immediately before the discovery of the Katipunan, the fifth and last Supreme Council comprised Bonifacio as president, Emilio 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.
After Valenzuela presented the Katipunan's appeal, however, Rizal vehemently rejected violence, believing it premature. According to Valenzuela's statement to the Spanish authorities, they almost quarreled over the matter and Valenzuela left the following day instead of staying for a month as originally planned. Despite Rizal's rejection, however, the Katipunan was already trying to address its arms supply problem and took steps to smuggle in weapons from abroad. The plan apparently reached an advanced stage because Bonifacio formed a committee of top Katipunan leaders in May 1896 to negotiate with the captain of a Japanese ship, named Kongo, but the talks apparently failed.
Patiño supposedly got into a feud with the press foreman Apolinario de la Cruz, who was also a Katipunero, and De la Cruz tried to blame Patiño for the loss of the printing supplies that were used for Kalayaan. Patinio retaliated by exposing the secret society. Patiño supposedly used his sister to contact the priest, who was her confessor.
Patiño's alleged betrayal has become the standard version of how the revolution broke out in 1896. In the 1920s, however, the Philippine National Library commissioned a group of former Katipuneros to confirm the truth of the story. Jose Turiano Santiago, Bonifacio's close friend who was expelled in 1895, denied the story. He claimed that Bonifacio himself ordered Patiño to divulge the society's existence to hasten the Philippine revolution and preempt any objection from members.
After Patiño's alleged confession, the Spanish raided the printing press on August 18, 1896 and arrested De la Cruz, who was found in possession of a dagger used in Katipunan initiation rites and a list of Katipunan members. The Spanish unleashed a crackdown and arrested dozens of people.
They met again at another place in Balintawak the following day. Historians are still debating whether this event took place at the yard of Melchora Aquino or at the house of her son Juan Ramos. The meeting took place either on August 23 or August 24. It was at this second meeting where the Katipuneros in attendance decided to start the armed uprising and they tore their cedulas (residence certificates and identity papers) as a sign of their commitment to the revolution. The Katipuneros also agreed to attack Manila on August 29.
But Spanish civil guards discovered the meeting and the first battle occurred with the Battle of Pasong Tamo. While the Katipunan initially had the upper hand, the Spanish civil guards turned the fight around. Bonifacio and his men retreated toward Marikina via Balara (now in Quezon City). They then proceeded to San Mateo (in the province now called Rizal) and took the town. The Spanish, however, regained it three days later. After regrouping, the Katipuneros decided not to attack Manila directly but agreed to take the Spanish powder magazine and garrison at San Juan.
On August 30, the Katipunan attacked the 100 Spanish soldiers defending the powder magazine in the Battle of Pinaglabanan. About 153 Katipuneros were killed in the battle, but the Katipunan had to withdraw upon the arrival of Spanish reinforcements. More than 200 were taken prisoner. At about the same time, Katipuneros in other suburban Manila areas, like Caloocan, San Pedro de Tunasan (now Makati City), Pateros and Taguig, rose up in arms. In the afternoon of the same day, the Spanish Gov. Gen. Camilo de Polavieja declared martial law in Manila and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija. The Philippine Revolution had begun.
Even before the discovery of the Katipunan, Rizal applied for a position as doctor in the Spanish army in Cuba in a bid to persuade the Spanish authorities of his loyalty to Spain. His application was accepted and he arrived in Manila to board a ship for Spain in August 1896, shortly before the secret society was exposed. But while Rizal was enroute to Spain, the Katipunan was unmasked and a telegram overtook the steamer at Port Said, recalling him to the Philippines to face charges that he was the mastermind of the uprising. He was later executed by musketry on December 30, 1896 at the field of Bagumbayan (now known as Luneta).
While Rizal was being tried by a military court for treason, the prisoners taken in the Battle of Pinaglabanan -- Sáncho Valenzuela, Ramón Peralta, Modesto Sarmiento, and Eugenio Silvestre -- were executed by musketry on September 6, 1896 at Bagumbayan.
Six days later, they also executed by musketry the Thirteen Martyrs of Cavite at Fort San Felipe Fort in Cavite.
The Spanish colonial authorities also pressed the prosecution of those who were arrested after the raid on the Diario de Manila printing press, where they found evidence incriminating not only common folk but also wealthy Filipino society leaders.
The Bicol Martyrs were executed by musketry on January 4, 1897 at Bagumbayan. They were Manuel Abella, Domingo Abella, priests Inocencio Herrera, Gabriel Prieto and Severino Díaz, Camio Jacob, Tomas Prieto, Florencio Lerma, Macario Valentin, Cornelio Mercado and Mariano Melgarejo.
They arrested and seized the properties of prominent businessmen Francisco Roxas, Telesforo Chuidian and Jacinto Limjap. While there may be circumstantial evidence pointing to Chuidian and Limjap as financiers of the revolution, the record showed no evidence against Roxas except that he was involved in funding the Propaganda Movement. Even Mariano Ponce, another leader of the Propaganda Movement, said the arrest of Roxas was a fatal mistake. Nonetheless, Roxas was found guilty of treason and executed by musketry on January 11, 1897 at Bagumbayan.
Roxas was executed with Numeriano Adriano, José Dizon, Domingo Franco, Moises Salvador, Luis Enciso Villareal, Braulio Rivera, Antonio Salazar, Ramon P. Padilla, Faustino Villaruel and Eustaquio Mañalak. Also executed with the group were Lt. Benedicto Nijaga and Corporal Geronimo Medina, both of the Spanish army.
On February 6, 1897, Apolonio de la Cruz, Roman Basa, Teodoro Plata, Vicente Molina, Hermenegildo de los Reyes, Joes Trinidad, Pedro Nicodemus, Feliciano del Rosarioo, Gervasio Samson and Doroteo Domínguez were also executed by musketry at Bagumbayan.
But the executions, especially Rizal's, only added fuel to the rebellion, with the Katipuneros shouting battle cries: Mabuhay ang Katagalugan! (Long Live Katagalugan!--Katagalugan being the Katipunan term for the Philippines) and Mabuhay si Dr. José Rizal! (Long Live Dr. José Rizal!). To the Katipuneros, Jose Rizal is the Honorary President of the Katipunan.
At a convention in Tejeros, Cavite, the revolutionaries assembled to form a revolutionary government. There, Bonifacio lost his bid for the presidency of the revolutionary government to Emilio Aguinaldo and instead was elected Secretary of the Interior. When members of the Magdalo faction tried to discredit him as uneducated and unfit for the position, Bonifacio declared the results of the convention as null and void, speaking as the Supremo of the Katipunan. Bonifacio was later arrested upon orders of Gen. Aguinaldo and executed on May 10, 1897. Thus ended the existence of the Katipunan, replaced by Aguinaldo's revolutionary government.