One of the Katipunan founders was my great uncle, Valentin Diaz. He is memorialized with a national heritage marker at his birthplace in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. I’m proud to have a blood relative part of the fight for Philippine independence. — Perry Diaz
by Ambeth Ocampo
from Philippine Daily Inquirer
THE CORNER OF ELCANO AND C. M. RECTO IS a textbook example of urban blight. The streets are muddy and traffic is erratic due to jeepneys, tricycles, pedicabs and pedestrians wonderfully cris-crossing each other while avoiding contact and accident by a few inches.
Every year on July 7, a floral offering is made on this spot led by the mayor of Manila and the chair of the National Historical Commission because in a house that once stood there was founded the Katipunan (short for K.K.K. or the Kataastaasan Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan K.K.K.A.N.B.). The ceremony is short but solemn: the Philippine Navy ceremonial guard don their gala uniforms and perform the honors.
I have participated in this commemoration a number of times before and have learned to look serious and act with gravitas. But this year I had to contain my laughter and merely curled my lips into a smile when I overheard someone with a heavy regional accent refer to the Katipunan as “Ki-ki-ki.”
There have been controversies over the facts on the founding of the Katipunan. Everyone agrees on the date—July 7, 1892—but the books differ on the place. Many books put the site at a house on Azcarraga Street (now C. M. Recto Avenue where, down the road, you can buy bogus diplomas and transcripts). Some books say the Katipunan was founded in a house on Elcano Street. This is easily solved because the place is located on the corner of Azcarraga and Elcano. The only problem is the number, with some sources saying 72 Azcarraga, others 732 Azcarraga, and still others 314 Azcarraga. The pamphlet given out by the National Historical Commission last Wednesday said it was 734 Azcarraga!
To add to the confusion, some sources mistake the founding of the Liga for the Katipunan and claim that it took place in a house on Ilaya Street, Tondo!
Almost everyone agrees that the founding of the Katipunan happened at night, which is why they used candles, but one source claims the founding took place in the afternoon! This illustrates why when you put two or more historians together to discuss a point, you get more than what you bargain for. There are as many histories as there are historians.
We all know that Jose Rizal founded Liga Filipina a few days before in Tondo, but upon his arrest and banishment to Dapitan, the Liga was no more. On July 7, 1892 the Katipunan was born.
What adds to the confusion is the fact that “liga” and “katipunan” mean the same thing except that their goals and methods were different. Teodoro A. Agoncillo’s “Revolt of the Masses” (1956) is the standard work on the subject and he narrated the following:
“The night of the seventh, a handful of men met at No. 72 Azcarraga Street, then occupied by Deodata Arellano, brother-in-law of Marcelo H. del Pilar. The secret conclave was attended by Andres Bonifacio, Deodato Arellano, Valentin Diaz, Teodoro Plata, Ladislao Diwa, Jose Dizon and a few others. It was decided that, in view of the inherent weakness of Rizal’s Liga and the futility of improving the lot of Filipinos through peaceful methods, a secret society should be founded. In the flickering light of the table lamp, the men gathered and performed the ancient blood compact and signed their papers of membership with their own blood. A program was approved in which six important points were brought out: firstly, the establishment of a secret society to be known as Kataastaasan Kagalanggalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Respectable Society of the Sons of the People); secondly, the organization would proceed to win adherents through the method known as the triangle; thirdly, the members were to pay an entrance fee of one real fuerte and a monthly due of a medio real; fourthly, that as soon as sufficient members could be taken in, a balangay or branch was to be established in each district; fifthly, that all efforts were to be exerted toward the fulfillment of the society’s aims; and lastly, that all reforms based on the foregoing were to be agreed upon by all. Climaxing the meeting was the oath taken by the members that they would shed the last drop of their blood for the national solidarity and liberty of the Philippines.”
Despite all the historical hair-splitting, we cannot deny that the Katipunan was founded and the Philippine Revolution began the first step toward liberty. What is often forgotten, however, is that the Katipunan was not just a Manila or even a Luzon-based organization. They had members as far off as Mindanao.
The Katipunan was not just for men. There was a women’s chapter as well whose founding members happened to be Bonifacio’s widow Gregoria de Jesus, and even Josefa, the namesake and younger sister of Jose Rizal.
The Katipunan is more complicated and fascinating than our textbooks make it out to be. If people would take a second look at their history classes, they could make the past relevant to the present.
Monuments are meant to make people remember, and I can only wish that the pedicab drivers, sidewalk vendors and people who walk by the corner of Recto and Elcano will pause to look at the monument and remember the Katipunan.
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