Revisit Philippine revolution in a museum

Located at 29 Pinaglabanan Street, Barangay Corazon de Jesus, San Juan City, the Museo ng Katipunan is one of the museums run by the National Historical Commission.

It aims to provide an understanding of the Katipunan (Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng Anak ng Bayan), the movement started by Andres Bonifacio with the objective of the Philippines gaining independence from Spain through uprising. The Museo tells the story of the revolution through exhibits mostly of archival documents, amulets, bladed weapons used by the Katipuneros, including busts, photographs, portraits, paintings depicting scenes from the revolution.

The Katipunan was established by Bonifacio on July 7, 1892. The secret movement grew from 300 to 30,000 members and—judging from the weapons they used during the revolution—most of them were farmers.

“The high-ranking officers of the Katipunan had revolvers, but the majority of the members used whatever was easy to get—gulok, tabak, bolo, kutsilyo, etc. So we could see from these weapons, many Katipuneros came from the farming sector as these tools were used in farming chores,” according to Shiela Marie Miral, shrine guide at Museo ng Katipunan in Pinaglabanan, San Juan City.

On the other hand, weapons used by the well-armed Spanish troops include the Mauser rifle, a single shot rifle that required reloading gunpowder from a horn. Spanish troops also used the saber, a back sword with curved blade made of iron and manufactured in Toledo, Spain.

In addition to knives, the Katipuneros carried with them amulets or anting-anting as a sort of protection against bad things that would come their way. “Emilio Aguinaldo had an anting-anting, and even General Juan Luna, who was not a Katipunero, carried one. Some sources said that Andres Bonifacio believed in amulets,” adds Miral.

Pre-colonial Filipinos believe in the power of amulets, which serve a number of purposes—to ward off evil, make someone fall for you, or bring you luck. Miral says the belief in anting-anting among Filipinos during that time stemmed from acculturation of beliefs.

The anting-anting used by the Katipuneros was a piece of cloth written with orasyon (prayer). “At the center was the infinity de dios or bathala, the highest god among the Tagalogs in pre-colonial times. The orasyon was written in Latin, but not authentic Latin. Historians call them (the words) cryptic Latin or pig Latin—because Filipinos wrote it down based on what they hear rather than on the real meaning.”

Many members of the Katipunan were also masons (the oldest, largest and most widely recognized fraternal organization in the world) and the organization’s influence can be found in Katipunan. For example, the medals worn by the high-ranking officers were symbols taken from the masonry movement.

As the Supremo of the Katipunan, Bonifacio had a medal in the form of a sun with a man’s face and eight rays. Emilio Jacinto (brains of the Katipunan) wore a medal in the shape of an open book pierced by a sword. Pio Valenzuela, fiscal and physician, wore a quarter moon-shaped medal.

“The medal shaped like a key was also popular among Katipunan members. The key was an important symbol in mason as the one holding it was expected to keep and guard a secret”.

As high-ranking officers of the Katipunan wearing these medals, Bonifacio, Jacinto, and Valenzuela formed the secret chamber of the Katipunan. The secret chamber handed out punishment to members who were traitors or sinned against the organization, says Miral.

Miral says Bonifacio was a good organizer and recruiter of members. He was credited for the big rise in the number of the revolutionary movement.

To become a full-fledged member of the Katipunan, one had to undergo a blood compact ritual, which the Katipunan adopted from the traditions of pre colonial Filipinos. Using a dagger, a new member would make a small cut above his arms and use the drawn out blood as ink to sign his name on a document pledging his loyalty to the Katipunan.

“They sign their code name representing a specific symbol. For example, Bonifacio used May Pagasa, while Jacinto used Pinkian.”

Because of factions and power struggles from within the Katipunan, Bonifacio ended up tried and sentenced to die by a military court composed of supporters of Emilio Aguinaldo on May 8, 1897. Two days later, nine months after he led the first battle in San Juan del Monte, Bonifacio was executed in the mountains of Maragondon in Cavite along with his brother.

Raquel P. Gomez
Special Features writer at Philippine Daily Inquirer. She is tasked to write anything under the sun, but certain topics appeal to her personally, like technology, gardening, cooking, food, movies, TV series, heritage and historical areas, and travel. You may email her at