Many years ago, while rummaging through costly books in one popular bookstore, I found for the first time Dr. Onofre Córpuz’s famous work, “The Roots of the Filipino Nation”. I didn’t have money then, so I just leafed through the pages. On page 223 (of volume II), I found a commentary of his about the “Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng̃ mg̃á Anak ng̃ Bayan“, popularly known as the Katipunan. On that page, Córpuz wrote that this time-honored “revolutionary group” was “the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation”.
During that time, I had just reconverted to the Catholic Church (after a couple of years toying around with godlessness and other “isms”). My zeal back then toward the faith of my forefathers was freshly strong, and so I immediately sensed —with much chagrin— that there was something disturbingly wrong with Dr. Córpuz’s assertion. I asked myself, how could someone like him, a giant in the academe, had written something as incomprehensible as the Katipunan embodying a Christian nation when that group was an offshoot of Freemasonry? As many Dan-Brown-educated kids should know by now, Freemasonry is the ancient enemy of the Church. As a Christian student of history, I was deeply intrigued toward the extent of the late Dr. Córpuz’s knowledge about the role of Freemasonry during those tumultuous final years of our country’s history under Spain. But was Dr. Córpuz really unaware of the Katipunan’s Masonic roots as well as its motives? I find it hard to believe that. Or did he leave that fact out conveniently because he was a Freemason himself, or perhaps its sympathizer? But if he was, wouldn’t it still be ridiculous for a Mason like him to say that a violent group who tortured and chopped off the heads of friars just because they were Spaniards embodied the Christian Filipino nation?
To those who are still unaware, Freemasonry has been condemned numerous times by the Catholic Church. To my knowledge, there had been at least 24 papal pronouncements regarding this matter (perhaps the most famous was Pope Leo XIII’s papal encyclical “Humanum Genus” which was released in 1884). As one of the best academicians our country ever had, it strikes me as odd as to why Dr. Córpuz had failed to emphasize the Masonic origins of the Katipunan in that controversial conclusion of his. A little research will show that the Katipunan’s third and final Supremo, Andrés Bonifacio (you read that right: he wasn’t the first), joined the Logia Taliba (No. 165) and from there imbibed his radical and anti-friar ideas. Bonifacio also joined Rizal’s Liga Filipina in 1892. The group was in fact a Masonic lodge in the making (or was it already?). These organizations, not to mention their members, were hardly Christian at all, if we are to view them from Catholic lenses.
National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s famous mural of Andrés Bonifacio leading the Katipunan into battle.
After the failure of the Liga Filipina and the arrest and deportation of Rizal to Dapitan, the campaign for peaceful reforms had hit the glass ceiling. Thus, an agitated and disenchanted Marcelo H. del Pilar, himself a high-ranking Mason and a rabid propagandista who had been on self-exile in Spain for years, wrote to his brother-in-law Deodato Arellano and urged the latter to form a much more radical and violent group to finally end Spain’s reign in Filipinas. Arellano thus gathered other members of the beleaguered Liga to form the Katipunan (yes, it was Arellano, and not Bonifacio, who founded the Katipunan as instigated by del Pilar).
When government forces discovered the existence of the Katipunan in late 1896, what happened next was bloodshed and the senseless killing and torture of innocent Spanish friars and other individuals who went against the Katipuneros’ way. Did ordinary civilians welcome the “revolution” participated in mostly by Tagálogs? No they didn’t. For most Filipinos living far from where the action was, life went on. There was no national sentiment that supported the Katipunan rebellion against Spain (see “One Woman’s Liberating: The Life and Career of Estefanía Aldaba-Lim” by Nick Joaquín).
It should be noted in the preceding paragraph that the Katipunan was discovered by accident. Keep in mind that it was an underground organization. Simply put, the Katipunan was an ILLEGAL ASSOCIATION no matter how hard one tries to paint it with dainty colors of patriotism and love of country. One might say that it had lofty ideals of freedom and nationhood, thus excusing it from illegalities. But so does the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf who try to picture themselves as the martyrs of their delusional Bangsamoro. Should we consider them heroes too?
Mimicking the Katipunan’s belligerence toward lawful society, Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV and his Samahang Magdalo did the same thing twice in the past against the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Should we, therefore, erect monuments to Trillanes as well and consider his rebellious friends as the new Katipuneros? After all, they fought corruption and injustice, didn’t they?
Seeing now that the Katipunan was a bastard child of Freemasonry, the ancient enemy of the Christian religion, how in the world did Dr. Córpuz come up with the idea that the Katipunan was the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation? The Katipuneros made incisions on their arms to sign membership papers using their own blood. They swore loyalty to the Katipunan in front of a human skull. They swore to kill even members of their families for the sake of the Katipunan’s secrecy. Where is Christianity in all that?
This is not to say that Bonifacio was an evil man; only God can judge whether he was or not in spite of the many friars he had shamed and ordered tortured and killed, and churches burned and desecrated. Going beyond the rebellion, we will never know much about his character for he was not as chronicled as Rizal. For all we know, Bonifacio could have been a virtuous man. But that is not the point. Whatever personal distinction he may have had was not the reason why we now have several monuments for him, nor was it the reason why we commemorate his birthday every November 30th.
On 16 February 1921, the Philippine Legislature, under the auspices of US Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison, enacted Act No. 2946 making November 30 of each year a legal holiday to commemorate the birth of Bonifacio. The holiday has since been known as Bonifacio Day, ultimately making the Katipunan a Filipino national hero.
But in view of the foregoing Masonic events surrounding Bonifacio and the Katipunan, especially from the lens of a Christian observer, should a Catholic still consider him a hero?
It is, of course, difficult to accept that Bonifacio should be removed from our pantheon of heroes. After all, we’ve been hearing about him even before we started going to school (I still remember clearly how my dear paternal grandmother —may she rest in peace— was teaching me how to recite that “Andrés Bonifacio / hatapang hatáo” mock poem when I was around three years old so that it would evoke in her a hearty laugh!). But isn’t it about time that we all start to think on our own instead of relying on years of spoon-fed artificial food? You will say, of course, that the Katipunan was formed as a reaction toward Spanish tyranny. But what tyranny to be exact? I’ve been hearing about this tyranny all my life yet no one could still point out accurately what exactly it was all about. What’s always been taught to us are hazy and hasty generalizations. Is there tyranny in the towns that Spain created for us? Was Spain tyrannical when it shipped to our country countless items (tomato, calendar, piano, wheat, books, polo, pantalón, chico, bougainvillea, violin, watermelon, guava, printing press, etc.) and concepts (chivalry, palabra de honor, philosophy, law, land ownership, Western art, age/birthday, Christianity, etc) that have made us what we are today — as Filipinos? We adore old mementos from our past (bahay na bató, traditions, etc.) and decry their dwindling number and alarming disappearance. But such mementos were from the hated Spanish period. So why bother saving and conserving them if they all come from such a tyrannical era?
We all miss our grandfathers who used to bring us to Church on Sundays and carry us on their shoulders so that we’d be able to see saints’ processions from right above a thick crowd; we all miss our grandmothers who never tire praying the rosary day and night. All these are vestiges from that tyrannical period. Why bother missing them at all?
Spain virtually created this country. We wouldn’t be having Luzón, Visayas, and Mindanáo today if not for Spain. What kind of tyranny is that? Numerous tribes (the politically correct will tell me it should be called ethnolinguistic instead) such as the Tagálogs, the Visayans, the Bicolanos, etc. were united under one language (Spanish), under one government, under one faith (Roman Catholicism) so as to keep us one, so that we will no longer be at war against each other. We were given schools (escuelas pías, Universidad de Santo Tomás, etc.). Pray, tell, where is the tyranny in that?
This is not to say that all Spanish officials and even friars during the Empire days were all good and just. No, of course not. But that is not the point. The point here is what untold promises did Freemasonry inspire upon Rizal and del Pilar to rebel, and for Bonifacio and his band of Katipuneros to rise against civil society. “For the sake of freedom”, is the usual answer. But what freedom did violence bring? No wonder the late Fidel Castro was both hated and loved by his people. The support for and against him is heavily polarized to this day.
We have had so much distrust toward our government. From Ferdinand Marcos all the way to President Rodrigo Duterte. Shouldn’t we all follow the Katipuneros of old and organize stealth groups to undermine the present government, all for the sake of freedom?
If I will use the hashtag #NotAHero, it would be appropriate to attach it to that Masonically misled man from Tondo whose birthday we methodically commemorate today, because instead of thinking something that would have truly helped and uplifted the lives of the unfortunate Filipino masses of his time —by establishing something such as the Kadiwa Public Market, for instance— Bonifacio brought instead bloodshed which led not only to his own death but also to the downfall of what Spain had strongly forged for more than three centuries.
And if I may add: no, he was not our country’s first president. Don’t even start with me.
So what makes a hero? ¿Mag-rebelde ca lang, bayani ca na caagád? At capág nasa poder ca at nilabanan mo ang isáng rebelión, ¿masamá ca ná?