Revolt of the masses? | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

Revolt of the masses?

/ 05:58 AM November 26, 2014

Once upon a time, I sat behind Nick Joaquin during a commemoration of Bonifacio Day at the Liwasang Bonifacio. It was early in the morning and Nick seemed grumpy because he had yet to have his first beer for the day. The mayor of Manila, the vice mayor, and other notables were in formal attire made comic by the Katipunero straw hat and red scarf they were forced to wear. After the anthem and the boring speeches, a series of floral offerings were made that made Nick growl: “Where are the masses?” I looked around and saw that everyone was in their Sunday best. Then Nick shouted: “Where are the masses?”

Remembering this so many years later, I ask myself: Where indeed were the masses?


I was raised on Teodoro Agoncillo’s landmark work “Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan” (1956). But I have also read the unpublished doctoral dissertation of Agoncillo’s protege Milagros C. Guerrero, “Luzon at War: Contradictions in Philippine Society, 1898-1902” (1977), which argues that while the membership of the Katipunan in Manila had many people from the “masses,” elsewhere the social composition was different. If you take the trouble to go through Jim Richardson’s “The Light of Liberty: Documents and Studies of the Katipunan, 1892-1897” (2013), you will find an interesting list of people who were in the area of Balintawak when the “first cry” of the Philippine Revolution was made in 1896. The list drawn from memory by Guillermo Masangkay, in an interview he gave to Bagong Buhay in 1952, is remarkable because he provided an occupation to each name:

Andres Bonifacio was a warehouse employee at Fressel & Co., and earlier in life was a walking-cane and fan maker as well as a calligrapher. Procopio Bonifacio was a railway baggage-master. Emilio Jacinto was a student, Pio Valenzuela a physician. Macario Sakay was a personero or sales agent. Masangkay and Pedro Zabala were kuridor, or someone who does buy and sell. Salustiano Cruz was a master tailor like Bonifacio’s father, Juan Cruz was barber and playwright.


Aguedo del Rosario, Apolonio de la Cruz, Alejandro Santiago, Deogracias Fajardo and Juan Fajardo were all printers. Del Rosario and De la Cruz were printers at Diario de Manila, while Santiago was connected to El Resumen. Tomas Alegre, Pio H. Santos, Patricio Belen, Crispulo Chacon, Lorenzo Martinez and Tomas Villanueva were tobacco workers, with Alegre listed as a master cigar-maker and Santos as a master tobacco worker. Rogelio Baja, Isaac del Carmen and Hilario Sayo were mechanics. Melecio Ruestra and Pastor Santos were draftsmen. Cipriano Pacheco was a clerk and Nicomedes Carreon was a cobrador or debt collector as well as a salesman at Casa Chofre.

Ramon Bernardo was a mechanic but he had once been municipal captain of Pandacan. The only ones in the list with lowly jobs compared to the rest were Miguel Resurreccion, a zacatero or grass or fodder cutter, and Vicente Leyva, a milk seller.

The list made me remember Nick Joaquin’s question during Bonifacio Day: “Where are the masses?” If we are to follow Agoncillo’s revolt-of-the-masses mindset, Estanislao Vargas and Apolonio Samson would be out of place in the Katipunan and the Revolution because they were property owners.

Masangkay’s list has only men, but we know that there was a women’s branch of the Katipunan that included Rizal’s sisters Josefa and Trinidad. Then, of course, there were other women who should be in the list, like Melchora Aquino or Tandang Sora and the most prominent woman in the Katipunan, Bonifacio’s wife Gregoria de Jesus, the Lakambini or muse of the Katipunan.

The most surprising part of Masangkay’s list is that those men who attended the meeting in Balintawak or Pugad Lawin were employees of the Spanish colonial government: Briccio Pantas, assistant to a Court of First Instance judge; Teodoro Plata, clerk in the Mindoro Court of First Instance; Jose Trinidad, clerk in the Tondo Court of First Instance; and Hermogenes Plata a court Clerk.

Tomas Remigio, Pantaleon Torres and Vicente Medina worked in the government treasury, Remigio and Torres as clerks and Medina as caretaker. Enrique Pacheco was a clerk in the city government of Manila. Faustino Manalac was a clerk in the Port of Manila administration, while Calixto Santiago, Restituto Javier and Herminigildo Reyes were customs officials. Valentin Lagasca, Eugenio Santos, Francisco Carreon and Sarhento Marcelo were customs guards, with Lagasca and Santos carrying the rank of sergeant. It is funny that despite his name, Sarhento Marcelo was of lower rank. Cosme Taguyod and Rafael Gutierrez were with the fire department, with Taguyod a lieutenant and Gutierrez a captain.

It is significant that three Katipuneros—Julio Navarrao, Alejandro Andaya and Marcelo Badel—were government secret agents who provided sensitive information to the KKK and misinformed the Spaniards. Roman Reyes and Tito Miguel were employees in the government arsenal. Geronimo Cristobal was an army corporal.


This list may be partial and faulty, but it helps us rethink the black-and-white picture of the Katipunan oversimplified in Agoncillo’s work. History is more complex and colorful than our boring textbooks make it out to be.

* * *

“Fight KKKlub: Rizal and the Katipunan,” my last lecture in the 2014 History Comes Alive series at the Ayala Museum, rolls out on Saturday, Nov. 29, at 3 p.m.

(Comments are welcome at [email protected])

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TAGS: Andres Bonifacio, Katipunan, nick joaquin, Philippine Revolution, teodoro agoncillo
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