Rizal's Secret Support of the Katipunan

(Originally published under the title, "Rizal and the Myth of the Golden Pancake")

by Rosalinda N. Olsen

Contributed to Bulatlat © 2007 Bulatlat / Alipato Publications

José Rizal Andres Bonifacio

        Rosalinda N. Olsen




Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.

To contact the author: valkyrie47no@yahoo.com

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Some issues just can’t be laid to rest even when these have been declared as settled by experts and renowned scholars.  Many of these revolve around the events of 1896, particularly those concerning José Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. A document worth analyzing is an undated letter of Bonifacio to Emilio Jacinto that could have been written around March-April, 1897.  Temporarily setting aside questions of authenticity, what does the following paragraph signify?

Ang ating mga kapatid dito ay nakatanggap buhat sa “Hongkong” sa isang “namatay” na M. Dimas Alang na ipinadala ng kaniyang pinsan na naninirahan doon na nag pahayag ng pagdating ng dalawa nating sugo Jocson at Alehandrino; at kanilang nagawa (ng dalawang ito) na makapagpakita ng poder; at gayun din naman walang pitak na natangap doon na dahil dito’y kanilang ginugol ang salaping nalalagak doon ni Rizal at humihingi tuloy ng poder at salapi. (bold highlight supplied by author)

(English translation) The brethren here have received from the “deceased” (namatay) “Sr. Dimas-lang” (M. Dimasalang) a letter from “Hongkong” (Hong Kong), sent by a cousin of his who resides there, reporting the arrival of our two messengers “Jocson and Alejandrino” (Jocson at si Alehandrino); that both are unable to show any “power” (poder); also, that no “silver” (pilak) has been received there and that for this reason they used the “money deposited” (salaping nalalagak) there by Rizal and asked, besides, for power and money” (Rizal at humihinji tuloy nk poder at salapi.)

The word “nalalagak” has two meanings.  One meaning, which is the most commonly used, refers to money deposited in a bank; the other meaning refers to money or valuables placed in the safekeeping of a trusted person.  “Rizal” in both the Tagalog and the English version clearly meant José, not Paciano or any of the two Rizal sisters who were active members of the Katipunan.  Obviously, there was only one “Rizal” for Bonifacio and that was José, as Bonifacio used in the rest of that letter (and other writings) “G. Paciano” or simply “Paciano” when referring to José’s elder brother.  We shall not argue, for now, what was Rizal’s purpose in depositing that money in Hong Kong because the big question is, how and why was that money accessible to Bonifacio and the Katipunan?

Was Rizal secretly aiding the Katipunan while on the other hand writing and issuing disclaimers that distance him from the 1896 revolution?  That Rizal was unjustly shot at Bagumbayan for his alleged revolutionary activities is generally accepted.  Was Rizal innocent as proven by his Manifesto of 15 December 1896 and his public denials that, among other things, denounced the revolution as barbarous and ill-timed?  At his trial, Rizal denied any connection with the Katipunan’s revolutionary activities.  Did Rizal lie at his own trial?  Remember that Rizal was a master of semantics and adept in Thomistic philosphy (mostly based on Aristotle’s principles of logic) which includes the principle of mental reservation. 

One example of mental reservation that my high school teachers drummed into our heads was:  It is not a lie when you reply to a person borrowing money from you that you have no money, because what you mean is you have no money that you are willing to lend to the borrower.  More compelling than the use of mental reservation, however, is that the 1896 revolution literally created a “state of war.”  Hence, the only correct and moral thing to do for one who is captured by the enemy is to lie when interrogated.  To tell the truth in that case is to betray one’s country and his countrymen who were risking their lives to win freedom.  So did Rizal lie?  I most certainly think that he did.

It should not be too difficult to conceive of a Rizal lying to anyone if we forget even for just a little while the “sainted” Rizal that his ardent admirers have fashioned, complete with a golden pancake over his head (i.e., the golden halo of sanctity).  It will also be quite easy to understand why Rizal could lie at his own trial if we do not completely rely only on the words of scholars and historians who write and speak with such authority by virtue of their small golden pancakes conferred by the academe.  Let us, to quote Rizal again, “use our own torch.”

A few days before leaving Hong Kong to return to the Philippines, Rizal wrote two letters that he left with his friend Dr. Lorenzo Marquez with the instructions, “To be opened after my death.”  One letter was addressed to his parents, brother, sisters, and friends; the other was addressed simply “To the Filipinos.” Both letters, written on June 20, 1892, were closely similar in content, particularly Rizal’s conviction that his death will free his family and his countrymen from unjust persecution.  Compare the content and intent of these lines.

In the letter to his family, Rizal wrote, “’A man ought to die for his duty and his convictions. I hold to all the ideas which I have published concerning the state and future of my country, and I shall die willingly for her, and even more willingly to procure justice and tranquility for you all.” 

Like an echo from the first letter, Rizal wrote in the letter addressed to his countrymen, “I desire, furthermore, to let those who deny our patriotism, see that we know how to die for our duty and for our convictions. What matters death if one dies for what he loves, for his motherland, and the beings he adores?”  However, there was a line in the second letter that is both curious and revealing; he wrote, “I know that almost everybody is against it; but I know also that almost nobody knows what is going on in my heart.”  The “it” refers to his decision to go back to the Philippines despite the certainty that he will be arrested as soon as he arrives. 

That Rizal believed “almost nobody knows” what is in his heart should give pause to those who claim they understand the man.

About three weeks after he wrote those two letters, Rizal had his last interview with Governor-General Eulogio Despujol who ordered him arrested and jailed in Intramuros.  Less than a week later, on July 15, Rizal was aboard the S.S. Cebu on his way to exile in Dapitan where he was to spend what he described as four very happy years of his life.  His exile did not mean isolation, far from it.  He had a constant flow of guests, neighbours, pupils and patients needing treatment for eye ailments. There was also Josephine Bracken, his dulce estrangera (sweet foreigner), and members of his family who visited and stayed for some days (even weeks maybe).  In one of his letters to his good friend, Ferdinand Blumentritt, Rizal described how he took short trips in his baroto.  He was in exile but he was neither alone nor denied communication with the world outside Dapitan. Rizal was, in fact, quite free. One might even venture to say that Rizal felt happy to be far from the madding crowd. Thus, it is highly unlikely, as Pio Valenzuela’s testimony would have us believe, that the first time Rizal heard of the Katipunan was through his conversation with Valenzuela on June 21, 1896. 

Knowing his closeness to his brother Paciano who was an active member of the Katipunan, we cannot discount the possibility that the two had talked about the secret revolutionary society.  Now, let us imagine what the relationship between Rizal and Bonifacio could have been. Not even the worst critic of Bonifacio can deny that “the great plebian” held Rizal in highest esteem; the man was Bonifacio’s idol!  Nothing could have prevented Bonifacio from doing everything within his power to meet his idol, talk with him, and even discuss the subject closest to their hearts—the redemption of their beloved Inang Bayan (mother country).  It would have been unnatural if they did not meet. They must have met, not just once or twice, but more likely, several times.  From 1892 to the first cry of the Katipuneros at Balintawak in August 1896 are four years during which the “money deposited by Rizal” in Hong Kong was made accessible to Bonifacio. 

Perhaps we shall never know if and to what extent Rizal aided the Katipunan.  There are not enough documents that could provide sufficient evidence.  But there are Rizal’s two novels, his three long essays, his voluminous correspondence, the kundimans (native love songs) he composed, and last but not the least, the character of the man himself who had made it his life’s goal to work for the freedom of his country. 

There are not enough documents because those brought forward, which could have shed light on many unanswered questions, were censored or were discredited as fake or figments of the imagination.  One such document is the memoirs of Gen. Artemio Ricarte, the only high-ranking Katipunan official who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the American flag. Ricarte’s memoirs, written in beautiful Tagalog prose, was published in Yokohama in 1927 with the title Himagsikan ng mga Pilipino Laban sa Kastila (Revolt of the Filipinos Against the Spaniards).  In his Preface to Ricarte’s book, Austin Craig described how both the Filipino and the American authorities confiscated Katipunan documents in the possession of private persons and how then U.S. President William Howard Taft ordered the destruction of the printing materials for the publication of Apolinario Mabini’s account of the revolution and those collected by Capt. John B. M. Taylor. The reason stated was that such documents would impinge, even damage, the honor of persons still living. Although Craig did not name Aguinaldo as among “those persons still living,” he made a wry comment on the veracity of Aguinaldo’s short book titled True Version of the Philippine Revolution.  Craig wrote:

“Ang pagtatanggol ni Aguinaldo ay lumabas sa Tanay na (Ulat Relacion verdadera) na napalathala nang malaganap sa mga unang araw ng Republika Pilipina, lalo na sa Amerika. Ito'y sinulat dahil sa magiging bisa sa politika, at ang sumulat noon kung sa ngayon, ay di makapangangahas marahil na manindigan sa lahat ng kanyang pinagsabi sa lathalang yaon.

(English translation) Aguinaldo’s arguments were published in the first days of the Philippine Republic under American rule. This was written for political effect and the one who wrote it therefore perhaps cannot take the risk of standing by whatever he has written.

While we cannot yet totally accept Ricarte’s memoirs as factual until his account has been thoroughly compared with those written by his contemporaries, the book is still worth reading because it is a valuable gem of Filipino literature in Tagalog.  Ricarte has that indefinable quality of perceiving reality in varied tones and texture because of his keen sense of the comic and the absurd.  It is very tempting to discuss even a few of Ricarte’s disclosures that directly counter what has been written on “1896”. Even so, it should be mentioned now that Ricarte clarified what the two parties of the Katipunan, the Magdalo and the Magdiwang, actually were. Those were not factions of the Katipunan in Cavite, with implications of internal strife and rivalry. They were actually administrative units.  Magdalo and Magdiwang were two of the names assigned by the Katipunan to towns in Cavite which consisted of 22 towns, in the same way that a nom de guerre or “pamagat” (in Ricarte’s Tagalog terminology) was assigned to Katipuneros for security reasons.   Here are several of the equivalents:

Spanish-given Name Pamagat
Noveleta Magdiwang
San Francisco de Malabon Mapagtiis
Rosario Salinas
Santa Cruz de Malabon Pangwagi
Naic Magwagi
Maragondon Magtagumpay
Ternate Katwata, (sa huli)
Indan Walangtinag
Alfonso Naghapay (kay Alfonso)
Cavite del Viejo Magdalo (2)
Imus Haligue (2)
Bacoor Gargano (2)
Perez Dasmariñas Magpuri (2)
Silang Bagongsinag (2)
Amadeo Maypagibig


As the Katipunan grew in membership and more towns were captured from the Spanish, Magdalo and Magdiwang became the Dalawang Sangguniang-Lalawigan (Two Provincial Councils). The Magdalo provincial council (at Kawit) held and administered the towns marked with (2) while the Magdiwang (at Noveleta) held the rest of the “liberated” towns.  It is interesting to note that the administrative structure of the Katipunan was patterned after principles of the La Liga Filipina. While it may sound outrageous to suggest that the Katipunan was literally the “military arm” of the La Liga Filipina, it may not be too far-fetched, considering that many surviving patriots of “1896” wrote in their memoirs that they were members of the La Liga Filipina but not of the Katipunan. Although the Katipunan was “dissolved” when Aguinaldo’s revolutionary movement was established, many patriots like Mariano Alvarez and Julio Nakpil continued to refer to themselves as Katipuneros and remained faithful to the ideals of Bonifacio and his Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan.

Tempting as it is to include here the juiciest morsels in Ricarte’s memoirs, it would not do justice to that book which, I am convinced, should have a high place in Philippine literature. The Ricarte memoirs deserves an article all its own. Posted by Bulatlat


(Copy of the undated later of Bonifacio to Jacinto in tagalog version)



Sumakamay kong lahat ang ipinadala mong sulat na kasama sampu ng salapi, poder at salitre na lubos na ikinatuwa ng ating mga kapatid na tumitingin ng utang na loob dahil sa iyong ipinadala na kailangan sa pakikilaban, at gayon din naman ang sinasabi mong tulong na iyong naibigay.

Ang mga sigalot na iyong binangit na nangyari sa Maynila dahil sa pamahayag ng mga carabinero at mga ingeniero ay lubos na nakatulong sa mga kapatid natin dito; gayun man ang ating mga kalaban ay hindi nabawasan at ang buong bayan ay nasa panganib pang kasalukuyan, at ang ipinamamanhik namin na huag kayong mag papabaya diyan at kami naman ay di magtutugot hangat hindi namin naililigtas ang mga bayan na kanilang naagaw sa amin, katulad ng iyong nalalaman na.

Kinakailangan ninyong malikon na lahat ang mga baril na nariyan kasakdalang iyong bayaran, nguni't kinakailangang maguing aring tunay ng samahan at ng magkaroon tayo ng tunay na hukbong panlaban. Kung maisagawa ninyo ang bagay na ito ay maguiguing madali ang paglusob sa mga bayan; pagtibayin natin ang ating mga tangulan at kuta doon sa isang paraan ika paghihirap ng kalaban ang paglusob sa nasabing pook.

Kakailanganin ang pagsakop sa mga bayan sapagka't ang bagay na ito'y magbibigay sa atin ng sapat na panahon na makapaghanda sa lalong ika gagaling sa pagawa ng taguan ng mga armas na maguiguing laguing nakahanda sa lahat ng pagkakataon; tangi pa sa magbibigay sa atin ng kalayaan sa ating mga kaaway kundi magkakagayo'y malalaban tayo ng walang nakahandang armas.

Gayun din naman tumanggap ako ng sulat na nangaling sa ating kapatid na Mrgl. Rogelio na doo'y humihingi ng mga kasangkapan at mga may sapat na kaalaman na gumawa ng mga cartucho ng pulbura. Matagal ko ng nasa isip ang bagay na ito kaya't aking ipinahanda ang mga kasangkapan at kasabay ang ipinadala ko sa inyo riyan na mga mangagawa.

Dito'y kapus kami ng mga cartucho sapagka't nabatid naman din na ito'y ating nagagamit; kaya't kanilang ipadala sa amin. Tatangap kayo na kalakip nito ng maraming cartucho na pagkaraan sa Nobeleta ay madaragdagan at maguiguing 1,000 sa halip na 500.

Ang ating mga kapatid dito ay nakatangap buhat sa "Hongkong" sa isang "namatay" na M. Dimas Alang na ipinadala ng kaniyang pinsan na naininirahan doon na nag pahayag ng pagdating ng dalawa nating sugo Jocson at Alehandrino; at kanilang nagawa (ng dalawang ito) na makapagpakita ng poder; at gayun din naman walang pitak na natangap doon na dahil dito'y kanilang ginugol ang salaping nalalagak doon ni Rizal at humihingi tuloy ng poder at salapi.

Ito'y nakamangha sa mga kapatid ng Magdiwang sapagka't lahat ng kanilang hiningi ay naipadala doon nguni't hindi nila malaman kung bakit ito'y hindi sumapit sa kinauukulan. Sila'y nag hihinala ng pagkakaroon ng isang hiwaga sa dako ng mga kapatid na taga Magdalo kundi man ng ating mga inutusan doon; at dahil nga sa bagay na ito, ang mga kapatid na Magdiwang, kasama ang atin doon ay siyang mag babayad ng lahat at hindi na nila papakikialamin ang mga taga Magdiwang.

Ang poder ay ipadadala ko upang malagdaan ninyo ng kapatid na Nakpil; ang poder ay guinawa sa ngalan ng Komite na itinatag doon, kagaya ng hinihingi sa sulat. At sa gayo'y labis ang aming pagasa na makakukuha ng armas sa lalung madaling panahon; at ito'y inaasahan ng kababayang M. Pasiano sa pinagkasunduang aahunan.

Ang mga marunong mag-akma ng balatek na hinihingi mo ay naipatawag ko na sa Marigondo'g nguni't hindi pa sila dumarating. Pag dating nila ay papaparoonin ko sa iyo.

Sa una kong sagot sa iyong sulat ay nakaligtaan ko ang itinatanong tungkol kay V. Fernandez. Kagaya ng nalalama siya'y nakagawa ng malaking pagkakasala sa mga kababayan, sa samahan at sa atin; kaya't ako'y umaasa na iuukol mo sa kanya doon ang nararapat na kaparusahan. Inaakala kong siya'y taga subok doon ng mga maingiting taga Magdalo, at ng maupatan diyan ating mga tao at maipasok dito ang mga armas. Ng umalis dito ang isa M. Natibidad, na sa akala ko ay tinungkulan una umupat sa sa mga tao ay dumating diyan at kinailangan mag patuloy kayo na may kahinahunan at pakitungalian siya ng naaayon sa utos ng katalinuhan.

Dito'y lalong malaki ang pagkakaalit ng dalawang Sb sapagkat hinihiling ng mga taga Magdalo ang mamanihala sa buong Katagalugan; wala silang sinasabi kundi ang gobierno ng Imus na kinikilala doon at sa buong Europa man.

Yto'y nangyari may tatlong araw na ang nakararaan sa naparoon sa Malabon na kasama si P. Dandan na isa sa kanilang kasama.

Yto ang pamahalaang kanilang itinatag dito: Pangulo at Pungong General "Magdalo"; Director ng Gawaing Militar "Baldomero" at ang sa Magdiwang ay maguiguing Pangalawang Director o Pangalawang Ministro.

Ykinapuot ng Ministro ng Magdiwang ang balak na ito na nakikita sa kanilang politica na kung napipili ang Imus sila'y namamahala dito sa Malabo. Ang pagkagahaman ng Magdalo ay totoong nakasusuklam at naguing dahilan ng maraming kabiguan.

Dito'y may pagawaan ng armas at lalung mabubuting canonang niyayari kay sa kabila na hindi nangangailangan ng lusawan; isang taga Maynila ang marunong gumawa nito.Maghanap ka ng bronse diyan at kita'y padadalhan ng canon at lantaka sa lalung madaling panahon.

Ang iyong verso ay naisalin na ni Binong nguni't hindi pa nalilimbag dahil sa kakulangan ng mga tipong Kastila. Hindi nailalabas ang zarsuela ni Nakpil sapagka't hindi nagtingil ang labanan na hindi magbigay ng kapahingahan sa amin.

Hindi pa ako makababalik diyan sapagka't hinihintay ko ang pag dating ng ating mga armas upang makuha ang ganang sa atin kahit iyon lamang na dinala dito ni Luciano, na hindi naialis dito sapagka't ito'y kailangan.

Si Luciano ay malakas na at maaari ng makalakad; nasa kaniya pang pag iingat ang kaniyang armas at hindi ko kinukuha. Sa mga dala nito ay tatangapin mo ang Mauser; ingatan mo sanang mabuti sapagka't ito ang unang armas na ginamit natin sa pakikilaban. 

Sampung piso lamang ang naipadala sa iyong ina; ang nalalabi'y ginamit sa pangangailangan dito. Kinakailangan padalhan mo pa ako upang maibigay na gratificacion sa gumawa ng canon at iba pang mga kasangkapan katulad ng busog at iba pa. Binayaran ko ang mga nagugol ng may dala nito at ng mga pamilya ng mangagawa ng mga cartucho.

Tungkol naman sa kapatid kong si Ciriaco, siya ang may dala ng lahat ng iyong ipadadala dito at hindi siya maaaring umalis dito ngayon. Kung tungkol naman sa aking sinomang mangahas na gumamit ng pangalan ko sa mga bagay na labag sa mga kautusan, malaya kang lapatan siya ng kaukulang parusa.

Tungkol naman sa kay Nonay na naririyan pa, hinihiling kong tingnan mo siyang pansamantala. Hindi makabubuting paparituhin siya ngayon dito sapagka't may panganib dito ngayon.

Ypinag utos ang pagdakip kay Nicolas de Lara at ang nararapat na pagsisiyasat; kailangang ipadala mo ang ulat ng mga tao na nakaaalam kung ano ang nangyari sa salapi.

Tangapin mo ang magiliw na yakap ng iyong



NOTE: A book which seeks to dispute Constantino and to promote Rizal as a promoter of the revolution against Spain led by Andres Bonifacio is by Dr. Floro C. Quibuyen, author of A Nation Aborted: Rizal, American Hegemony and Philippine Nationalism (Ateneo Press, 2000), ISBN = 9715503349 (paperback) or 9715503357 (hardback)



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