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June 06, 2003

ED AURELIO REYES

For some years now, Kamalaysayan (Kampanya para sa Kamlayan sa Kasaysayan), a movement dedicated to honoring the ideals of 1896 revolution, has been popularizing the spirit of the Katipunan, especially as embodied in the 14 points of its code of ethics called the Kartilya.

Andres Bonifacio prepared the first rule of the secret society, the Katungkulang Gagawin ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Duties of the children of the nation), also known as the Dekalogo. He later pushed for its replacement by Emilio Jacinto’s Sa May Nasang Sumanib sa Katipunang Ito (For Those Who Wish To Join The Katipunan) or the Kartilya, the primer of the Katipunan.

Almost all the points of the Kartilya are about behaving honorably. Perhaps half a point, a full point at most, pertains to fighting.

Deep sense of hope

Kamalaysayan’s version of the text refers to 14 lessons as opposed to the 13 contained in the many editions of History of the Filipino People by Teodoro A. Agoncillo. Is Kamalaysayan’s 14th point a mere summary, signaling the end of enumeration? In katipunan and Revolution: Memoirs of a General, Santiago Alvarez did not omit the 14th point. Historian Arseno Manuel believes that Agoncillo’s accounts of the Katipunan suffer much in their omission of Alvarez as a source.

Kamalaysayan bases its version on the paragraph layout of an authentic copy pf the primer which was once part of the collection of Epifanio de los Santos. In that text, points 1 to 14 are in hanging-indent format (only the first line is indented). More important, the fourteenth point is one that engenders a deep sense of hope and confidence. In contrast, the fifteenth paragraph says:”Once all these points are well-understood by one who seeks to be a Katipunan member, he can manifest his intention in the following application form.”

Personal Response

Anyone who considers at least one point of the Kartilya worth adopting as a personal guiding principle is welcome to join Kamalaysayan, press his right palm against his heart and declared the following solemn oath: “ I do solemnly swear to live by and propagate the Spirit of the Katipunan, as articulated in the lesson or lessons in the Katipunan primer that I found noble and worthy. This I pledge, upon my honor”

During Kamalaysayan’s solemn ceremony, “Pagtitipon ng mga Anak ng Bayan” (Gathering of the Children of the Nation), the oath-taking and exchange of greetings are usually preceded by a “sharing’ session where members identify which of the Kartilya’s lessons is most relevant to his or her life. Members drop hot candlewax on their palms while saying, “Talab sa aking Palad ; talab sa aking isip, salita at gawa” (On my palm: on my thoughts, words and deeds). They then exchange lighted candles while greeting one another. The full Pagtitipon is held every month at various venues.

This is the only way to imbibe the spirit of the Katipunan as enshrined in the Kartilya. To leave the interaction at the level of memorization or intellectual comprehension is to insure that the entire Kartilya will soon be completely forgotten.

Three sources

In his book Panitikan ng Rebolusyong 1896, Virgilio S. Almario describes three distinct sources of the Katipunan’s philosophy of ideology: the Propaganda Movement led by Jose Rizal and other French Revolution-inspired ilustrados, the great wealth of precolonial indigenous folklore, and the protest Christianity represented by the protest pasyon and such proto-nationalist movements as Hermano Pule’s Cofradia de San Jose and the Kapatiran (brotherhood)- type community organizations around Mounts Banahaw, San Cristobal and Makiling. The last two sources share the elements of spirituality that contrasts sharply with the secular ratonality of the French Revoulution.

As for the Kartilya itself, Almario explains that the reference sources for the pamphlet include the French Revolution’s Rights of Man and the Citizen (predecessor of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights), which was reportedly translated by Rizal and circulated in the Philippines shortly before the Katipunan founding as Mga Karapatan ng Tawo. But other important sources include passages from the protest pasyon, as well as elements from indigenous practices and bonds of kinship. The Katipunan could have simply reproduced and circulated Karapatan ng Tawo among its members and followers. But, as Almario points out, Bonifacio and Jacinto chose to plant and deep in the native psyche, adapting and changing it so it would take root.

The Katipunan’s spirituality is also highlighted in Bonifacio’s deliberate choice of setting for a ceremony that was the real “first cry” for freedom. In April 1895, well before the August 1896 outbreak of the revolution, Bonifacio and about a dozen of Katipunan members trekked to the Pamitinan caves in Mt Tapusi. After performing the Katipunan rites, Bonifacio led in shouting “Mabuhay ang Kalayaan Na Pililpinas!’ (Long live the Philippines Freedom!”) which he also scratched on the cave walls with coal.

The mountain was part what now known as the Montalban Mountain in Rizal province. Folklore has it that the cave was the prison cell of a Tagalog king undergoing self-purification as preparation for leading his people to liberation. Under Spanish literary influence, the king came to be called “Bernardo Carpio”

The place was appropriate, for Bonifacio emphasized purification of kalooban (inner self) as an imperative to the Katipunan’s success. But setting includes not only place but time. It was not an ordinary day in April: it was Good Friday, with its theme of self-sacrifice of a victim most pure, leading to the people’s salvation from sins. The combination of place and time was not at all accidental. It was both an expression and an enhancement of the Katipunan’s spirituality.

Sentenaryo 96

Instead of eclectically or arithmetically adding up elements from spiritual and secular sources, Bonifacio and Jacinto synthesized them in to a fully integrated and cohesive spiritual philosophy. Kamalaysayan hopes to bring this philosophy to latter-day Filipinos. Through its Sentenaryo 96, Kamalaysayan commemorates the centennial of the birth of our nation and hopes to popularize the Kartilya ng Katipunan. The revival of the Katipunan spirit-with the solidarity and faith that Bonifacio and the Katipunan practiced –is a revival of the Katipunan itself as revolutionary movement (not as an organization ) of profound personal purification and self-empowerment through brotherly and sisterly synergism.

If Kamalaysayan revives this spirit, it will be proud to have participated in our new birth as a nation, a full century after our first birth in the flames of struggle of the 1896 Revolution.

Words of the first edition of the Kartilya:

KATIPUNAN

NANG MANGA

A. N. B.

SA MAY NASANG MAKISANIB
SA KATIPUNANG ITO

 

Sa pagkakailangan, na ang lahat na nagiibig pumasuk sa katipunang ito, ay ay magkaroon ng lubos na pananalig at kaisipan sa mga layong tinutungo at mga kaaralang pinaiiral, minarapat na ipakilala sa kanila ang mga bagay na ito, at ng bukas makalawa’y huag silang magsisi at tuparing maluwag sa kalooban ang kanilang mga tungkulin.

Ang kabagayang pinag-uusig ng Katipunang ito ay lubos na dakila at mahalaga; papagisahin ang loob at kaisipan ng lahat ng tagalog (*) sa pamamagitan ng isang mahigpit na panunumpa, upang sa pagkakaisang ito’y magkalakas na iwasan ang masinsing tabing na nakabubulag sa kaisipan at matuklasan ang tunay na landas ng Katuwiran at Kalinawagan.

(*) Sa salitang tagalog katutura’y ang lahat nang tumubo sa Sangkapuluang ito; sa makatuid, bisaya man, iloko man, kapangpangan man, etc., ay tagalog din.

KARTILYA CODE OF ETHICS

1) A life that is not dedicated to a noble cause is like a tree without a shade or a poisonous weed.

2) A deeds lack nobility if it is motivated by self-interest and not by a sincere desire to help.

3) True piety consists of being charitable, loving one’s fellowmen, and being judicious in behavior, speech and deed.

4) All persons are equal, regardless of the color of their skin. While one could have more schooling, wealth, or beauty than another, all that does not make one or more human than anybody else.

5) A person with a noble character values honor above self-interest, while a person with a base character values self-interest above honor.

6) To a person of honor/ his/her word is a pledge.

7) Don’t waste time; last wealth can be retrieved, but time lost is lost forever.

8) Defend the oppressed and fight the oppressor.

9) The wise person is careful in a all he/ she has to say and is discreet about things that need to be kept secret.

10) On the thorny path of life, the man leads the way and his wife and children follow. If the leader goes the way to perdition, so do the followers. (Note: This begins with an observation of the vertical relationship of husband and wife during the time of the Katipunan; now, we can say that the parents lead the way and the children follow.)

11) Never regard a woman as an object for you trifle with; rather you should consider her as a partner and helpmate. Give proper consideration to a woman’s frailty and never forget that your own mother, who brought you forth and nurtured you from infancy, is herself such a person.

12) Don’t do to the wife, children and brothers and sisters of others what you do not want done to your wife, children, brothers and sisters.

13) A man’s worth is not measured by his station in life, neither by the height of his nose nor the fairness of skin, and certainly not by whether he is a priest claiming to be God’s deputy. Even if he a tribesman from the hills and speaks only his on tongue, a man , has fine perceptions and is loyal to his native land.

14) When these teachings shall have been propagated and the glorious sun of freedom begins to shine on these poor Islands to enlightened a united race and people, then all the lives lost, all the struggle and the sacrifices will not have been in vain.