An Analysis of the Foundation and Impact of Philippines 1896 Revolution

The motivations behind the 1896 Philippine Revolution are often placed under the general tag of desire for freedom from Spanish colonization and oppression. While this is not necessarily incorrect, this practice tends to reduce the theoretical foundation of the Philippine Revolution to a mere struggle for freedom without comprehensively analyzing the nuances of it. In fact, relatively little work has been done about the theoretical motivations of the Philippine Revolution. Cesar Majul’s The Political and Constitutional Ideas of the Philippine Revolution may be the only work that directly tackles the ideas and principles behind the 1896 Revolution. Consequently, not much is known or at least highlighted about the theoretical foundations of the Philippine Revolution which should not be the case.

While it is important to know of the whos, whens and wheres of a revolution, it is equally important to have a closer look at a revolution’s theoretical foundations which would reveal the ideas, principles and aspirations that guided and organized a revolution that would otherwise be an aimless, chaotic and sporadic bloodshed. Without political, social, ethical and strategic theories, revolutions, as this study would like to contend, only become some sort of a sporadic mob rule. This is because revolutions are not sudden, random occurences. Instead, revolutions are turning points – a culmination of various historical events that built up and boiled down into a process and outcome of far-reaching changes.

Given that revolutions do not happen overnight, this means then that in the course of a revolution, various ideas and principles have prepared and facilitated the revolutionary consciousness of the people that are to stage the revolution. This is why in well-known revolutions such as the French and American Revolution, various studies are presented about the theories and ideas that revolutionized these nations.

Within revolutions, there are key thinkers or figures that construct some of the most important ideas and theories of the revolution. For example, during the French Revolution, various leaders located in a wide-ranging political spectrum rose up to provide theoretical guidelines for the Revolution. Individuals such as the Patriots best embodied by Marquis de Lafayette envisioned a “legal, peaceful revolution of the bourgeoisie” while others such as the Jacobins best embodied by Maximilien Robespierre theorized of a more radical and ruthless revolution.

Another example would be the Chinese Communist Revolution best known for individuals such as Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping who are all commonly regarded as the key figures in the evolution of communist theories and practice that revolutionalized China. Similarly, in the Philippine Revolution, there were also various individuals who provided their ideas and theories of revolution.

For example, Jose Rizal who is commonly perceived to refuse a violent revolution still provided several revolutionary ideas on “Filipino rights and equality before the law” which was heavily influenced by Voltaire.3 On the other hand, Andres Bonifacio who is commonly perceived as lacking in revolutionary theory or ideology conceived of a more violent revolution with the influence of both Rizal’s and the French revolutionary ideas. Interestingly, Emilio Jacinto, who was known to be the adviser, secretary-general and the “brains” of the Katipunan, had revolutionary philosophies inspired by both Rizal and Bonifacio.

Given these, the study will aim to point out one of the theoretical foundations of the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Just to be clear however, this study does not wish to debunk the idea that the Philippine Revolution was a struggle for freedom. But beyond this, the study wishes to know the ideas, principles and theories that guided the country most specifically the Katipunan in their struggle for freedom. As such, the study will look into the revolutionary philosophy of Emilio Jacinto whose life and works, as compared to his fellow revolutionaries such as Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo, are relatively understudied. In order to determine the revolutionary theories of Emilio Jacinto, this study will look into two of his works namely the Kartilla which became the official code of conduct of the Katipunan and Jacinto’s philosophical work known as Liwanag at Dilim. But before discussing these works, a brief background of Emilio Jacinto’s membership and career in the Katipunan will first be provided in order to lay down the context of this study.

The Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, or better known as the Katipunan, is a secret society founded in 1982 by Filipino nationalist Andres Bonifacio. With the aim of “political, social and moral elevation” of the Tagalog race, the society grew rapidly within Manila and the provinces near it.5 Most of the composition of the Katipunan was farmers, laborers, the middle class and the progressives. However, while majority of the Katipunan’s population is within the lower classes, the leadership of the society were known to be made up of “male, urban middle classes, and provincial elites.”

More than being a secret society, the Katipunan was also a form of government that had various constitutions and administrative positions. For example, during the first elections of the Katipunan, Deodato Arellano was elected as president and other individuals such as Andres Bonifacio, Ladislao Diwa and others were voted into different positions. However, after the failed presidency of Deodato Arellano and Roman Basa of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio was elected as the Supremo.9

During Bonifacio’s presidency, Emilio Jacinto served as the Katipunan’s adviser, secretary-general, and general of the revolutionary forces of northern Manila. 10 It is believed that Emilio Jacinto joined the Katipunan when he was just eighteen years old while he was still a student in the University of Santo Tomas.” Andres Bonifacio perceived Emilio Jacinto as the “eye of the Katipunan” and the “soul of revolution” so it was no surprise that Jacinto became the right-hand of Bonifacio.12 Both Jacinto and Bonifacio were “responsible for the recruitment of thousands of Filipino revolutionists to join the secret Katipunan society through their ideas on revolution.”13 This is because Bonifacio and Jacinto authored various publications that aimed to encourage people in joining the Katipunan’s revolutionary cause. Emilio Jacinto, in particular,  was the editor of the Kalayaan – the Katipunan newspaper which played an effective role in the recruitment of Filipinos to the movement.

Due to Emilio Jacinto’s revolutionary ideas and talent in writing, historian Isabelo de los Reyes characterized Jacinto’s intelligence and enthusiasm as “directing” 14 the Katipunan, also leading to some scholars such as Teodoro Agoncillo to claim that Jacinto was “the brains of the Katipunan”15 and John Schumacher to consider Jacinto as “second only to Rizal in the intellectual and moral foundation he tried to impart to Filipino national consciousness.” 16 Given these overwhelming characterizations, it is then interesting to zoom into the revolutionary philosophy of Emilio Jacinto which the next section of this paper will discuss.

The Kartilla is a primer written by Emilio Jacinto for the Katipunan which Andres Bonifacio adopted as the code of conduct of the secret society. Looking at the provisions under the Kartilla, there are three generalizations that can be made about the kind of revolution that Emilio Jacinto tries to theorize. Firstly, he believes that a revolution must not be tainted with personal ulterior motives but instead it must be “charitable” to one’s fellowmen.

This view is supported by the other provisions of the Kartilla which claims that a good deed must stem from the desire to do good and not from the desire to gain personal profit and a noble man must be one who chooses honor over personal gains. From these, one can point out that Jacinto suggests a revolution that takes into account the interest of the collective firstly through the abandonment of selfish motives but secondly by emphasizing the essence of goodness and kindness to fellowmen.

Using these, one may also point out that Jacinto envisions some type of a moral revolution that places a premium on charitability to other people. One can then say that while Jacinto advocates defending the oppressed against the oppressor, he does not explicitly support a bloody revolution that would try to use violence in order to rally for a certain cause.

These are tied to the second generalization that can be derived from Jacinto’s Kartilla. For him, aside from charitability, revolutions are also driven by the concept of equality among men. Jacinto’s concept of equality, at least in terms of Kartilla, does not entail political or economic equality but rather, more of a social equality. It is unclear whether or not the 19th century abolishment of slavery in the United States had an influence to Jacinto’s conception of equality but still, similarly, Jacinto believes that men of different skin colors should be equal thus pointing out to his idea of racial equality. Jacinto however also claims that men are generally equal beings thus possibly hinting at his ideas on the political and economic equality of men.

Additionally, Jacinto also made references to gender in his Kartilla. While the Kartilla generally utilizes the pronoun he and the noun man in its provisions, Jacinto nonetheless recognizes that women help in “hardships of life” thus making her deserving of respect. However, while Jacinto views that a woman can be a “helper and partner,” he did not provide any notion or mention of the ability of women to be important historical actors. Instead, he places a passive role on women in revolutions with his claim that “man is the guide of his wife and children” rendering children as well as women the followers of the will of men.

Using these, one may then point out that the kind of revolution that Jacinto envisioned is one that puts a premium on equality. But, basing from what the Kartilla can give, there is a lack specifications about the kind of equality that Jacinto truly wanted. Also, while Jacinto recognizes that women must be respected, he nonetheless perceives women as passive followers in revolutions.

Beyond Jacinto’s ideas of a moral revolution that is fuelled by his notions of equality, he also gave some sort of a practical guide for the revolution he envisioned. In Jacinto’s conceptions of a “man with a sense of shame” and an “intelligent man” as seen in the sixth and ninth provisions of the Kartilla, Jacinto implicitly warns about the loyalty of revolutionaries to the movement and the Revolution itself.

For example, he says that an intelligent man is someone who keeps important secrets and a man with a sense of shame has unchanging words. Jacinto is most likely referring to the members of the Katipunan who must keep the secrecy of the revolutionary organization and who must also remain inviolate to their pact with the Katipunan brotherhood. Also, in the first provision of the Kartilla, Jacinto mentions of the uselessness of a “life which is not consecrated to a lofty and sacred cause” which may be seen as a way to encourage the members of the Katipunan to stick with the sacred cause of the Revolution.

Additionally, Jacinto also mentions the importance of time and warns about the inability to recover lost time. This may be seen as Jacinto’s perception of the urgency of staging a Revolution. Basing from his Kartilla provision, one may say that Jacinto believes that time is an important element in staging a Revolution and so, members of the Katipunan must be efficient in their use of time so as to benefit the Revolution better. Drawing from these analyses, Jacinto may be seen to theorize that the success of a revolution is tied to the loyalty and efficiency of the revolutionaries that are to stage the revolution.

In summary, there are three questions concerning revolutions that Emilio Jacinto was able to answer through his Kartilla: (1) what revolutions should be (2) what revolutions should exemplify and aim for and (3) what practices should revolutions employ in order to succeed. These three questions have been respectively answered by the three generalizations given in this section of the study earlier. Firstly, one could say that Jacinto believes that revolutions should be moral and should be able to defend the oppressed from the oppressor. Secondly, revolutions should aim for and exemplify, most specifically social equality.

Thirdly, revolutions must be conducted with the loyalty and efficiency of revolutionaries. These claims are quite similar to Agpalo’s understanding of the ends of the revolution that Emilio Jacinto conceived in Kartilla. In citing Agpalo’s work, he claims that: The ultimate goal of the Kartilla is to unite the people into a community of “brothers in everlasting happiness”; into a society where all the members, regardless of their color, creed, position or status, education, and physical appearance, are all equal; into a polity where there is neither oppressed nor oppressor; into a socio-political order where honor, dignity, work, love, charity, reason, freedom, and fellowship are the standards of living. In other words, the ends envisioned by Jacinto are a civil society and social justice.

However, due to the generality of the statements in Kartilla, it is then open to different kinds of interpretations. Thus in order to have a more concrete understanding of Jacinto’s revolutionary philosophy, it is also important to look at his philosophical work entitled Liwanag at Dilim which the next section of this paper will discuss.

Emilio Jacinto’s essays were collected and compiled under his work Liwanag at Dilim (Light and Darkness) which expounded on the “libertarian doctrine” of the Katipunan.18 Liwanag at Dilim contained seven chapters, each corresponding to one of his essays. The chapters are entitled as (1) Ang Ningning at ang Liwanag, (2) Kalayaan, (3) Ang Tao’y Magkakapantay, (4) Ang Pag-ibig, (5) Ang Bayan at ang mga (Gobyerno) Pinuno, (6) Ang Maling Pagsasampalataya, and (7) Ang Gumawa.19 Remigio Agpalo translated these chapters respectively as (1) Glitter and Light, (2) Liberty, (3) Men are Equal, (4) Love, (5) The People and the Government, (6) False Religion and (7) Labor. 20 In order to be consistent with the language utilized by this study, the researcher will use Agpalo’s translations of the chapters.

In the first chapter of his work, Jacinto differentiates glitters from light. While the latter is good and essential as it shows and illuminates the “truth” of things, the former is deceptive because through its shine, it can hide the dangers and ugliness that hide underneath. He explains this further through his analogy of a glittering horse carriage and a needy person that struggles with the weight of what he or she carries. Jacinto claims that the glittering horse carriage that people perceive to load a rich and respectable person may actually be transporting an evil and corrupt person hiding beneath all the shine of the carriage while a needy person which may not be as presentable as the glittering horse carriage with his forehead shined only by his or her sweat actually shows the needy person’s diligence.

The importance of this analogy was discussed by Jacinto when he warns about oppressive people that will try their best to shine and glitter in order to hide away their pride and greed. Jacinto then advises to believe and patronize instead the light that is naturally illuminated by excellence, and love that is raw, modest, and clear in sight. Drawing from this chapter, one could say that Jacinto is laying down his general theoretical framework for his work. According to Agpalo, Jacinto adopted Plato’s distinction between doxa and episteme – the former which means opinion is deceving while the latter which translates to knowledge is reliable.21 Basing from these, one could say that Jacinto is reminding people to be critical about the kinds of people and ideas they subscribe to because he also claims that those people who worship glitters and reject the light are the same people who live in grief and poverty.

While the first chapter of Liwanag at Dilim is still generalized, the subsequent parts of Jacinto’s work are more specified to his revolutionary philosophies. The second chapter entitled Liberty exemplifies Jacinto’s idea that liberty must be inherent in all human beings because it is liberty that breeds the ability of humans to reason out which then differentiates humans from animals thus making humans human.

Additionally, he claims that liberty is brought to us by the heavens and what the Tagalog (possibly referring to the Filipino nation) has done for the past four hundred years is to forego our liberty to Spanish colonizers and let them trample the freedom that should have been God-given and natural to us. From these, one could say that Jacinto advocates for a revolution that would try to reclaim this inherent liberty of the Filipinos. In citing Gripaldo’s work, he claims that Jacinto tacitly believed that the past had a relationship with the present and the present could be used to interpret the past and perhaps restore it. From this perspective, it is acceptable for Liberty to say to the youth that prior to the coming of Slavery or Spanish colonizations, the brethren loved her but later abandoned her. Liberty’s restoration would entail great sacrifice: the willingness and the commitment of the brethren to die for her cause, her revival.

The third chapter of Liwanag at Dilim entitled Men are Equal is tied to the second chapter discussed earlier. Since all men should naturally be free, all men must also be equal. Additionally, Jacinto believes that all men are equal because there is only one form of personation: one could not say that he is more human than another because all are equally human. This view however, as Jacinto recognizes is violated by people who try to assert their superiority over the others which the Bayan (can be loosely translated to nation) blindly accepts. Jacinto then encourage people to exert vigilance in their acceptance of leaders that may at first be seen as essential in leading the Bayan but are actually disregarding the equality of men. Again, Jacinto warns of glitters or deceitful people who can make inequality seem like equality.

The next chapter discusses the importance of love. Jacinto believes that love is the greatest emotion for it stems from reason, truth, goodness, beauty, God and other fellowmen which binds society together. Without love, the Bayan will not last longe enough. Additionally, it is only love that propels people to do charitable things that would provide ease to people. However, Jacinto also warns of knavery that can also disguise as love. And so, people must recognize that the only things that love can bring about are happiness and ease and without these, without love, people will tend to become selfish and make oppression more rampant. Drawing from this, Jacinto implicitly perceives of a revolution that is aimed not only at restoring liberty and achieving equality but also fostering love that would unite the country.

In the fifth chapter The People and the Government, Jacinto partially theorizes about the aftermath of a revolution and mostly reminds the people of the detriments of letting an oppressive government take over society. Firstly, Jacinto says that a new life entails a new habit possibly referring to the changes that must precede and follow a revolution in order to bring about a new life. Also, Jacinto conceives of a government that would effectively lead society towards order, unity and the other goals set by the government itself. He claims that without the Bayan, there would be no government and so, the government must always strive for the betterment and welfare of its constituents or the Bayan.

Otherwise, the government must be held accountable. Conversely, Jacinto also believes the government’s constituents, the people, have a duty to fulfill. He says that society needs to have recognition and love for reason, prompted by kindness and goodness, so as not to leave any spaces for being oppressed and deceived by a leader that is deceptively powerful. He again ties these ideas to the previous chapters where he claims that power that breeds inequality among men should not be accepted by a supposedly equal society and instead, the people must choose a leader that the people shall willfully follow and unify society. Ultimately, it must be kaginhawaan or the freedom from pain that governments must always aim for.

Basing from this chapter, one could say that Emilio Jacinto envisioned a revolution that would install a democratic government. In this chapter, Jacinto was able to talk about two important tenets of democracy which is participation and accountability. For Jacinto, the participation of the people in choosing and deciding a leader or a government is necessary. However, while the people are afforded the privilege to participate in democratic processes, Jacinto also theorizes about the responsibility of the people to be critical and careful of the government they wish to employ.

Conversely, on the part of the government, Jacinto claims that governments have mandates to follow. If they do not follow these mandates that are supposed to benefit the people, governments then must be held accountable. Again, tying these all together, these claims may be seen as Jacinto’s vision of governance after the Revolution that would overthrow the Spanish regime in the Philippines.

The next chapter entitled, False Religion, mainly emphasizes Jacinto’s earlier claims about the importance of vigilance and critical evaluation of choices and decisions especially about matters involving an individual’s rights and welfare. This chapter however makes several bibilical and religious references, manifesting perhaps the influence of Christianity on Jacinto. The false religion that Jacinto is referring to in the title of this chapter is the kind of blind and incorrect belief about the teachings of God. He says that true faith or religion would mean the respect, love, and adherence to reason.

Lastly in the concluding chapter of Liwanag at Dilim, Jacinto continues to make references to religious beliefs but the specific point forwarded in this chapter is that Jacinto claims that it is within the will and the desire of God for men to work because absent this, we would only resort to a lavish lifestyle that would eventually destroy our humanity. Citing Agpalo’s work, Jacinto wanted to debunk the idea that “labor is a penalty and burden” and prove that it is in fact God’s gift to mankind.

Tying all of the previous discussions about the Kartilla and Liwanag at Dilim, there are three things concerning the revolutionary philosophy of Emilio Jacinto that the researcher can generalize and highlight. Firstly, there were many instances where Emilio Jacinto conceived of a moral revolution in the sense that the revolution must employ moral traits such as charitability, love and goodness in the process and outcome of achieving the revolution’s goals. Drawing from this then, Emilio Jacinto may be implicitly opposed to the idea of the use of violence in revolutions unless perhaps it is completely necessary especially in cases where Jacinto’s concepts of equality and liberty are violated.

Secondly, Jacinto also conceives of a democratic revolution where democratic processes are employed in the course of changing a society. One could point out how much Jacinto emphasizes the role of men in the success and outcome of a revolution especially in the achievement of a democratic society that safeguards the equality and liberty of its people. Starting from the Kartilla, Jacinto believes that men should be loyal, efficient, intelligent and critical about their words and actions. This was expounded in Jacinto’s Liwanag at Dilim where Jacinto widely discussed the importance of people’s vigilance towards the ideas and people they subscribe to.

Starting from the first chapter of Liwanag at Dilim until the last, Jacinto warns about the dangers of glitters that deceives the people into believing false religion and false claims that can both be detrimental to the liberty and equality of men. Also, Jacinto described a comprehensive outline about the democratic government he envisioned. In the fifth chapter of 24 Remigio Agpalo, “Liwanag at Dilim: The Political Philosophy of Emilio Jacinto,”.

Liwanag at Dilim, Jacinto expressed his idea about democratic participation, the rule of law and even democratic accountability. From this, one may then say the Emilio Jacinto had established a sophisticated form of theoretical and political groundwork for the revolution.

Third and last, one could clearly see that the 1896 Revolution was a struggle for freedom from an oppressive colonial power. However, by looking into Emilio Jacinto’s revolutionary philosophy, we learn of the ideas and concepts behind the Philippine’s struggle for freedom, as provided by the Katipunan’s brains. Emilio Jacinto’s notions of liberty and equality are heavily tied to each other. Jacinto conceived of the Revolution not only as a struggle for freedom but also as an avenue to restore the pre-colonial liberty afforded to Filipinos prior to the Spanish colonization. Jacinto can then be perceived as a self-reflexive theorist who gives much importance to the past and his heritage as well.

Also, the Revolution was a struggle for equality. Basing from the Kartilla, one may say that Jacinto wanted to fight for racial equality but further analyzing his work Liwanag at Dilim, one could conclude that Jacino wanted the political equality of men particularly because men are inherently equal. Whether Jacinto’s conceptions of equality applicable to women or not is quite unclear. Nonetheless, Jacinto, in a nutshell, conceives of a moral and democratic revolution that aims to emancipate the people from oppression and inequality and bring liberty and ease or kaginhawaan to the people.

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