The Philippine Army

The Philippine Army: From “Katipuneros” to “Soldiers”

KKK Flag with tails

The Katipunan or KKK was founded by Filipino rebels in Manila on July 7, 1892 (Long name: Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or �Supreme and Venerable Society of the Children of the Nation”).

The founders —all freemasons— were: Andres Bonifacio, Ladislao Diwa, Teodoro Plata, Deodato Arellano, Valentin Diaz, Jose Dizon and a few others.

They met secretly at Deodato Arellano’s house at #72 Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto Avenue), near Elcano Street, Tondo district.

The men gathered around a flickering table lamp, performed the ancient blood compact, and signed their membership papers with their own blood. They agreed to recruit more members by means of the triangle method; an original member would take in two new members who did not know each other, but knew only the original member who took them in. Thus, original member A, for instance, would take in new members B and C. Both B and C knew A, but B and C did not know each other. Also agreed upon during the meeting was the payment of an entrance fee of one real fuerte(twenty-five centavos) and a monthly due of a media real (about twelve centavos).

Filipino Ilustrados_1890Unlike the pacifist and Europe-based Propaganda Movement (ABOVE), whose members were scions of the elite and wealthy, the Katipunan —- composed of the common people, with only a sprinkling of the well-to-do middle class —- did not dream of mere reforms. It aimed at liberating the country from Spanish tyranny by preparing the people for an armed conflict.

KKK Banner, The San Francisco Call, Sept 24 1899, page 26
The San Francisco Call, Sept. 24, 1899, Page 26

Thus the Katipunan was founded on a radical platform, namely, to secure the independence and freedom of the Philippines by force of arms.

The San Francisco Call, Sept. 24, 1899, Page 27

Residence of Deodato Arellano in Calle Elcano corner Azcarraga, birthplace of the Katipunan
Residence of Deodato Arellano at #72 Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto Avenue), near Elcano Street, Tondo district, birthplace of the Katipunan.
Residence of Deodato Arellano in Calle Elcano corner Azcarraga, birthplace of the Katipunan
A commercial building now occupies the site of Deodato Arellano’s house; a historical marker proclaims the significance of the place.
Spanish police headquarters at Tondo, Manila 1897
Spanish police headquarters at Tondo district, Manila, 1897.
Katipunan seal emblazoned on a letter written in code n signed with blood
A seal of the Katipunan emblazoned on a letter written in code and signed with blood

Katipunan seals

Katipunan cedula and skull
A Katipunero’s cedula and a skull used in Katipunan initiation rites
Copy of Garrote execution July 4 1895
Manila: The Garrote was a strangulation machine. The two young Filipino muchachos (male domestic helpers) were sentenced to death for killing their abusive Spanish employer. The execution took place in front of the public slaughterhouse. The photographer, American businessman Joseph Earle Stevens, wrote: “The sight of the unfortunate prisoners…was pitiable in the extreme, and their faces bore marks of unforgettable anguish.”

Marangal Na Dalit Ng Katagalugan by Julio Nakpil_opt

Young Julio Nakpil photo_opt_optIn 1896 Julio Nakpil, a musician and revolutionist, composed and wrote the lyrics of a national anthem in Tagalog, Marangal Na Dalit Ng Katagalugan (ABOVE), at the request of Katipunan leader Andres BonifacioA literal translation of the title in English would be �Noble Hymn of the Tagalog Nation�, but by �Katagalugan�, Nakpil (RIGHT) meant the entire multi-ethnic Philippine Archipelago. The rebels took �Tagalog� to mean any person born in the Philippines who spoke a native dialect.

At the time, the term �Filipino� applied solely to Spaniards born in the archipelago; the natives were called Indios.

Insurrectos Tagalos
Original caption: “Insurrectos Tagalos”

The premature discovery of the secret militant society on Aug. 18, 1896 forced the Katipuneros, as the members called themselves, to open hostilities.

The first major battle of the revolution took place on Aug. 30, 1896 when the Katipuneros attacked but failed to capture the Spanish polverin (powder depot) and deposito (water reservoir) in San Juan del Monte; 153 Katipuneros and 2 Spanish soldiers died.

As the rebellion progressed, a split developed between the Magdiwang faction (identified with Supremo Andres Bonifacio) and the Magdalo faction (loyal to Emilio Aguinaldo), both situated in Cavite Province.

Tejeros marcos n estate house
The marker reads: “The Tejeros Convention: A revolutionary assembly was held March 22, 1897 in the building known as the Casa Hacienda of Tejeros that once stood on this site. Presided over by Andres Bonifacio toward the end of the session, the assembly decided to establish a central revolutionary government and elected Emilio Aguinaldo President, Mariano Trias Vice President, Artemio Ricarte Captain General, Emiliano Riego de Dios Director of War and Andres Bonifacio Director of the Interior. Certain events arising in the convention caused Bonifacio to bolt its action (1941)”.

At the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897 held in Barrio Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabon (now General Trias), Cavite Province, the delegates voted to do away with the Katipunan. They argued that the insulated fragmentation that had aided the Katipunan’s secrecy had outlived its usefulness; in a wide-open national war for independence, unified leadership was required. A well-defined structure was needed to steer a combat force of thousands. From a small circle of conniving men and women, membership had grown to about 15,000 to 45,000 patriots (up to 100,000, according to some estimates; the previous figures, considered as more credible, were supplied by the Ilocano writer and labor leader, Isabelo de los Reyes, who was born in 1864 and died in 1929).

Bonifacio did not strongly object; the convention went ahead and formed the “Pamahalaang Tagapamatnugot ng Paghihimagsik” or Central Revolutionary Government.

tejeros convention march 22, 1897
Artemio Ricarte restrains an enraged Andres Bonifacio who tried to shoot Daniel Tirona; the latter had objected to Bonifacio’s election as Director of the Interior of the Revolutionary Government. Tirona had argued that the post should not be occupied by a person without a lawyer’s diploma. Bonifacio, who had to quit schooling at age 14 due to a family exigency, fumed at the thinly-disguised personal insult.

Copy of Andres Bonifacio photo ca 1896 taken by Chofre y Cia and kept at Archivo General de Indias in Seville SpainEmilio Aguinaldo was elected President; when his own election as Director of the Interior was questioned for lack of academic credentials by Daniel Tirona, Bonifacio (RIGHT) took it as a personal affront. At age 14, his father and mother had died forcing him to quit his studies and to look after his younger siblings. As a means of support, he made wooden canes and paper fans which he sold in the streets. (Daniel Tirona became one of the founding members of the pro-American Partido Federal when it was organized on Dec. 23, 1900).

Feeling grievously insulted, Bonifacio hotly declared that by virtue of his authority as Katipunan Supremo, he was voiding and nullifying the decisions of the convention. He stormed out of the convention and drafted his own government and army.

Andres Bonifacio, hailed as “The Great Plebeian”, is depicted in The Anaconda Standard, Anaconda, Montana, issue of July 3, 1898, page 18, wearing a coat with a white bow tie.

Gen. Pantaleon Garcia, 1898
Gen. Pantaleon Garcia (ABOVE) was appointed a committee of one by Emilio Aguinaldo to investigate and to report on the case of the Bonifacio brothers. He recommended a court-martial; when the brothers were convicted, Garcia recommended that the death penalty be imposed on them.

Bonifacio and his brother Procopio were arrested, tried and convicted of treason; they were executed on May 10, 1897.

Filipino soldier solo with fixed bayonet

(Andres Bonifacio had 4 years of formal schooling compared to 7 years for Emilio Aguinaldo. However, while Bonifacio wrote and spoke good Spanish, Aguinaldo was barely able to speak it).

The Revolutionary Government unified the ragtag Katipunero rebel forces into a cohesive Philippine Revolutionary Army organized along European lines. It gave each conventional unit a nomenclature and organization. The army adopted two official names: in Tagalog, “Hukbong Pilipinong Mapanghimagsik” and in Spanish “Ej�rcito Revolucionario Filipino”.

artemio ricarte oval pic_edited

General Artemio “Vibora” Ricarte was designated as Captain-General (Commanding General). He held this post from March 22, 1897 until Jan. 22, 1899 when he was replaced by General Antonio Luna.

When independence was declared on June 12, 1898, the Philippine Revolutionary Army became the Philippine Republican Army. Aguinaldo replaced Bonifacio�s official anthem with Marcha Filipina Magdalo, a composition of fellow Cavite�o Julian Felipe; this became the present-day Philippine National Anthem (Lupang Hinirang).

The first Philippine Army used the 1896 edition of the Spanish army’s Ordenanza del Ejercito to organize its forces and establish its character as a modern army. Rules and procedures were laid down for the reorganization of the Army, adoption of new fighting methods, regulation of ranks, adoption of new rank insignias and a standard uniform called rayadillo.

Orders and circulars were subsequently issued covering such matters as building trenches and fortifications, enticing Filipino soldiers in the Spanish Army to defect, collecting empty cartridges for refilling, prohibiting unplanned sorties, inventories of captured arms and ammunition, fund raising, purchase of arms and supplies abroad, unification of military commands, and exhorting the people to give any material aid, especially food, to the soldiers.

Sandatahan with crossbow, northern Luzon 1898
A Sandatahan (militiaman) of northern Luzon armed with a crossbow, 1898.

Sandatahanes, militiamen aged 15 to 50, were equipped with bows and arrows to partially meet the acute lack of arms,

Filipino flag by Peter Macqueen Natl Mag Vol 11 Oct 99-Mar1900
Filipino flag secured by Peter MacQueen, correspondent of The National Magazine in the Philippines in 1899.
Salary scale of Philippine Army per Aguinaldo decree on July 30 1898
Pay scale of officers and men of the Philippine Army, per decree of President Aguinaldo issued from Bacoor, Cavite Province on July 30, 1898. He raised money by taxing merchants, businessmen and well-to-do families. Benito Legarda, director of the treasury department, was described by Joseph Stickney, aide to Admiral Dewey, as “a suave diplomat” and “…just the man to convince a reluctant lot of business men that it will be more pleasing to themselves and more satisfactory to the government for them to part with their money than their blood.”
Shoulder boards Phil Army 1898
Shoulder bars of Philippine army officers.
Mauser and Remington rifles used by Filipinos
The Filipino army’s main weapons were the 1893 Spanish Mauser bolt-action 7 mm rifle (TOP); it was reloaded by pressing 5 cartridges stacked in a thin metal clip down through the open bolt; and the single-shot, breechloading Remington Rolling Block .43 Spanish rifle (BOTTOM).
Filipino bladed weapons John Foreman
Bladed weapons carried into battle by the Filipino rank-and-file.
Filipino army officers with swords 1898_opt
Filipino army officers wielded European-style swords, 1898.
Filipino cannon captured by the Spaniards
The Filipinos were short of artillery; the few guns they possessed were booties from the Spanish army. They improvised by making cannon out of water pipe, strengthened with timber.
A Filipino iron pipe cannon strengthened with bamboo
Filipino bamboo cannon ca 1900
A cannon made of bamboo by the Filipinos

Filipino outpost near Manila 1898

Filipino soldiers with small cannon

Filipino officers and soldiers with native cannon

Filipino firing line cr 1900 bw kilburn

1898 igorots in filipino army
Igorots in the Philippine Army. Photo was probably taken in January 1899 at Candon, Ilocos Sur Province. The Igorots —- numbering 225 —- were hardy mountaineers from the Cordilleras of northern Luzon. They were recruited by Maj. Isabelo Abaya (PHOTO, central figure, with pistol and sword). Abaya was killed in action on May 3, 1900.

1900 1910 Fil pickets return to camp_edited

1899 Filipino army outpost

1890s Phil revolutionary soldiers

Filipino soldiers on the Santa Ana road 1898

Filipino soldiers a platoon

filipino soldiers undated

1899-1901 Filipino soldeirs

FILIPINO soldiers MARCHING INTO Pagsanjan UNDER GENERAL LAUREL in Leslie issue Feb 23 1899

Filipino soldiers in Bacolor 1898
Filipino soldiers in Bacolor, Pampanga, 1898. The American photographer’s caption: “PORTION OF AGUINALDO’S ARMY IN THE SUBURBS OF BACOLAR. These men were well armed and drilled, and if they had been commanded by officers trained in the military service, they would have made excellent soldiers. But they cannot stand before a charge of American volunteers.”

1898 Filipino soldiers outside Manila

Filipino soldiers with mausers circa 1898
The Filipino soldiers in dark uniforms were former members of the Spanish Army who had defected to the Philippine Republican Army. This photo could have been taken on May 28, 1898, when a native regiment of the Spanish Army surrendered at San Francisco de Malabon (now General Trias), Cavite Province, and a large number of the men enlisted in the Philippine Army. In his memoirs, Aguinaldo wrote that about 1,800 crossed over.

Filipino soldiers with 2 on horseback

filipino soldiers 1898

1898 Filipino troops in Tacloban under Gen. Ambrosio Mojica_edited

The army was divided into an active and a volunteer force. The Active Army was organized into regiments, companies and batteries. In turn, the companies were divided into soldiers with firearms and those without, the duty of the latter – the proportion of five to each rifleman – being to keep themselves close to the rear of the firing line and secure the guns of men who are disabled. The function of the Volunteer Army was the gathering and storing of food supplies and obtaining iron and copper from every possible source for the fabrication of arms. It was also its duty to search the fields for projectiles which had failed to explode, to carry food to the troops, to strengthen daily the defenses and deploy others to suitable sites.

Academia Militar – First Philippine military school

Filipino army officers
Filipino army officers (under General Juan Cailles)

On the recommendation of General Antonio Luna, General Emilio Aguinaldo authorized the creation of a military school for officers.

On Oct. 25, 1898, the Academia Militar was established at Malolos, Bulacan with Colonel Manuel Bernal Sityar, hijo (meaning junior), as Director.

Manuel SityarColonel Sityar (RIGHT) was a Spanish mestizo who had served as a lieutenant in the Spanish Civil Guard. In 1882, he trained at the Academia Infanteria de Filipinas in Manila. He graduated from the Academia Militar de Toledo in Spain in 1895. He was born on Aug. 20, 1863 in Cavite City of an “Indio” mother and a Spanish father who hailed from Cadiz, Spain. His great grandfather was a lawyer to Spanish King Alfonso. His great grandmother was a relative of Queen Isabela. Both his grandfather and father were Spanish Dukes, and his father was in addition a commodore of the Spanish Navy.

Sityar was the first to suspect the existence of a revolutionary movement. On July 5, 1896, he reported to the Civil Governor of Manila that certain individuals, especially in Mandaluyong and San Juan del Monte, were enlisting men for unknown purposes, making them sign in pledge with their own blood. But his report did not alarm the colonial authorities. Fifty-six days later, on Aug. 30, about 800 Katipuneros assaulted the polverin (Spanish powder magazine) at San Juan del Monte, igniting the Philippine Revolution. (153 Katipuneros and 2 Spanish soldiers died in this first major battle of the revolution).

Filipino soldiers originally in the spanish service
1898: A company of Filipino soldiers originally in the Spanish service
Telesforo Carrasco y Perez, a Spaniard in Filipino Army
Telesforo Carrasco, a pure Spaniard who defected to the Philippine army.

Sityar later defected to Aguinaldo’s army at San Francisco de Malabon (now General Trias), Cavite on May 28, 1898. He declared, ” I have served the country of my father with blood. Now I will serve the country of my mother with blood”. Colonel Sityar served as aide-de-camp and assistant chief of staff to General Emilio Aguinaldo. In the Malolos Congress which opened on Sept. 15, 1898, he represented the province of Laguna.

Colonel Jose Leyba with name captionSityar and his wife accompanied the president of the First Republic in his long and arduous trek to northern Luzon, from Nov. 13, 1899 in Bayambang, Pangasinan, until Dec. 25, 1899 in Talubin, Bontoc, Mountain Province.

On that Christmas day, Aguinaldo, wishing to spare the 5 women in his entourage from further hardships (Aguinaldo’s wife and sister, Sityar’s wife and Col. Jose Leyba’s 2 sisters) ordered Sityar and a certain Colonel Paez to accompany the women and surrender to the Americans in Talubin. [Colonel Leyba was Aguinaldo’s adjutant and secretary].

Aguinaldo and his party reached Palanan, Isabela on Sept. 6, 1900. Here, Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans on March 23, 1901.

Liceo de Manila 1900
The Liceo de Manila, 1900.

After the surrender at Talubin, Sityar quit the military life and taught at the Liceo de Manila when it was founded in 1900. Curiously, in the same year, the Queen Regent of Spain made Manuel Sityar Knight of the Military Order of Maria Cristina.

Sityar was one of the founding members of the pro-American Partido Federal when it was organized on Dec. 23, 1900.

He died in 1927.

RP-US War 1898 Filipino troops at inspection

Filipino soldiers behind fountain 1898

Gen Juan Cailles and aide 1898
General Juan Cailles and aide, 1898
Gen Juan Cailles staff, 1898_opt
1898: Staff officers of General Juan Cailles
Filipino army officers 1899
1899: Filipino army officers

Three Filipino officers

General Manuel Tinio General Benito Natividad LtCol Jose Alejandrino n their aides de camp
Group showing General Manuel Tinio (seated, center), General Benito Natividad (seated, 2nd from right), Lt. Col. Jose Alejandrino (seated, 2nd from left) and their aides-de-camp
Gen. Manuel Tinio and other Philippine army officers, 1898
Generals Manuel Tinio (second row, center), and Benito Natividad (to Tinio’s left) and some of their subordinate officers.
Filipino generals, The Illustrated London News, March 17 1899
A page from The Illustrated London News, issue dated March 17, 1899. Clockwise, from top left: Generals Pantaleon Garcia, Gregorio del Pilar, Tomas Mascardo, and Isidoro Torres.

Filipino army officers_edited

Filipino officers sitting standing 1898

Shoulder bars of Philippine army officers
Shoulder bars of Philippine army officers. From: “Buhay na Kasaysayan” by Pedro Javier and Yonito Flores

The Academia Militar‘s mission was to complete the training of all officers in the active service. The academy formally opened its classes on Nov. 1, 1898. The classes were divided into two sections, one for field officers from colonels to majors, and the other from Captains and below. Graduates became regular officers of the army. The course of instruction consisted of current orders and regulations, field and garrison regulations, military justice and penal laws, arithmetic and military accounting, geography and history, field fortifications, and map drawing and reading.

Barasoain church and convent 1899
Barasoain Church and Convent. Photo taken on March 31, 1899, shortly after the Americans captured Malolos.

The Academia Militar was housed in the convent of Barasoain together with the Universidad Literia de Pilipinas and Instituto Burgos.

The Academia was deactivated on Jan. 20, 1899 due to highly escalated tensions between the Filipinos and Americans. Fifteen days later, on February 4, war broke out.

Barasoain church today, by Joel C Garcia
Barasoain Church and Convent in contemporary times. Photo by Joel C. Garcia.