Katipunan: Unveiling the Supremo’s untold story

KAPUSO DAY - Butch S. Raquel - The Philippine Star

In 1892, Gat Andres Bonifacio joined a few of his compatriots in founding a secret society that sparked the outbreak of the Philippine revolution. It was called the Katipunan, a group of Filipino freedom fighters who sought independence from the tyrannical hold of Spanish colonial rule.

Throughout history, Bonifacio came to be known as an uneducated indio, spurred to action by a raging temper, garbed in red and white, with bolo at hand and ready to attack. But contrary to popular belief, Bonifacio often looked stately and polished, having come from a lower middle-class family. He wasn’t rash at all—he was idealistic, strategic and rational. He did not wield a bolo during the uprising; instead, he carried a revolver.

Just who exactly was the real Andres Bonifacio? And what was his role in the revolution?

GMA News and Public Affairs’ first historical docu-drama Katipunan, an eight-part series slated to air Saturday evenings beginning tonight on GMA, hopes to confront these age-old questions.

Addressing misconceptions about the Supremo, Katipunan takes off from the success of the political drama Bayan Ko and the social commentary Titser (both aired on GMA News TV).

Seasoned journalist and Katipunan creator Jaileen Jimeno lends her talent to the series, working alongside Sakay writer Ian Victoriano, director King Mark Baco and program manager Nowell Cuanang.   

Katipunan hopes to shatter erroneous notions about Bonifacio — from mundane details like his family background and wardrobe choices, to the rigors of politics at the time of the uprising leading to his death. Jimeno says that politics plays a crucial role in the series — a holdover, so to speak, from generations past.

Katipunan weaves an inspiring tale of love and conviction in history. She points out, “We weren’t taught history the way it should be taught, as a narrative, na ito yung good points ng tao na ‘to, na ito yung wrong decisions niya, na ito yung brilliant decisions niya na common sa ating lahat. We’re just too polite to a fault.”

“I tried reading books on history, tapos yung mga kung anu-anong mga nasulat about what happened then. Tapos sabi ko, why was Aguinaldo not held accountable? Nagkaroon ba talaga ng dagdag-bawas?” she asks, speaking of the alleged duplicitous elections in the 1897 Tejeros Convention, wherein General Emilio Aguinaldo bested  Bonifacio for presidency. “It happened then, and it’s still happening now. Parang isang daang taon na hindi pa rin tayo natututo.”

In this ambitious and groundbreaking production, GMA News and Public Affairs emboldens Filipinos to look past the limits of what is written in textbooks or spoken through generations.

“Ito ang paglalahad ng buhay ni Andres Bonifacio,” says director King. “Sinubukan naming kumawala doon sa notions ng karamihan tungkol kay Bonifacio. Marami kaming in-interview na historians para lagyan ng mga detalye itong Katipunan.”

Unlike typical soap operas, Katipunan is not a figment of one’s imagination — it is a historical account told in a manner that would educate and engage Filipino viewers. This trailblazing narrative paints the human side of the noble Bonifacio — showcasing him as an ordinary human being with faults and weaknesses, who falls in the love like the next man, who stands his ground in the face of an adversary.

“Ito yung nasa history na hindi naikukuwento sa mga bata as a narrative,” continues Jimeno.“Laging titulo at saka dates. Kailan nadiskubre yung Katipunan? Kailan at bakit nalansag ang La Liga? Parang gusto kong balikan lahat ng mga history teachers ko noon and ask them, ‘Why didn’t you tell me this?’”

Jimeno gives a wee bit of a spoiler — a teaser, perhaps. “Abangan niyo yung kwento kung paano siya pinatay. Masakit iyon. Noong inaresto sila, napatay ang isang kapatid niya. And later on, aware siya na mamamatay siya at patay na iyong kapatid niyang isa pa. So tatlo... We lost three Bonifacios to the revolution and nobody’s held accountable again there. Parang ito kasi ang nangyayari pa rin ngayon. May anomalya, mayroong maling desisyon pero walang napaparusahan.”

Katipunan is billed by an exceptional cast including Sid Lucero as Bonifacio and Glaiza de Castro as his paramour Gregoria de Jesus, the Lakambini of the Katipunan.

“Sid is a very good actor, alam naman natin ‘yung power niya sa pag-arte, and Glaiza can cry on cue,” praises Jimeno, sharing how Sid was handpicked by the team to portray the valiant leader of the Philippine revolution. Rigorous auditions were also held to screen the best possible cast for Katipunan.

Joining Sid and Glaiza in the historical mini-series are Benjamin Alves, Dominic Roco, Mercedes Cabral, Nico Antonio, Soliman Cruz and Roi Vinzon.

Stories like Katipunan are necessary to uplift the Philippines as a nation. “Our history is a lesson that helps us understand what the present is, and helps us prepare for the future,” says Sid. “Kung hindi natin pag-aaralan ang nakaraan, hindi natin maiintindihan ang kasalukuyan, paano naatin paghahandaan ang hinaharap?”

Katipunan comes with a little caveat: Though it lifts off the pages of history, it also throws in a few fictional characters to add more depth to the story — Sebastian (Benjamin Alves), a shy altar boy who eventually joins the Katipunan along with his impulsive and rebellious cousin, Pacquing (Dominic); Teresa (Mercedes), Sebastian and Pacquing’s childhood friend who is ruined when a crisis hits her family; and Padre Villalon (Roi), the community’s cruel and corrupt friar.

On that note, will a fictional element muddle the historical basis of the program?

Hopefully not, answers Jimeno, as the fictional characters are simply cinematic representations of every pain, complaint and travail in the lives of Filipinos in that era. “Composite na lang. Lahat ng galit sa buhay noon, ibinato na namin sa (mga karakter) na ito. Kasi nangyayari ang mga ito sa buong archipelago noong panahon na ‘yun,” she reasons.

The people behind Katipunan hopes to inspire Filipinos to love the motherland and for the corrupt to fear history. Says Jimeno, “History, when told accurately, can be a motivation to be good.”

Katipunan is set to premiere this Saturday, October 19, 10:15PM on GMA-7. The eight-part weekly mini-series will also have replays  every Sunday, beginning October 20, 7:15PM, on GMA News TV Channel 11.

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