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Emilio Jacinto: the Brain and Soul of the Katipunan (December 15, 1875 — April 16, 1899)

Laguna Tourism, Culture, Arts & Trade Office
December 10, 2014
 
Emilio Jacinto was considered one of the greatest military strategists during his time who played a very important role in the fight for Philippine Independence. For Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto was “the brain and soul of the Katipunan.” He was very close to Bonifacio who treated him as his brother.
 
Very little is known about Jacinto’s childhood up until he went to college. By that time, Jacinto was proficient both in Spanish and Tagalog though he preferred to speak in Spanish most of the time.
 
Jacinto loved learning and despite being an orphan, he had been lucky enough to be educated in good schools through the kind–heartedness of his uncle. He grew up to be a brilliant, nationalistic and morally principled young man.
 
Jacinto managed to send himself to San Juan de Letran College, and later transferred to the University of Santo Tomas to pursue law. There he became classmates with future Filipino leaders Manuel QuezonSergio Osmeña and Juan Sumulong. He left college even before completing his law degree and joined the secret society “Kataas-taasan, Kagalang–galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan” or more popularly called Katipunan whose objective was to gain Philippine Independence from Spanish rule.
 
Jacinto became the youthful adviser on fiscal matters and secretary to Andrés Bonifacio because of his intelligence. Being a member of its Supreme Council, he was elected Secretary of State for the Haring Bayang Katagalugan, a revolutionary government established during the outbreak of hostilities. He became a Filipino General during the Philippine Revolution and was one of the highest ranking officers of the revolutionary society. He was later known as “Utak ng Katipunan”.
 
One of Jacinto’s greatest passions was reading books and his book collection consisted of how to make gunpowder and dynamite. One of his favourite books was about the French Revolution. He also learned a few things about the art of war, military strategies and ways of making weapons of war.
 
Jacinto was inspired to be a good writer by Dr. Jose Rizal, author of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and the revolutionary propagandist Marcelo H. Del Pilar, founder and co–publisher of the newspaper La Solidaridad and author of the anti–cleric literatures such as “Kaiingat Kayo” and “Aba Ginoong Barya”.
 
Jacinto wrote the primer of the Katipunan, the oath of pledges, and edited the revolutionary newspaper of the Katipunan called Kalayaan under the pseudonym 'Dimasilaw', and used the alias 'Pingkian' in the Katipunan. He was also the author of the Kartilya ng Katipunan, ethics code or the guidebook for members of the Katipunan in fighting the Spanish colonizers that also contained the constitution and by–laws of the Katipunan.
 
After Bonifacio's execution, Jacinto lived in Laguna and joined the militia fighting the Spaniards. He pressed on with the Katipunan's struggle but he refused to join the forces of General Emilio Aguinaldo, a leader of the Katipunan's Magdalo faction and by then the President of the Revolutionary Government because they had different views. Jacinto’s last position was as Commanding General of the Northern District of Manila, accordingly appointed by Bonifacio on April 15, 1897.
 
On October 8, 1897, Jacinto wrote his masterpiece “A La Patria” (To My Fatherland) in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. The poem was inspired by Jose Rizal's “Mi Ultimo Adios”. Written in Tagalog and relatively unknown, Jacinto's poem nevertheless overflows with patriotic sincerity and he is said to equal Rizal in nobility and loftiness of thought.
 
In 1898, while leading his troops against the Spaniards in the Battle of Maimpis in Magdalena, Laguna, Jacinto was severely wounded and was captured and then taken to the church.  He was saved by an identity pass which belonged to another man identifying him as a Spanish spy.  His wounds were treated and he was released. 
 
While living in San Juan, Sta. Cruz, Jacinto contracted malaria and died on April 9, 1899 at the age of 23. It was said that he became a meat dealer before his death. A photo taken during Jacinto’s wake shows his pregnant wife and other mourners. His remains were buried in Sta. Cruz, Laguna but were transferred to the Manila North Cemetery a few years later. Just after he was buried, American soldiers stormed into Laguna.
 
In the 1970’s, Jacinto's remains were again transferred and then enshrined at the Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park in Quezon City. At the shrine is a life–size bronze sculpture of a defiant Jacinto riding a horse during his days as a revolutionary.
 
Some of his close descendants have surfaced recently and acknowledged their lineage to Jacinto. They are all Chinese from Binondo and Tondo, proving that Jacinto was of Chinese ancestry.
 
As a tribute to his heroic deeds, Jacinto's likeness was featured on the old 20 peso bill that circulated from 1949 to 1969, and also on the old 20 centavo coin.
 
Finally in 1999, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines installed a historical marker in the first burial site of Jacinto in San Juan, Sta. Cruz, Laguna recognizing the historicity of the place and honoring Jacinto’s patriotic sojourn.