Propagandist and First President of the Katipunan

       Propagandist and first president of the Katipunan, Deodato Arellano was born to Juan de la Cruz and Mamerta de la Cruz on July 26, 1844 in Bulacan, Bulacan.  The family changed their name to Arellano in compliance with the Claveria decree of 1849.

       After taking a course in bookkeeping at the Ateneo Municipal, he worked as an assistant clerk at the arsenal of the military’s artillery corps.  He married Marcelo H. del Pilar’s sister, Hilaria, on April 22, 1877, after his first wife, Paula Rivera, died.

        He joined La Propaganda, a movement that sought political reforms in the country.  It was founded by his brother-in-law Del Pilar and Mariano Ponce.  He was assigned to handle both the dissemination of the group’s propaganda materials and the collection of funds for the members who were based in Spain.  He also made reports on the group’s progress and activities, which he sent to its leaders.  He was assisted in the dissemination work by Del Pilar’s young nephew, Gregorio del Pilar.

       La Propaganda was short-lived.  The money collected to pay for the upkeep of the members struggling for reforms in Spain was allegedly misspent and, thus, the group was dissolved.  To continue La Propaganda’s work, Dr. Jose Rizal decided to establish La Liga Filipina on July 3, 1892.  Deodato Arellano, who was one of the first to respond to Rizal’s cry to unite and organize, was elected its first secretary.  He served under its president, Ambrosio Salvador.

        A few days after the establishment of the Liga, however, Rizal was arrested and detained at Fort Santiago.  On July 7, 1892, Gov. Eulogio Despujol announced his immediate deportation to Dapitan.  That same day, at the house of Deodato Arellano at 72 Azcarraga Street, Andres Bonifacio, a Liga member, gathered together Teodoro Plata, Valentin Diaz, Ladislao Diwa, Jose Dizon and Arellano himself to found an underground association, the Katipunan, whose main goal was to attain not mere reforms but the country’s separation from Spain – national independence.

     In a secret meeting called in October 1892, Arellano was declared the first president of the association and of its first supreme council.  As president, he endorsed the laws of the Katipunan formulated by Plata and Diwa.  He did not last in that position, though.  Several months later, in February 1893, he was replaced by Roman Basa as Katipunan head on the intervention of Bonifacio, who judged him an ineffectual leader.  Nevertheless, despite this personal setback, Arellano dutifully carried on with his work in the movement.  While Bonifacio and other members were organizing popular councils in Manila, he himself was organizing provincial councils in Bulacan, thereby fulfilling one of Rizal’s aims in founding the Liga.

In April 1893, Arellano decided to revive the Liga and continue the work of its spiritual leader, Dr. Rizal, despite his absence.  Aided by Juan de Zulueta, he reorganized the group and spurred other members into renewed activism.  Subsequently, a new set of officers, led by Domingo Franco as president, was elected.  Arellano was voted secretary and treasurer.

        In October of the same year, the members of La Liga Filipina decided, finally, to disband.  Two groups emerged from their ranks.  One was the already established, though as yet secret organization, the Katipunan, which opted for revolutionary change.  The other, the Cuerpo de Compromisarios, was founded by Numeriano Adriano in 1894.  Its members chose to remain peaceful agitators for change in the government.  Arellano was elected secretary of this reformist organization.

       The circumstances surrounding Arellano’s final days after he was arrested on October 10, 1896 remain unclear.  Some historians believe that Arellano, after being inculpated by Katipunan members who had been captured by the Spanish authorities and forced to reveal information, was himself arrested, tortured and eventually left to die.  Other historians tend to believe that he joined Gen. Gregorio del Pilar, whom ha had trained in propaganda work years before.  He is supposed to have served as paymaster to the young general’s troops during their assault on a Spanish army outpost in Bulacan, until he died somewhere in the mountains of Bontok.


Gwekoh Sol H.   “First Katipunan President,” The Manila Times, July 26, 1965.
Manuel, E. Arsenio.  Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume I. Quezon City, 1955.