Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Which Rizál Do You Like Best?

Project Gutenberg is fortunately digitizing a lot public domain Philippine material. One is the 1913 biography of José Rizál by Austin Craig, (then Assistant Professor of Oriental History at the University of the Philippines in Manila): Lineage, Life and Labors of José Rizál.

WHICH RIZÁL PORTRAIT DO YOU LIKE BEST? Unfortunately only the text is available online, but the original edition of the book which I've seen in the Ortigas Foundation Museum contains several color plates and graphic illustrations, photographs and facsimiles that are truly invaluable Filipiniana and are merely listed in the Project Gutenberg version. Among them are two portraits of José Rizál, one by Juan Luna, the other by Felix Hidalgo, both renowned Philippine painters.

RIZÁL AS HERO Craig writes in his Dedication:
The subject of Doctor Rizal's first prize-winning poem was The Philippine Youth, and its theme was "Growth." The study of the growth of free ideas, as illustrated in this book of his lineage, life and labors, may therefore fittingly be dedicated to the "fair hope of the fatherland."

Except in the case of some few men of great genius, those who are accustomed to absolutism cannot comprehend democracy. Therefore our nation is relying on its young men and young women; on the rising, instructed generation, for the secure establishment of popular self-government in the Philippines. This was Rizal's own idea, for he said, through the old philosopher in "Noli me Tangere," that he was not writing for his own generation but for a coming, instructed generation that would understand his hidden meaning.

Your public school education gives you the democratic view-point, which the genius of Rizal gave him; in the fifty-five volumes of the Blair-Robertson translation of Philippine historical material there is available today more about your country's past than the entire contents of the British Museum afforded him; and you have the guidance in the new paths that Rizal struck out, of the life of a hero who, farsightedly or providentially, as you may later decide, was the forerunner of the present regime.

But you will do as he would have done, neither accept anything because it is written, nor reject it because it does not fall in with your prejudices--study out the truth for yourselves.
There is much to be commended about this 1913 biography of the national hero, not least is its freshness for having been written so early in our history and the memory of man was still fresh in those then still living. It documents his travels to Europe (Spain, Germany, Belgium, France) and America (cross country from San Francisco to New York) and trans-Atlantic to London and England).

RIZÁL AS EXILE: But the chapters on exile in Dapitan reveal some things that may be less familiar to most:
Next Rizal acquired a piece of property at Talisay, a little bay close to Dapitan, and at once became interested in his farm. Soon he built a house and moved into it, gathering a number of boy assistants about him, and before long he had a school. A hospital also was put up for his patients and these in time became a source of revenue, as people from a distance came to the oculist for treatment and paid liberally.

One five-hundred-peso fee from a rich Englishman was devoted by Rizal to lighting the town, and the community benefited in this way by his charity in addition to the free treatment given its poor.

The little settlement at Talisay kept growing and those who lived there were constantly improving it. When Father Obach, the Jesuit priest, fell through the bamboo stairway in the principal house, Rizal and his boys burned shells, made mortar, and soon built a fine stone stairway. They also did another piece of masonry work in the shape of a dam for storing water that was piped to the houses and poultry yard; the overflow from the dam was made to fill a swimming tank.

The school, including the house servants, numbered about twenty and was taught without books by Rizal, who conducted his recitations from a hammock. Considerable importance was given to mathematics, and in languages English was taught as well as Spanish, the entire waking period being devoted to the language allotted for the day, and whoever so far forgot as to utter a word in any other tongue was punished by having to wear a rattan handcuff. The use and meaning of this modern police device had to be explained to the boys, for Spain still tied her prisoners with rope.

Nature study consisted in helping the Doctor gather specimens of flowers, shells, insects and reptiles which were prepared and shipped to German museums. Rizal was paid for these specimens by scientific books and material. The director of the Royal Zooelogical and Anthropological Museum in Dresden, Saxony, Doctor Karl von Heller, was a great friend and admirer of Doctor Rizal. Doctor Heller's father was tutor to the late King Alfonso XII and had many friends at the Court of Spain. Evidently Doctor Heller and other of his European friends did not consider Rizal a Spanish insurrectionary, but treated him rather as a reformer seeking progress by peaceful means.

Doctor Rizal remunerated his pupils' work with gifts of clothing, books and other useful remembrances. Sometimes the rewards were cartidges, and those who had accumulated enough were permitted to accompany him in his hunting expeditions. The dignity of labor was practically inculcated by requiring everyone to make himself useful, and this was really the first school of the type, combining the use of English, nature study and industrial instruction.

On one occasion in the year 1894 some of his schoolboys secretly went into the town in a banca; a puppy which tried to follow them was eaten by a crocodile. Rizal tired to impress the evil effects of disobedience upon the youngsters by pointing out to them the sorrow which the mother-dog felt at the loss of her young one, and emphasized the lesson by modeling a statuette called "The Mother's Revenge," wherein she is represented, in revenge, as devouring the cayman. It is said to be a good likeness of the animal which was Doctor Rizal's favorite companion in his many pedestrian excursions around Dapitan.

Father Francisco Sanchez, Rizal's instructor in rhetoric in the Ateneo, made a long visit to Dapitan and brought with him some surveyor's instruments, which his former pupil was delighted to assist him in using. Together they ran the levels for a water system for the the town, which was later, with the aid of the lay Jesuit, Brother Tildot, carried to completion. This same water system is now being restored and enlarged with artesian wells by the present insular, provincial and municipal governments jointly, as part of the memorial to Rizal in this place of his exile.

RIZÁL AS OFW AND BALIKBAYAN A little known fact about José Rizál is that, like our modern day nurses and doctors, he wanted to become a medical OFW serving humanity in its greatest need. Craig tells how it came to pass in July, 1896:
Then Doctor Blumentritt wrote to him of the ravages of disease among the Spanish soldiers in Cuba and the scarcity of surgeons to attend them. Here was a labor "eminently humanitarian," to quote Rizal's words of his own profession, and it made so strong an appeal to him that, through the new governor-general, for Despujol had been replaced by Blanco, he volunteered his services. The minister of war of that time, General Azcarraga, was Philippine born. Blanco considered the time favorable for granting Rizal's petition and thus lifting the decree of deportation without the embarrassment of having the popular prisoner remain in the Islands. The thought of resuming his travels evidently inspired the following poem, which was written at about this time. The translation is by Arthur P. Ferguson:
The Song of the Traveler
By José Rizál

Like to a leaf that is fallen and withered,
Tossed by the tempest from pole unto pole;
Thus roams the pilgrim abroad without purpose,
Roams without love, without country or soul.

Following anxiously treacherous fortune,
Fortune which e'en as he grasps at it flees;
Vain though the hopes that his yearning is seeking,
Yet does the pilgrim embark on the seas!

Ever impelled by invisible power,
Destined to roam from the East to the West;
Oft he remembers the faces of loved ones,
Dreams of the day when he, too, was at rest.

Chance may assign him a tomb on the desert,
Grant him a final asylum of peace;
Soon by the world and his country forgotten,
God rest his soul when his wanderings cease!

Often the sorrowful pilgrim is envied,
Circling the globe like a sea-gull above;
Little, ah, little they know what a void
Saddens his soul by the absence of love.

Home may the pilgrim return in the future,
Back to his loved ones his footsteps he bends;
Naught will he find but the snow and the ruins,
Ashes of love and the tomb of his friends.

Pilgrim, begone! Nor return more hereafter.
Stranger thou art in the land of thy birth;
Others may sing of their love while rejoicing,
Thou once again must roam o'er the earth.

Pilgrim, begone! Nor return more hereafter,
Dry are the tears that a while for thee ran;
Pilgrim, begone! And forget thy affliction,
Loud laughs the world at the sorrows of man.

Thus the chapter on Dapitan Exile in Craig's book fittingly ends with a little known poem written by the national hero after he decides to go on his third sojourn abroad after four years in dreary Dapitan exile--to become a doctor OFW!

Oh, but why did he have to become December's balikbayan?


marvin said...

I like them all. But I like
Rizal the killjoy best.

Amadeo said...


A little appropriate trivia, this letter from Rizal during his stay in Dapitan:


One of the 14 boys (students of his) mentioned in the letter was Marcial Borromeo, who was the maternal grandfather of one of my first cousins.

Lolo Marcial used to come to our place and regale us with stories about his teacher, Rizal, during his stay in Dapitan, Zamboanga. Now, how I wish I had written some of the narratives that he so longingly related to us!