Lineage, Life and Labors of Jose Rizal, Philippine Patriot
Part 4 out of 4
The Song of the Traveler
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.
NOTICE of the granting of his request came to Rizal just when
repeated disappointments had caused him to prepare for staying
in Dapitan. Immediately he disposed of his salable possessions,
including a Japanese tea set and large mirror now among the Rizal
relics preserved by the government, and a piece of outlying land,
the deed for which is also among the Rizalana in the Philippines
library. Some half-finished busts were thrown into the pool behind
the dam. Despite the short notice all was ready for the trip in time,
and, attended by some of his schoolboys as well as by Josefina and
Rizal's niece, the daughter of his youngest sister, Soledad, whom
Josefina wished to adopt, the party set out for Manila.
The journey was not an uneventful one; at Dumaguete Rizal was the
guest of a Spanish judge at dinner; in Cebu he operated successfully
upon the eyes of a foreign merchant; and in Iloilo the local newspaper
made much of his presence.
The steamer from Dapitan reached Manila a little too late for the mail
boat for Spain, and Rizal obtained permission to await the next sailing
on board the cruiser Castilla, in the bay. Here he was treated like a
guest and more than once the Spanish captain invited members of Rizal's
family to be his guests at dinner--Josefina with little Maria Luisa,
the niece and the schoolboys, for whom positions had been obtained,
The alleged uprising of the Katipunan occurred during this time. A
Tondo curate, with an eye to promotion, professed to have discovered
a gigantic conspiracy. Incited by him, the lower class of Spaniards
in Manila made demonstrations against Blanco and tried to force
that ordinarily sensible and humane executive into bloodthirsty
measures, which should terrorize the Filipinos. Blanco had known of
the Katipunan but realized that so long as interested parties were
using it as a source of revenue, its activities would not go much
beyond speechmaking. The rabble was not so far-seeing, and from high
authorities came advice that the country was in a fever and could
only be saved by blood-letting.
Wholesale arrests filled every possible place for prisoners in
Manila. The guilt of one suspect consisted in having visited the
American consul to secure the address of a New York medical journal,
and other charges were just as frivolous. There was a reign of terror
in Luzon and, to save themselves, members of the Katipunan resorted to
that open warfare which, had Blanco's prudent counsels been regarded,
would probably have been avoided.
While the excitement was at its height, with a number of executions
failing to satisfy the blood-hunger, Rizal sailed for Spain,
bearing letters of recommendation from Blanco. These vouched for his
exemplary conduct during his exile and stated that he had in no way
been implicated in the conspiracies then disturbing the Islands.
The Spanish mail boat upon which Rizal finally sailed had among its
passengers a sick Jesuit, to whose care Rizal devoted himself, and
though most of the passengers were openly hostile to one whom they
supposed responsible for the existing outbreak, his professional
skill led several to avail themselves of his services. These were
given with a deference to the ship's doctor which made that official
an admirer and champion of his colleague.
Three only of the passengers, however, were really friendly--one
Juan Utor y Fernandez, a prominent Mason and republican, another
ex-official in the Philippines who shared Utor's liberal views,
and a young man whose father was republican.
But if Rizal's chief adversaries were content that he should go where
he would not molest them or longer jeopardize their interests, the
rabble that had been excited by the hired newspaper advocates was
not so easily calmed. Every one who felt that his picture had been
painted among the lower Spanish types portrayed in "Noli Me Tangere"
was loud for revenge. The clamor grew so great that it seemed possible
to take advantage of it to displace General Blanco, who was not a
convenient tool for the interests.
So his promotion was bought, it is said, to get one Polavieja,
a willing tool, in his place. As soon as this scheme was arranged,
a cablegram ordering Rizal's arrest was sent; it overtook the steamer
at Suez. Thus as a prisoner he completed his journey.
But this had not been entirely unforeseen, for when the steamer reached
Singapore, Rizal's companion on board, the Filipino millionaire Pedro
P. Roxas, had deserted the ship, urging the ex-exile to follow his
example. Rizal demurred, and said such flight would be considered
confession of guilt, but he was not fully satisfied in his mind that
he was safe. At each port of call his uncertainty as to what course
to pursue manifested itself, for though he considered his duty to his
country already done, and his life now his own, he would do nothing
that suggested an uneasy conscience despite his lack of confidence
in Spanish justice.
At first, not knowing the course of events in Manila, he very naturally
blamed Governor-General Blanco for bad faith, and spoke rather harshly
of him in a letter to Doctor Blumentritt, an opinion which he changed
later when the truth was revealed to him in Manila.
Upon the arrival of the steamer in Barcelona the prisoner was
transferred to Montjuich Castle, a political prison associated with
many cruelties, there to await the sailing that very day of the
Philippine mail boat. The Captain-General was the same Despujol
who had decoyed Rizal into the power of the Spaniards four years
before. An interesting interview of some hours' duration took place
between the governor and the prisoner, in which the clear conscience
of the latter seems to have stirred some sense of shame in the man
who had so dishonorably deceived him.
He never heard of the effort of London friends to deliver him at
Singapore by means of habeas-corpus proceedings. Mr. Regidor furnished
the legal inspiration and Mr. Baustead the funds for getting an opinion
as to Rizal's status as a prisoner when in British waters, from Sir
Edward Clarke, ex-solicitor-general of Great Britain. Captain Camus, a
Filipino living in Singapore, was cabled to, money was made available
in the Chartered Bank of Singapore, as Mr. Baustead's father's
firm was in business in that city, and a lawyer, now Sir Hugh Fort,
K.C., of London, was retained. Secretly, in order that the attempt,
if unsuccessful, might not jeopardize the prisoner, a petition was
presented to the Supreme Court of the Straits Settlements reciting the
facts that Doctor JosÚ Rizal, according to the Philippine practice of
punishing Freemasons without trial, was being deprived of his liberty
without warrant of law upon a ship then within the jurisdiction of
According to Spanish law Rizal was being illegally held on the Spanish
mail steamer Colon, for the Constitution of Spain forbade detention
except on a judge's order, but like most Spanish laws the Constitution
was not much respected by Spanish officials. Rizal had never had a
hearing before any judge, nor had any charge yet been placed against
him. The writ of habeas corpus was justified, provided the Colon were
a merchant ship that would be subject to British law when in British
port, but the mail steamer that carried Rizal also had on board Spanish
soldiers and flew the royal flag as if it were a national transport. No
one was willing to deny that this condition made the ship floating
Spanish territory, and the judge declined to issue the writ.
Rizal reached Manila on November 3 and was at once transferred to
Fort Santiago, at first being held in a dungeon "incomunicado" and
later occupying a small cell on the ground floor. Its furnishings
had to be supplied by himself and they consisted of a small rattan
table, a high-backed chair, a steamer chair of the same material,
and a cot of the kind used by Spanish officers--canvas top and
collapsible frame which closed up lengthwise. His meals were sent in
by his family, being carried by one of his former pupils at Dapitan,
and such cooking or heating as was necessary was done on an alcohol
lamp which had been presented to him in Paris by Mrs. Tavera.
An unsuccessful effort had been made earlier to get evidence against
Rizal by torturing his brother Paciano. For hours the elder brother had
been seated at a table in the headquarters of the political police,
a thumbscrew on one hand and pen in the other, while before him
was a confession which would implicate JosÚ Rizal in the Katipunan
uprising. The paper remained unsigned, though Paciano was hung up by
the elbows till he was insensible, and then cut down that the fall
might revive him. Three days of this maltreatment made him so ill
that there was no possibility of his signing anything, and he was
It would not be strictly accurate to say that at the close of the
nineteenth century the Spaniards of Manila were using the same tortures
that had made their name abhorrent in Europe three centuries earlier,
for there was some progress; electricity was employed at times as
an improved method of causing anguish, and the thumbscrews were much
more neatly finished than those used by the Dons of the Dark Ages.
Rizal did not approve of the rebellion and desired to issue a manifesto
to those of his countrymen who had been deceived into believing that
he was their leader. But the proclamation was not politic, for it
contained none of those fulsomely flattering phrases which passed
for patriotism in the feverish days of 1896. The address was not
allowed to be made public but it was passed on to the prosecutor to
form another count in the indictment of JosÚ Rizal for not esteeming
The following address to some Filipinos shows more clearly and
unmistakably than any words of mine exactly what was the state of
Rizal's mind in this matter.
On my return from Spain I learned that my name had been in use,
among some who were in arms, as a war-cry. The news came as a painful
surprise, but, believing it already closed, I kept silent over an
incident which I considered irremediable. Now I notice indications of
the disturbances continuing and if any still, in good or bad faith, are
availing themselves of my name, to stop this abuse and undeceive the
unwary I hasten to address you these lines that the truth may be known.
From the very beginning, when I first had notice of what was being
planned, I opposed it, fought it, and demonstrated its absolute
impossibility. This is the fact, and witnesses to my words are now
living. I was convinced that the scheme was utterly absurd, and,
what was worse, would bring great suffering.
I did even more. When later, against my advice, the movement
materialized, of my own accord I offered not alone my good offices,
but my very life, and even my name, to be used in whatever way
might seem best, toward stifling the rebellion; for, convinced of
the ills which it would bring, I considered myself fortunate if, at
any sacrifice, I could prevent such useless misfortunes. This equally
is of record. My countrymen, I have given proofs that I am one most
anxious for liberties for our country, and I am still desirous of
them. But I place as a prior condition the education of the people,
that by means of instruction and industry our country may have an
individuality of its own and make itself worthy of these liberties. I
have recommended in my writings the study of the civic virtues,
without which there is no redemption. I have written likewise (and I
repeat my words) that reforms, to be beneficial, must come from above,
that those which come from below are irregularly gained and uncertain.
Holding these ideas, I cannot do less than condemn, and I do condemn
this uprising--as absurd, savage, and plotted behind my back--which
dishonors us Filipinos and discredits those who could plead our
cause. I abhor its criminal methods and disclaim all part in it,
pitying from the bottom of my heart the unwary who have been deceived.
Return, then, to your homes, and may God pardon those who have worked
in bad faith!
Fort Santiago, December 15, 1896.
Finally a court-martial was convened for Rizal's trial, in the
Cuartel de Espa˝a. No trained counsel was allowed to defend him,
but a list of young army officers was presented from which he might
select a nominal defender. Among the names was one which was familiar,
Luis Taviel de Andrade, and he proved to be the brother of Rizal's
companion during his visit to the Philippines in 1887-88. The young
man did his best and risked unpopularity in order to be loyal to
his client. His defense reads pitiably weak in these days but it was
risky then to say even so much.
The judge advocate in a ridiculously bombastic effusion gave an
alleged sketch of Rizal's life which showed ignorance of almost every
material event, and then formulated the first precise charge against
the prisoner, which was that he had founded an illegal society,
alleging that the Liga Filipina had for its sole object to commit
the crime of rebellion.
The second charge was that Rizal was responsible for the existing
rebellion, having caused it, bringing it on by his unceasing labors. An
aggravating circumstance was found in the prisoner's being a native
of the Philippines.
The penalty of death was asked of the court, and in the event of pardon
being granted by the crown, the prisoner should at least remain under
surveillance for the rest of his life and pay as damages 20,000 pesos.
The arguments are so absurd, the bias of the court so palpable, that
it is not worth while to discuss them. The parallel proceedings in
the military trial and execution of Francisco Ferret in Barcelona in
1909 caused worldwide indignation, and the illegality of almost every
step, according to Spanish law, was shown in numerous articles in
the European and American press. Rizal's case was even more brazenly
unfair, but Manila was too remote and the news too carefully censored
for the facts to become known.
The prisoner's arms were tied, corded from elbow to elbow behind
his back, and thus he sat through the weary trial while the public
jeered him and clamored for his condemnation as the bloodthirsty
crowds jeered and clamored in the French Reign of terror.
Then came the verdict and the prisoner was invited to acknowledge
the regularity of the proceedings in the farcical trial by signing
the record. To this Rizal demurred, but after a vain protest, affixed
He was at once transferred to the Fort chapel, there to pass the last
twenty-four hours of his life in preparing for death. The military
chaplain offered his services, which were courteously declined, but
when the Jesuits came, those instructors of his youth were eagerly
Rizal's trial had awakened great interest and accounts of everything
about the prisoner were cabled by eager correspondents to the Madrid
newspapers. One of the newspaper men who visited Rizal in his cell
mentions the courtesy of his reception, and relates how the prisoner
played the host and insisted on showing his visitor those attentions
which Spanish politeness considers due to a guest, saying that these
must be permitted, for he was in his own home. The interviewer found
the prisoner perfectly calm and natural, serious of course, but not
at all overwhelmed by the near prospect of death, and in discussing
his career Rizal displayed that dispassionate attitude toward his
own doings that was characteristic of him. Almost as though speaking
of a stranger he mentioned that if Archbishop Nozaleda's sane view
had been taken and "Noli Me Tangere" not preached against, he would
not have been in prison, and perhaps the rebellion would never have
occurred. It is easy for us to recognize that the author referred to
the misconception of his novel, which had arisen from the publication
of the censor's extracts, which consisted of whatever could be
construed into coming under one of the three headings of attacks on
religion, attacks on government, and reflections on Spanish character,
without the slightest regard to the context.
But the interviewer, quite honestly, reported Rizal to be regretting
his novel instead of regretting its miscomprehension, and he seems
to have been equally in error in the way he mistook Rizal's meaning
about the republicans in Spain having led him astray.
Rizal's exact words are not given in the newspaper account, but it is
not likely that a man would make admissions in a newspaper interview,
which if made formally, would have saved his life. Rizal's memory
has one safeguard against the misrepresentations which the absence
of any witnesses favorable to him make possible regarding his last
moments: a political retraction would have prevented his execution,
and since the execution did take place, it is reasonable to believe
that Rizal died holding the views for which he had expressed himself
willing to suffer martyrdom.
Yet this view does not reflect upon the good faith of the reporter. It
is probable that the prisoner was calling attention to the illogical
result that, though he had disregarded the advice of the radical
Spaniards who urged him to violent measures, his peaceable agitation
had been misunderstood and brought him to the same situation as though
he had actually headed a rebellion by arms. His slighting opinion
of his great novel was the view he had always held, for like all
men who do really great things, he was the reverse of a braggart,
and in his remark that he had attempted to do great things without
the capacity for gaining success, one recognizes his remembrance of
his mother's angry prophecy foretelling failure in all he undertook.
His family waited long outside the Governor-General's place to ask
a pardon, but in vain; General Polavieja had to pay the price of his
appointment and refused to see them.
The mother and sisters, however, were permitted to say farewell to
Rizal in the chapel, under the eyes of the death-watch. The prisoner
had been given the unusual privilege of not being tied, but he was
not allowed to approach near his relatives, really for fear that
he might pass some writing to them--the pretext was made that Rizal
might thus obtain the means for committing suicide.
To his sister Trinidad Rizal spoke of having nothing to give her
by way of remembrance except the alcohol cooking lamp which he had
been using, a gift, as he mentioned, from Mrs. Tavera. Then he added
quickly, in English, so that the listening guard would not understand,
"There is something inside."
The other events of Rizal's last twenty-four hours, for he went in to
the chapel at seven in the morning of the day preceding his execution,
are perplexing. What purported to be a detailed account was promptly
published in Barcelona, on Jesuit authority, but one must not forget
that Spaniards are not of the phlegmatic disposition which makes for
accuracy in minute matters and even when writing history they are
dramatically ificlined. So while the truthfulness, that is the intent
to be fair, may not be questioned, it would not be strange if those who
wrote of what happened in the chapel in Fort Santiago during Rizal's
last hours did not escape entirely from the influence of the national
characteristics. In the main their narrative is to be accepted,
but the possibility of unconscious coloring should not be disregarded.
In substance it is alleged that Rizal greeted his old instructors
and other past acquaintances in a friendly way. He asked for copies
of the Gospels and the writings of Thomas-Ó-Kempis, desired to be
formally married to Josefina, and asked to be allowed to confess. The
Jesuits responded that first it would be necessary to investigate
how far his beliefs conformed to the Roman Catholic teachings. Their
catechizing convinced them that he was not orthodox and a religious
debate ensued in which Rizal, after advancing all known arguments,
was completely vanquished. His marriage was made contingent upon his
signing a retraction of his published heresies.
The Archbishop had prepared a form which the Jesuits believed
Rizal would be little likely to sign, and they secured permission
to substitute a shorter one of their own which included only the
absolute essentials for reconciliation with the Church, and avoided all
political references. They say that Rizal objected only to a disavowal
of Freemasonry, stating that in England, where he held his membership,
the Masonic institution was not hostile to the Church. After some
argument, he waived this point and wrote out, at a Jesuit's dictation,
the needed retraction, adding some words to strengthen it in parts,
indicating his Catholic education and that the act was of his own
free will and accord.
The prisoner, the priests, and all the Spanish officials present knelt
at the altar, at Rizal's suggestion, while he read his retraction
aloud. Afterwards he put on a blue scapular, kissed the image of
the Sacred Heart he had carved years before, heard mass as when
a student in the Ateneo, took communion, and read his Ó-Kempis or
prayed in the intervals. He took breakfast with the Spanish officers,
who now regarded him very differently. At six Josefina entered and
was married to him by Father Balanguer.
Now in this narrative there are some apparent discrepancies. Mention is
made of Rizal having in an access of devotion signed in a devotionary
all the acts of faith, and it is said that this book was given to one
of his sisters. His chapel gifts to his family have been examined,
but though there is a book of devotion, "The Anchor of Faith," it
contains no other signature than the presentation on a flyleaf. As
to the religious controversy: while in Dapitan Rizal carried on with
Father Pio Pi, the Jesuit superior, a lengthy discussion involving the
interchange of many letters, but he succeeded in fairly maintaining
his views, and these views would hardly have caused him to be called
Protestant in the Roman Catholic churches of America. Then the
theatrical reading aloud of his retraction before the altar does not
conform to Rizal's known character. As to the anti-Masonic arguments,
these appear to be from a work by Monsignor Dupanloup and therefore
were not new to Rizal; furthermore, the book was in his own library.
Again, it seems strange that Rizal should have asserted that his
Masonic membership was in London when in visiting St. John's Lodge,
Scotch Constitution, in Hongkong in November of 1891, since which
date he had not been in London, he registered as from "Temple du
honneur de les amis franšais," an old-established Paris lodge.
Also the sister Lucia, who was said to have been a witness of the
marriage, is not positive that it occurred, having only seen the
priest at the altar in his vestments. The record of the marriage
has been stated to be in the Manila Cathedral, but it is not there,
and as the Jesuit in officiating would have been representing the
military chaplain, the entry should have been in the Fort register,
now in Madrid. Rizal's burial, too, does not indicate that he died
in the faith, yet it with the marriage has been used as an argument
for proving that the retraction must have been made.
The retraction itself appears in two versions, with slight
differences. No one outside the Spanish faction has ever seen
the original, though the family nearly got into trouble by their
persistence in trying to get sight of it after its first publication.
The foregoing might suggest some disbelief, but in fact they are only
proofs of the remarks already made about the Spanish carelessness in
details and liking for the dramatic.
The writer believes Rizal made a retraction, was married canonically,
and was given what was intended to be Christian burial.
The grounds for this belief rest upon the fact that he seems never
to have been estranged in faith from the Roman Catholic Church,
but he objected only to certain political and mercenary abuses. The
first retraction is written in his style and it certainly contains
nothing he could not have signed in Dapitan. In fact, Father Obach
says that when he wanted to marry Josefina on her first arrival there,
Rizal prepared a practically similar statement. Possibly the report of
that priest aided in outlining the draft which the Jesuits substituted
for the Archbishop's form. There is no mention of evasions or mental
reservations and Rizal's renunciation of Masonry might have been
qualified by the quibble that it was "the Masonry which was an enemy
of the Church" that he was renouncing. Then since his association
(not affiliation) had been with Masons not hostile to religion,
he was not abandoning these.
The possibility of this line of thought having suggested itself to
him appears in his evasions on the witness-stand at his trial. Though
he answered with absolute frankhess whatever concerned himself and in
everyday life was almost quixotically truthful, when cross-examined
about others who would be jeopardized by admitting his acquaintance
with them, he used the subterfuge of the symbolic names of his Masonic
acquaintances. Thus he would say, "I know no one by that name," since
care was always taken to employ the symbolic names in introductions
Rizal's own symbolic name was "Dimas Alang"--Tagalog for "Noli
Me Tangere"--and his nom de plume in some of his controversial
publications. The use of that name by one of his companions on the
railroad trip to Tarlac entirely mystified a station master, as appears
in the secret report of the espionage of that trip, which just preceded
his deportation to Dapitan. Another possible explanation is that, since
Freemasonry professes not to disturb the duties which its members owe
to God, their country or their families, he may have considered himself
as a good Mason under obligation to do whatever was demanded by these
superior interests, all three of which were at this time involved.
The argument that it was his pride that restrained him suggested to
Rizal the possibility of his being unconsciously under an influence
which during his whole life he had been combating, and he may have
considered that his duty toward God required the sacrifice of this
For his country his sacrifice would have been blemished were any
religious stigma to attach to it. He himself had always been careful
of his own good name, and as we have said elsewhere, he told his
companions that in their country's cause whatever they offered on the
altars of patriotism must be as spotless as the sacrificial lambs of
Furthermore, his work for a tranquil future for his family would be
unfulfilled were he to die outside the Church. Josefina's anomalous
status, justifiable when all the facts were known, would be sure
to bring criticism upon her unless corrected by the better defined
position of a wife by a church marriage. Then the aged parents and
the numerous children of his sisters would by his act be saved the
scandal that in a country so mediŠvally pious as the Philippines
would come from having their relative die "an unrepentant heretic."
Rizal had received from the Jesuits, while in prison, several religious
books and pictures, which he used as remembrances for members of his
family, writing brief dedications upon them. Then he said good-by to
Josefina, asking in a low voice some question to which she answered
in English, "Yes, yes," and aloud inquiring how she would be able to
gain a living, since all his property had been seized by the Spanish
government to satisfy the 20,000 pesetas costs which was included in
the sentence of death against him. Her reply was that she could earn
money giving lessons in English.
The journey from the Fort to the place of execution, then Bagumbayan
Field, now called the Luneta, was on foot. His arms were tied tightly
behind his back, and he was surrounded by a heavy guard. The Jesuits
accompanied him and some of his Dapitan schoolboys were in the crowd,
while one friendly voice, that of a Scotch merchant still resident
in Manila, called out in English, "Good-by, Rizal."
The route was along the Malecon Drive where as a college student he
had walked with his fiancÚe, Leonora. Above the city walls showed the
twin towers of the Ateneo, and when he asked about them, for they were
not there in his boyhood days, he spoke of the happy years that he
had spent in the old school. The beauty of the morning, too, appealed
to him, and may have recalled an experience of his '87 visit when he
said to a friend whom he met on the beach during an early morning walk:
"Do you know that I have a sort of foreboding that some such sunshiny
morning as this I shall be out here facing a firing squad?"
Troops held back the crowds and left a large square for the tragedy,
while artillery behind them was ready for suppressing any attempt at
rescuing the prisoner. None came, however, for though Rizal's brother
Paciano had joined the insurrectionary forces in Cavite when the death
sentence showed there was no more hope for JosÚ, he had discouraged
the demonstration that had been planned as soon as he learned how
scantily the insurgents were armed, hardly a score of serviceable
firearms being in the possession of their entire "army."
The firing squad was of Filipino soldiers, while behind them, better
armed, were Spaniards in case these tried to evade the fratricidal
part assigned them. Rizal's composure aroused the curiosity of a
Spanish military surgeon standing by and he asked, "Colleague, may
I feel your pulse?" Without other reply the prisoner twisted one of
his hands as far from his body as the cords which bound him allowed,
so that the other doctor could place his fingers on the wrist. The
beats were steady and showed neither excitement nor fear, was the
report made ater.
His request to be allowed to face his executioners was denied as being
out of the power of the commanding officer to grant, though Rizal
declared that he did not deserve such a death, for he was no traitor
to Spain. It was promised, however, that his head should be respected,
and as unblindfolded and erect Rizal turned his back to receive their
bullets, he twisted a hand to indicate under the shoulder where the
soldiers should aim so as to reach his heart. Then as the volley came,
with a last supreme effort of will power, he turned and fell face
upwards, thus receiving the subsequent "shots of grace" which ended his
life, so that in form as well as fact he did not die a traitor's death.
The Spanish national air was played, that march of Cadiz which should
have recalled a violated constitution, for by the laws of Spain itself
Rizal was illegally executed.
Vivas, laughter and applause were heard, for it had been the social
event of the day, with breakfasting parties on the walls and on
the carriages, full of interested onlookers of both sexes, lined up
conveniently near for the sightseeing.
The troops defiled past the dead body, as though reviewed by it,
for the most commanding figure of all was that which lay lifeless,
but the center of all eyes. An officer, realizing the decency due to
death, drew his handkerchief from the dead man's pocket and spread
the silk over the calm face. A crimson stain soon marked the whiteness
emblematic of the pure life that had just ended, and with the glorious
blue overhead, the tricolor of Liberty, which had just claimed another
martyr, was revealed in its richest beauty.
Sir Hugh Clifford (now Governor of Ceylon), in Blackwood's Magazine,
"The Story of JosÚ Rizal, the Filipino; A Fragment of Recent Asiatic
History," comments as follows on the disgraceful doing of that day:
"It was," he writes, "early morning, December 30, 1896, and the bright
sunshine of the tropics streamed down upon the open space, casting
hard fantastic shadows, and drenching with its splendor two crowds
of sightseers. The one was composed of Filipinos, cowed, melancholy,
sullen, gazing through hopeless eyes at the final scene in the life of
their great countryman--the man who had dared to champion their cause,
and to tell the world the story of their miseries; the other was blithe
of air, gay with the uniforms of officers and the bright dresses of
Spanish ladies, the men jesting and laughing, the women shamelessly
applauding with waving handkerchiefs and clapping palms, all alike
triumphing openly in the death of the hated 'Indian,' the 'brother
of the water-buffalo,' whose insolence had wounded their pride.
* * * Turning away, sick at heart, from the contemplation of this
bitter tragedy, it is with a thrill of almost vindictive satisfaction
that one remembers that less than eighteen months later the Luneta
echoed once more to the sound of a mightier fusillade--the roar of
the great guns with which the battle of Manila Bay was fought and won.
* * *And if in the moment of his last supreme agony the power to probe
the future had been vouchsafed to JosÚ Rizal, would he not have died
happy in the knowledge that the land he loved so dearly was very soon
to be transferred into such safekeeping?"
The After-Life in Memory
An hour or so after the shooting a dead-wagon from San Juan de Diˇs
Hospital took Rizal's body to Paco Cemetery. The civil governor of
Manila was in charge and there also were present the members of a
Church society whose duty it was to attend executions.
Rizal had been wearing a black suit which he had obtained for his
European trip, and a derby hat, not only appropriate for a funeral
occasion because of their somber color, but also more desirable
than white both for the full day's wear, since they had to be put
on before the twenty-four hours in the chapel, and for the lying on
the ground which would follow the execution of the sentence. A plain
box inclosed the remains thus dressed, for even the hat was picked
up and encoffined.
No visitors were admitted to the cemetery while the interment was
going on, and for several weeks after guards watched over the grave,
lest Filipinos might come by night to steal away the body and apportion
the clothing among themselves as relics of a martyr. Even the exact
spot of the interment was intended to be unknown, but friends of the
family were among the attendants at the burial and dropped into the
grave a marble slab which had been furnished them, bearing the initials
of the full baptismal name, JosÚ Protasio Rizal, in reversed order.
The entry of the burial, like that of three of his followers of the
Liga Filipina who were among the dozen executed a fortnight later,
was on the back flyleaf of the cemetery register, with three or four
words of explanation later erased and now unknown. On the previous
page was the entry of a suicide's death, and following it is that of
the British Consul who died on the eve of Manila's surrender and whose
body, by the Archbishop's permission, was stored in a Paco niche till
it could be removed to the Protestant (foreigners') cemetery at San
The day of Rizal's execution, the day of his birth and the day of
his first leaving his native land was a Wednesday. All that night,
and the next day, the celebration continued the volunteers, who
were particularly responsible, like their fellows in Cuba, for the
atrocities which disgraced Spain's rule in the Philippines, being
especially in evidence. It was their clamor that had made the bringing
back of Rizal possible, their demands for his death had been most
prominent in his so-called trial, and now they were praising themselves
for their "patriotism." The landlords had objected to having their land
titles questioned and their taxes raised. The other friar orders, as
well as these, were opposed to a campaign which sought their transfer
from profitable parishes to self-sacrificing missionary labors. But
probably none of them as organizations desired Rizal's death.
Rizal's old teachers wished for the restoration of their former
pupil to the faith of his childhood, from which they believed he had
departed. Through Despujol they seem to have worked for an opportunity
for influencing him, yet his death was certainly not in their plans.
Some Filipinos, to save themselves, tried to complicate Rizal with the
Katipunan uprising by palpable falsehoods. But not every man is heroic
and these can hardly be blamed, for if all the alleged confessions
were not secured by actual torture, they were made through fear of
it, since in 1896 there was in Manila the legal practice of causing
bodily suffering by mediŠval methods supplemented by torments devised
by modern science.
Among the Spaniards in Manila then, reŰnforced by those whom
the uprising had frightened out of the provinces, were a few who
realized that they belonged among the classes caricatured in Rizal's
novels--some incompetent, others dishonest, cruel ones, the illiterate,
wretched specimens that had married outside their race to get money
and find wives who would not know them for what they were, or drunken
husbands of viragoes. They came to the Philippines because they were
below the standard of their homeland. These talked the loudest and
thus dominated the undisciplined volunteers. With nothing divine about
them, since they had not forgotten, they did not forgive. So when the
Tondo "discoverer" of the Katipunan fancied he saw opportunity for
promotion in fanning their flame of wrath, they claimed their victims,
and neither the panic-stricken populace nor the weak-kneed government
could withstand them.
Once more it must be repeated that Spain has no monopoly of bad
characters, nor suffers in the comparison of her honorable citizenship
with that of other nationalities, but her system in the Philippines
permitted abuses which good governments seek to avoid or, in the
rare occasions when this is impossible, aim to punish. Here was the
Spanish shortcoming, for these were the defects which made possible
so strange a story as this biography unfolds. "JosÚ Rizal," said a
recent Spanish writer, "was the living indictment of Spain's wretched
Rizal's family were scattered among the homes of friends brave enough
to risk the popular resentment against everyone in any way identified
with the victim of their prejudice.
As New Year's eve approached, the bands ceased playing and the marchers
stopped parading. Their enthusiasm had worn itself out in the two
continuous days of celebration, and there was a lessening of the
hospitality with which these "heroes" who had "saved the fatherland"
at first had been entertained. Their great day of the year became of
more interest than further remembrance of the bloody occurrence on
Bagumbayan Field. To those who mourned a son and a brother the change
must have come as a welcome relief, for even sorrow has its degrees,
and the exultation over the death embittered their grief.
To the remote and humble home where Rizal's widow and the sister
to whom he had promised a parting gift were sheltered, the Dapitan
schoolboy who had attended his imprisoned teacher brought an alcohol
cooking-lamp. It was midnight before they dared seek the "something"
which Rizal had said was inside. The alcohol was emptied from the tank
and, with a convenient hairpin, a tightly folded and doubled piece of
paper was dislodged from where it had been wedged in, out of sight,
so that its rattling might not betray it.
It was a single sheet of notepaper bearing verses in Rizal's well-known
handwriting and familiar style. Hastily the young boy copied them,
making some minor mistakes owing to his agitation and unfamiliarity
with the language, and the copy, without explanation, was mailed to
Mr. Basa in Hongkong. Then the original was taken by the two women with
their few possessions and they fled to join the insurgents in Cavite.
The following translation of these verses was made by Charles
My Last Farewell
Farewell, dear Fatherland, clime of the sun caress'd,
Pearl of the Orient seas, our Eden lost!
Gladly now I go to give thee this faded life's best,
And were it brighter, fresher, or more blest,
Still would I give it thee, nor count the cost.
On the field of battle, 'mid the frenzy of fight,
Others have given their lives, without doubt or heed;
The place matters not--cypress or laurel or lily white,
Scaffold of open plain, combat or martyrdom's plight,
'Tis ever the same, to serve our home and country's need.
I die just when I see the dawn break,
Through the gloom of night, to herald the day;
And if color is lacking my blood thou shalt take,
Pour'd out at need for thy dear sake,
To dye with its crimson the waking ray.
My dreams, when life first opened to me,
My dreams, when the hopes of youth beat high,
Were to see thy lov'd face, O gem of the Orient sea,
From gloom and grief, from care and sorrow free;
No blush on thy brow, no tear in thine eye
Dream of my life, my living and burning desire,
All hail! cries the soul that is now to take flight;
All hail! And sweet it is for thee to expire;
To die for thy sake, that thou mayst aspire;
And sleep in thy bosom eternity's long night.
If over my grave some day thou seest grow,
In the grassy sod, a humble flower,
Draw it to thy lips and kiss my soul so,
While I may feel on my brow in the cold tomb below
The touch of thy tenderness, thy breath's warm power.
Let the moon beam over me soft and serene,
Let the dawn shed over me its radiant flashes,
Let the wind with sad lament over me keen;
And if on my cross a bird should be seen,
Let it trill there its hymn of peace to my ashes.
Let the sun draw the vapors up to the sky,
And heavenward in purity bear my tardy protest;
Let some kind soul o'er my untimely fate sigh,
And in the still evening a prayer be lifted on high
From thee, O my country, that in God I may rest.
Pray for all those that hapless have died,
For all who have suffered the unmeasur'd pain;
For our mothers that bitterly their woes have cried,
For widows and orphans, for captives by torture tried;
And then for thyself that redemption thou mayst gain.
And when the dark night wraps the graveyard around,
With only the dead in their vigil to see;
Break not my repose or the mystery profound,
And perchance thou mayst hear a sad hymn resound;
'Tis I, O my country, raising a song unto thee.
When even my grave is remembered no more,
Unmark'd by never a cross nor a stone;
Let the plow sweep through it, the spade turn it o'er,
That my ashes may carpet thy earthly floor,
Before into nothingness at last they are blown.
Then will oblivion bring to me no care,
As over thy vales and plains I sweep;
Throbbing and cleansed in thy space and air,
With color and light, with song and lament I fare,
Ever repeating the faith that I keep.
My Fatherland ador'd, that sadness to my sorrow lends,
Beloved Filipinas, hear now my last good-by!
I give thee all: parents and kindred and friends;
For I go where no slave before the oppressor bends,
Where faith can never kill, and God reigns e'er on high!
Farewell to you all, from my soul torn away,
Friends of my childhood in the home dispossessed!
Give thanks that I rest from the wearisome day!
Farewell to thee, too, sweet friend that lightened my way;
Beloved creatures all, farewell! In death there is rest!
For some time such belongings of Rizal as had been intrusted to
Josefina had been in the care of the American Consul in Manila
for as the adopted daughter of the American Taufer she had claimed
his protection. Stories are told of her as a second Joan of Arc,
but it is not likely that one of the few rifles which the insurgents
had would be turned over to a woman. After a short experience in the
field, much of it spent in nursing her sister-in-law through a fever,
Mrs. Rizal returned to Manila. Then came a brief interview with the
Governor-General. He had learned that his "administrative powers"
to exile without trial did not extend to foreigners, but by advice
of her consul she soon sailed for Hongkong.
Mrs. Rizal at first lived in the Basa home and received
considerable attention from the Filipino colony. There was too
great a difference between the freedom accorded Englishwomen and the
restraints surrounding Spanish ladies however, to avoid difficulties
and misunderstandings, for very long. She returned to her adopted
father's house and after his death married Vicente Abad, a Cebuan,
son of a Spaniard who had been prominent in the Tabacalera Company
and had become an agent of theirs in Hongkong after he had completed
his studies there.
Two weeks after Rizal's execution a dozen other members of his
"Liga Filipina" were executed on the Luneta. One was a millionaire,
Francisco Roxas, who had lost his mind, and believing that he was in
church, calmly spread his handkerchief on the ground and knelt upon
it as had been his custom in childhood. An old man, Moises Salvador,
had been crippled by torture so that he could not stand and had to
be laid upon the grass to be shot. The others met their death standing.
That bravery and cruelty do not usually go together was amply
demonstrated in Polavieja's case and by the volunteers. The latter
once showed their patriotism, after a banquet, by going to the water's
edge on the Luneta and firing volleys at the insurgents across the
bay, miles away. The General was relieved of his command after he had
fortified a camp with siege guns against the bolo-armed insurgents,
who, however, by captures from the Spaniards were gradually becoming
better equipped. But he did not escape condemnation from his own
countrymen, and when he visited Giron, years after he had returned to
the Peninsula, circulars were distributed among the crowd, bearing
Rizal's last verses, his portrait, and the charge that to Polavieja
was due the loss of the Philippines to Spain.
The Katipunan insurgents in time were bought off by General Primo de
Rivera, once more returned to the Islands for further plunder. The
money question does not concern Rizal's life, but his prediction of
suffering to the country came true, for while the leaders with the
first payment and hostages for their own safety sailed away to live
securely in Hongkong, the poorer people who remained suffered the
vengeance of a government which seems never to have kept a promise to
its people. Whether reforms were pledged is disputed, but if any were,
they never were put into effect. No more money was paid, and the first
instalment, preserved by the prudent leaders, equipped them when,
owing to Dewey's victory, they were enabled to return to their country.
On the first anniversary of Rizal's execution some Spaniards desecrated
the grave, while on one of the niches, rented for the purpose, many
feet away, the family hung wreaths with Tagalog dedications but
August 13, 1898, the Spanish flag came down from Fort Santiago in
evidence of the surrender of the city. At the first opportunity
Paco Cemetery was visited and Rizal's body raised for a more decent
interment. Vainly his shoes were searched for a last message which
he had said might be concealed there, for the dampness had made any
paper unrecognizable. Then a simple cross was erected, resting on a
marble block carved, as had been the smaller one which secretly had
first marked the spot, with the reversed initials "R. P. J."
The first issue of a Filipino newspaper under the new government was
entirely dedicated to Rizal. The second anniversary of his execution
was observed with general unanimity, his countrymen demonstrating that
those who were seeing the dawn of the new day were not forgetful of
the greatest of those who had fallen in the night, to paraphrase his
His widow returned and did live by giving lessons in English, at first
privately in Cebu, where one of her pupils was the present and first
Speaker of the Philippine Assembly, and afterwards as a government
employee in the public schools and in the "Liceo" of Manila.
With the establishment of civil government a new province was formed
near Manila, including the land across the lake to which, as a lad
in Kalamba, Rizal had often wonderingly looked, and the name of Rizal
Province was given it.
Later when public holidays were provided for by the new laws, the
anniversary of Rizal's execution was in the list, and it has become the
great day of the year, with the entire community uniting, for Spaniards
no longer consider him to have been a traitor to Spain and the American
authorities have founded a government in conformity with his teachings.
On one of these occasions, December 30, 1905, William Jennings Bryan,
"The Great American Commoner," gave the Rizal Day address, in the
course of which he said:
"If you will permit me to draw one lesson from the life of Rizal,
I will say that he presents an example of a great man consecrated
to his country's welfare. He, though dead, is a living rebuke to the
scholar who selfishly enjoys the privilege of an ample education and
does not impart the benefits of it to his fellows. His example is worth
much to the people of these Islands, to the child who reads of him,
to the young and old."
The fiftieth anniversary of Rizal's birth was observed throughout the
Archipelago with exercises in every community by public schools now
organized along the lines he wished, to make self-dependent, capable
men and women, strong in body as in mind, knowing and claiming their
own rights, and recognizing and respecting those of others.
His father died early in the year that the flags changed, but the
mother lived to see honor done her son and to prove herself as worthy,
for when the Philippine Legislature wanted to set aside a considerable
sum for her use, she declined it with the true and rightfully
proud assertion, that her family had never been patriotic for
money. Her funeral, in 1911, was an occasion of public mourning, the
Governor-General, Legislature and chief men of the Islands attending,
and all public business being suspended by proclamation for the day.
A capitol for the representatives of the free people of the
Philippines, and worthy of the pioneer democratic government in the
Orient, is soon to be erected on the Luneta, facing the big Rizal
monument which will mark the place of execution of the man who gave
his life to prepare his countrymen for the changed conditions.
 -- I take the liberty, here, of citing an instance of this. In
1861, when I found myself on the West Coast of Mexico, a dozen
backwoods families determined upon settling in Sonora (forming an
oasis in the desert); a plan which was frustrated by the invasion
at that time of the European powers. Many native farmers awaited
the arrival of these immigrants in order to take them under their
protection. The value of land in consequence of the announcement of
the project rose very considerably.
 -- See Appendix.
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