By RUDY LIPORADA
In a manifesto addressed to the Filipinos, dated December 15, 1896, Jose Rizal categorically stated that he is against an armed rebellion in the Philippines, saying:
“From the very beginning, when I first received information of what was being planned (the revolution), I opposed, I fought against it, and I made clear that it was absolutely impossible. This is the truth, and they are still alive who can bear witness to my words. I was convinced that the very idea was wholly absurd – worse than absurd – it was disastrous…When later on, in spite of my urgings, the uprising broke out, I came forward voluntarily to offer not only my services but my life and even my good name in order that they may use me in any manner they may think opportune to smother the rebellion. For I was convinced of the evils which that rebellion would bring in its train, and so I considered it a privilege if at whatever sacrifice I could ward off so much useless suffering. This is also of record.…. I have written also (and I repeat my words) that reforms, to be beneficial, must come from above, and those which comes from below are irregularly gained and uncertain. Holding these ideas, I cannot do less than condemn, and I do condemn this uprising-which dishonors us Filipinos and discredits those that could plead our cause. I abhor its criminal methods and disclaim all part in it, pitying from the bottom of my heart the unwary that have been deceived into taking part in it.”
The basic question is: would a hero advise a people ready to fight for their independence, to lay down their arms – basically not to fight…to say that the revolution was wrong?
Rizal, in this context, should be understood by his ilustrado perspective. He belonged to the landed elite. While it is true that he was among those who exposed the oppression of the poor Filipinos in the hands of the Spaniards, he did so not for the sake of the poor but for his class.
It should be noted that the ilustrados did not advocate outright revolution or separation from Spain. They merely requested that the natives be equals to the Spaniards and that the Philippines be a mere province of Spain. They requested for equal representation to the Spanish Cortez which was the governing body of Spain in running all the colonies under her tutelage. This would make the ilustrados become eligible, not the poor masses, representatives to the Cortez or become governors for that matter.
The Last Farewell of Jose Rizal, like Sound and Fury, is full of Emotions signifying Nothing.
Right after his studies in Spain, Rizal returned to the Philippines and established the La Liga Filipina which failed, not only to institute reforms but to call the indios to arms against the colonialists. Nonetheless, the Spaniard still considered him seditious and exiled him to Dapitan in 1892. There, for four years, he did nothing to arouse the revolution. In fact, when Andres Bonifacio asked for guidance from him when and how the revolution should start, he admonished Bonifacio to hold off the armed insurrection.
He reasoned that the wealthier Filipinos should be attracted to join (which proved futile because they just wanted reforms). Rizal also contended that the revolution cannot start without the insurrectos having arms almost equal to the enemies. This would be tantamount to saying never because it would take forever for revolutionaries to equal the arms of the colonialists. Most emphatically, Rizal said that there should be no revolution unless the masses are educated, ready to govern themselves in the proper manner when the revolution is over. This would be waiting for the masses to transform themselves first into ilustrados who would only seek for reforms.
When the Cuban-American war broke out, Rizal volunteered to be a doctor for the Spanish army as Cuba was a territory of Spain. Released from Dapitan, he subsequently prepared to sail for Cuba via Spain. As soon as he reached Spain’s port, however, he was deported back to the Philippines. The armed insurrection of the Katipunan had already percolated and the colonialists held him culpable as instigator of the sedition. He was tried and scheduled to be shot by a firing squad after a brief imprisonment in Fort Santiago in Intramuros.
On the night before his execution, he wrote the poem, My Last Farewell. To be translated into numerous languages and venerated, even read on the floors of the US Congress in the years to come, true to the end, written by an ilustrado, it never was an incendiary poem. It was, again, never a call to arms. It is a weeping of a hopeless romantic about to die without realizing his goals.
Consider the first stanza:
Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,
Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,
With gladness I give you my Life, sad and repressed;
And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,
I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.
Rizal here exhibits a hypocrisy which is a stamp of the ilustrado class. When he says, “with gladness I give you my Life,” one should ask why he was trying to escape to Cuba instead of escaping to join the revolutionaries who were really ready to shed their blood in the struggle against the colonialists? In “And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best, I would still give it to you for your welfare at most,” we beg to question, is there an age limit to die as a revolutionary for your country? If he really wanted to die for the revolution, he should have escaped when invited by Bonifacio to do so instead of taking the chance and trying to go to Cuba. It was easier for him to be a doctor under the Spanish flag in Cuba than to fight and, perhaps, die with the revolutionaries.
In the second stanza, Rizal continues:
On the fields of battle, in the fury of fight,
Others give you their lives without pain or hesitancy,
The place does not matter: cypress laurel, lily white,
Scaffold, open field, conflict or martyrdom’s site,
It is the same if asked by home and Country.
Realizing that he was going to die anyway, even if he was just a reformist who abrogated the concept of an armed struggle, he tried to equate his death with those real martyrs (whom he also should have recognized) in the battlefield. Thus, “On the fields of battle, in the fury of fight…The place does not matter…or martyrdom’s site, It is the same…” The place or how you are looked at does not matter? In his pomposity, Rizal already considered himself as a martyr. In “Others give you their lives without pain or hesitancy,” could he be referring to himself as one who was hesitating? After all, was he not trying to escape to Cuba? “…if asked by home and country” yet he refused to join the armed struggle which was the call of the times?
The other stanzas are lamentations of Rizal to have failed in his reform efforts. He also weeps, asking that he be remembered for his deeds.
The eighth and ninth stanzas reveal his vacillations.
Let the burning sun the raindrops vaporize
And with my clamor behind return pure to the sky;
Let a friend shed tears over my early demise;
And on quiet afternoons when one prays for me on high,
Pray too, oh, my Motherland, that in God may rest I.
Pray thee for all the hapless who have died,
For all those who unequalled torments have undergone;
For our poor mothers who in bitterness have cried;
For orphans, widows and captives to tortures were shied,
And pray too that you may see your own redemption.
Rizal has been said to have joined the Masons. He also castigated the friars for their injustices. Moreover, he blamed religion to be among those that made the indios lose their identity. In these stanzas, he prays…” Pray too, oh, my Motherland, that in God may rest I…Pray thee for all the hapless who have died…And pray too that you may see your own redemption.” Now, if you despised Catholicism, why would you pray? Moreover, realizing that reformism has failed, he now leaves the faith of the masses on a supernatural being, not by their own efforts, in their accord, through a revolution. Moreover, instead of using the death of those who have died as sacrifices that should not be wasted and should serve as continuing inspiration to carry on with the revolution, he merely pities them and their parents.
It is said that Rizal also reverted to being a Catholic before he died. Was this a ploy on his part so he could, perhaps, be forgiven by the Spaniards?
In the second to the last stanza, he intones:
My idolized Country, for whom I most gravely pine,
Dear Philippines, to my last goodbye, oh, harken
There I leave all: my parents, loves of mine,
I’ll go where there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen
Where faith does not kill and where God alone does reign.
Here, Rizal starts to say his last goodbyes, lamenting but joyful that he will “…go where there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen.” Again not ever advocating armed struggle and depending on a supernatural being to solve everything, which he hated in his earlier writings, he says: “Where faith does not kill and where God alone does reign.”
In the last stanza, he says his final goodbyes:
Farewell, parents, brothers, beloved by me,
Friends of my childhood, in the home distressed;
Give thanks that now I rest from the wearisome day;
Farewell, sweet stranger, my friend, who brightened my way;
Farewell, to all I love. To die is to rest.
Rizal said goodbye to everyone except to revolutionaries whose cause he should have supported, because, presumably he had inspired them. Again, to the very end, he never called for the indios to rise in arms. Moreover, he showed that he was tired for “To die is to rest.” He has virtually accepted defeat.
The following day, December 30, 1896, Rizal was shot at Bagumbayan by a firing squad from the 70th Regimento de Magallanes composed of indio soldiers. It would seem ironic that while the first hero of the islands, Lapu-Lapu, slew Magellan; a Magellan regiment composed of Filipinos killed the ilustrado, Jose Rizal.
It is also said that Rizal was supposed to be shot blindfolded and at the back. He refused to be blindfolded and at the last count, he turned to face the shooters. It is said that he did not want to be blindfolded and faced the firing squad because he was not a traitor.
If this was true, he was not a traitor against whom?
Jose Rizal – the Philippine National Hero?
In the years to come after his death, Jose Rizal would be venerated as the national hero of the Philippines. Theodore Friend, in his book, Between Two Empires, says that Taft “with other American colonial officials and some conservative Filipinos, chose him (Rizal) as a model hero over other contestants….” In short, the American colonialists wanted the Filipinos to emulate an ilustrado who would just advocate reforms, one who is against an armed uprising. It is no wonder that Rizal is depicted in his shrine at Luneta as one who is just standing passive, holding a book, just looking scholarly; not fiery advocating resistance – which the colonialists want every Filipino to just be.
Moreover, for bogey’s sake, it should also serve as warning that even if one just merely agitates for reforms, one could still be shot.
And so it was that the face of Rizal was and is everywhere, in stamps, in magazines, on school walls, in peso bills, as the venerated national hero. His poem, Ultimo Adios, was praised to high heavens, translated to around 40 languages; even read in the US House of Representatives. His books and other works were inculcated into the minds of every Filipino who had to go through the educational system designed by the American colonialists after they have subjugated the Filipinos.
Question is, given all these, we beg the question: whose hero is Jose Rizal really for and why?#