Did They Get Their Medals

The first Filipino I ever met was a temporary teacher at West Byfleet Secondary School in Surrey. We were tall, obstreperous teenagers around 15 years old and he was a short, wiry man, probably in his 30s, with whipcord muscles and an easy smile who taught us PE (Physical Exercise). He was the only teacher I can recall who had the courage to mix it with us on the Rugby field. Rugby is a rough game, especially when played by 15 year old Brits, and the opportunity to cause some physical pain to a teacher was ever-present and taken advantage of. He was certainly Rizalian, he gave what he got, and he acted as an equal.

I can’t recall a single racist remark being made against him. In fact, we became rather proud of him as a sort of Local Hero when, spotting the lower floor of a house on fire and realising the occupants were asleep and unaware on the upper floor, had the presence of mind to throw a milk bottle through the upstairs window to wake them up. He undoubtedly saved their lives.

Sadly, like the Rose, I cannot recall his name.

I was reminded of him while flipping through the Rizal issue of the Philippine Republic for December 1925. What caught my eye was a small paragraph that may have been printed at the request of the Bureau of Insular Affairs in Washington possibly at the behest of the British Foreign Office. The British government was searching for five brave Filipinos in order to give them medals.

The Filipinos, identified only as E. Laxinto, R. Valencia, H. Sim, J Demerin and C. Fernandez, were apparently working aboard the President Lines passenger ship SS President Taft when they went to assist the crew of a shipwrecked British merchant vessel, the Mary Horlock. Says the report “Their conduct was of such meritorious character it was reported to the British government, which has awarded each of the five men a medal of gallantry”.

All I can find on the Mary Horlock is that she was a dry cargo carrier of 5,253 tons and served in WW1. She sank in the Western Pacific on January 26, 1924. As of the December 1925 issue those five Filipino heroes had yet to be found.

I wonder if they ever got their medals?

A Rizal Breakfast

If you want a taste of what Rizal had for breakfast first make some chocolat-e (chocolat-espesyal), use the tabletas, they’re not easy to find but they are around, one or more per cup. Preferably the unsweetened ones. DO NOT USE HERSHY’S!!!  Boil water enough for however many cups you’re making, drop in the tabletas, use whisk and whisk until the tableta’s are dissolved and you have a rich, thick chocolate. There’s theobromine in there by the way, which gives real chocolate something of a kick. With more water it’s called chocolat aguada.

In the Spanish era Philippine chocolate was so highly regarded that the best chocolate came to be known as Filipinos. A name which a biscuit maker still gives to its product in Spain and Latin America.

Next get some sardinas secas , that’s the posh name for common tuyo, small dried fish about the size of your finger common everywhere. Fry the tuyo a little, get yourself some rice and you’re done. Eat the tuyo, drink the chocolate while you’re thinking about what’s it’s like to be shot in the back.

A trick question, what did Rizal have for breakfast on the morning of his execution?

He had nothing. He was given a couple of boiled eggs but left them for the rats saying something alone the lines of ‘You might as well have a fiesta’.

Snazzing up a Soup

Ok, break time. Since I like cooking I prefer homemade soups but sometimes there just isn’t the time. I’m not a purist – When I was living modestly in the UK and broke I’d boil some spaghetti, make a nest of it in a heatproof bowl, fill the centre with Campbell’s condensed soup, cover the lot with slices of cheese and grill until the cheese was nicely brown. I hungrier I was, the better it tasted.

Here in the Philippines (Subic Bay, if you want to know) I have to depend mainly on powdered soups which usually taste like… well, powdered soups. Here some solutions I found worked and made guests think I was giving them something spiffy.

For those ‘cream of soups’ I mix a tablespoon of Alaska for each portion, combine with just enough water to liquefy it and add to the cooked soup. That’s a good start. You can also get small nobs of butter (Magnolia Gold or Anchor, not butter substitutes or Star margarine) and, when you’ve put the soup into individual bowls ready for serving drop a nob of butter onto each. You can get fancier by mashing the butter with garlic to make garlic butter and using that instead.

For spiff na spiff, separate an egg for each portion. Put the yolks into a bowl, pour on some warmish soup and mix well, and quickly, then pour the mix into the soup, warm and mix in and serve. Do all three, it’ll be rich enough to buy a senator.

Don’t forget, too, hat a dash of booze works well. A little vodka in tomato soup, brandy in brown soups. The alcohol evaporates so the booze content will be low and it’s safe for kids.

What about egg whites. Always a question. If you’ve got an oven they’re good for browning pastries but my solution is to get some fresh or tinned (canned) fruit and whipped or whipping cream. Whip the egg whites until stiff. If you’ve got whipping cream whip it until its fairly firm, then carefully fold the egg whites and cream together, add sugar, brown is nice, some nutmeg or similar and fold them in, and slop in  little brandy like Emperador or Fundador fold that in and serve with the fruit.

Decoding Mi Ultimo Adios Verse 5

Verse 5

Ensueño de mi vida, mi ardiente vivo anhelo,

¡Salud te grita el alma que pronto va a partir!

¡Salud! Ah, que es hermoso caer por darte vuelo,

Morir por darte vida, morir bajo tu cielo,

Y en tu encantada tierra la eternidad dormir.

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.

In talking of the ‘dream’ of his life and his “living, burning desire/fantasy” Rizal addresses the Patria of the imminent future, the Patria without sorrow, shame or stain, the Patria of his imagination, Filipinas as he would wish her to be and, more important, expects her to be for in line two he welcomes her arrival.

Salud has the sense of mabuhay, cheers, a votre sante, prosit, kampie, a term that is directly translatable into every language, Asian and Western. Significantly it is a term of distinctively positive value. Rizal welcomes the coming of the redeemed Patria at the moment his soul is about to depart as it verse three he refers to the imminent liberation of the country, its dawn of freedom.

His repetition of ‘salud’in the third line is the rousing cheer that greats a triumphal entry into the arena, the cheer of the crowd to a champion, bringing from the duplication of ‘Mis sueños cuando’, what was his dream is now a reality.

The sense of ‘it is beautiful to fall so that you can take flight/fly’ suggests that prehaps he expected his death to inspire the ongoing revolution or otherwise serve to liberate Patria. In flying, Patria, in the fourth verse becomes the sky, no longer in bondage but free and he is dying beneath her as the sky.

While Derbyshire uses quite abstract imagery in the last line Rizal gives us a very concrete image of Patria’s ‘enchanted earth’ (Other translators use this more correct terminology) . Notably he does not say ‘sacred earth’, perhaps because it would echo too much Christianity, in particular what Rizal perceived as the debased Christianity practiced in the Philippines. Enchantment also leads us, perhaps, to those ancient natural forces that surrounded the ancient pre-Hispanic Filipino and who, as spirits, ruled their daily lives. He rejects on and embraces, or is embraced by the other. At the same time. Enchantment implies the sense of captivation, enthrallment that Patria inspires. The earth of the Patria, therefore, has special, magical qualities.

The redemption of the Patria, in Rizal’s eyes was not a long-term objective but imminent, touchable and achievable.

Verse 6>

Decoding Mi Ultimo Adios Verse 4

Verse 4

Mis sueños cuando apenas muchacho adolescente,

Mis sueños cuando joven ya lleno de vigor,

Fueron el verte un día, joya del mar de oriente,

Secos los negros ojos, alta la tersa frente,

Sin ceño, sin arrugas, sin manchas de rubor.

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. (Derbyshire)

Rizal now presents us with a flashback to the beginning of his love affair with the Patria. The Derbyshire translation however, removes some important contextual information. “My dreams when I was an adolescent boy/My dreams as a vigorous youth” writes Rizal in Spanish. Why does he specifically mention adolescence? It is a nod towards a man who, probably more than any other, sparked Rizal’s nationalism, the martyred Fr. Burgos who was executed when Rizal was almost 11 and, therefore, approaching adolescence.

Burgos was a friend of Rizal’s elder brother, Paciano, who infact was living with the priest in 1872, the year of his execution. It is to Burgos that Rizal refers in Noli Me Tangere as Ibarra passes the killing field of Bagumbayan: “He thought on the man who had opened the eyes of his intelligence and made him understand what was good and what was just”.

In a letter to Mariano Ponce in 1889, Rizal traced the emergence of nationalism to the deaths of Burgos and explains “At the sight of those injustices and cruelties, though still a child, my imagination awoke, and I swore that I would dedicate myself to avenge one day so many victims…”

Adolescence, the limbo between childhood and adulthood, is the time of sexual awakening and the attitudes and relationships of this period often become the templates for those of the rest of our lives. It was the moment of Rizal’s first crush, on a 14 year old colegiala called Segunda Katigbak at the still-extant Concordia College. His description of that relationship is revealing.

They were obviously attracted to each other yet, in the Guerro translation of his Memorias he writes: “I adopted a course of silence, determined that until I should see greater proofs of sympathy between us, I would not subject myself to her yoke, or tell her that I love her.” Later, in words of heartbreak he says: “Ended at an early hour, my first love!… My illusions will return, yes, but indifferent, uncertain, ready for the first betrayal on the path of love”

From then on Rizal shows a reluctance to dive into the pool of love wholeheartedly and his fear of betrayal survived into his last relationship, with Josephine Bracken.

Of Segunda, Rizal says “I realized that she was the woman who satisfied completely the yearning of my heart, and I told myself that I had lost her”.

It is legitimate to wonder whether the imagery of the redeemed, honorable Partia with dark eyes and head held high is an echo of Segunda Katigbak, Rizal’s first love.

In this verse Rizal tells us when and by whom his love for the Patria was ignited, when he began to dream of Patria with her dark eyes dry and her head held high and proud, without sorrow or shame. Here we have Rizal’s personification of the Patria as a sorrowing, shamed woman to be redeemed.

Yet where does Patria’s shame come from? She has not, by her actions, shamed herself. The answer may have its inspiration close to Rizal’s own home: His mother was illegitimate at a time when social mores held illegitimacy itself to be a cause of shame, a background shared by his heroine, Maria Clara. Rizal adored his mother yet, like Patria, she was tainted by the circumstances of her birth, just as the Patria is tainted by the morally illicit complicity between Filipinos and Spaniards. The Patria’s shame can only be redeemed by Filipinos themselves.

Verse  5>

Decoding Mi Ultimo Adios – Verse 3

Yo muero cuando veo que el cielo se colora

Y al fin anuncia el día tras lóbrego capuz;

si grana necesitas para teñir tu aurora,

Vierte la sangre mía, derrámala en buen hora

Y dórela un reflejo de su naciente luz.

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. (Derbyshire)

It was line four of this verse that first brought home the inadequacy of most translations. Rizal talks of his blood being shed “en buen hora”, or, in a literal English translation, at ‘the good hour”. Derbyshire has this as “Pour’d out at need”, a version by Frank Hilario has it as “pour at such beneficial hour,” while Victor Elazio has it a “at a good hour”. A version used in the Sound and Light Presentation in Intramuros has it as ‘in good hour’.

In fact, en buen hora is a term that has equivalents in several Latinate languages, in French it is la bonne heure, but no real equivalent in English and the literal translation “the good hour” does not really represent the same meaning. Thus the Derbyshire, Hilario and Elazio translations (The Intramuros translation is nonsensical) give it the sense of shedding Rizal’s blood at an appropriate time.

The term refers to early dawn, at, and shortly, after sunrise when the air is fresh and clear and the day is new, the precise time, in fact, when he was executed. It’s hardly likely that Rizal would be offering to shed his blood at an opportune moment, as suggested in the translations, if he was already dead, whatever his belief might be in the afterlife, he has already shed it.

The message here is that our lack of familiarity with Rizal’s language necessarily separates us from its meaning. This should be a matter of concern. Verse 3, and its various translations demonstrate why.

Just a verse 2 relates to verse 1 through sacrifice for the redemption of the Patria, verse 3 builds on verse 2 – for Rizal, he is to die as the moment of redemption is at hand.

Here are three translations from those mentioned earlier:

I die just when I see the dawn break,

Through the gloom of night, to herald the day; (Derbyshire)

I die as I see the sky flushes with color
And announces day at last, after a dark night; (Hilario)

And at last, the day breaks clad in a mournful cape (Elazio)

What Rizal actually writes is:

Yo muero cuando veo que el cielo se colora

Y al fin anuncia el día tras lóbrego capuz;

While Elizio concatenates the first two lines he retains an significant word which he translates as ‘cloak’ but which can also translate as ‘cowl’ – capuz. Hilario wisely retains the reference to colour which is lost in the Derbyshire translation. Another translation has the phrase “as dawn unfurls its colours’. The significant word is colora but the most significant image is of dawn.

Dawn appears frequently in Rizal’s writings in the context of liberation. In a letter left with a friend in Hong Kong to be published after his death he writes: “I shall die blessing my country and wishing her the dawn of redemption”. Through Padre Florentino in El Filisterismo he says “When the people rise to this height, God provides the weapon, and the idols fall, the tyrants fall like a house of cards, and freedom shines in the first dawn.” (My italics).

That Rizal is using the same image reference in the third verse of Mi Ultimo Adios is certainly not speculation nor over-reading. “I die seeing the dawn colour”, or ‘become coloured’ or “as I see the colours of the dawn’, are not unreasonable paraphrases into English. The colour of dawn, in this imagery is red, the colour of blood, the colour of combat and he sees the dawn of freedom as something imminent.

Other layers of meaning are worth noting. The term ‘colour’ can also refer to a flag. When a ship, or a regiment, go into battle they ‘raise their colours’, their identifying symbol in combat. Rizal has already referred to this combat in verse 2.

When we get to “Y al fin anuncia el día tras lóbrego capuz;” Elazio is way off mark except for the reference to the cape. Here the dawn announces or heralds ‘el dia’ through, or beneath, the cowl of gloom or darkness. ‘El dia’ is the day of freedom, the dawn of which has just broken. Implicit in this imagery is the presence of the sun, light, liwanag, against which darkness cannot prevail.

The capuz, cowl or cape, is without question a reference to the friars whom he had criticized, not always fairly, throughout his writings. Hatred of the friars was far from universal outside the Tagalog provinces and Rizal had, as the Brits say, a bone to pick with the Dominicans whom he felt had unfairly evicted the Mercado family, his family, from their property.

Nevertheless, through the 19th century, as Spain lost the power to administer its colonies it came more and more to depend on the friar orders to impose some form of control. In effect the friars acted as an autonomous arm of government in a form of symbiosis with the Spanish administration. It was not always a comfortable relationship since the friars inevitably represented conservative attitudes that were challenged by Spain’s periodic shift to anti-clerical liberal government. Whatever liberalizing winds came from the peninsular, however, were well-minimised by the time they reached the archipelago.

As independent agents of Spain with tremendous moral force in the Philippines the friars stood in the way of independence. As agents for the conservative mindset they stood in the way of liberalizing the lot of the Filipino.

One should, however, be wary of accepting these perceptions as representing the actual situation, at least outside the Tagalog provinces. In the Cordilleras, and elsewhere, the friars became the protectors of the hillsmen against the depredations of Spanish military personnel, a problem which, when resolved, usually resulted in the hillsmen requesting the removal of the friars in a cycle of dialogue that shows the hillsmen knew well how to work the system.

In Samar, where there were no friar lands, the friars led defensive and offensive against slave raiders with such success that creating an export industry in hemp and coconut oil became viable, whereupon the friars proceeded to provide the wherewithal to develop such industries for the progress of the island.

Till, to Rizal it was the gloomy capuz of the friar orders that prevented progress and liberty.

In the third line and fourth line, Rizal offers his blood to the Patria if she needs it more red for the colours of the day, that she should take it en buen hora, the good hour, the hour of his execution, to match/reflect/dye the naciente luz.

The naciente luz, returns us to the sun as liwanag, the light that leads to that state of grace implied by kalayaan, a state of ease, where there are no slaves or tyrants. This is not merely a physically rising sun but Father Florentino’s first dawn in which the light of freedom shines reflected in Rizal’s blood.

Verse 4 >

Decoding Mi Ultimo Adios, verse 2

Verse II

En campos de batalla, luchando con delirio,

Otros te dan sus vidas sin dudas, sin pesar;

El sitio nada importa, ciprés, laurel o lirio,

Cadalso o campo abierto, combate o cruel martirio,

Lo mismo es si lo piden la patria y el hogar.

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 or open plain, combat or martyrdom’s plight,

‘Tis ever the same, to serve our home and country’s need. (Derbyshire)

Verse 1 left us with Rizal addressing the reader/Patria from his prison cell and a natural order would have been to follow with Verse 3 as he is taken to his execution to be followed by what is now verse 2. Here, however, he leaps outwards with a broadbrush to encompass past and current struggles rather than bringing focus on his own sacrifice then opening out to include the sacrifice of others. Why?

What Rizal is doing is to give us the foundation to understand the imagery of the third verse and place his death in the context of the ongoing struggle for national liberation. In Verse 1 he describes the Patria he and others are fighting for, in Verse 3 he defines who is being fought against. In Verse 2 he tells us that it doesn’t matter how one struggles, that all struggles, all deaths, are worth it if it is for the good of the country, the nation, the Patria to release that hidden pearl of the Orient from its shell.

This verse also shows that Constantino is in error when he assumes that in repudiating Bonifacio’s uprising Rizal is repudiating the massa who were fighting for liberty. Quite the opposite, Rizal honors them and includes them in the struggle.

While the Derbyshire translation and others generally translate the meaning of the verse correctly it nevertheless raises questions, in particular the use of ‘delirio’ and the imagery of “ciprés, laurel o lirio”.

Rizal uses ‘delirio’ in the first line, which Derbyshire translate as ‘frenzy’ while others have preserved the word, i.e. “deliriously fighting”. It seems a strange word to use, bearing as is does, negative psychiatric overtones of confusion and madness. While it can also mean a frenzied excitement, surely Rizal could have used another Spanish word with a more positive feel than delirium?

Delirium is a condition of the mind and Rizal was familiar with the emerging medical specialty of psychiatry. Indeed, he wrote a treatise on the mangkukulam and psychologically induced illnesses. In his era it was popularly believed that such conditions were due to bewitchment or possession by spirits, a belief not entirely eradicated today, and delirium would have been seen as a condition of bewitchment or possession by an outside force.

Familiar phrases such as ‘deliriously happy’ present a more positive feel but retain the sense of a disconnection of rational thought. It is, perhaps, this usage that Rizal intends but may not be the only intention. As his manifesto, and data for his defense, reveal, there were many fighting in the belief, falsely promoted by Bonifacio, that they had his explicit support. There was, therefore, a disconnect between the reality and their belief, even so, in Rizal’s poem, they were sacrificing for the patria.

The first line references those who were fighting at the time Rizal wrote the poem. The second line, ‘Otros te dan sus vidas sin dudas, sin pesar” encompasses those who have, in various ways, selflessly sacrificed their lives in the past. Together, these lines link Rizal’s future sacrifice with the sacrifice of the revolutionaries then ongoing and the sacrifices of the past.

Now Rizal challenges us: “El sitio nada importa, ciprés, laurel o lirio,”. The place is not important, he tells us, then gives what seem to be symbols of three places that could mean forest, bush and garden, yet the Cypress is not a particularly Filipino image, laurel, or Bay, is a common herb in cooking, and the lily is usually thought of as a cultivated garden plant. Why not balete, banahaw or Sampaguita?

In mythology, the cypress is associated with Hades, the god of the underworld who, along with others, overthrew the Titans who ruled the universe just as Filipinos were seeking to overthrow the rulers of the Philippines. Rizal was also familiar with Jewish writings, indeed he learnt Hebrew so that he could read them in the original language and may well have been aware of the Jewish concept of an underworld, the place whether the dead were equal. No matter what station or wealth they attained while living, all must each dirt while awaiting redemption.

Might cypress, then, be a reference to the common man, the tao, the masa, who’s heart and minds were as much a place of battle as the fields of Luzon?

Laurel is a cooking ingredient but, more than that, wreaths of laurel were awarded by the Greeks to victors in battles, in sports, in literature, a laurel wreath was the sign of the elite. If cypress represents the common man, then laurel here represents that other battle space for hearts and minds, the elite and the ilustrados.

And the lily, I would suggest, refers to women who are also able to struggle and who themselves are part of the battlespace.

Note that these definitions do not replace the concept of different terrains but are in addition to them, another layer of meaning. Cypress, Laurel and Lily can also be identified with courage, honor and purity, all necessary elements for the redemption of the Filipino and the Patria. Again, these are not mutually excluive identifications and symbols but additional to them.

“Cadalso o campo abierto, combate o cruel martirio,” Derbyshire translates cadalso as ‘scaffold’, a structure upon which executions are performed. Others have translated it with more literal correctness as ‘plank’. When someone is to be garroted they are placed astride a plank to with is attached a back-rest through with a large screw passes which is turned by a large crosspiece to snap the victims neck. Performed properly it was a swift death and perhaps seen as ‘humane’. The French guillotine and today’s death by drugs are other examples of the hopeless chase for ‘humane’ executions.

The most famous martyrs were the three priests executed in 1872 following an uprising at the Cavite arsenal in which it was claimed they were complicit. The three, Gomez, Burgos and Zamora had worked for the filipinization of the country’s parishes. Burgos was a friend of Rizal and his brother Paciano and the man whom Rizal credited with opening his eyes and lighting the spark of nationalism. It is not unreasonable to suggest that Rizal’s reference to ‘cruel martyrdom’ is intended to remind the reader of the three priests who deaths were the first stepping stone towards the revolution of 1896.

By the time of Rizal’s execution the garotte had been largely replaced by the firing squad, possibly because the numbers requiring execution were too great to satisfy with the relatively slow method of the garotte.

‘campo abierto’ is self explanatory, the open field of battle. Rizal then inverts the sense order in the last half of the sentence – in combat or cruel martyrdom. Death in battle and death at the hands of the firing squad or by the garotte were equal worthwhile sacrifices when, as his last line says, it serves the Patria and her needs.

Rizal sees the struggle for national liberation as one that can be served on the battlefield, through revolution, or by loving sacrifice for the motherland. It is a struggle in which each person, each individual, has a role to play, man or woman, peasant and elite. The struggle is a continuum for past to present, from Gomes, Burgos and Zamora to the 13 Martyrs and Rizal himself.

More than that, this verse is a call to arms, to sacrifice oneself for the Patria, at a time when Rizal believed that the moment of redemption was at hand, as we shall see in the third verse.

Most importantly, Rizal presents the key to redemption – selfless sacrifice for the Patria.

In verse 1 he has presented the past, verse 2, is the present condition to which the past has led. Verse 3 deals with the immediate future, at least Rizal’s hope for that future.

Verse 3>

End of Veneration Part 5

I might have missed part 5 so here it is.

Part 5 – Un-inventing A Revolutionary

Contantino presents us first with a list of national heroes: Washington, Lenin, Bolivar, Sun Yat Sen, Mao and Ho Chi Minh. All led successful revolutions. What Constantino fails to do is to present us with a list of national heroes who led failed revolutions.

D

A national hero has a variety of functions, one of which is to be the archetype of the people’s aspirations. Few people aspire to be a failure…

uring the glorified tax-dodge that was the American War of Independence, Washington withdrew to Valley Forge on a losing streak but, thanks in no small part to French financial and materiel support and direct intervention, recovered to win independence from the British. The Philippine revolution has no comparable tale to tell and no successful revolutionary leader to become the national hero because that revolution failed, thus there can be no Philippine revolutionary national hero to complete the pantheon presented by Constantino for comparison.

A national hero has a variety of functions, one of which is to be the archetype of the people’s aspirations. Few people aspire to be a failure, which may be one good reason why Filipinos chose Rizal as the person they most wanted to be.

Next, Constantino seeks to show that Rizal was pro-Spanish, anti-liberty, anti-revolution and anti-independence using a calibrated scale from “he placed him against Bonifacio” to “vehement condemnation of the mass movement” to “…our Revolution”.

Let’s explore this a little. Rizal was in Dapitan when he was approached by Pio Valenzuela to support a revolution planned by a man he did not know, Bonifacio, and whose personal qualities and integrity he could not judge.

There are various accounts of this meeting but the sum of them, including those presented in Rizal’s trial, is that Rizal did not reject or repudiate revolution or his involvement in it outright. He asked about money and arms, to be told there was little of either. Rizal was clearly aware of the danger presented by the elite and the need to get their support – otherwise where would the money and arms come from? He feared, too, that their money and influence could crush the revolution and said as much.

He was told that this man, whom he did not know, without arms or money, had not recruited such support. It was on those grounds that Rizal refused to back Bonifacio, not because he was proposing a revolution but because Bonifacio and the Katipunan simply hadn’t got their act together.

Rizal’s refusal had no effect on subsequent events because Bonifacio ensured that it was kept a secret, although he continued to invoke Rizal’s name as the password for entrance into Katipunan lodges, which were held under the gaze of photographs of Rizal. The latter’s misgivings proved correct: learning of Bonifacio’s plans the Spanish authorities seized the initiative, which Bonifacio was not able to recover. Bonifacio was roundly beaten and went into hiding in Cavite. There, the Bonifacio revolution died and was in its death throes even before his ignominious execution at Maragondon.

Bonifacio remained a largely forgotten, minor figure in Philippine history until resurrected under American tutelage with a memorial in 1917 and a brass plaque in Malacanang two decades later which put his name not only alongside Rizal, but that of William McKinley. Unlike Rizal, it took an American puppet government to revive interest in Bonifacio.

Be that as it may, Rizal’s hesitation to support the Bonifacio revolution was well founded and by the time he was arrested the Luneta was already a sea of courageous patriot’s blood being shed in his name in response to a leader then in hiding. It is against that background that his manifesto to the Filipino people should be read. The manifesto was not made public at the time because it repudiated neither revolution per se nor independence and the fear was that releasing it would cause an upsurge in revolutionary activity.

Constantino’s condemnation of Rizal lumps his refusal to join Bonifacio with an implicit condemnation of ALL those fighting for the country’s freedom. Is this true? Rizal’s unnamed poem which we know today as Mi Ultimo Ados is not merely a love song to his country, it is a stirring call to arms to shed blood for it, which is very apparent in the second stanza where he explicitly refers to the ongoing revolution and the continuum of the struggle since at least 1876.

 

the masses were disillusioned with the revolutionary leadership and rather tired of being robbed, tortured, raped and murdered by revolutionary commanders and their men…

    Now let’s take a brief look at the ‘mass movement’. Constantino borrows Teodoro Agoncillo’s concept of a revolution of the masses and blames its failure on the turncoatism of the elite. It is treated as axiomatic yet the historical record suggests otherwise. Many of the much maligned elite fought it out to the end, even through the Philippine-American War, Vicente Lukban being just one example. Like Agoncillo, Constantino avoids the very pertinent question: If it was a movement of the masses, how could the betrayal by a handful of the elite cause it to collapse?

There is, in fact, little evidence that the revolution was a revolution of the masses more than, say, a revolution of the elite, merely calling it such doesn’t make it so. Indeed, especially during the Philippine-American War period there is plentiful evidence that the masses were disillusioned with the revolutionary leadership and rather tired of being robbed, tortured, raped and murdered by revolutionary commanders and their men. Hundreds of such reports, by Filipinos, are spread throughout the largely unexplored volumes of the Philippine Revolutionary Records. Constantino was aware of these reports because he edited the 1973 publication, by the Lopez Foundation, of JRM Taylor’s The Philippine Insurrection Against The United States, which includes a selection of about 1,500 PRR documents out of a total of some 600,000.

The captures of Aguinaldo and Lukban and the surrenders of Trias and Macabulos were followed by the end of effective resistance to American rule. Resistance did continue but it was disorganized, disunited and sporadic. Often, Filipinos suffered more than the enemy: During the Pulahanes period in Samar, more Filipinos were killed by the Pulahanes than by the Americans during the Samar campaign, the ‘Hemp War’, of early summer 1901 to April 1902. Indeed, the very same townsmen who, in 1901, had successfully attacked and defeated an American garrison at Balangiga, the worse single disaster for American forces during the 1899-1902 war, were driven to capture not only a leading pulahane but one who was one of their own kinsman.

Historical data simply does not support Constantino’s concept of a revolution of the masses. Rizal’s Golden Age of great Filipino cannon-makers, writers of great bodies of Filipino literature and Filipino builders of 2,000 tonne ships occupy the same reality-space as Constantino’s revolutionary masses.

Mi Ultimo Adios – verse 1

Verse 1

¡Adiós, Patria adorada, región del sol querida,

Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Edén!

A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,

Y fuera más brillante, más fresca, más florida,

También por ti la diera, la diera por tu bien.

The Derbyshire translation, the earliest but not necessarily, the most accurate has it:

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 (Derbyshire)

The term ‘Fatherland’ is less popular today, bearing as it does association with the Nazis of WW2 but ‘motherland’, as some translations indeed have it, is more correct because ‘Patria’ is a feminine noun. Some translations use ‘country’ which, while not incorrect does not have the overtones of Patria.

Patria here is a holistic term involving more than physical location and borders, it is everything within it that makes the nation and identifies its people and its values, all those things which are seen as unique to it. Patria is the mother-entity, Inang Bayan, which bore us, gave us birth and nurtured and nursed us into being and to which we owe love and loyalty as we do our own mothers and our adoration, which goes beyond love.

“región del sol querida”, introduces the male principle, the Sun, which sustains and loves the female principle, the Patria. Patria is the Sun’s beloved, its ‘querida’. This un can also be read as liwanag, the enlightenment that leads to redemption and liberty.

Note the singularity of Patria and región. This Patria is not a mere aggregation of people and places but a single, unified whole inherently deserving our love and loyalty.

“Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Edén!” translates easily enough: “Pearl of the Oriente (Eastern) Sea, our lost Eden!” A pearl has beauty and worth but it remains hidden and inaccessible within its shell until we make the effort to seek it out, we must struggle to find it.

The lost Eden harks back to Rizal’s vision of the untainted pre-Hispanic Philippines, an imaginary time of purity and innocence. Yet there is more: in the biblical story, the serpent persuades Eve to surrender her innocence and she then persuades Adam to surrender his and as a result God expels them from the Garden of Eden. The Serpent and Eve echo the famous Blood Compact of Sikatuna and a variety of treaties and alliances through which the Spanish ‘seduced’ the Filipinos and the Filipinos surrendered their innocence and thereby lost their Eden.

Thus, the pearl, the thing of beauty and worth, the Eden, is shuttered and inaccessible within its shell and we must struggle to find the pearl and make it ours.

“A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,” here I have to proceed cautiously. The readings I have for this line differ significantly from virtually every other translation: “I will give you happiness in your sad life” rather than “Gladly now I go to give thee this faded life’s best” in the Derbyshire translation but most others seem to follow a similar line. Rizal now introduces himself as an actor in the poem, one who is offering happiness to the Patria’s sad life.

The penultimate line – “Y fuera más brillante, más fresca, más florida,” – is translated in Derbyshire, and in sense elsewhere, as “And were it brighter, fresher, or more blest…” Yet the Spanish has the clear sense of “Outside, it is brighter, fresher, more flowery (or, to coin a word perhaps, flower-ful)”. This reading places Rizal in his location: a dark prison cell away from the brightness, freshness and the flowers. It also places the reader on the outside of the cell, as if to say ‘look around you, this is what this is about’.

In the final line of the verse, Rizal, having introduced himself and his location and located the reader on the outside, now addresses the reader directly as an individual – “También por ti la diera, la diera por tu bien” – “Also for you I gave it, I gave to for your good”. He has changed focus from the whole of the Patria to the single individual reader, for whom he is also giving his life. Rizal is not seeking sympathy or laying a guilt-trip on the reader (i.e. I gave for your sake), but emphasizing that it is for the reader’s go, something that the reader should learn from and from which he or she should benefit.

It can be argued that Rizal’s use of the familiar ‘ti’ rather than ‘usted’ identifies his imaginary audience solely as the Patria, Inang Bayan, and not the reader as an individual yet it is not necessarily an exclusive identification. The Patria is inclusive, it, she, is the sum of all things Filipino including its people and their aspirations so in addressing th Patria, Rizal is also addressing Filipinos as a people through the reader.

This first verse begins an Eden/Fall/Redemption cycle of the kind Rizal also uses in his introduction to the De Morga. Filipinos have lost their Eden, they have lost the state of grace and innocence. How, then, is redemption achieved? Rizal tells us in his second verse.

Verse 2