The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Social Cancer, by Jose Rizal This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www. gutenberg. org Title: The Social Cancer A Complete English Version of Noli Me Tangere Author: Jose Rizal Translator: Charles Derbyshire Release Date: June 17, 2007 [EBook #6737] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE SOCIAL CANCER *** Produced by Jeroen Hellingman. Contents] The Social Cancer A Complete English Version of Noli Me Tangere from the Spanish of Jose Rizal By Charles Derbyshire Manila Philippine Education Company New York: World Book Company 1912 [iv] [Contents] THE NOVELS OF JOSE RIZAL Translated from Spanish into English BY CHARLES DERBYSHIRE THE SOCIAL CANCER (NOLI ME TANGERE) THE REIGN OF GREED (EL FILIBUSTERISMO) Copyright, 1912, by Philippine Education Company. Entered at Stationers’ Hall. Registrado en las Islas Filipinas. All rights reserved. [v] [Contents] Translator’s Introduction I “We travel rapidly in these historical sketches.
The reader flies in his express train in a few minutes through a couple of centuries. The centuries pass more slowly to those to whom the years are doled out day by day. Institutions grow and beneficently develop themselves, making their way into the hearts of generations which are shorter-lived than they, attracting love and respect, and winning loyal obedience; and then as gradually forfeiting by their shortcomings the allegiance which had been honorably gained in worthier periods. We see wealth and greatness; we see corruption and vice; and one seems to follow so close upon the other, that we fancy they must have always co-existed.
We look more steadily, and we perceive long periods of time, in which there is first a growth and then a decay, like what we perceive in a tree of the forest. ” FROUDE, Annals of an English Abbey. Monasticism’s record in the Philippines presents no new general fact to the eye of history. The attempt to eliminate the eternal feminine from her natural and normal sphere in the scheme of things there met with the same certain and signal disaster that awaits every perversion of human activity. Beginning with a band of zealous, earnest men, sincere in their convictions, o whom the cause was all and their personalities nothing, it there, as elsewhere, passed through its usual cycle of usefulness, stagnation, corruption, and degeneration. To the unselfish and heroic efforts of the early friars Spain in large measure owed her dominion over the Philippine Islands and the Filipinos a marked advance on the road to civilization and nationality. In fact, after the dreams of sudden wealth from gold and spices had faded, the islands were retained chiefly as a missionary conquest and a stepping-stone to the broader fields of Asia, with Manila as a depot for the Oriental trade.
The records of those early years are filled with tales of courage and heroism worthy of Spain’s proudest years, as [vi]the missionary fathers labored with unflagging zeal in disinterested endeavor for the spread of the Faith and the betterment of the condition of the Malays among whom they found themselves. They won the confidence of the native peoples, gathered them into settlements and villages, led them into the ways of peace, and became their protectors, guides, and counselors. In those times the cross and the sword went hand in hand, but in the Philippines the latter was rarely needed or used.
The lightness and vivacity of the Spanish character, with its strain of Orientalism, its fertility of resource in meeting new conditions, its adaptability in dealing with the dwellers in warmer lands, all played their part in this as in the other conquests. Only on occasions when some stubborn resistance was met with, as in Manila and the surrounding country, where the most advanced of the native peoples dwelt and where some of the forms and beliefs of Islam had been established, was it necessary to resort to violence to destroy the native leaders and replace them with the missionary fathers.
A few sallies by young Salcedo, the Cortez of the Philippine conquest, with a company of the splendid infantry, which was at that time the admiration and despair of martial Europe, soon effectively exorcised any idea of resistance that even the boldest and most intransigent of the native leaders might have entertained.
For the most part, no great persuasion was needed to turn a simple, imaginative, fatalistic people from a few vague animistic deities to the systematic iconology and the elaborate ritual of the Spanish Church. An obscure Bathala or a dim Malyari was easily superseded by or transformed into a clearly defined Dios, and in the case of any especially tenacious “demon,” he could without much difficulty be merged into a Christian saint or devil.
There was no organized priesthood to be overcome, the primitive religious observances consisting almost entirely of occasional orgies presided over by an old woman, who filled the priestly offices of interpreter for the unseen powers and chief eater at the sacrificial feast. With their unflagging zeal, their organization, their elaborate forms and ceremonies, the missionaries were enabled to win the confidence of the natives, especially as the greater part of them learned the local language and identified their lives with the [vii]communities under their care.
Accordingly, the people took kindly to their new teachers and rulers, so that in less than a generation Spanish authority was generally recognized in the settled portions of the Philippines, and in the succeeding years the missionaries gradually extended this area by forming settlements from among the wilder peoples, whom they persuaded to abandon the more objectionable features of their old roving, often predatory, life and to group themselves into towns and villages “under the bell. The tactics employed in the conquest and the subsequent behavior of the conquerors were true to the old Spanish nature, so succinctly characterized by a plain-spoken Englishman of Mary’s reign, when the war-cry of Castile encircled the globe and even hovered ominously near the “sceptered isle,” when in the intoxication of power character stands out so sharply defined: “They be verye wyse and politicke, and can, thorowe ther wysdome, reform and brydell theyr owne natures for a tyme, and applye ther conditions to the manners of those men with whom they meddell gladlye by friendshippe; whose mischievous maners a man shall never know untyll he come under ther subjection; but then shall he parfectlye parceve and fele them: for in dissimulations untyll they have ther purposes, and afterwards in oppression and tyrannye, when they can obtain them, they do exceed all other nations upon the earthe. ”1 In the working out of this spirit, with all the indomitable courage and fanatical ar dor derived from the long contests with the Moors, they reduced the native peoples to submission, but still not to the galling yoke which they fastened upon the aborigines of America, to make one Las Casas shine amid the horde of Pizarros. There was some compulsory labor in timber-cutting and ship-building, with enforced military service as rowers and soldiers for expeditions to the Moluccas and the coasts of Asia, but nowhere the unspeakable atrocities which in Mexico, Hispaniola, and South America drove others to strangle their babes at birth and whole tribes to prefer self-immolation to the living death in the mines and slave-pens. Quite differently from the case in America, where entire islands and districts were depopulated, to bring on later the curse of negro slavery, in the Philippines the fact appears that the [viii]native population really increased and the standard of living was raised under the stern, yet beneficent, tutelage of the missionary fathers. The great distance and the hardships of the journey precluded the coming of many irresponsible adventurers from Spain and, fortunately for the native population, no great mineral wealth was ever discovered in the Philippine Islands. The system of government was, in its essential features, a simple one.
The missionary priests drew the inhabitants of the towns and villages about themselves or formed new settlements, and with profuse use of symbol and symbolism taught the people the Faith, laying particular stress upon “the fear of God,” as administered by them, reconciling the people to their subjection by inculcating the Christian virtues of patience and humility. When any recalcitrants refused to accept the new order, or later showed an inclination to break away from it, the military forces, acting usually under secret directions from the padre, made raids in the disaffected parts with all the unpitying atrocity the Spanish soldiery were ever capable of displaying in their dealings with a weaker people. After sufficient punishment had been inflicted and a wholesome fear inspired, the padre very opportunely interfered in the natives’ behalf, by which means they were convinced that peace and security lay in submission to the authorities, especially to the curate of their town or district.
A single example will suffice to make the method clear: not an isolated instance but a typical case chosen from among the mass of records left by the chief actors themselves. Fray Domingo Perez, evidently a man of courage and conviction, for he later lost his life in the work of which he wrote, was the Dominican vicar on the Zambales coast when that Order temporarily took over the district from the Recollects. In a report written for his superior in 1680 he outlines the method clearly: “In order that those whom we have assembled in the three villages may persevere in their settlements, the most efficacious fear and the one most suited to their nature is that the Spaniards of the fort and presidio of Paynaven2 of whom [ix]they have a very reat fear, may come very often to the said villages and overrun the land, and penetrate even into their old recesses where they formerly lived; and if perchance they should find anything planted in the said recesses that they would destroy it and cut it down without leaving them anything. And so that they may see the father protects them, when the said Spaniards come to the village, the father opposes them and takes the part of the Indians. But it is always necessary in this matter for the soldiers to conquer, and the father is always very careful always to inform the Spaniards by whom and where anything is planted which it may be necessary to destroy, and that the edicts which his Lordship, the governor, sent them be carried out ….
But at all events said Spaniards are to make no trouble for the Indians whom they find in the villages, but rather must treat them well. ”3 This in 1680: the Dominican transcriber of the record in 1906 has added a very illuminating note, revealing the immutability of the system and showing that the rulers possessed in a superlative degree the Bourbonesque trait of learning nothing and forgetting nothing: “Even when I was a missionary to the heathens from 1882 to 1892, I had occasion to observe the said policy, to inform the chief of the fortress of the measures that he ought to take, and to make a false show on the other side so that it might have no influence on the fortress. Thus it stands out in bold relief as a system built up and maintained by fraud and force, bound in the course of nature to last only as long as the deception could be carried on and the repressive force kept up to sufficient strength. Its maintenance required that the different sections be isolated from each other so that there could be no growth toward a common understanding and cooperation, and its permanence depended upon keeping the people ignorant and contented with their lot, held under strict control by religious and political fear. Yet it was a vast improvement over their old mode of life [x]and their condition was bettered as they grew up to such a system.
Only with the passing of the years and the increase of wealth and influence, the ease and luxury invited by these, and the consequent corruption so induced, with the insatiable longing ever for more wealth and greater influence, did the poison of greed and grasping power enter the system to work its insidious way into every part, slowly transforming the beneficent institution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries into an incubus weighing upon all the activities of the people in the nineteenth, an unyielding bar to the development of the country, a hideous anachronism in these modern times. It must be remembered also that Spain, in the years following her brilliant conquests of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, lost strength and vigor through the corruption at home induced by the unearned wealth that flowed into the mother country from the colonies, and by the draining away of her best blood.
Nor did her sons ever develop that economic spirit which is the permanent foundation of all empire, but they let the wealth of the Indies flow through their country, principally to London and Amsterdam, there to form in more practical hands the basis of the British and Dutch colonial empires. The priest and the soldier were supreme, so her best sons took up either the cross or the sword to maintain her dominion in the distant colonies, a movement which, long continued, spelled for her a form of national suicide. The soldier expended his strength and generally laid down his life on alien soil, leaving no fit successor of his own stock to carry on the work according to his standards.
The priest under the celibate system, in its better days left no offspring at all and in the days of its corruption none bred and reared under the influences that make for social and political progress. The dark chambers of the Inquisition stifled all advance in thought, so the civilization and the culture of Spain, as well as her political system, settled into rigid forms to await only the inevitable process of stagnation and decay. In her proudest hour an old soldier, who had lost one of his hands fighting her battles against the Turk at Lepanto, employed the other in writing the masterpiece of her literature, which is really a caricature of the nation.
There is much in the career of Spain that calls to mind the [xi]dazzling beauty of her “dark-glancing daughters,” with its early bloom, its startling—almost morbid—brilliance, and its premature decay. Rapid and brilliant was her rise, gradual and inglorious her steady decline, from the bright morning when the banners of Castile and Aragon were flung triumphantly from the battlements of the Alhambra, to the short summer, not so long gone, when at Cavite and Santiago with swift, decisive havoc the last ragged remnants of the once world-dominating power were blown into space and time, to hover disembodied there, a lesson and a warning to future generations.
Whatever her final place in the records of mankind, whether as the pioneer of modern civilization or the buccaneer of the nations or, as would seem most likely, a goodly mixture of both, she has at least—with the exception only of her great mother, Rome—furnished the most instructive lessons in political pathology yet recorded, and the advice to students of world progress to familiarize themselves with her history is even more apt today than when it first issued from the encyclopedic mind of Macaulay nearly a century ago. Hardly had she reached the zenith of her power when the disintegration began, and one by one her brilliant conquests dropped away, to leave her alone in her faded splendor, with naught but her vaunting pride left, another “Niobe of nations. In the countries more in contact with the trend of civilization and more susceptible to revolutionary influences from the mother country this separation came from within, while in the remoter parts the archaic and outgrown system dragged along until a stronger force from without destroyed it. Nowhere was the crystallization of form and principle more pronounced than in religious life, which fastened upon the mother country a deadening weight that hampered all progress, and in the colonies, notably in the Philippines, virtually converted her government into a hagiarchy that had its face toward the past and either could not or would not move with the current of the times.
So, when “the shot heard round the world,” the declaration of humanity’s right to be and to become, in its all-encircling sweep, reached the lands controlled by her it was coldly received and blindly rejected by the governing powers, and there was left only the slower, subtler, but none the less sure, process of working its way among the people [xii]to burst in time in rebellion and the destruction of the conservative forces that would repress it. In the opening years of the nineteenth century the friar orders in the Philippines had reached the apogee of their power and usefulness. Their influence was everywhere felt and acknowledged, while the country still prospered under the effects of the vigorous and progressive administrations of Anda and Vargas in the preceding century. Native levies had fought loyally under Spanish leadership against Dutch and British invaders, or in suppressing local revolts among their own people, which were always due to some specific grievance, never directed definitely against the Spanish sovereignty.
The Philippines were shut off from contact with any country but Spain, and even this communication was restricted and carefully guarded. There was an elaborate central government which, however, hardly touched the life of the native peoples, who were guided and governed by the parish priests, each town being in a way an independent entity. Of this halcyon period, just before the process of disintegration began, there has fortunately been left a record which may be characterized as the most notable Spanish literary production relating to the Philippines, being the calm, sympathetic, judicial account of one who had spent his manhood in the work there and who, full of years and experience, sat down to tell the story of their life. In it there are no puerile whinings, no querulous curses that tropical Malays do not order their lives as did the people of the Spanish village where he may have been reared, no selfish laments of ingratitude over blessings unasked and only imperfectly understood by the natives, no fatuous self-deception as to the real conditions, but a patient consideration of the difficulties encountered, the [xiii]good accomplished, and the unavoidable evils incident to any human work. The country and the people, too, are described with the charming simplicity of the eyes that see clearly, the brain that ponders deeply, and the heart that beats sympathetically.
Through all the pages of his account runs the quiet strain of peace and contentment, of satisfaction with the existing order, for he had looked upon the creation and saw that it was good. There is “neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” but the deliberate recital of the facts warmed and illumined by the geniality of a soul to whom age and experience had brought, not a sour cynicism, but the mellowing influence of a ripened philosophy. He was such an old man as may fondly be imagined walking through the streets of Paranaque in stately benignity amid the fear and respect of the brown people over whom he watched. But in all his chronicle there is no suggestion of anything more to hope for, anything beyond.
Beautiful as the picture is, it is that of a system which had reached maturity: a condition of stagnation, not of growth. In less than a decade, the terrific convulsions in European politics made themselves felt even in the remote Philippines, and then began the gradual drawing away of the people from their rulers—blind gropings and erratic wanderings at first, but nevertheless persistent and vigorous tendencies. The first notable influence was the admission of representatives for the Philippines into the Spanish Cortes under the revolutionary governments and the abolition of the trade monopoly with Mexico. The last galleon reached Manila in 1815, and soon foreign commercial interests were permitted, in a restricted way, to enter the country.
Then with the separation of Mexico and the other American colonies from Spain a more marked change was brought about in that direct communication was established with the mother country, and the absolutism of the hagiarchy first questioned by the numbers of Peninsular Spaniards who entered the islands to trade, some even to settle and rear families there. These also affected the native population in the larger centers by the spread of their ideas, which were not always in conformity with those that for several centuries the friars had been inculcating into their wards. Moreover, there was a not-inconsiderable portion [xiv]of the population, sprung from the friars themselves, who were eager to adopt the customs and ideas of the Spanish immigrants.
The suppression of many of the monasteries in Spain in 1835 caused a large influx of the disestablished monks into the Philippines in search for a haven, and a home, thus bringing about a conflict with the native clergy, who were displaced from their best holdings to provide berths for the newcomers. At the same time, the increase of education among the native priests brought the natural demand for more equitable treatment by the Spanish friar, so insistent that it even broke out into open rebellion in 1843 on the part of a young Tagalog who thought himself aggrieved in this respect. Thus the struggle went on, with stagnation above and some growth below, so that the governors were ever getting further away from the governed, and for such a movement there is in the course of nature but one inevitable result, especially when outside influences are actively at work penetrating the social system and making for better things.
Among these influences four cumulative ones may be noted: the spread of journalism, the introduction of steamships into the Philippines, the return of the Jesuits, and the opening of the Suez Canal. The printing-press entered the islands with the conquest, but its use had been strictly confined to religious works until about the middle of the past century, when there was a sudden awakening and within a few years five journals were being published. In 1848 appeared the first regular newspaper of importance, El Diario de Manila, and about a decade later the principal organ of the Spanish-Filipino population, El Comercio, which, with varying vicissitudes, has continued down to the present.
While rigorously censored, both politically and religiously, and accessible to only an infinitesimal portion of the people, they still performed the service of letting a few rays of light into the Cimmerian intellectual gloom of the time and place. With the coming of steam navigation communication between the different parts of the islands was facilitated and trade encouraged, with all that such a change meant in the way of breaking up the old isolation and tending to a common understanding. Spanish power, too, was for the moment more firmly established, and Moro piracy in Luzon and the Bisayan [xv]Islands, which had been so great a drawback to the development of the country, was forever ended.
The return of the Jesuits produced two general results tending to dissatisfaction with the existing order. To them was assigned the missionary field of Mindanao, which meant the displacement of the Recollect Fathers in the missions there, and for these other berths had to be found. Again the native clergy were the losers in that they had to give up their best parishes in Luzon, especially around Manila and Cavite, so the breach was further widened and the soil sown with discontent. But more far-reaching than this immediate result was the educational movement inaugurated by the Jesuits. The native, already feeling the vague impulses from without and stirred by the growing restlessness of the times, here saw a new world open before him.
A considerable portion of the native population in the larger centers, who had shared in the economic progress of the colony, were enabled to look beyond their daily needs and to afford their children an opportunity for study and advancement—a condition and a need met by the Jesuits for a time. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 communication with the mother country became cheaper, quicker, surer, so that large numbers of Spaniards, many of them in sympathy with the republican movements at home, came to the Philippines in search of fortunes and generally left half-caste families who had imbibed their ideas. Native boys who had already felt the intoxication of such learning as the schools of Manila afforded them began to dream of greater wonders in Spain, now that the journey was possible for them.
So began the definite movements that led directly to the disintegration of the friar regime. In the same year occurred the revolution in the mother country, which had tired of the old corrupt despotism. Isabella II was driven into exile and the country left to waver about uncertainly for several years, passing through all the stages of government from red radicalism to absolute conservatism, finally adjusting itself to the middle course of constitutional monarchism. During the effervescent and ephemeral republic there was sent to the Philippines a governor who set to work to modify the old system and establish [xvi]a government more in harmony with modern ideas and more democratic in form.
His changes were hailed with delight by the growing class of Filipinos who were striving for more consideration in their own country, and who, in their enthusiasm and the intoxication of the moment, perhaps became more radical than was safe under the conditions—surely too radical for their religious guides watching and waiting behind the veil of the temple. In January, 1872, an uprising occurred in the naval arsenal at Cavite, with a Spanish non-commissioned officer as one of the leaders. From the meager evidence now obtainable, this would seem to have been purely a local mutiny over the service questions of pay and treatment, but in it the friars saw their opportunity.
It was blazoned forth, with all the wild panic that was to characterize the actions of the governing powers from that time on, as the premature outbreak of a general insurrection under the leadership of the native clergy, and rigorous repressive measures were demanded. Three native priests, notable for their popularity among their own people, one an octogenarian and the other two young canons of the Manila Cathedral, were summarily garroted, along with the renegade Spanish officer who had participated in the mutiny. No record of any trial of these priests has ever been brought to light. The Archbishop, himself a secular5 clergyman, stoutly refused to degrade them from their holy office, and they wore their sacerdotal robes at the execution, which was conducted in a hurried, fearful manner.
At the same time a number of young Manilans who had taken conspicuous part in the “liberal” demonstrations were deported to the Ladrone Islands or to remote islands of the Philippine group itself. This was the beginning of the end. Yet there immediately followed the delusive calm which ever precedes the fatal outburst, lulling those marked for destruction to a delusive security. The two decades following were years of quiet, unobtrusive growth, during which the Philippine Islands made the greatest economic progress in their history. But this in itself was preparing the final catastrophe, for if there be any fact well established in human experience it is that with [xvii]economic development the power of organized religion begins to wane—the rise of the merchant spells the decline of the priest. A sordid hange, from masses and mysteries to sugar and shoes, this is often said to be, but it should be noted that the epochs of greatest economic activity have been those during which the generality of mankind have lived fuller and freer lives, and above all that in such eras the finest intellects and the grandest souls have been developed. Nor does an institution that has been slowly growing for three centuries, molding the very life and fiber of the people, disintegrate without a violent struggle, either in its own constitution or in the life of the people trained under it. Not only the ecclesiastical but also the social and political system of the country was controlled by the religious orders, often silently and secretly, but none the less effectively. This is evident from the ceaseless conflict that went on between the religious orders and the Spanish political administrators, who were at every turn thwarted in their efforts to keep the government abreast of the times.
The shock of the affair of 1872 had apparently stunned the Filipinos, but it had at the same time brought them to the parting of the ways and induced a vague feeling that there was something radically wrong, which could only be righted by a closer union among themselves. They began to consider that their interests and those of the governing powers were not the same. In these feelings of distrust toward the friars they were stimulated by the great numbers of immigrant Spaniards who were then entering the country, many of whom had taken part in the republican movements at home and who, upon the restoration of the monarchy, no doubt thought it safer for them to be at as great a distance as possible from the throne.
The young Filipinos studying in Spain came from different parts of the islands, and by their association there in a foreign land were learning to forget their narrow sectionalism; hence the way was being prepared for some concerted action. Thus, aided and encouraged by the anti-clerical Spaniards in the mother country, there was growing up a new generation of native leaders, who looked toward something better than the old system. It is with this period in the history of the country—the [xviii]author’s boyhood—that the story of Noli Me Tangere deals. Typical scenes and characters are sketched from life with wonderful accuracy, and the picture presented is that of a master-mind, who knew and loved his subject.
Terror and repression were the order of the day, with ever a growing unrest in the higher circles, while the native population at large seemed to be completelycowed—“brutalized” is the term repeatedly used by Rizal in his political essays. Spanish writers of the period, observing only the superficial movements,—some of which were indeed fantastical enough, for “they, Who in oppression’s darkness caved have dwelt, They are not eagles, nourished with the day; What marvel, then, at times, if they mistake their way? ” —and not heeding the currents at work below, take great delight in ridiculing the pretensions of the young men seeking advancement, while they indulge in coarse ribaldry over the wretched condition of the great mass of the “Indians. The author, however, himself a “miserable Indian,” vividly depicts the unnatural conditions and dominant characters produced under the outworn system of fraud and force, at the same time presenting his people as living, feeling, struggling individuals, with all the frailties of human nature and all the possibilities of mankind, either for good or evil; incidentally he throws into marked contrast the despicable depreciation used by the Spanish writers in referring to the Filipinos, making clear the application of the self-evident proposition that no ordinary human being in the presence of superior force can very well conduct himself as a man unless he be treated as such. The friar orders, deluded by their transient triumph and secure in their pride of place, became more arrogant, more domineering than ever.
In the general administration the political rulers were at every turn thwarted, their best efforts frustrated, and if they ventured too far their own security threatened; for in the three-cornered wrangle which lasted throughout the whole of the Spanish domination, the friar orders had, in addition to the strength derived from their organization and their wealth, the Damoclean weapon of control over the natives to hang above the heads of both governor and [xix]archbishop. The curates in the towns, always the real rulers, became veritable despots, so that no voice dared to raise itself against them, even in the midst of conditions which the humblest indio was beginning to feel dumbly to be perverted and unnatural, and that, too, after three centuries of training under the system that he had ever been taught to accept as “the will of God. ” The friars seemed long since to have forgotten those noble aims that had meant so much to the ounders and early workers of their orders, if indeed the great majority of those of the later day had ever realized the meaning of their office, for the Spanish writers of the time delight in characterizing them as the meanest of the Spanish peasantry, when not something worse, who had been “lassoed,” taught a few ritualistic prayers, and shipped to the Philippines to be placed in isolated towns as lords and masters of the native population, with all the power and prestige over a docile people that the sacredness of their holy office gave them. These writers treat the matter lightly, seeing in it rather a huge joke on the “miserable Indians,” and give the friars great credit for “patriotism,” a term which in this connection they dragged from depth to depth until it quite aptly fitted Dr. Johnson’s famous definition, “the last refuge of a scoundrel. ” In their conduct the religious corporations, both as societies and as individuals, must be estimated according to their own standards—the application of any other criterion would be palpably unfair.
They undertook to hold the native in subjection, to regulate the essential activities of his life according to their ideas, so upon them must fall the responsibility for the conditions finally attained: to destroy the freedom of the subject and then attempt to blame him for his conduct is a paradox into which the learned men often fell, perhaps inadvertently through their deductive logic. They endeavored to shape the lives of their Malay wards not only in this existence but also in the next. Their vows were poverty, chastity, and obedience. The vow of poverty was early relegated to the limbo of neglect. Only a few years after the founding of Manila royal decrees began to issue on the subject of complaints received by the King over the usurpation of lands on the part of the [xx]priests.
Using the same methods so familiar in the heyday of the institution of monasticism in Europe—pious gifts, deathbed bequests, pilgrims’ offerings—the friar orders gradually secured the richest of the arable lands in the more thickly settled portions of the Philippines, notably the part of Luzon occupied by the Tagalogs. Not always, however, it must in justice be recorded, were such doubtful means resorted to, for there were instances where the missionary was the pioneer, gathering about himself a band of devoted natives and plunging into the unsettled parts to build up a town with its fields around it, which would later become a friar estate. With the accumulated incomes from these estates and the fees for religious observances that poured into their treasuries, the orders in their nature of perpetual corporations became the masters of the situation, the lords of the country.
But this condition was not altogether objectionable; it was in the excess of their greed that they went astray, for the native peoples had been living under this system through generations and not until they began to feel that they were not receiving fair treatment did they question the authority of a power which not only secured them a peaceful existence in this life but also assured them eternal felicity in the next. With only the shining exceptions that are produced in any system, no matter how false its premises or how decadent it may become, to uphold faith in the intrinsic soundness of human nature, the vow of chastity was never much more than a myth. Through the tremendous influence exerted over a fanatically religious people, who implicitly followed the teachings of the reverend fathers, once their confidence had been secured, the curate was seldom to be gainsaid in his desires.
By means of the secret influence in the confessional and the more open political power wielded by him, the fairest was his to command, and the favored one and her people looked upon the choice more as an honor than otherwise, for besides the social standing that it gave her there was the proud prospect of becoming the mother of children who could claim kinship with the dominant race. The curate’s “companion” or the sacristan’s wife was a power in the community, her family was raised to a place of importance and influence among their own people, while she and her ecclesiastical [xxi]offspring were well cared for. On the death or removal of the curate, it was almost invariably found that she had been provided with a husband or protector and a not inconsiderable amount of property—an arrangement rather appealing to a people among whom the means of living have ever been so insecure.
That this practise was not particularly offensive to the people among whom they dwelt may explain the situation, but to claim that it excuses the friars approaches dangerously close to casuistry. Still, as long as this arrangement was decently and moderately carried out, there seems to have been no great objection, nor from a worldly point of view, with all the conditions considered, could there be much. But the old story of excess, of unbridled power turned toward bad ends, again recurs, at the same time that the ideas brought in by the Spaniards who came each year in increasing numbers and the principles observed by the young men studying in
Europe cast doubt upon the fitness of such a state of affairs. As they approached their downfall, like all mankind, the friars became more open, more insolent, more shameless, in their conduct. The story of Maria Clara, as told in Noli Me Tangere, is by no means an exaggerated instance, but rather one of the few clean enough to bear the light, and her fate, as depicted in the epilogue, is said to be based upon an actual occurrence with which the author must have been familiar. The vow of obedience—whether considered as to the Pope, their highest religious authority, or to the King of Spain, their political liege—might not always be so callously disregarded, but it could be evaded and defied.
From the Vatican came bull after bull, from the Escorial decree after decree, only to be archived in Manila, sometimes after a hollow pretense of compliance. A large part of the records of Spanish domination is taken up with the wearisome quarrels that went on between the Archbishop, representing the head of the Church, and the friar orders, over the questions of the episcopal visitation and the enforcement of the provisions of the Council of Trent relegating the monks to their original status of missionaries, with the friars invariably victorious in their contentions. Royal decrees ordering inquiries into the titles to the estates of the men of poverty and those providing for the education of [xxii]the natives in Spanish were merely sneered at and left to molder in harmless quiet.
Not without good grounds for his contention, the friar claimed that the Spanish dominion over the Philippines depended upon him, and he therefore confidently set himself up as the best judge of how that dominion should be maintained. Thus there are presented in the Philippines of the closing quarter of the century just past the phenomena so frequently met with in modern societies, so disheartening to the people who must drag out their lives under them, of an old system which has outworn its usefulness and is being called into question, with forces actively at work disintegrating it, yet with the unhappy folk bred and reared under it unprepared for a new order of things.
The old faith was breaking down, its forms and beliefs, once so full of life and meaning, were being sharply examined, doubt and suspicion were the order of the day. Moreover, it must ever be borne in mind that in the Philippines this unrest, except in the parts where the friars were the landlords, was not general among the people, the masses of whom were still sunk in their “loved Egyptian night,” but affected only a very small proportion of the population—for the most part young men who were groping their way toward something better, yet without any very clearly conceived idea of what that better might be, and among whom was to be found the usual sprinkling of “sunshine patriots” and omnipresent opportunists ready for any kind of trouble that will afford them a chance to rise.
Add to the apathy of the masses dragging out their vacant lives amid the shadows of religious superstition and to the unrest of the few, the fact that the orders were in absolute control of the political machinery of the country, with the best part of the agrarian wealth amortized in their hands; add also the ever-present jealousies, petty feuds, and racial hatreds, for which Manila and the Philippines, with their medley of creeds and races, offer such a fertile field, all fostered by the governing class for the maintenance of the old Machiavelian principle of “divide and rule,” and the sum is about the most miserable condition under which any portion of mankind ever tried to fulfill nature’s inexorable laws of growth. [xxiii] II And third came she who gives dark creeds their power, Silabbat-paramasa, sorceress, Draped fair in many lands as lowly Faith, But ever juggling souls with rites and prayers; The keeper of those keys which lock up Hells And open Heavens. “Wilt thou dare,” she said, “Put by our sacred books, dethrone our gods, Unpeople all the temples, shaking down
That law which feeds the priests and props the realm? ” But Buddha answered, “What thou bidd’st me keep Is form which passes, but the free Truth stands; Get thee unto thy darkness. ” SIR EDWIN ARNOLD, The Light of Asia. “Ah, simple people, how little do you know the blessing that you enjoy! Neither hunger, nor nakedness, nor inclemency of the weather troubles you. With the payment of seven reals per year, you remain free of contributions. You do not have to close your houses with bolts. You do not fear that the district troopers will come in to lay waste your fields, and trample you under foot at your own firesides. You call ‘father’ the one who is in command over you.
Perhaps there will come a time when you will be more civilized, and you will break out in revolution; and you will wake terrified, at the tumult of the riots, and will see blood flowing through these quiet fields, and gallows and guillotines erected in these squares, which never yet have seen an execution. ”6 Thus moralized a Spanish traveler in 1842, just as that dolce far niente was drawing to its close. Already far-seeing men had begun to raise in the Spanish parliament the question of the future of the Philippines, looking toward some definite program for their care under modern conditions and for the adjustment of their [xxiv]relations with the mother country.
But these were mere Cassandra-voices—the horologe of time was striking for Rome’s successor, as it did for Rome herself. Just where will come the outbreak after three centuries of mind-repression and soul-distortion, of forcing a growing subject into the strait-jacket of medieval thought and action, of natural selection reversed by the constant elimination of native initiative and leadership, is indeed a curious study. That there will be an outbreak somewhere is as certain as that the plant will grow toward the light, even under the most unfavorable conditions, for man’s nature is but the resultant of eternal forces that ceaselessly and irresistibly interplay about and upon him, and somewhere this resultant will express itself in thought or deed.
After three centuries of Spanish ecclesiastical domination in the Philippines, it was to be expected that the wards would turn against their mentors the methods that had been used upon them, nor is it especially remarkable that there was a decided tendency in some parts to revert to primitive barbarism, but that concurrently a creative genius—a bard or seer—should have been developed among a people who, as a whole, have hardly passed through the clan or village stage of society, can be regarded as little less than a psychological phenomenon, and provokes the perhaps presumptuous inquiry as to whether there may not be some things about our common human nature that the learned doctors have not yet included in their anthropometric diagrams. On the western shore of the Lake of Bay in the heart of the Philippines clusters the village of Kalamba, first established by the Jesuit Fathers in the early days of the conquest, and upon their expulsion in 1767 taken over by the Crown, which later transferred it to the Dominicans, under whose care the fertile fields about it became one of the richest of the friar estates. It can hardly be called a town, even for the Philippines, but is rather a market-village, set as it is at the outlet of the rich country of northern Batangas on the open waterway to Manila and the outside world.
Around it flourish the green rice-fields, while Mount Makiling towers majestically near in her moods of cloud and sunshine, overlooking the picturesque curve of the shore and the rippling waters of the [xxv]lake. Shadowy to the eastward gleam the purple crests of Banahao and Cristobal, and but a few miles to the southwestward dim-thundering, seething, earth-rocking Taal mutters and moans of the world’s birth-throes. It is the center of a region rich in native lore and legend, as it sleeps through the dusty noons when the cacao leaves droop with the heat and dreams through the silvery nights, waking twice or thrice a week to the endless babble and ceaseless chatter of an Oriental market where the noisy throngs make of their trading as much a matter of pleasure and recreation as of business.
Directly opposite this market-place, in a house facing the village church, there was born in 1861 into the already large family of one of the more prosperous tenants on the Dominican estate a boy who was to combine in his person the finest traits of the Oriental character with the best that Spanish and European culture could add, on whom would fall the burden of his people’s woes to lead him over the via dolorosa of struggle and sacrifice, ending in his own destruction amid the crumbling ruins of the system whose disintegration he himself had done so much to compass. Jose Rizal-Mercado y Alonso, as his name emerges from the confusion of Filipino nomenclature, was of Malay extraction, with some distant strains of Spanish and Chinese blood. His genealogy reveals several persons remarkable for intellect and independence of character, notably a Philippine Eloise and Abelard, who, drawn together by their common enthusiasm for study and learning, became his maternal grandparents, as well as a great-uncle who was a traveler and student and who directed the boy’s early studies.
Thus from the beginning his training was exceptional, while his mind was stirred by the trouble already brewing in his community, and from the earliest hours of consciousness he saw about him the wrongs and injustices which overgrown power will ever develop in dealing with a weaker subject. One fact of his childhood, too, stands out clearly, well worthy of record: his mother seems to have been a woman of more than ordinary education for the time and place, and, pleased with the boy’s quick intelligence, she taught him to read Spanish from a copy of the Vulgate in that language, which she had somehow managed to secure and keep in her possession—the old, old [xxvi]story of the Woman and the Book, repeated often enough under strange circumstances, but under none stranger than these.
The boy’s father was well-to-do, so he was sent at the age of eight to study in the new Jesuit school in Manila, not however before he had already inspired some awe in his simple neighbors by the facility with which he composed verses in his native tongue. He began his studies in a private house while waiting for an opportunity to enter the Ateneo, as the Jesuit school is called, and while there he saw one of his tutors, Padre Burgos, haled to an ignominious death on the garrote as a result of the affair of 1872. This made a deep impression on his childish mind and, in fact, seems to have been one of the principal factors in molding his ideas and shaping his career.
That the effect upon him was lasting and that his later judgment confirmed him in the belief that a great injustice had been done, are shown by the fact that his second important work, El Filibusterismo, written about 1891, and miscalled by himself a “novel,” for it is really a series of word-paintings constituting a terrific arraignment of the whole regime, was dedicated to the three priests executed in 1872, in these words: “Religion, in refusing to degrade you, has placed in doubt the crime imputed to you; the government, in surrounding your case with mystery and shadow, gives reason for belief in some error, committed in fatal moments; and all the Philippines, in venerating your memory and calling you martyrs, in no way acknowledges your guilt. ” The only answer he ever received to this was eight Remington bullets fired into his back.
In the Ateneo he quickly attracted attention and became a general favorite by his application to his studies, the poetic fervor with which he entered into all the exercises of religious devotion, and the gentleness of his character. He was from the first considered “peculiar,” for so the common mind regards everything that fails to fit the old formulas, being of a rather dreamy and reticent disposition, more inclined to reading Spanish romances than joining in the games of his schoolmates. And of all the literatures that could be placed in the hands of an imaginative child, what one would be more productive in a receptive mind of a fervid love of life and home and country and all that men hold dear, than that of the musical [xxvii]language of Castile, with its high coloring and passionate character?
His activities were varied, for, in addition to his regular studies, he demonstrated considerable skill in wood-carving and wax-modeling, and during this period won several prizes for poetical compositions in Spanish, which, while sometimes juvenile in form and following closely after Spanish models, reveal at times flashes of thought and turns of expression that show distinct originality; even in these early compositions there is that plaintive undertone, that minor chord of sadness, which pervades all his poems, reaching its fullest measure of pathos in the verses written in his death-cell. He received a bachelor’s degree according to the Spanish system in 1877, but continued advanced studies in agriculture at the Ateneo, at the same time that he was pursuing the course in philosophy in the Dominican University of Santo Tomas, where in 1879 he startled the learned doctors by a reference in a prize poem to the Philippines as his “patria,” fatherland.
This political heresy on the part of a native of the islands was given no very serious attention at the time, being looked upon as the vagary of a schoolboy, but again in the following year, by what seems a strange fatality, he stirred the resentment of the friars, especially the Dominicans, by winning over some of their number the first prize in a literary contest celebrated in honor of the author of Don Quixote. The archaic instruction in Santo Tomas soon disgusted him and led to disagreements with the instructors, and he turned to Spain. Plans for his journey and his stay there had to be made with the utmost caution, for it would hardly have fared well with his family had it become known that the son of a tenant on an estate which was a part of the University endowment was studying in Europe.
He reached Spanish territory first in Barcelona, the hotbed of radicalism, where he heard a good deal of revolutionary talk, which, however, seems to have made but little impression upon him, for throughout his entire career breadth of thought and strength of character are revealed in his consistent opposition to all forms of violence. In Madrid he pursued the courses in medicine and philosophy, but a fact of even more consequence than his proficiency in his regular work was his persistent study of languages and his [xxviii]omnivorous reading. He was associated with the other Filipinos who were working in a somewhat spectacular way, misdirected rather than led by what may be styled the Spanish liberals, for more considerate treatment of the Philippines. But while he was among them he was not of them, as his studious habits and reticent disposition would hardly have made him a favorite among those who were enjoying the broader and gayer life there.
Moreover, he soon advanced far beyond them in thought by realizing that they were beginning at the wrong end of the labor, for even at that time he seems to have caught, by what must almost be looked upon as an inspiration of genius, since there was nothing apparent in his training that would have suggested it, the realization of the fact that hope for his people lay in bettering their condition, that any real benefit must begin with the benighted folk at home, that the introduction of reforms for which they were unprepared would be useless, even dangerous to them. This was not at all the popular idea among his associates and led to serious disagreements with their leaders, for it was the way of toil and sacrifice without any of the excitement and glamour that came from drawing up magnificent plans and sending them back home with appeals for funds to carry on the propaganda—for the most part banquets and entertainments to Spain’s political leaders.
His views, as revealed in his purely political writings, may be succinctly stated, for he had that faculty of expression which never leaves any room for doubt as to the meaning. His people had a natural right to grow and to develop, and any obstacles to such growth and development were to be removed. He realized that the masses of his countrymen were sunk deep in poverty and ignorance, cringing and crouching before political authority, crawling and groveling before religious superstition, but to him this was no subject for jest or indifferent neglect—it was a serious condition which should be ameliorated, and hope lay in working into the inert social mass the leaven of conscious individual effort toward the development of a distinctive, responsible personality.
He was profoundly appreciative of all the good that Spain had done, but saw in this no inconsistency with the desire that this gratitude might be given cause to be ever on the increase, thereby uniting the Philippines with the mother country by [xxix]the firm bonds of common ideas and interests, for his earlier writings breathe nothing but admiration, respect, and loyalty for Spain and her more advanced institutions. The issue was clear to him and he tried to keep it so. It was indeed administrative myopia, induced largely by blind greed, which allowed the friar orders to confuse the objections to their repressive system with an attack upon Spanish sovereignty, thereby dragging matters from bad to worse, to engender ill feeling and finally desperation.
This narrow, selfish policy had about as much soundness in it as the idea upon which it was based, so often brought forward with what looks very suspiciously like a specious effort to cover mental indolence with a glittering generality, “that the Filipino is only a grown-up child and needs a strong paternal government,” an idea which entirely overlooks the natural fact that when an impressionable subject comes within the influence of a stronger force from a higher civilization he is very likely to remain a child—perhaps a stunted one—as long as he is treated as such. There is about as much sense and justice in such logic as there would be in that of keeping a babe confined in swaddling-bands and then blaming it for not knowing how to walk.
No creature will remain a healthy child forever, but, as Spain learned to her bitter cost, will be very prone, as the parent grows decrepit and it begins to feel its strength, to prove a troublesome subject to handle, thereby reversing the natural law suggested by the comparison, and bringing such Sancho-Panza statecraft to flounder at last through as hopeless confusion to as absurd a conclusion as his own island government. Rizal was not one of those rabid, self-seeking revolutionists who would merely overthrow the government and maintain the old system with themselves in the privileged places of the former rulers, nor is he to be classed among the misguided enthusiasts who by their intemperate demands and immoderate conduct merely strengthen the hands of those in power.
He realized fully that the restrictions under which the people had become accustomed to order their lives should be removed gradually as they advanced under suitable guidance and became capable of adjusting themselves to the new and better conditions. They should take all the good offered, from any [xxx]source, especially that suited to their nature, which they could properly assimilate. No great patience was ever exhibited by him toward those of his countrymen—the most repulsive characters in his stories are such—who would make of themselves mere apes and mimes, decorating themselves with a veneer of questionable alien characteristics, but with no personality or stability of their own, presenting at best a spectacle to make devils laugh and angels weep, lacking even the hothouse product’s virtue of being good to look upon. Reduced to a definite form, the wish of the more houghtful in the new generation of Filipino leaders that was growing up was that the Philippine Islands be made a province of Spain with representation in the Cortes and the concomitant freedom of expression and criticism. All that was directly asked was some substantial participation in the management of local affairs, and the curtailment of the arbitrary power of petty officials, especially of the friar curates, who constituted the chief obstacle to the education and development of the people. The friar orders were, however, all-powerful, not only in the Philippines, but also in Madrid, where they were not chary of making use of a part of their wealth to maintain their influence.
The efforts of the Filipinos in Spain, while closely watched, do not seem to have been given any very serious attention, for the Spanish authorities no doubt realized that as long as the young men stayed in Madrid writing manifestoes in a language which less than one per cent of their countrymen could read and spending their money on members of the Cortes, there could be little danger of trouble in the Philippines. Moreover, the Spanish ministers themselves appear to have been in sympathy with the more moderate wishes of the Filipinos, a fact indicated by the number of changes ordered from time to time in the Philippine administration, but they were powerless before the strength and local influence of the religious orders. So matters dragged their weary way along until there was an unexpected and startling development, a David-Goliath contest, and certainly no one but a genius could have polished the “smooth stone” that was to smite the giant.
It is said that the idea of writing a novel depicting conditions in his native land first came to Rizal from a perusal of Eugene [xxxi]Sue’s The Wandering Jew, while he was a student in Madrid, although the model for the greater part of it is plainly the delectable sketches in Don Quixote, for the author himself possessed in a remarkable degree that Cervantic touch which raises the commonplace, even the mean, into the highest regions of art. Not, however, until he had spent some time in Paris continuing his medical studies, and later in Germany, did anything definite result. But in 1887 Noli Me Tangere was printed in Berlin, in an establishment where the author is said to have worked part of his time as a compositor in order to defray his expenses while he continued his studies.
A limited edition was published through the financial aid extended by a Filipino associate, and sent to Hongkong, thence to be surreptitiously introduced into the Philippines. Noli Me Tangere (“Touch Me Not”) at the time the work was written had a peculiar fitness as a title. Not only was there an apt suggestion of a comparison with the common flower of that name, but the term is also applied in pathology to a malignant cancer which affects every bone and tissue in the body, and that this latter was in the author’s mind would appear from the dedication and from the summing-up of the Philippine situation in the final conversation between Ibarra and Elias.
But in a letter written to a friend in Paris at the time, the author himself says that it was taken from the Gospel scene where the risen Savior appears to the Magdalene, to whom He addresses these words, a scene that has been the subject of several notable paintings. In this connection it is interesting to note what he himself thought of the work, and his frank statement of what he had tried to accomplish, made just as he was publishing it: “Noli Me Tangere, an expression taken from the Gospel of St. Luke,7 means touch me not. The book contains things of which no one up to the present time has spoken, for they are so sensitive that they have never suffered themselves to be touched by any one whomsoever.
For my own part, I have attempted to do what no one else has been willing to do: I have dared to answer the calumnies that have for centuries been heaped upon us and our country. I have written of the social condition and the life, [xxxii]of our beliefs, our hopes, our longings, our complaints, and our sorrows; I have unmasked the hypocrisy which, under the cloak of religion, has come among us to impoverish and to brutalize us, I have distinguished the true religion from the false, from the superstition that traffics with the holy word to get money and to make us believe in absurdities for which Catholicism would blush, if ever it knew of them. I have unveiled that which has been hidden behind the deceptive and dazzling words of our governments.
I have told our countrymen of our mistakes, our vices, our faults, and our weak complaisance with our miseries there. Where I have found virtue I have spoken of it highly in order to render it homage; and if I have not wept in speaking of our misfortunes, I have laughed over them, for no one would wish to weep with me over our woes, and laughter is ever the best means of concealing sorrow. The deeds that I have related are true and have actually occurred; I can furnish proof of this. My book may have (and it does have) defects from an artistic and esthetic point of view—this I do not deny—but no one can dispute the veracity of the facts presented. 8 But while the primary purpose and first effect of the work was to crystallize anti-friar sentiment, the author has risen above a mere personal attack, which would give it only a temporary value, and by portraying in so clear and sympathetic a way the life of his people has produced a piece of real literature, of especial interest now as they are being swept into the newer day. Any fool can point out errors and defects, if they are at all apparent, and the persistent searching them out for their own sake is the surest mark of the vulpine mind, but the author has east aside all such petty considerations and, whether consciously or not, has left a work of permanent value to his own people and of interest to all friends of humanity.
If ever a fair land has been cursed with the wearisome breed of fault-finders, both indigenous and exotic, that land is the Philippines, so it is indeed refreshing to turn from the dreary waste of carping criticisms, pragmatical “scientific” analyses, and sneering half-truths to a story pulsating with life, presenting [xxxiii]the Filipino as a human being, with his virtues and his vices, his loves and hates, his hopes and fears. The publication of Noli Me Tangere suggests the reflection that the story of Achilles’ heel is a myth only in form. The belief that any institution, system, organization, or arrangement has reached an absolute form is about as far as human folly can go. The friar orders looked upon themselves as the sum of human achievement in man-driving and God-persuading, divinely appointed to rule, fixed in their power, far above suspicion.
Yet they were obsessed by the sensitive, covert dread of exposure that ever lurks spectrally under pharisaism’s specious robe, so when there appeared this work of a “miserable Indian,” who dared to portray them and the conditions that their control produced exactly as they were—for the indefinable touch by which the author gives an air of unimpeachable veracity to his story is perhaps its greatest artistic merit—the effect upon the mercurial Spanish temperament was, to say the least, electric. The very audacity of the thing left the friars breathless. A committee of learned doctors from Santo Tomas, who were appointed to examine the work, unmercifully scored it as attacking everything from the state religion to the integrity of the Spanish dominions, so the circulation of it in the Philippines was, of course, strictly prohibited, which naturally made the demand for it greater. Large sums were paid for single copies, of which, it might be remarked in passing, the author himself received scarcely any part; collections have ever had a curious habit of going astray in the Philippines.
Although the possession of a copy by a Filipino usually meant summary imprisonment or deportation, often with the concomitant confiscation of property for the benefit of some “patriot,” the book was widely read among the leading families and had the desired effect of crystallizing the sentiment against the friars, thus to pave the way for concerted action. At last the idol had been flouted, so all could attack it. Within a year after it had begun to circulate in the Philippines a memorial was presented to the Archbishop by quite a respectable part of the Filipinos in Manila, requesting that the friar orders be expelled from the country, but this resulted only in the deportation of every signer of the petition upon whom the [xxxiv]government could lay hands.
They were scattered literally to the four corners of the earth: some to the Ladrone Islands, some to Fernando Po off the west coast of Africa, some to Spanish prisons, others to remote parts of the Philippines. Meanwhile, the author had returned to the Philippines for a visit to his family, during which time he was constantly attended by an officer of the Civil Guard, detailed ostensibly as a body-guard. All his movements were closely watched, and after a few months the Captain-General “advised” him to leave the country, at the same time requesting a copy of Noli Me Tangere, saying that the excerpts submitted to him by the censor had awakened a desire to read the entire work.
Rizal returned to Europe by way of Japan and the United States, which did not seem to make any distinct impression upon him, although it was only a little later that he predicted that when Spain lost control of the Philippines, an eventuality he seemed to consider certain not far in the future, the United States would be a probable successor. 9 Returning to Europe, he spent some time in London preparing an edition of Morga’s Sucesos de las Filipinas, a work published in Mexico about 1606 by the principal actor in some of the most stirring scenes of the formative period of the Philippine government. It is a record of prime importance in Philippine history, and the resuscitation of it was no small service to the country. Rizal added notes tending to show that the Filipinos had been possessed of considerable culture and civilization before the Spanish conquest, and he even intimated that they had retrograded rather than advanced under Spanish tutelage.
But such an extreme view must be ascribed to patriotic ardor, for Rizal himself, though possessed of that intangible quality commonly known as genius and partly trained in northern Europe, is still in his own personality the strongest refutation of such a contention. Later, in Ghent, he published El Filibusterismo, called by him a continuation of Noli Me Tangere, but with which it really has no more connection than that some of the characters [xxxv]reappear and are disposed of. 10 There is almost no connected plot in it and hardly any action, but there is the same incisive character-drawing and clear etching of conditions that characterize the earlier work. It is a maturer effort and a more forceful political argument, hence it lacks the charm and simplicity which assign Noli Me Tangere to a preeminent place in Philippine literature.
The light satire of the earlier work is replaced by bitter sarcasm delivered with deliberate intent, for the iron had evidently entered his soul with broadening experience and the realization that justice at the hands of decadent Spain had been an iridescent dream of his youth. Nor had the Spanish authorities in the Philippines been idle; his relatives had been subjected to all the annoyances and irritations of petty persecution, eventually losing the greater part of their property, while some of them suffered deportation. In 1891 he returned to Hongkong to practise medicine, in which profession he had remarkable success, even coming to be looked upon as a wizard by his simple countrymen, among whom circulated wonderful accounts of his magical powers.
He was especially skilled in ophthalmology, and his first operation after returning from his studies in Europe was to restore his mother’s sight by removing a cataract from one of her eyes, an achievement which no doubt formed the basis of marvelous tales. But the misfortunes of his people were ever the paramount consideration, so he wrote to the Captain-General requesting permission to remove his numerous relatives to Borneo to establish a colony there, for which purpose liberal concessions had been offered him by the British government. The request was denied, and further stigmatized as an “unpatriotic” attempt to lessen the population of the Philippines, when labor was already scarce. This was the answer he received to a reasonable petition after the homes of his family, including his own birthplace, had been ruthlessly destroyed by military force, while a quarrel ver ownership and rents was still pending in the courts. The Captain-General at the time was Valeriano Weyler, the pitiless instrument of the reactionary forces manipulated by the monastic orders, he who [xxxvi]was later sent to Cuba to introduce there the repressive measures which had apparently been so efficacious in the Philippines, thus to bring on the interference of the United States to end Spain’s colonial power—all of which induces the reflection that there may still be deluded casuists who doubt the reality of Nemesis. Weyler was succeeded by Eulogio Despujols, who made sincere attempts to reform the administration, and was quite popular with the Filipinos.
In reply to repeated requests from Rizal to be permitted to return to the Philippines unmolested a passport was finally granted to him and he set out for Manila. For this move on his part, in addition to the natural desire to be among his own people, two special reasons appear: he wished to investigate and stop if possible the unwarranted use of his name in taking up collections that always remained mysteriously unaccounted for, and he was drawn by a ruse deliberately planned and executed in that his mother was several times officiously arrested and hustled about as a common criminal in order to work upon the son’s filial feelings and thus get him back within reach of the Spanish authority, which, as subsequent events and later researches have shown, was the real intention in issuing the passport.
Entirely unsuspecting any ulterior motive, however, in a few days after his arrival he convoked a motley gathering of Filipinos of all grades of the population, for he seems to have been only slightly acquainted among his own people and not at all versed in the mazy Walpurgis dance of Philippine politics, and laid before it the constitution for a Liga Filipina (Philippine League), an organization looking toward greater unity among the Filipinos and cooperation for economic progress. This Liga was no doubt the result of his observations in England and Germany, and, despite its questionable form as a secret society for political and economic purposes, was assuredly a step in the right direction, but unfortunately its significance was beyond the comprehension of his countrymen, most of whom saw in it only an opportunity for harassing the Spanish government, for which all were ready enough. All his movements were closely watched, and a few days after his return he was arrested on the charge of having seditious literature in his baggage. The friars were already [xxxvii]clamoring for his lood, but Despujols seems to have been more in sympathy with Rizal than with the men whose tool he found himself forced to be. Without trial Rizal was ordered deported to Dapitan, a small settlement on the northern coast of Mindanao. The decree ordering this deportation and the destruction of all copies of his books to be found in the Philippines is a marvel of sophistry, since, in the words of a Spanish writer of the time, “in this document we do not know which to wonder at most: the ingenuousness of the Governor-General, for in this decree he implicitly acknowledges his weakness and proneness to error, or the candor of Rizal, who believed that all the way was strewn with roses. 11 But it is quite evident that Despujols was playing a double game, of which he seems to have been rather ashamed, for he gave strict orders that copies of the decree should be withheld from Rizal. In Dapitan Rizal gave himself up to his studies and such medical practice as sought him out in that remote spot, for the fame of his skill was widely extended, and he was allowed to live unmolested under parole that he would make no attempt to escape. In company with a Jesuit missionary he gathered about him a number of native boys and conducted a practical school on the German plan, at the same time indulging in religious polemics with his Jesuit acquaintances by correspondence and working fitfully on some compositions which were never completed, noteworthy among them being a study in English of the Tagalog verb.
But while he was living thus quietly in Dapitan, events that were to determine his fate were misshaping themselves in Manila. The stone had been loosened on the mountain-side and was bounding on in mad career, far beyond his control. [xxxviii] III He who of old would rend the oak, Dream’d not of the rebound; Chain’d by the trunk he vainly broke Alone—how look’d he round? BYRON. Reason and moderation in the person of Rizal scorned and banished, the spirit of Jean Paul Marat and John Brown of Ossawatomie rises to the fore in the shape of one Andres Bonifacio, warehouse porter, who sits up o’ nights copying all the letters and documents that he can lay hands on; composing grandiloquent manifestoes in Tagalog; drawing up magnificent appointments in he names of prominent persons who would later suffer even to the shedding of their life’s blood through his mania for writing history in advance; spelling out Spanish tales of the French Revolution; babbling of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity; hinting darkly to his confidants that the President of France had begun life as a blacksmith. Only a few days after Rizal was so summarily hustled away, Bonifacio gathered together a crowd of malcontents and ignorant dupes, some of them composing as choice a gang of cutthroats as ever slit the gullet of a Chinese or tied mutilated prisoners in ant hills, and solemnly organized the Kataastaasang Kagalang-galang Katipunan ng? ga Anak ng? Bayan, “Supreme Select Association of the Sons of the People,” for the extermination of the ruling race and the restoration of the Golden Age. It was to bring the people into concerted action for a general revolt on a fixed date, when they would rise simultaneously, take possession of the city of Manila, and—the rest were better left to the imagination, for they had been reared under the Spanish colonial system and imitativeness has ever been pointed out as a cardinal trait in the Filipino character. No quarter was to be asked or given, and the most sacred ties, even[xxxix]of consanguinity, were to be disregarded in the general slaughter.
To the inquiry of a curious neophyte as to how the Spaniards were to be distinguished from the other Europeans, in order to avoid international complications, dark Andres replied that in case of doubt they should proceed with due caution but should take good care that they made no mistakes about letting any of the Castilas escape their vengeance. The higher officials of the government were to be taken alive as hostages, while the friars were to be reserved for a special holocaust on Bagumbayan Field, where over their incinerated remains a heaven-kissing monument would be erected. This Katipunan seems to have been an outgrowth from Spanish freemasonry, introduced into the Philippines by a Spaniard named Morayta and Marcelo H. el Pilar, a native of Bulacan Province who was the practical leader of the Filipinos in Spain, but who died there in 1896 just as he was setting out for Hongkong to mature his plans for a general uprising to expel the friar orders. There had been some masonic societies in the islands for some time, but the membership had been limited to Peninsulars, and they played no part in the politics of the time. But about 1888 Filipinos began to be admitted into some of them, and later, chiefly through the exertions of Pilar, lodges exclusively for them were instituted. These soon began to display great activity, especially in the transcendental matter of collections, so that their existence became a source of care to the government and a nightmare to the religious orders.
From them, and with a perversion of the idea in Rizal’s still-born Liga, it was an easy transition to the Katipunan, which was to put aside all pretense of reconciliation with Spain, and at the appointed time rise to exterminate not only the friars but also all the Spaniards and Spanish sympathizers, thus to bring about the reign of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, under the benign guidance of Patriot Bonifacio, with his bolo for a scepter. With its secrecy and mystic forms, its methods of threats and intimidation, the Katipunan spread rapidly, especially among the Tagalogs, the most intransigent of the native peoples, and, it should be noted, the ones in Whose territory the friars were the principal landlords. It was organized on the triangle plan, so that no member might know or communicate with more [xl]than three others—the one above him from whom he received his information and instructions and two below to whom he transmitted them.
The initiations were conducted with great secrecy and solemnity, calculated to inspire the new members with awe and fear. The initiate, after a series of blood-curdling ordeals to try out his courage and resolution, swore on a human skull a terrific oath to devote his life and energies to the extermination of the white race, regardless of age or sex, and later affixed to it his signature or mark, usually the latter, with his own blood taken from an incision in the left arm or left breast. This was one form of the famous “blood compact,” which, if history reads aright, played so important a part in the assumption of sovereignty over the Philippines by Legazpi in the name of Philip II.
Rizal was made the honorary president of the association, his portrait hung in all the meeting-halls, and the magic of his name used to attract the easily deluded masses, who were in a state of agitated ignorance and growing unrest, ripe for any movement that looked anti-governmental, and especially anti-Spanish. Soon after the organization had been perfected, collections began to be taken up—those collections were never overlooked—for the purpose of chartering a steamer to rescue him from Dapitan and transport him to Singapore, whence he might direct the general uprising, the day and the hour for which were fixed by Bonifacio for August twenty-sixth, 1896, at six o’clock sharp in the evening, since lack of precision in his magnificent programs was never a fault of that bold patriot, his logic being as severe as that of the Filipino policeman who put the flag at half-mast on Good Friday.
Of all this Rizal himself was, of course, entirely ignorant, until in May, 1896, a Filipino doctor named Pio Valenzuela, a creature of Bonifacio’s, was despatched to Dapitan, taking along a blind man as a pretext for the visit to the famous oculist, to lay the plans before him for his consent and approval. Rizal expostulated with Valenzuela for a time over such a mad and hopeless venture, which would only bring ruin and misery upon the masses, and then is said to have very humanly lost his patience, ending the interview “in so bad a humor and with words so offensive that the deponent, who had gone with the intention of remaining there a month, took the steamer [xli]on the following day, for return to Manila. ”12 He reported secretly to Bonifacio, who bestowed several choice Tagalog epithets on Rizal, and charged his envoy to say nothing about the failure of his mission, but rather to give the impression that he had been successful.
Rizal’s name continued to be used as the shibboleth of the insurrection, and the masses were made to believe that he would appear as their leader at the appointed hour. Vague reports from police officers, to the effect that something unusual in the nature of secret societies was going on among the people, began to reach the government, but no great attention was paid to them, until the evening of August nineteenth, when the parish priest of Tondo was informed by the mother-superior of one of the convent-schools that she had just learned of a plot to massacre all the Spaniards. She had the information from a devoted pupil, whose brother was a compositor in the office of the Diario de Manila.
As is so frequently the case in Filipino families, this elder sister was the purse-holder, and the brother’s insistent requests for money, which was needed by him to meet the repeated assessments made on the members as the critical hour approached, awakened her curiosity and suspicion to such an extent that she forced him to confide the whole plan to her. Without delay she divulged it to her patroness, who in turn notified the curate of Tondo, where the printing-office was located. The priest called in two officers of the Civil Guard, who arrested the young printer, frightened a confession out of him, and that night, in company with the friar, searched the printing-office, finding secreted there several ithographic plates for printing receipts and certificates of membership in the Katipunan, with a number of documents giving some account of the plot. Then the Spanish population went wild. General Ramon Blanco was governor and seems to have been about the only person who kept his head at all. He tried to prevent giving so irresponsible a movement a fictitious importance, but was utterly powerless to stay the clamor for blood which at once arose, loudest on the part of those alleged ministers of the gentle Christ. The gates of the old Walled City, long fallen [xlii]into disuse, were cleaned and put in order, martial law was declared, and wholesale arrests made.
Many of the prisoners were confined in Fort Santiago, one batch being crowded into a dungeon for which the only ventilation was a grated opening at the top, and one night a sergeant of the guard carelessly spread his sleeping-mat over this, so the next morning some fifty-five asphyxiated corpses were hauled away. On the twenty-sixth armed insurrection broke out at Caloocan, just north of Manila, from time immemorial the resort of bad characters from all the country round and the center of brigandage, while at San Juan del Monte, on the outskirts of the city, several bloody skirmishes were fought a few days later with the Guardia Civil Veterana, the picked police force.
Bonifacio had been warned of the discovery of his schemes in time to make his escape and flee to the barrio, or village, of Balintawak, a few miles north of Manila, thence to lead the attack on Caloocan and inaugurate the reign of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity in the manner in which Philippine insurrections have generally had a habit of starting—with the murder of Chinese merchants and the pillage of their shops. He had from the first reserved for himself the important office of treasurer in the Katipunan, in addition to being on occasions president and at all times its ruling spirit, so he now established himself as dictator and proceeded to appoint a magnificent staff, most of whom contrived to escape as soon as they were out of reach of his bolo.
Yet he drew considerable numbers about him, for this man, though almost entirely unlettered, seems to have been quite a personality among his own people, especially possessed of that gift of oratory in his native tongue to which the Malay is so preeminently susceptible. In Manila a special tribunal was constituted and worked steadily, sometimes through the siesta-hour, for there were times, of which this was one, when even Spanish justice could be swift. Bagumbayan began to be a veritable field of blood, as the old methods of repression were resorted to for the purpose of striking terror into the native population by wholesale executions, nor did the ruling powers realize that the time for such methods had passed.
It was a case of sixteenth-century colonial methods fallen into fretful and frantic senility, so in all this wretched business it is doubtful whim to [xliii]pity the more: the blind stupidity of the fossilized conservatives incontinently throwing an empire away, forfeiting their influence over a people whom they, by temperament and experience, should have been fitted to control and govern; or the potential cruelty of perverted human nature in the dark Frankenstein who would wreak upon the rulers in their decadent days the most hideous of the methods in the system that produced him, as he planned his festive holocaust and carmagnole on the spot where every spark of initiative and leadership among his people, both good and bad, had been summarily and ruthlessly extinguished. There is at least a world of reflection in it for the rulers of men. In the meantime Rizal, wearying of the quiet life in Dapitan and doubtless foreseeing the impending catastrophe, had requested leave to volunteer his services as a physician in the military hospitals of Cuba, of the horrors and sufferings in which he had heard.
General Blanco at once gladly acceded to this request and had him brought to Manila, but unfortunately the boat carrying him arrived there a day too late for him to catch the regular August mail-steamer to Spain, so he was kept in the cruiser a prisoner of war, awaiting the next transportation. While he was thus detained, the Katipunan plot was discovered and the rebellion broke out. He was accused of being the head of it, but Blanco gave him a personal letter completely exonerating him from any complicity in the outbreak, as well as a letter of recommendation to the Spanish minister of war. He was placed on the Isla de Panay when it left for Spain on September third and traveled at first as a passenger.
At Singapore he was advised to land and claim British protection, as did some of his fellow travelers, but he refused to do so, saying that his conscience was clear. As the name of Rizal had constantly recurred during the trials of the Katipunan suspects, the military tribunal finally issued a formal demand for him. The order of arrest was cabled to Port Said and Rizal there placed in solitary confinement for the remainder of the voyage. Arrived at Barcelona, he was confined in the grim fortress of Montjuich, where; by a curious coincidence, the governor was the same Despujols who had issued the decree of banishment in 1892. Shortly afterwards, he was placed on the transport Colon, which was [xliv]bound for the Philippines with troops, Blanco having at last been stirred to action.
Strenuous efforts were now made by Rizal’s friends in London to have him removed from the ship at Singapore, but the British authorities declined to take any action, on the ground that he was on a Spanish warship and therefore beyond the jurisdiction of their courts. The Colonarrived at Manila on November third and Rizal was imprisoned in Fort Santiago, while a special tribunal was constituted to try him on the charges of carrying on anti-patriotic and anti-religious propaganda, rebellion, sedition, and the formation of illegal associations. Some other charges may have been overlooked in the hurry and excitement. It would be almost a travesty to call a trial the proceedings which began early in December and dragged along until the twenty-sixth.
Rizal was defended by a young Spanish officer selected by him from among a number designated by the tribunal, who chivalrously performed so unpopular a duty as well as he could. But the whole affair was a mockery of justice, for the Spanish government in the Philippines had finally and hopelessly reached the condition graphically pictured by Mr. Kipling: Panic that shells the drifting spar— Loud waste with none to check— Mad fear that rakes a scornful star Or sweeps a consort’s deck! The clamor against Blanco had resulted in his summary removal by royal decree and the appointment of a real “pacificator,” Camilo Polavieja. While in prison Rizal prepared an address to those of his countrymen who were in armed rebellion, repudiating the use of his name and deprecating the resort to violence.
The closing words are a compendium of his life and beliefs: “Countrymen: I have given proofs, as well as the best of you, of desiring liberty for our country, and I continue to desire it. But I place as a premise the education of the people, so that by means of instruction and work they may have a personality of their own and that they may make themselves worthy of that same liberty. In my writings I have recommended the study of the civic virtues, without which there can be no redemption. I have also written (and my words have been repeated) that [xlv]reforms, to be fruitful, must come from above, that those which spring from below are uncertain and insecure movements.
Imbued with these ideas, I cannot do less than condemn, and I do condemn, this absurd, savage rebellion, planned behind my back, which dishonors the Filipinos and discredits those who can speak for us. I abominate all criminal actions and refuse any kind of participation in them, pitying with all my heart the dupes who have allowed themselves to be deceived. Go back, then, to your homes, and may God forgive those who have acted in bad faith. ” This address, however, was not published by the Spanish authorities, since they did not consider it “patriotic” enough; instead, they killed the writer! Rizal appeared before the tribunal bound, closely guarded by two Peninsular soldiers, but maintained his serenity throughout and answered the charges in a straightforward way.
He pointed out the fact that he had never taken any great part in politics, having even quarreled with Marcelo del Pilar, the active leader of the anti-clericals, by reason of those perennial “subscriptions,” and that during the time he was accused of being the instigator and organizer of armed rebellion he had been a close prisoner in Dapitan under strict surveillance by both the military and ecclesiastical authorities. The prosecutor presented a lengthy document, which ran mostly to words, about the only definite conclusion laid down in it being that the Philippines “are, and always must remain, Spanish territory. ” What there may have been in Rizal’s career to hang such a conclusion upon is not quite dear, but at any rate this learned legal light was evidently still thinking in colors on the map serenely unconscious in his European pseudo-prescience of the new and wonderful development in the Western Hemisphere—humanity militant, Lincolnism.
The death sentence was asked, but the longer the case dragged on the more favorable it began to look for the accused, so the president of the tribunal, after deciding, Jeffreys-like, that the charges had been proved, ordered that no further evidence be taken. Rizal betrayed some sunrise when his doom was thus foreshadowed, for, dreamer that he was, he seems not to have anticipated such a fatal eventuality for himself. He did not lose his serenity, however, even when the tribunal promptly brought in a verdict of guilty and imposed the death sentence, [xlvi]upon which Polavieja the next day placed hisCumplase, fixing the morning of December thirtieth for the execution. So Rizal’s fate was sealed.
The witnesses against him, in so far as there was any substantial testimony at all, had been his own countrymen, coerced or cajoled into making statements which they have since repudiated as false, and which in some cases were extorted from them by threats and even torture. But he betrayed very little emotion, even maintaining what must have been an assumed cheerfulness. Only one reproach is recorded: that he had been made a dupe of, that he had been deceived by every one, even the bankeros and cocheros. His old Jesuit instructors remained with him in the capilla, or death-cell,13 and largely through the influence of an image of the Sacred Heart, which he had carved as a schoolboy, it is claimed that a reconciliation with the Church was effected.
There has been considerable pragmatical discussion as to what form of retraction from him was necessary, since he had been, after studying in Europe, a frank freethinker, but such futile polemics may safely be left to the learned doctors. That he was reconciled with the Church would seem to be evidenced by the fact that just before the execution he gave legal status as his wife to the woman, a rather remarkable Eurasian adventuress, who had lived with him in Dapitan, and the religious ceremony was the only one then recognized in the islands. 14 The greater part of his last night on earth was [xlvii]spent in composing a chain of verse; no very majestic flight of poesy, but a pathetic monody throbbing with patient resignation and inextinguishable hope, one of the sweetest, saddest swan-songs ever sung. Thus he was left at the last, entirely alone.
As soon as his doom became certain the Patriots had all scurried to cover, one gentle poetaster even rushing into doggerel verse to condemn him as a reversion to barbarism; the wealthier suspects betook themselves to other lands or made judicious use of their money-bags among the Spanish officials; the better classes of the population floundered hopelessly, leaderless, in the confused whirl of opinions and passions; while the voiceless millions for whom he had spoken moved on in dumb, uncomprehending silence. He had lived in that higher dreamland of the future, ahead of his countrymen, ahead even of those who assumed to be the mentors of his people, and he must learn, as does every noble soul that labors “to make the bounds of freedom wider yet,” the bitter lesson that nine-tenths, if not all, the woes that afflict humanity spring from man’s own stupid selfishness, that the wresting of the scepter from the tyrant is ften the least of the task, that the bondman comes to love his bonds—like Chillon’s prisoner, his very chains and he grow friends,—but that the struggle for human freedom must go on, at whatever cost, in ever-widening circles, “wave after wave, each mightier than the last,” for as long as one body toils in fetters or one mind welters in blind ignorance, either of the slave’s base delusion or the despot’s specious illusion, there can be no final security for any free man, or his children, or his children’s children. [xlviii] IV “God save thee, ancient Mariner! From the fiends, that plague thee thus! Why look’st thou so? ”—“With my cross-bow I shot the Albatross! ” COLERIDGE. It was one of those magic December mornings of the tropics—the very nuptials of earth and sky, when great Nature seems to fling herself incontinently into creation, wrapping the world in a brooding calm of light and color, that Spain chose for committing political suicide in the Philippines.
Bagumbayan Field was crowded with troops, both regulars and militia, for every man capable of being trusted with arms was drawn up there, excepting only the necessary guards in other parts of the city. Extra patrols were in the streets, double guards were placed over the archiepiscopal and gubernatorial palaces. The calmest man in all Manila that day was he who must stand before the firing-squad. Two special and unusual features are to be noted about this execution. All the principal actors were Filipinos: the commander of the troops and the officer directly in charge of the execution were native-born, while the firing-squad itself was drawn from a local native regiment, though it is true that on this occasion a squad of Peninsular cazadores, armed with loaded Mausers, stood directly behind them to see that they failed not in their duty.
Again, there was but one victim; for it seems to have ever been the custom of the Spanish rulers to associate in these gruesome affairs some real criminals with the political offenders, no doubt with the intentional purpose of confusing the issue in the general mind. Rizal standing alone, the occasion of so much hurried preparation and fearful precaution, is a pathetic testimonial to the degree of incapacity into which the ruling powers had fallen, even in chicanery. After bidding good-by to his sister and making final disposition [xlix]regarding some personal property, the doomed man, under close guard, walked calmly, even cheerfully, from Fort Santiago along the Malecon to the Luneta, accompanied by his Jesuit confessors.
Arrived there, he thanked those about him for their kindness and requested the officer in charge to allow him to face the firing-squad, since he had never been a traitor to Spain. This the officer declined to permit, for the order was to shoot him in the back. Rizal assented with a slight protest, pointed out to the soldiers the spot in his back at which they should aim, and with a firm step took his place in front of them. Then occurred an act almost too hideous to record. There he stood, expecting a volley of Remington bullets in his back—Time was, and Life’s stream ebbed to Eternity’s flood—when the military surgeon stepped forward and asked if he might feel his pulse!
Rizal extended his left hand, and the officer remarked that he could not understand how a man’s pulse could beat normally at such a terrific moment! The victim shrugged his shoulders and let the hand fall again to his side—Latin refinement could be no further refined! A moment later there he lay, on his right side, his life-blood spurting over the Luneta curb, eyes wide open, fixedly staring at that Heaven where the priests had taught all those centuries agone that Justice abides. The troops filed past the body, for the most part silently, while desultory cries of “Viva Espana! ” from among the “patriotic” Filipino volunteers were summarily hushed by a Spanish artillery-officer’s stern rebuke: “Silence, you rabble! To drown out the fitful cheers and the audible murmurs, the bands struck up Spanish national airs. Stranger death-dirge no man and system ever had. Carnival revelers now dance about the scene and Filipino schoolboys play baseball over that same spot. A few days later another execution was held on that spot, of members of the Liga, some of them characters that would have richly deserved shooting at any place or time, according to existing standards, but notable among them there knelt, torture-crazed, as to his orisons, Francisco Roxas, millionaire capitalist, who may be regarded as the social and economic head of the Filipino people, as Rizal was fitted to be their intellectual leader. Shades of Anda and Vargas!
Out there [l]at Balintawak—rather fitly, “the home of the snake-demon,”—not three hours’ march from this same spot, on the very edge of the city, Andres Bonifacio and his literally sansculottic gangs of cutthroats were, almost with impunity, soiling the fair name of Freedom with murder and mutilation, rape and rapine, awakening the worst passions of an excitable, impulsive people, destroying that essential respect for law and order, which to restore would take a holocaust of fire and blood, with a generation of severe training. Unquestionably did Rizal demonstrate himself to be a seer and prophet when he applied to such a system the story of Babylon and the fateful handwriting on the wall!
But forces had been loosed that would not be so suppressed, the time had gone by when such wild methods of repression would serve. The destruction of the native leaders, culminating in the executions of Rizal and Roxas, produced a counter-effect by rousing the Tagalogs, good and bad alike, to desperate fury, and the aftermath was frightful. The better classes were driven to take part in the rebellion, and Cavite especially became a veritable slaughter-pen, as the contest settled down into a hideous struggle for mutual extermination. Dark Andres went his wild way to perish by the violence he had himself invoked, a prey to the rising ambition of a young leader of considerable culture and ability, a schoolmaster named Emilio Aguinaldo.
His Katipunan hovered fitfully around Manila, for a time even drawing to itself in their desperation some of the better elements of the population, only to find itself sold out and deserted by its leaders, dying away for a time; but later, under changed conditions, it reappeared in strange metamorphosis as the rallying-center for the largest number of Filipinos who have ever gathered together for a common purpose, and then finally went down before those thin grim lines in khaki with sharp and sharpest shot clearing away the wreck of the old, blazing the way for the new: the broadening sweep of “Democracy announcing, in rifle-volleys death-winged, under her Star Banner, to the tune of Yankee-doodle-do, that she is born, and, whirlwind-like, will envelop the whole world! ” MANILA, December 1, 1909[li] 1Quoted by Macaulay: Essay on the Succession in Spain. 2The ruins of the Fuerza de Playa Honda, o Real de Paynaven, are still to be seen in the present municipality of Botolan, Zambales.
The walls are overgrown with rank vegetation, but are well preserved, [viiin]with the exception of a portion looking toward the Bankal River, which has been undermined by the currents and has fallen intact into the stream. 3Relation of the Zambals, by Domingo Perez, O. P. ; manuscript dated 1680. The excerpts are taken from the translation in Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands, Vol. XLVII, by courtesy of the Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland, Ohio. 4“Estadismo de las Islas Filipinas, o Mis Viages por Este Pais, por Fray Joaquin Martinez de Zuniga, Agustino calzado. ” Padre Zuniga was a parish priest in several towns and later Provincial of his Order.
He wrote a history of the conquest, and in 1800 accompanied Alava, the General de Marina, on his tours of investigation looking toward preparations for the defense of the islands against another attack of the British, with whom war threatened. The Estadismo, which is a record of these journeys, with some account of the rest of the islands, remained in manuscript until 1893, when it was published in Madrid. 5Secular, as distinguished from the regulars, i. e. , members of the monastic orders. 6Sinibaldo de Mas, Informe sobre el estado de las Islas Filipinas en 1842, translated in Blair and Robertson’s The Philippine Islands, Vol. XXVIII, p. 254. 7Sic. St. John xx, 17. This letter in the original French in which it was written is reproduced in the Vida y Escritos del Dr. Jose Rizal, by W. E. Retana (Madrid, 1907). 9Filipinas dentro de Cien Anos, published in the organ of the Filipinos in Spain, La Solidaridad, in 1889–90. This is the most studied of Rizal’s purely political writings, and the completest exposition of his views concerning the Philippines. 10An English version of El Filibusterismo, under the title The Reign of Greed, has been prepared to accompany the present work. 11“Que todo el monte era oregano. ” W. E. Retana, in the appendix to Fray Martinez de Zuniga’s Estadismo, Madrid, 1893, where the decree is quoted.
The rest of this comment of Retana’s deserves quotation as an estimate of the living man by a Spanish publicist who was at the time in the employ of the friars and contemptuously hostile to Rizal, but who has since 1898 been giving quite a spectacular demonstration of waving a red light after the wreck, having become his most enthusiastic, almost hysterical, biographer: “Rizal is what is commonly called a character, but he has repeatedly demonstrated very great inexperience in the affairs of life. I believe him to be now about thirty-two years old. He is the Indian of most ability among those who have written. ” 12From Valenzuela’s deposition before the military tribunal, September sixth, 1896. 3Capilla: the Spanish practise is to place a condemned person for the twenty-four hours preceding his execution in a chapel, or a cell fitted up as such, where he may devote himself to religious exercises and receive the final ministrations of the Church. 14But even this conclusion is open to doubt: there is no proof beyond the unsupported statement of the Jesuits that he made a written retraction, which was later destroyed, though why a document so interesting, and so important in support of their own point of view, should not have been preserved furnishes an illuminating commentary on the whole confused affair. The only unofficial witness present was the condemned man’s sister, and her declaration, that she was at the time in such a state of excitement and distress that she is unable to affirm positively that there was a real marriage ceremony performed, can readily be accepted.
It must be remembered that the Jesuits were themselves under the official and popular ban for the part they had played in Rizal’s education and development and that they were seeking to set themselves right in order to maintain their prestige. Add to this the persistent and systematic effort made to destroy every scrap [xlviin]of record relating to the man—the sole gleam of shame evidenced in the impolitic, idiotic, and pusillanimous treatment of him—and the whole question becomes such a puzzle that it may just as well be left in darkness, with a throb of pity for the unfortunate victim caught in such a maelstrom of panic-stricken passion and selfish intrigue. [Contents] What? Does no Caesar, does no Achilles, appear on your stage now? Not an Andromache e’en, not an Orestes, my friend? No! here is nought to be seen there but parsons, and syndics of commerce, Secretaries perchance, ensigns and majors of horse. But, my good friend, pray tell, what can such people e’er meet with That can be truly call’d great? —what that is great can they do? SCHILLER: Shakespeare’s Ghost. (Bowring’s translation. )[liii] [Contents] Contents | Author’s Dedication| I| A Social Gathering| II| Crisostomo Ibarra| III| The Dinner| IV| Heretic and Filibuster| V| A Star in a Dark Night| VI| Capitan Tiago| VII| An Idyl on an Azotea| VIII| Recollections| IX| Local Affairs| X| The Town| XI| The Rulers| XII| All Saints| XIII| Signs of Storm| XIV| Tasio: Lunatic or Sage| IV| The Sacristans| XVI| Sisa| XVII| Basilio| XVIII| Souls In Torment|
XIX| A Schoolmaster’s Difficulties| XX| The Meeting in the Town Hall| XXI| The Story of a Mother[liv]| XXII| Lights and Shadows| XXIII| Fishing| XXIV| In the Wood| XXV| In the House of the Sage| XXVI| The Eve of the Fiesta| XXVII| In the Twilight| XXVIII| Correspondence| XXIX| The Morning| XXX| In the Church| XXXI| The Sermon| XXXII| The Derrick| XXXIII| Free Thought| XXXIV| The Dinner| XXXV| Comments| XXXVI| The First Cloud| XXXVII| His Excellency| XXXVIII| The Procession| XXXIX| Dona Consolacion| XL| Right and Might| XLI| Two Visits| XLII| The Espadanas| XLIII| Plans| XLIV| An Examination of Conscience| XLV| The Hunted| XLVI| The Cockpit| XLVII| The Two Senoras|
XLVIII| The Enigma| XLIX| The Voice of the Hunted[iv]| L| Elias’s Story| LI| Exchanges| LII| The Cards of the Dead and the Shadows| LIII| Il Buon Di Si Conosce Da Mattina| LIV| Revelations| LV| The Catastrophe| LVI| Rumors and Belief| LVII| Vae Victis! | LVIII| The Accursed| LIX| Patriotism and Private Interests| LX| Maria Clara Weds| LXI| The Chase on the Lake| LXII| Padre Damaso Explains| LXIII| Christmas Eve| | Epilogue| | Glossary| [lvii] [Contents] Author’s Dedication To My Fatherland: Recorded in the history of human sufferings is a cancer of so malignant a character that the least touch irritates it and awakens in it the sharpest pains.
Thus, how many times, when in the midst of modern civilizations I have wished to call thee before me, now to accompany me in memories, now to compare thee with other countries, hath thy dear image presented itself showing a social cancer like to that other! Desiring thy welfare, which is our own, and seeking the best treatment, I will do with thee what the ancients did with their sick, exposing them on the steps of the temple so that every one who came to invoke the Divinity might offer them a remedy. And to this end, I will strive to reproduce thy condition faithfully, without discriminations; I will raise a part of the veil that covers the evil, sacrificing to truth everything, even vanity itself, since, as thy son, I am conscious that I also suffer from thy defects and weaknesses. THE AUTHOR EUROPE, 1886  [Contents] Chapter I A Social Gathering
On the last of October Don Santiago de los Santos, popularly known as Capitan Tiago, gave a dinner. In spite of the fact that, contrary to his usual custom, he had made the announcement only that afternoon, it was already the sole topic of conversation in Binondo and adjacent districts, and even in the Walled City, for at that time Capitan Tiago was considered one of the most hospitable of men, and it was well known that his house, like his country, shut its doors against nothing except commerce and all new or bold ideas. Like an electric shock the announcement ran through the world of parasites, bores, and hangers-on, whom God in His infinite bounty creates and so kindly multiplies in Manila.
Some looked at once for shoe-polish, others for buttons and cravats, but all were especially concerned about how to greet the master of the house in the most familiar tone, in order to create an atmosphere of ancient friendship or, if occasion should arise, to excuse a late arrival. This dinner was given in a house on Calle Anloague, and although we do not remember the number we will describe it in such a way that it may still be recognized, provided the earthquakes have not destroyed it. We do not believe that its owner has had it torn down, for such labors are generally entrusted to God or nature—which Powers hold the contracts also for many of the projects of our government.
It is a rather large building, in the style of many in the country, and fronts upon the arm of the Pasig which is known to some as the Binondo River, and which, like all the streams in Manila, plays the varied roles of bath, sewer, laundry, fishery, means of transportation and communication, and even drinking water if the Chinese water-carrier finds it convenient. It is worthy of note that in the distance of nearly a mile this important artery of the district, where traffic is most dense and movement most deafening, can boast of only one wooden bridge, which is out of repair on one side for six months and impassable on the other for the rest of the year, so that during the hot season the ponies take advantage of this permanent status quo to jump off the bridge into the water, to the great surprise of the abstracted mortal who may be dozing inside the carriage or philosophizing upon the progress of the age.
The house of which we are speaking is somewhat low and not exactly correct in all its lines: whether the architect who built it was afflicted with poor eyesight or whether the earthquakes and typhoons have twisted it out of shape, no one can say with certainty. A wide staircase with green newels and carpeted steps leads from the tiled entrance up to the main floor between rows of flower-pots set upon pedestals of motley-colored and fantastically decorated Chinese porcelain. Since there are neither porters nor servants who demand invitation cards, we will go in, O you who read this, whether friend or foe, if you are attracted by the strains of the orchestra, the lights, or the suggestive rattling of dishes, knives, and forks, and if you wish to see what such a gathering is like in the distant Pearl of the Orient.
Gladly, and for my own comfort, I should spare you this description of the house, were it not of great importance, since we mortals in general are very much like tortoises: we are esteemed and classified according to our shells; in this and still other respects the mortals of the Philippines in particular also resemble tortoises. If we go up the stairs, we immediately find ourselves in a spacious hallway, called there, for some unknown reason, the caida, which tonight serves as the dining-room and at the same time affords a place for the orchestra. In the center a large table profusely and expensively decorated seems to beckon to the hanger-on ith sweet promises, while it threatens the bashful maiden, the simple dalaga, with two mortal hours in the company of strangers whose language and conversation usually have a very restricted and special character. Contrasted with these terrestrial preparations are the motley paintings on the walls representing religious matters, such as “Purgatory,” “Hell,” “The Last Judgment,” “The Death of the Just,” and “The Death of the Sinner. ” At the back of the room, fastened in a splendid and elegant framework, in the Renaissance style, possibly by Arevalo, is a glass case in which are seen the figures of two old women. The inscription on this reads: “Our Lady of Peace and Prosperous Voyages, who is worshiped in Antipolo, visiting in the disguise of a beggar the holy and renowned Capitana Inez during her sickness. 1 While the work reveals little taste or art, yet it possesses in compensation an extreme realism, for to judge from the yellow and bluish tints of her face the sick woman seems to be already a decaying corpse, and the glasses and other objects, accompaniments of long illness, are so minutely reproduced that even their contents may be distinguished. In looking at these pictures, which excite the appetite and inspire gay bucolic ideas, one may perhaps be led to think that the malicious host is well acquainted with the characters of the majority of those who are to sit at his table and that, in order to conceal his own way of thinking, he has hung from the ceiling costly Chinese lanterns; bird-cages without birds; red, green, and blue globes of frosted glass; faded air-plants; and dried and inflated fishes, which they callbotetes.
The view is closed on the side of the river by curious wooden arches, half Chinese and half European, affording glimpses of a terrace with arbors and bowers faintly lighted by paper lanterns of many colors. In the sala, among massive mirrors and gleaming chandeliers, the guests are assembled. Here, on a raised platform, stands a grand piano of great price, which tonight has the additional virtue of not being played upon. Here, hanging on the wall, is an oil-painting of a handsome man in full dress, rigid, erect, straight as the tasseled cane he holds in his stiff, ring-covered fingers—the whole seeming to say, “Ahem! See how well dressed and how dignified I am! The furnishings of the room are elegant and perhaps uncomfortable and unhealthful, since the master of the house would consider not so much the comfort and health of his guests as his own ostentation, “A terrible thing is dysentery,” he would say to them, “but you are sitting in European chairs and that is something you don’t find every day. ” This room is almost filled with people, the men being separated from the women as in synagogues and Catholic churches. The women consist of a number of Filipino and Spanish maidens, who, when they open their mouths to yawn, instantly cover them with their fans and who murmur only a few words to each other, any conversation ventured upon dying out in monosyllables like the sounds heard in a house at night, sounds made by the rats and lizards.
Is it perhaps the different likenesses of Our Lady hanging on the walls that force them to silence and a religious demeanor or is it that the women here are an exception? A cousin of Capitan Tiago, a sweet-faced old woman, who speaks Spanish quite badly, is the only one receiving the ladies. To offer to the Spanish ladies a plate of cigars and buyos, to extend her hand to her countrywomen to be kissed, exactly as the friars do,—this is the sum of her courtesy, her policy. The poor old lady soon became bored, and taking advantage of the noise of a plate breaking, rushed precipitately away, muttering, “Jesus! Just wait, you rascals! ” and failed to reappear.
The men, for their part, are making more of a stir. Some cadets in one corner are conversing in a lively manner but in low tones, looking around now and then to point out different persons in the room while they laugh more or less openly among themselves. In contrast, two foreigners dressed in white are promenading silently from one end of the room to the other with their hands crossed behind their backs, like the bored passengers on the deck of a ship. All the interest and the greatest animation proceed from a group composed of two priests, two civilians, and a soldier who are seated around a small table on which are seen bottles of wine and English biscuits.
The soldier, a tall, elderly lieutenant with an austere countenance—a Duke of Alva straggling behind in the roster of the Civil Guard—talks little, but in a harsh, curt way. One of the priests, a youthful Dominican friar, handsome, graceful, polished as the gold-mounted eyeglasses he wears, maintains a premature gravity. He is the curate of Binondo and has been in former years a professor in the college of San Juan de Letran,2 where he enjoyed the reputation of being a consummate dialectician, so much so that in the days when the sons of Guzman3 still dared to match themselves in subtleties with laymen, the able disputant B. de Luna had never been able either to catch or to confuse him, the