Paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all, but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me. -- Oliver Cromwell
Two views of Rizal that scan the man behind the monument are clearly headed for controversy. A startling anatomy of the hero is offered in "The First Filipino" by León Maria Guerrero and in "Rizal from Within" by Ante Radaic.
The Guerrero book, in English, is a biography in the modern manner, where the details are massed not for their scholarly but their emotional value, and the delineation is by narrative, crafted, progressive and dramatic like a novel, and just as readable, though the style is hardly Guerrero at his felicitous best.
The Radaic piece, in Spanish, is a psychoanalysis of Rizal, with emphasis on his formative years, and has clinical fascination, though rather prolix and turgid in the writing, its special quality evident in its sources, which range, not from Retana to Blumentritt, as one would expect in a Rizal study, but from Rilke and Dostoevsky to Proust and Joyce!
The Guerrero opus is magnum. It's a massive tome (over 500 pages), has 24 pages of bibliographical references, was unanimously awarded the first prize in the biography contest during the Rizal centennial. It was published by the National Heroes Commission, has so far been received by what one editor calls "a conspiracy of silence," but can be expected to find its way to the top of the Rizal shelf and into every debate over the hero's personality.
The Radaic study is basically an extended essay, and a tentative one; the author subtitled it "An Introduction to a Study of Rizal's Inferiority Complex." It's [end of page 53] barely 70 pages long and is still in manuscript, awaiting translator and publisher. It begins with an exposition of Adler's theories, concludes with a letter of Kafka to his father. Radaic, a Yugoslavian exile, finished his study in late 1963, just before his tragic death.
For epigraph, Guerrero uses the words of Cromwell quoted above and two lines from Othello:
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate
Nor set down aught in Malice.
Radaic's epigraph is from Alfred Adler:
"To be human is to feel inferior and to aspire to situations of superiority."
Guerrero sees Rizal as the first man to use the term Filipino in its present sense, and he stresses the role in the Revolution -- which "was, in a sense, made in Spain" -- of Rizal's class: the propertied bourgeoisie and the ilustrado though they, and Rizal especially, might seem to condemn it. Guerrero paints a cruel picture of Rizal sitting comfortably in a ship's cabin, sailing off to Europe in September, 1896, while Bonifacio and his Katipuneros were being driven back to the hills of Balara and the Propagandists crowded Fort Santiago: "Rizal was vexed because he had heard that he was being blamed for the disturbances in Manila." Rizal's trial, says Guerrero, presents us with a dilemma. Rizal passionately defended himself from the charge that he was involved in or even sympathized with the Revolution -- hardly an attitude we would honor him for. "Was he innocent or guilty?" asks Guerrero. "If innocent, then why is he a hero? If guilty, how can he be a martyr?"
Guerrero accepts the retraction as genuine: "That is a matter for handwriting experts, and the weight of expert opinion is in favor of authenticity. It is nonsense to say that the retraction does not prove Rizal's conversion; the language of the document is unmistakable. It is a truism that the recantation of his religious errors did not involve the repudiation of his political aims. We may also accept that he was not too fervent a Mason. In fact Rizal himself stated that he had ceased being a Mason in 1891. Why should it be so strange then for Rizal to 'abhor' Masonry as a society when he had in fact already left it four years before? One whose sympathies are not engaged on either side must face the authenticity of the instrument of retraction, on the one hand, and, on the other, the admitted failure of the intellectual assault on Rizal's position, and can only wonder what it was that happened to the decided rationalist who had promised to kneel and pray for the grace of faith."
For Radaic, Rizal is "a mystery still to be revealed," a sphinx who, even in the impulsive confessions of his youth, already knew what not to tell -- which is why, says Radaic, not everything has yet been said about Rizal, including, perhaps, the most important facts: "While gazing at pictures of that giant of small and delicate body, many Filipinos must have felt as I did when I first came to know about him, a few years ago, in Europe -- that behind the well- buttoned frock coat was hidden a deep and delicate human problem." Radaic suspects that Rizal suffered from complexes of inferiority (he terms them "complejos de Rizal") and that these arose from a belief that he was physically defective. It's necessary, says Radaic, to do for Rizal what Socrates did for philosophy, bringing it down from heaven to earth, not to degrade it but to understand it better.
It's curious, but both Léon Maria Guerrero and Ante Radaic, in their personal circumstances, approximate certain aspects of Rizal, so that one feels, at times, that they are reading themselves into him. When Radaic, for instance, dwells on Rizal's obsession with physical deficiency, one cannot but remember that Radaic, too, was obsessed with physical deformity, being crippled: he had lost a foot in an escape from a concentration camp.
Guerrero, a descendant of ilus- [end of page 54] trados, was bred by the Ateneo and a home steeped in the old Filipino-Spanish traditions, and is thus perfectly at home in the mind of Rizal. He has lived long abroad, has a cosmopolitan outlook, and is at the same time a nationalist whose moth wings got rather burned in that Asia-for-the-Asians flame.
Radaic, on the other hand, fled from his homeland, which groaned under a tyranny, and became that archetype of modern man: the displaced person, the stateless individual, which, to a certain extent, Rizal also was, when he rejected the Spanish friar's concept of the Philippine state as "a double allegiance to Spain and Church." In Madrid, at the university, from the Filipino girl who became his wife, Radaic heard of Rizal and immediately felt a rapport with the Philippine hero. He became an ardent student of Rizal, did a thesis on him ("Rizal: Romántico-Realista"), and came to the Philippines to marry, and to become a countryman of his hero. He had just finished "Rizal Por Adentro" that night in January when he climbed to the roof of the main building of Santo Tomás and jumped off.
Because Guerrero and Radaic seem, at certain points, to be reading themselves into Rizal, to read their respective studies of him is to see the hero through the prism of Guerrero's cosmopolitan intellect and the dark glass of Ante Radaic's tragic sense of life.
For Guerrero, Rizal is "the very embodiment of the intelligentsia and the petite bourgeoisie":
"One gathers from Rizal's own account of his boyhood that he was brought up in circumstances that even in the Philippines of our day would be considered privileged. Rizal's father became one of the town's wealthiest men, the first to build a stone house and buy another, keep a carriage, own a library, and send his children to school in Manila. José himself had an aya, that is to say, a nanny or personal servant, although he had five elder sisters who, in less affluent circumstances, could have been expected to look after him. His father engaged a private tutor for him. Later, he would study in private schools, go to the university, finish his courses abroad. It was the classic method for producing a middle-class intellectual, and it does much to explain the puzzling absence of any real social consciousness in Rizal's apostolate so many years after Marx's Manifesto or, for that matter, Leo XIII's Rerum Nova- [end of page 55] rum. Rizal's nationalism was essentially rationalist, anti-racist, anti-clerical -- political rather than social or economic."
Guerrero surmises that, even if born a peasant and in penury, Rizal would still have made his mark: "His character, in a different environment, with a different experience of the world, might have made him another Bonifacio." But, reared in bourgeois ease, Rizal became a bourgeois idealist, putting his faith in reason and the
liberal dogmas of the inevitability of progress, like any proper Victorian, and preferring reform to revolution, and "revolution from above" to "revolution from below." What he wanted to be -- what he might have been if the policy of the ilustrados had prevailed – was representative for the Philippines in the Spanish parliament. Reported Governor Carnicero from Dapitan in 1892: "One of Rizal's ambitions is to become Deputy for the Philippines, for, once in the Cortes, he says that he could expose whatever happens in the islands," And Guerrero's laughing comment is: "Congressman Rizal, and a congressman dedicated to making exposures, at that!" This ambition of Rizal must have been well-known among the ilustrados; one of their plans to spring him from jail in 1896 was to get him elected to the Cortes; the governor-general would then have been forced to release him so he could go to Spain and attend parliament.
As the Philippine representative in Madrid, says Guerrero, Rizal would have worked for the expulsion of the friars, the sale of their estates to the new middle class, the establishment of a certain measure of self-government in the islands and more native participation in it; and this would have resulted in an alternation in power between conservatives and liberals, this political activity being, however, limited to the educated and the propertied. In other words, the two political parties would have represented only one social class; the bourgeoisie. If this is really what Rizal envisioned, then his dream has come to pass, for the two political parties that alternate in power today are limited to the educated and the propertied and actually represent only the middle class.
Yet there was a Bonifacio latent in Rizal, according to Guerrero, who calls him "the reluctant revolutionary." El Filibusterismo in 1891 shows the hero divided.
"'Assimilation' has been rejected as a vain hope. 'Separatism,' or in plainer words, independence, has been advocated almost openly. Rizal in the Fili is no longer the loyal reformer; he is the 'subversive' separatist, making so little effort of concealment that he arrogantly announces his purpose in the very title of his novel, which means 'subversion.' No solution except independence! But how is it to be achieved? At this point Rizal hesitates and draws back. The last chapters of the Fili are heavily corrected, and it may not have been due only to Rizal's desperate need to cut down his novel to match Ventura's money. The thought of revolution in real life may have called up too many 'bloody apparitions.'"
So, Father Florentino is made to deny in the final apostrophe of the novel that freedom must be won at the point of the sword: "What is the use of independence if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?"
"What," asks Guerrero, "are we to conclude from this? In Rizal's mind the Filipinos of his generation were not yet ready for revolution because they were not yet ready for independence, and they were not ready for independence because they were still unworthy of it."
The Hamlet split in Rizal between the will to act and the tendency to scruple preceded the flagrant schizophrenia of El Fili- [end of page 56] busterismo. In 1887 he was saying that "peaceful struggle will always turn out to be a futile dream because Spain will never learn the lesson of her former colonies in South America." That was the Bonifacio in Rizal speaking. But Rizal the man of property quickly added: "In the present circumstances, we do not desire a separation from Spain; all that we ask is more attention, better education, a higher quality of government officials, one or two representatives in parliament, and more security for ourselves and our fortunes." Four months later, he turned 26, and both sides of him wrote: "I have no desire to take part in conspiracies which seem to me premature and risky in the extreme. But if the government drives us to it, if there remains no other hope than to seek our ruin in war, then I too shall advocate violent means."
That sounds like a final statement: it was not. The following year, 1888, while one side of him was crying, "It is too late; the Filipinos have already lost the hopes they placed in Spain!" another side was murmuring that the happiness of the Philippines must be obtained by "noble and just means" and that "if to make my country happy I had to act vilely, I would refuse to do so."
Comments Guerrero: "We think of Rizal as a mild and gentle reformer who shrank from the thought of separation from Spain, most of all a violent revolution; it would seem that he appeared to his contemporaries, especially after the publication of the openly subversive Fili, as a wild firebrand, as demagogic as López-Jaena."
The question is: Who saw Rizal plain?
Guerrero wickedly relates that when firebrand López-Jaena thought of migrating to Cuba, Rizal opined that López-Jaena should return to the Philippines and "let himself be killed in support of his ideas." Home went López-Jaena, bravely declaring himself "resigned to everything, ready to fight if necessary, ready to die if need be." But after only four days in Manila he left in a hurry, fearing he would "land in Bilibid or the Marianas." And Rizal himself, who had called Cuba "an empty shell," would, when the Revolution broke out in the Philippines, enlist for Cuban service, laying himself open to the charge that, by offering to serve the Spanish government in Cuba, he was not only trying to flee from the struggle in his own country but was making clear on which side of the struggle he stood.
Says Guerrero: "There can be no argument that he was against Bonifacio's Revolution. Not only had he offered his 'unconditional' services to help suppress it but he had indicted a manifesto condemning the Revolution." He called the idea of revolution "highly absurd." The condemnatory manifesto was gratuitous; it was not made to influence the court, he had been offering to make it even before he was arrested. But the court was alert; it noted that Rizal condemned Bonifacio's Revolution but not Bonifacio's aim of independence for the Philippines.
"Rizal," says Guerrero, "believed in the gradual and natural evolution of the Filipino Nation in the course of years and foresaw the international developments that would make eventual independence an inevitable conclusion on which metropolis and colony would peaceably agree." In short, in the life-long duel between Rizal the subversive and Rizal the progressive, the latter won in the end. He had flirted, in his fiction, with revolution; but when faced by the fact of it, he called it absurd and retreated to Reason, Reform, Evolution, Inevitable Progress, and all the other Victorian catchwords. The malicious could say that his was the retreat of a man with property to lose. Guerrero says that Rizal was "a nationalist who did not recognize his Nation when it suddenly rose before him, a bloody apparition in arms."
But it was he who, as the First Filipino, had most created the idea of that nation.
"Throughout the centuries," says Guerrero, "one tribe after another took up arms, against the missionary friars or for them, in protest against a wine tax or against forced labor, in the name of the old gods or in the name of the new Spanish Constitution. Whether the revolt was long-lived like Dagohoy's, which lasted 85 years, or as short-lived as Novales's, who 'was outlawed at midnight, proclaimed emperor at two o'clock in the morning, and shot at five in the evening, natives -- allies, converts, merce- [end of page 57] naries -- fought against natives and kept the archipelago Spanish and Christian. Malong proclaimed himself king of the Ilokanos, and Apolinario de la Cruz, king of Tagalogs. No one proclaimed himself a Filipino."
What Guerrero misses here is that the Filipino forces sent to subdue Malong the Pangasinense or Almazán the Ilocano or De la Cruz the Tagalog were fighting (whatever the Spaniards may have intended) to keep the Filipino one. They were proclaiming themselves Filipino, and not merely Pangasinense or Ilocano or Tagalog, as the American northerner sent to subdue the American Southerner in the Civil War proclaimed the oneness of the American. The Filipino allies, converts, mercenaries sent against the Filipino rebel may have kept the archipelago Spanish and Christian, but they also kept it from falling apart again into the numberless tribes it used to be, prevented the return of separate kingdoms for Pangasinenses, Ilocanos and Tagalogs. The paradox is cruel, but Rizal could proclaim himself a Filipino only because Dagohoy failed, and Novales and Malong and Almazán and De la Cruz. Their success could have meant the end of the idea of the Filipino. But each failure was more stone added to the construction of the nation.
When Rizal arose, the Philippines had been Spanish and Christian long enough to feel itself ready to be something else. The preliminary mold was necessary (as our present difficulties with the "cultural minorities" indicate) but now the matrix could be broken, the womb abandoned.
"It was Rizal," says Guerrero, "who taught his countryman (sic) that they could be something else, Filipinos who were members of a Filipino Nation. He was the first who sought to 'unite the whole archipelago' and envisioned a 'compact and homogeneous society' of all the old tribal communities from Batanes to the Sulu Sea, based on common interests and 'mutual protection' rather than on the Spanish friar's theory of double allegiance to Spain and Church.
"He would arouse a consciousness of national unity, of a common grievance and common fate. He would work through his writings, overleaping the old barriers of sea and mountain and native dialect, from Vigan to Dapitan. Without this new middle class of which he was the exemplar, now national by grace of school, the printing press, and [end of page 58] newly discovered interests in common, the Kabite Revolution of 1896 might not have had greater significance than that of 1872. Instead, what might have been only one more peasant revolution, what might have been a Tagalog uprising to be crushed as before with levies from Pampanga or the Ilokos or the Bisayas, was transformed into the revolution of a new nation. It was Rizal who would persuade the principales, and with them, and sometimes through them, the peasants and the artisans that they were all equally 'Filipinos,' and in so doing would justify the opportunities of his privileged birth."
A Victorian hero is one's ultimate picture of Guerrero's "First Filipino." Ante Radaic's "Rizal from Within" is, on the other hand, modern man - anxious, nervous, insecure, ill at ease in his world, ridden with complexes, and afflicted with feelings of inferiority and impotence.
The key image is of the child Rizal, as described by his sisters Narcisa and Maria to Asunción López Bantug: "Jose was a very tiny child. And his head grew disproportionately. When he began to walk by himself he often fell, his head being too heavy for his frail body. Because of this, he needed an aya to look after him."
Radaic believes that Rizal was aggrieved by his puny physique. Whether the hero was really smaller than normal, the significant thing is that he thought he was, during the impressionable years of youth. In his "Memorias de un estudiante", written before he was 20, references to his size recur obsessively:
"The son of the teacher was a few years older than I and exceeded me in stature… After (beating him in a fight) I gained fame among my classmates, possibly because of my smallness … I did not dare descend into the river because it was too deep for one my size… At first (the father at the Ateneo) did not want to admit me, perhaps because of my feeble frame and scant height … Though I was 13 going on 14, I was still very small."
Other people are seen in relation to his height. His teacher in Biñan is "a tall man"; his professor in Manila is "a man of lofty stature"; and most poignantly of all, the young man presumed to be suitor of Segunda Katigbak, Rizal's first inamorata, is "un hombre alto."
There's evidence that Rizal had reason to be self-conscious about his physique. His brother Paciano decided against enrolling José as a border at the Ateneo because (this is from Mrs. Bantug's account) he was timid and small for his age." And Father Pastells of the Ateneo wrote that Rizal failed to be elected president of the college sodality because of his "small stature."
His sisters recalled that he insisted on joining games -- like the popular game of "giants" -- for which he was too weak and small: "He grew up pathetically conscious of his short stature and fragile body, he made great effort to stretch himself out in his games, and he was continually begging his father to help him grow. His little body did not permit him to compete with boys his age but stronger than he; so he withdrew into himself. Nevertheless, the tiny lad went on craving to become big and strong. He persisted in playing the game of 'giants.' His Uncle Manuel, seeing the boy's avidity for advice on body building and pitying his eager envy of tougher boys, took him under his care. A strong man full of vitality, he sought to part the boy from his books and to satisfy his craving to develop his body. He made the boy skip, jump, run; and though this was at first hard for the frail boy, he had so strong a will and such anxiety to improve himself that, at last, the will won over the flesh. He became lighter and quicker of movement, and his physique more lively, more robust, more vigorous, although it didn't grow any bigger."
Comments Radaic: "Truly, the mystery of the body is great. It's as if every man carried within himself an ideal or invisible image of the body, of his body; and looking in the mirror, compares what he sees there, the visible image that confronts him, with the invisible image he hopes to see mysteriously reflected there. Feelings of inferiority al- [end of page 59] most always arise not from a confrontation of the I with the non-I but from our confrontation with the interior image we carry of ourselves. We measure ourselves, not against anything outside the sphere of the I, but against our own selves, or, rather, the ideal of ourselves we propose to realize.
"Rizal, as adolescent, had in his mind a clear and vexing image of his puny stature, an image not yet repressed into the subconscious; and it's not difficult to understand the marks and imprints his little body stamped on his spiritual character. Nature, as whimsical as fortune and as rarely just, had created this little body as hovel for the spiritual beauty of a child whose ailing soul felt itself to be an exile from a world infinitely purer. Because of an excess of spirit, Rizal saw his body as inadequate, and this, in turn, influenced his complex psychological structure."
Radaic's point is that Rizal's career was an effort to reduce the discrepancy between the interior image he carried of himself and the image he saw in the mirror. The discrepancy produced both an inferiority complex (Rizal withdrawing into himself and his books because he could not compete with tougher boys) and the determination to excel (Rizal fighting the bigger boy and taking up body building and fencing). That he already carried, as a child, an image of himself as a great man, is demonstrated by a childhood incident.
One day, while the young Rizal was modeling a figure of Napoleon (another dwarf boy who went forth to make himself a big man) his sisters teased him, apparently on his diminutiveness. Cried the child to his sisters: "You can laugh at me, make mock of me; but wait till I grow bigger. When I die, people will keep pictures and statues of me!"
Radaic also notes that Rizal's writing an autobiography in his teens, though no really extraordinary events marked his boyhood, is significant. The adolescent already felt that even the most humdrum happenings of his youth would have future historical value, and should be recorded for posterity.
But, side by side with this image of greatness, was the actual image of the boy who felt himself to be stunted, who was haunted by a sense of inadequacy. In the horrid outside world of Biñan and Manila he ached aloud for the refuge of the home in Calamba, the bosom of his mother; and one can theorize that he would later turn these childhood refuges into intellectual ones: the safe home in Calamba would become the untroubled paradise of the pre-hispanic archipelago; the bosom of the mother would become the sweet warmth of the Mother Country. In the Canto de Maria Clara, in fact, mother and Mother Country are indistinguishable figures.
The nostalgia of Rizal, says Radaic, was a fear of the world:
"Well may Rizal have exclaimed with Sartre: 'I am condemned to be free.' In the moments when the young Rizal had to show a certain responsibility, [end of page 60] an obligatory independence; in those moments when he had perforce to face the world, the world inspired him with veritable terror, a terror we would call cosmic."
Radaic quotes the passage in the Memorias where Rizal describes his last night at the Ateneo:
"At the thought that I would have to leave that refuge of peace, I fell into profound melancholy. When I went to the dormitory and realized this would be the last night I would pass in my peaceful alcove because, as I was told, the world waited for me, I had a cruel foreboding. The moon that shone mournfully seemed to be telling me that, at daybreak, another life awaited me. I could not sleep until one o'clock. Morning came and I dressed; I prayed with fervor in the chapel and commended my life to the Virgin, that she might protect me while I trod this world that inspired me with such terror… At the critical moments of my life I have always acted against my will, obeying other ends and powerful doubts."
Alongside this and similar passages expressing terror, hesitancy, and a nostalgia that "makes me see the past as fair, the present as sad," Radaic places Miguel de Unamuno's judgment of Rizal:
"Rizal, the bold dreamer, strikes me as weak of will and irresolute for action and life. His withdrawal, his timidity, proved a hundred times, his timorousness, are no more than facets of his Hamlet disposition. To have been a practical revolutionary he would have needed the simple mentality of an Andrés Bonifacio. He was, I think, a faint-heart and a dubitator."
One remembers that the English meaning of filibuster is to delay; and El Filibusterismo may more aptly be read, not as an act of subversion, as Guerrero says, but as an acting out of Hamlet's delay. But Radaic's (and Unamuno's) judgment of Rizal as fearful of the world of reality fits in with Guerrero's theory that Rizal was devoid of any real social consciousness and feared to face, in the end, the fact of revolution. His condemnation of the Revolution as "absurd" has an uncanny echo in the "theater of the absurd" with which modern existentialists condemn what they deem the crazy violence of contemporary life. Radaic, whose study of Rizal is spiked with quotations from the existentialists, from Kierkegaard to Kafka to Sartre, would seem to be placing Rizal in that company -- the modern man aghast at the world he has made. Rizal, knowingly or unknowingly, created a Nation and a Revolution, but did not, as Guerrero says, or would not, recognize them when they rose before him, terrifying bloody apparitions. So, modern man, confidently believing in the inevitable benefits of science and education and progress, is at a loss to explain how such beneficial things could have produced the dreadful world in which he nervously awaits an insane doom. Would Rizal, who so admired the Germans and the Japanese for their dedication to science, commerce, education and progress, have recognized the Germany of Belsen and Dachau, the Japan of the Death March? Yet these bloody apparitions were shaped by the very virtues he admired.
The analogous question would be: Would we have been able to predict the later multitudinous Rizal who wrote the Memorias? Radaic thinks that the writing of the memoirs, in the certainty that they would be read by posterity, was "already the beginning of deformation":
"Whether instinctive or conscious, it was an effort to mask important and intimate facts. His mind was enormously impressionable and given to self-analysis and introversion. With such a mind, he could appraise, hyperbolically, his weak nature and small physique, active factors in the formation of his very complex character. His physical inferiority complex, exacerbated by psychological influences, can be detected in numberless manners of expression, both direct and indirect -- when he speaks of his smallness, of the tallness of others, of his yearnings and nostalgia for the past, of his insecurity and tragic doubts of the future, of his boldness and his desire to rise above himself, and [end of page 61] other protestations that seem distinct from fear."
But what are the "intimate facts" that the young Rizal would "mask"? Radaic opines that one of the most important of them is sexual inadequacy, and he takes for test case Rizal's first amorous affair: "el fenómeno Katigbak," as Radaic calls it.
The usual interpretation of this affair, says Radaic, is that the young lover knew how to behave with the strictest decorum and delicacy toward a girl already engaged. Radaic smells a rat. He notes that it's Rizal who, when he first meets Segunda Katigbak, presumes that "the tall man" with her is her novio. Rizal is attracted to the girl, whom he described as "smallish" (bajita). He plays chess with the man he keeps calling her novio and loses. "From time to time she looked at me and I blushed." He vindicates himself, after losing at the chessboard, by displaying his intellect, when the talk at the gathering turns to "novels and other literary things."
In later meetings, Segunda makes it indubitably clear that she's interested in Rizal. He feels flattered, he professes to be unworthy of any woman's love, and he persists in taking it for granted that she is soon to be married, though she herself puts his suppositions in doubt. "But I'm not getting married!" she tells him pointblank, and in tears. "I forbade," he says, "my heart to love, because I knew she was engaged. But I told myself: Perhaps she really loves me? Perhaps her feelings for her fiancé are but the affections of childhood when her heart had not yet opened her breast to true love?"
One perhaps followed another; she waited, giving one proof after another of her feelings for him; but he told himself he would make no declaration until he had seen "greater proofs" of her affection. Just what he expected the poor girl to do to prove her love is so vague it's indecent; in other love affairs it's usually the other side that's supposed to furnish the "greater proofs." There's no question that, whether she was really engaged to be married or not, la Katigbak would have eagerly forsworn previous vows and given herself to him. But he persisted in his Hamlet hesitations, doubts and questions, until one suspects he was manufacturing excuses -- protesting that, although she had conquered his heart, his heart refused to surrender!
Observes Radaic: "Despite the certainty that he was loved, he went on maintaining a Hamlet disposition, which strikes us as that of a faint-heart trying to hide an incapacity to face the fleshly demands that love brings. In his manner of love, more than in his manner of speech, each man reveals himself. But it was finally impossible for Rizal to go on with his deceptions and doubts, and he had to admit, after seeking ever fresher proofs of affection, that Katigbak loved him truly. He felt no relief over this, for the intensity of love, which he considered a height unattainable by his poor energies, was to him an intolerable tyranny troubling his nights and his sleep. The more sure he was that Katigbak loved him, the more nervous he became."
Rizal saw the girl's love for him as "a yoke" -- "un yugo que ya va imponiendo sobre mi."
Finally, the poor girl gave up. She returned to her home town, to marry her "tall man." Rizal, on horseback, in Calamba, watched her ride past in a carriage. She smiled at him and waved a handkerchief as she rode out of his life forever, leaving he says, "a horrible void." Immediately after, he says, he visited on two successive nights a girl in Calamba who was white of skin and seductive of eye, but discontinued the visits at the order of his father.
This confession, says Radaic, may be no more than a desire to clothe, for future readers of his Memorias, the nakedness of the failure of his first attempt to love.
His later affairs of the heart followed the same pattern of vacillation and invented impediment. He made Leonor Rivera wait eleven years, then cried that she had betrayed him by preferring an Englishman. He considered Nellie Bousted "worthy" enough to be loved by him, but feared she might think he was after her money. Much has been made of the number of women in his life, but the very number is suspicious, hinting at emotional deficiency and the inability to sustain a relationship. "The popular myth," says Guerrero. "is that Rizal could never love wo- [end of page 62] man, he had given his whole heart to his country. In any case, no woman was worthy of the hero; he had a higher fate." And noting that Rizal does not come out too well from his love affairs, Guerrero reflects that "not even the appealing theory that he was 'married to his country' can wholly satisfy."
Radaic traces the generally unsatisfactory air of these love affairs to Rizal's feeling of insecurity:
"In few fields of human conduct do complexes of inferiority play so great a role as in the field of love, especially in the activities called sexual. Young men unsure of themselves find sexual timidity the most difficult to overcome. There's no complex of inferiority that does not imply a feeling of sexual deficiency, and one of the common results of this is the 'attitude of vacillation' so ably described by Adler.
"Rizal, despite his efforts to overcome his complexes and free himself from the anxieties caused by his small stature – experiences as painful for him as they were beneficial to his country -- was to go on being a great neurotic, with all the consequences that a pathogenic memory produces. With the years, the feelings of inferiority would oppress him less, but he would not be able to keep from reviewing them continually, afflicted by the memory of his sufferings. In the struggle he had received grievous wounds that were slow to scar. And though he might at last succeed in repressing all such memories from his consciousness, the psychic build of his character would by then carry an indelible stamp, infused by a sense of physical inferiority, which was to impel him to evasive actions, as in his later love affairs."
With the words "as they were beneficial to his country," Radaic comes to the meat of his argument, which is that the wounds that crippled Rizal in spirit were responsible for his greatness. Guerrero's view is that Rizal was brought up in privileged circumstances, enjoying "the opportunities of his privileged birth." He rose because, given his advan- [end of page 63] tages, it was but natural for him to rise. Radaic sees it different: Rizal was underprivileged, was born heavily handicapped. He rose because of his efforts to overcome his disadvantages, and his rise was unnatural and agonized. Given a choice, Rizal might well have been willing to trade rank and fortune for a normal man's ability to accept the world and adjust himself to it. The young Rizal's dedication to athletics was an attempt to make himself normal. He did not quite succeed, to our good fortune. The mature Rizal's determination to excel in as many fields of endeavor as possible -- science, art, medicine, literature -- was a compensation for his feeble physique; he would show the world he was as capable, as tall, as the next man. He proved he was very much taller, by rising above himself. If there had been no need to do so, if he had been of normal height and with normal capacities, he might have led a normal life, might have accepted the world as he found it and adjusted himself to it. And the nation would have lost a hero.
Rizal's career illustrates the challenge-and-response theory of progress. Rizal soared because his every response overshot the challenge. With each achievement, whether in science or letters or scholarship, he added one more cubit to his stature, until he need no longer decry himself as small. Even in that most intimate incapacity that Radaic speaks of, Rizal managed to achieve a measure of success. His last emotional involvement, with Josephine Bracken, is no longer just an affair but is a mature relationship, a marriage.
"The fights Rizal mentions in his Memorias, with boys bigger than he, against whom he thrust his little body as though to assure himself and show others he was not so weak, are but compulsions to compensate for his inferior build, as if he would thus attain the physical height nature had denied him. His fights express his complexes, are an aspect of his timorousness, a timorousness turned inside out.
"Tormented by eternal feelings of inferiority, Rizal made a career of ascension. The struggle between his complexes and his ever more ambitious I lifted this extraordinary man to the supreme heights of perfection and human endeavor. His career is that of the lesser sons in the fairy tales, who work wonders and win princesses. A Rizal well formed of body might never have found in himself the force needed to raise himself so high for the sake of his country." [end of page 64]
WHY WAS THE RIZAL HERO A CREOLE?
The Rizal novels, so morbid of matter but so comic in manner, defy canonization. The Bible of the race won't toe today's line on the race. Like the Hebrew scriptures, from which its priestly editors vainly tried to purge a mass of polytheistic myth, the Rizal novels contain elements our stricter sensibilities would purge away.
The figure of Maria Clara, for instance, continues to scandalize us. Why did Rizal choose for heroine a mestiza of shameful conception? The reply of the 1930s was that Maria Clara was no heroine to Rizal but an object of satire - a theory that wreaks havoc on the meaning of satire, besides being refuted by the text of the novels, which reveals a Rizal enraptured by his heroine. Today's iconoclasts have got around the dilemma by simply rejecting Maria Clara. Rizal may have been, at least during the writing, taken in by her; we are not. Whether she was a heroine to him or not, she is no heroine to us; and all the folk notions of Maria Clara as an ideal or as a symbol of the Mother Country, must be discarded. Thus would we purify Rizal.
Said Rizal of his heroine:
"Poor girl, with your heart play gross hands that know not of its delicate fibers."
But having disposed of his outrageous heroine, we are still confronted by his equally impossible hero, impossible because he offends our racial pride. Why should the hero of the Great Filipino Novel be, not an Indio Filipino, but a Spanish "Filipino," with the quotes expressing our misgivings? For Juan Crisostomo Ibarra belonged to that class which alone bore the name Filipino in those days but from which we would withhold the name Filipino today, though most of the Philippine Creoles (and the Rizal hero is an example) had more native than Spanish blood.
A Creole class in the pure sense of the term never existed in the Philippines. The Spanish didn't come here in such numbers as to establish a large enough community that could intermarry within itself and keep the blood pure. What were their most numerous progeny -- the friars' bastards -- inevitably vanished into the native mass within a generation. But even the Spaniards who did establish families could keep them Creole for, at the most, three generations. The exceptions are rare. The Rochas (Malacañang used to be their manor) [end of page 65] are probably the most durable, dating back some two centuries; the Téuses have endured about a century and a half but have sunk into obscurity; the Elizaldes (of very mixed blood) go back only a century, or some four generations. The commoner process was followed by such families as the Legardas and the Aranetas, which now seem purely native principalia but began as Creole. This process was arrested and reversed by the great tribe that may be called the Ayala in general, though it includes the Sorianos, Zobels, Meliáns and Roxases. By the time of the Revolution, this Creole tribe was already headed by an Indio, Don Pedro Roxas, and seemed on its way to becoming as "native" as the Legardas and Aranetas; but succeeding generations restored the tribe to Creole status with heavy infusions of European blood. "Tis said that the sons of the tribe are sent to Europe as soon as they reach puberty and are not allowed to come home until they have married "correctly" abroad.
Up to around midway of the 19th century, however, the Philippine Creoles had no such scruples about blood purity and were distinguished as a class apart, as "Filipinos," not so much by the amount of Spanish blood in their veins as by their culture, position and wealth. So, a friar's bastard by a peasant girl might look completely Spanish but would have no status as a Creole, while a man like Ibarra, already two mixed marriages away from a Spanish grandfather, would still be a Creole because a landowner and gentleman. He was an Ibarra far more than he was a Magsalin – and there's significance in his Indio surname, which means to pour, to transfer, to translate, for Ibarra was indeed a translation into Asia of Europe, or, possibly the other way around.
The question is: Why did Rizal make this "translated Filipino" his hero? Was Rizal trying to identify with the Creole? Are the illustrators right who give the tall, hairy, high-nosed and red-cheeked Ibarra the smaller, smoother features of Rizal?
A great writer is always writing abut his times, even when he seems to be writing about something else; and Rizal's novels are historical parables, though we have never quite related them to their particular period. We know the novels are subversive, that they are about revolution, but we assume that Rizal meant the Revolution of 1896, to which he was looking forward as a prophet; and we are therefore dumbfounded that Rizal, when the Revolution came, chose to disown it and to enlist on the side of Spain. We secretly suspect a failure of nerve in the man who had so vigorously prophesied that Revolution.
But was Rizal prophesying? Might he not have been talking about another revolution altogether, a revolution he was more sympathetic to? The novels were, after all, written about a decade before 1896; and we know that the events [end of page 66] that most influenced Rizal, that must have shaped those novels, were the events with which he grew up, that impelled a change in name, the translation from Mercado to Rizal - and from the Philippines to Europe.
The clue is in the dedication to El Filibusterismo:
"To the memory of the priests, Don Mariano Gómez, Don José Burgos and Don Jacinto Zamora, executed on the gibbet of Bagumbayan on February 28, 1872."
Throughout the years he was growing up, Rizal was aware that a revolution was going on in his country, a revolution inspired at first by the person, then by the memory of Burgos the Creole, and in which the people most involved belonged to the Creole class, for the Propaganda may be said to have begun, in the 1850s, with Father Peláez, as a Creole campaign against the Peninsulars. Rizal also knew that Spain was overthrown in America by the various uprisings of the Creoles there (Bolivar, San Martin, Iturbide) -- that is, by the class that had the education, money, talent and prestige to conduct a revolt with success. (The revolutions of the Indios would come later, as with Juárez in Mexico.) During Rizal's youth, it looked as if what had happened in America would happen in the Philippines: the Creoles were restive, were rising, were apparently headed for an open clash with the Peninsulars. So, when Rizal wrote his novels, he was writing about an actual movement, and writing to animate it. He was not looking forward to 1896; he was looking back to 1872 and all its subsequent repercussions. He was chronicling the Creole revolution in the Philippines.
For 200 years -- through the 17th and 18th centuries -- the Philippine Creoles were Filipino in the sense that their lives were entirely devoted to the service of the country: to expanding or consolidating the national frontiers and to protecting them. Their great labor, their achievement, was keeping the Philippines intact through two centuries when, it may be said, there was not a single day that the islands were not under threat of invasion: by the Chinese, the Japanese, the British, the Dutch. For two centuries the country was under constant siege. The Dutch Wars, for instance – a crucial period in our history -- lasted fifty years. A single slip in the vigilance and our history would have been different; there would be, to stress a point now invisible to us, no Philippines at all: we would be a province today of Indonesia and nobody would be arguing about what a Filipino is.
During those 200 years the Creole faltered only once, very briefly, with the British invasion, but he quickly recovered balance. The conquering Americans of the 1900s would sneer at Spanish empire in the Philippines as inept, against all the evidence of history; for if the prime duty of a mother country to a colony is to protect it from invasion, then we'll have to admit that Spain, in its almost 400 years in the islands, acquitted itself with honor, especially when we remember that within fifty years after the American occupation, the Philippines fell, and fell unprotected, to an invader, while the Americans looked the other way, toward Europe. Another point: the Tagalogs and Pampangos who fought with the Creoles to defend the islands during those centuries of siege, we now sneer at as mercenaries"-- but is it mercenary to fight for one's country?
The labor of defense was so exhausting it partly explains why [end of page 67] there are no really old Creole families in the Philippines. For his pains, the Creole might be rewarded with an encomienda, which did not mean possessing the land entrusted to his care but merely gave him the right to collect the tribute there for the space of two generations: his own lifetime and that of his heir. The head tribute was at first eight reales (or a peso), was later increased to ten reales, then reduced to four. In return, the encomendero pledged himself, like a feudal lord, to the defense of the folk under his care (which meant being ready at any moment to be called to military service anywhere in the country) and also to their religious instruction; but he was forbidden to stay within his encomienda or even to sleep two consecutive nights there, to prevent him from turning into a little local tyrant.
The encomienda system lasted but briefly; and the Philippine Creole depended more for subsistence on the Galleon trade and on mining. He worked the iron mines of Antipolo when the Philippines still had a cannon foundry industry and, later, the gold mines of Paracale. As a gentleman, manual labor was forbidden him; he could enter only the Army, the Church and the Government. The Creoles formed our first secular clergy, our first civil service. Only late in Spanish times, with the relaxation of the restrictions on land-owning, did the Creole turn to agriculture, dedicating himself to sugar culture in Negros and Pampanga, to abaca culture in Bicolandia, to cattle culture in the various rancherias in the North.
All this time the Creole-and the Philippine colony in general -- lived in isolation from Spain, and the neglect fostered the autonomous spirit. The Creole was a "Filipino", not a Spaniard. He controlled the government; Madrid was represented only by the governor-general, who was so detested as a "foreigner" he had to make an accounting of his stewardship before he could return to Madrid. The voyage from Europe to the Philippines was so long and so expensive and the mortality among passengers so high that only the hardiest of Spaniards reached the islands, and once here they had to cast in their lot with the country forever, since a return trip was next to impossible. The immigrating Spaniard, therefore, broke with Spain forever when he came to the Philippines. If we further consider that many of those who came here were Basques and Cataláns - - that is, folk with a tradition of rebelliousness against the Madrid government-the temper of the Philippine Creole becomes evident. Rizal made his Ibarra the descendant of a Basque.
With the revolt of Spanish America and the opening of the Suez Canal, Madrid came closer to Manila; and the quicker cheaper voyage now brought to the Philippines, as Rizal's Teniente Guevara observed, "lo más perdido de la peninsula." These peninsular parasites, however, considered themselves several cuts above the "Filipino" -- that is, the Creole -- and began to crowd him out of Army, Church and Government. The war between Creole and Peninsular had begun.
This was during the first three quarters or so of the 19th century, when a practically autonomous commonwealth found itself becoming a Spanish colony in the strict sense of the world (sic). The previous centuries of Spain in the Philippines had been years of Christianization, unification and development, but only the final century, the 19th, was a period of hispanization; and how effective it was is displayed by the fact that within less than a century the hispanization campaign had produced Rizal and the ilustrados, men so steeped in Spanish and European culture they seemed to have a thousand years of that culture behind them. The campaign to hispanize the islands was intensifying when the Revolution broke out: the government was opening normal schools for the training of native teachers to spread Spanish throughout the population.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Creole was rising, stirred into insurgence by the example of a Mexican Creole of the Manila garrison. The Novales revolt in the 1820's planted the idea of separatism. When Mexico, having successfully revolted, seceded from Spain, the treaty between the two countries permitted the two imperial provinces that were formerly ruled through Mexico, to choose between joining Mexico or remaining with Spain. The Philippines thus got the chance to break away from Spain in 1821, for the Philippines was one of these two imperial provinces dependent on Mexico, the other being Guatemala, which then comprised most of Central America. Guatemala opted to join Mexico, but the Philippine government -- or its Spanish governor-general anyway -- chose to keep the islands under Spain. However, the revolt of the Mexican Creole captain Novales - who was proclaimed "emperor of the Philippines" one day and executed on the cathedral square of Manila the next day -- shows that there was a segment of Creole opinion in the Philippines that favored joining the Mexicans in their independence. Local Creoles had heard that, in Mexico, a Creole [end of page 68] (Iturbide) had been proclaimed "emperor," after a revolution that had, for one of its aims, equality between Spaniards and Creoles.
The current of mutinous opinion swelled and, two decades after the Novales revolt, erupted mysteriously in the Conspiracy of the Palmeros, an affair that involved a Creole family so prominent (it was related to the Azcárragas) all records of what appears to have been a coup attempt have been suppressed -- though the Rizal student should perk his ears here, for a family close to the rulers of the state it's trying to undermine suggests the figure of Simoun, the sinister eminence behind the governor-general.
A decade later, in the 1850s, the Creole revolution becomes manifest in Father Peláez, canon of the Manila Cathedral, who started the propaganda for the Filipinization of the clergy. Peláez perished in the Cathedral during the great earthquake of 1863, but he left a disciple who would carry on his work: José Burgos.
With Burgos, we are already in Rizal country. He and his mentor Peláez -- like Rizal himself -- were what might be called "eventualists": they believed that, with sufficient propaganda, reforms could be won eventually, autonomy could be gained eventually, and the hated Peninsulars could be ejected without firing a shot. Burgos is the Creole of the 1870s, resurgent if not yet insurgent: a Liberal in the manner of Governor-General De La Torre; and already conscious of himself as a Filipino distinct from the Spaniard. His counterpart in the secular sphere is Antonio Regidor (implicated in the same Motin de Cavite that cost Burgos's life), who replied to the Peninsular's disdain of the "Filipino" by showing, in his own person, that a Filipino could be more cultured than a Peninsular. It was in this spirit that the Philippine Creoles would vaunt that a Filipino, Ezpeleta, had risen to the dignity of bishop and that another Filipino, Azcárraga, had become a government minister in Madrid.
The fate of Burgos (the garrote) and of Regidor (exile) put an end to the idea of eventualism. The Creoles that come after – mostly educated on the Continent and affiliated with the Masonic Order -- are already frankly filibusteros -- that is, subversives – and their greatest spokesman is Marcelo H. del Pilar, the Creole who undoubtedly possessed the most brilliant mastery of Spanish a Filipino ever wielded but whose talent got deadened by journalistic deadlines. But the extremest development of the Creole as filibustero was Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, a man who came to loathe both the Malay and the Spaniard in himself so intensely he became the first of the sajonistas and, as a member of the Philippine Commission of the 1900s, fought for the implantation of English in the Philippines, in a virulent desire to uproot all traces of Spanish culture from the islands. For good or evil, Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, whom we hardly remember, was one of the deciders of our fate.
The Rizal novels probe these two phases of the Creole revolution. In the Noli Me Tangere, we are still in the epoch of Peláez and Burgos, the eventualists; and Ibarra, who believes that education and propaganda will eventually create a climate of reform, follows the fate of Burgos even to the point of being, like Burgos, implicated in an uprising he knows nothing about. But in El Filibusterismo, we are already in the period of del Pilar and Pardo de Tavera; and the sinister Simoun, white-locked and long-bearded, is no longer a propagandist but a corrupter, and craves not only the fall of Spanish rule but the failure of the hispanization movement.
The family of Rizal's hero traces the evolution from Spa- [end of page 69] niard to Creole to Filipino. The great-grandfather still bears the original Basque name, Eibarramendia, which his descendants abbreviate to Ibarra. Don Pedro Eibarramendia is a Manila businessman; when his warehouse burns down he accuses his bookkeeper of having started the fire and thus ruins not only the hapless bookkeeper but all his descendants, the last of whom is the tragic Elias. Don Pedro is a fearful figure, with his deep-sunken eyes, cavernous voice, and "laughter without sound," and has apparently been in the country a long time, for he speaks Tagalog well. He suddenly appears in San Diego, is fascinated by a piece of deep woods in which are thermal waters, and buys up the woods with textiles, jewels and some coin. Then he vanishes as suddenly as he has come. Later, his rotting corpse is found hanging on a balite tree in the woods. Terrified, those who sold him the woods throw his jewels into the river and his textiles into the fire. The woods where he hanged himself become haunted.
A few months later, his son Saturnino appears in San Diego, claims the property, settles in the village (where still roam deer and boar) and starts an indigo farm. Don Saturnino is as gloomy as his father: taciturn, violent, at times cruel, but very active and industrious; and he transforms San Diego from "a miserable heap of huts" into a thriving town that attracts new settlers and the Chinese.
In these two initial generations of Ibarras, contemporaneous with the early 1800s, we see the Creole turning, after two centuries of constant warfare, from arms to plow, from battlefield to farm and shop. Don Pedro and Don Saturnino have the gloom of the frustrated, of warriors born too late for knight-errantry and forced into grubbier tasks. One goes into business and ends up a suicide; the other turns into a frontiersman, bringing the qualities of a soldier -- violence, cruelty, vigor and zeal -- to the development of a farm at the edge of the jungle. Rizal is fair: he sees the latter-day Creole as engaged in another conquista, this time of the soil. As long as the Creole was merely defending the land as empire, the land was his but he was not the land's. But when he began to work the land himself, he became possessed by what, formerly, he had merely possessed. The change shows in the third-generation Ibarra, Don Rafael, the hero's father, who is already graduating from Creole to Filipino.
Don Rafael outrages the Peninsulars because, though of Spanish blood, he wears the native camisa. He is loved by his tenants; he sends his only son to study in Switzerland; he had been influenced by the Liberalism of the 1860s. He subscribes to Madrid newspapers and keeps a picture of an "executed priest." What gets him into trouble is almost too blunt a projection of the clash between the Creole and Peninsular. The Peninsular in this case exemplifies the worst of the Spaniards that poured into the Philippines with the opening of the Suez Canal: he is illiterate but has been made a tax collector, and the natives laugh at him. When he punishes a child who is mocking him, he is knocked down by Don Rafael, breaks his head on a stone and dies. Don Rafael is thrown into jail, where he rots. When his son returns from Europe the old man has died in jail.
The fourth generation Ibarra, Juan Crisostomo, has a proper Victorian's faith in education, science, propaganda and the excellences of Europe. He has inherited a quarrel with the Peninsulares that he does not care to pursue, being a civilized man. He has also, but unknowingly, inherited a quarrel with the Indios, which provides the Noli Me Tangere with its sardonic humor; for Ibarra's life is thrice saved by Elias, who it turns out is a victim of the Ibarras, a victim of the Creole. Rizal was making an ironic comment on the alliance between the Creole and Indio; yet he makes Elias die to save Ibarra the Creole; and it's Ibarra, not Elias, who becomes the revolutionary.
He is forced to become one, though all he wanted to do was elevate the masses by educating them. At times he even sounds [end of page 70] like a reactionary:
"To keep the Philippines, it's necessary that the friars stay; and in the union with Spain lies the welfare of the country." Rizal repeats the Creole-vs.-Peninsular theme by making Ibarra's rival for Maria Clara a Peninsular: the newcomer Linares. And when tragedy befalls him, Ibarra the Creole finds the Peninsular society of Manila ranged against him and decrying him precisely because of his Spanish blood. "It always has to be the Creoles!" say the Peninsulars upon hearing Ibarra's supposed uprising. "No Indio would understand revolution!"
In the accursed woods where his Spanish ancestor hanged himself, the embittered Ibarra ceases to be a naïve Edmond Dantes and becomes a malevolent Montecristo.
Revenge was sweet, however, for the Montecristo of Dumas. The Simoun of Rizal is unhappy even in revenge. He is one of the darkest creations of literature, a man who believes salvation can come only from total corruption.
"I have inflamed greed," he says. "Injustices and abuses have multiplied. I have fomented crime, and acts of cruelty, so that the people may become inured to the idea of death. I have maintained terror so that, fleeing from it, they may seize any solution. I have paralyzed commerce so that the country, impoverished and reduced to misery, may have nothing more to fear. I have spurred ambition, to ruin the treasury; and not content with all this, to arouse a popular uprising, I have hurt the nation in its rawest nerve, by making the vulture itself insult the very carcass that feeds it!" Simoun is beyond any wish for reform, or autonomy, or representation in the Cortes.
"I need your help," he tells Basilio, "to make the youth resist these insane cravings for hispanization, for assimilation, for equality of rights. Instead of aspiring to be a province, aspire to be a nation... so that not by right, nor custom, nor language, may the Spaniard feel at home here, nor be regarded by the people as a native, but always as an invader, as an alien."
And he offers Basilio "your death or your future; with the government or with us; with your oppressors or with your country"; warning the boy that whoever "declares himself neutral exposes himself to the fury of both sides" -- the most poignant line in the novel; though Rizal, when the moment of choice came, did not exactly declare himself neutral.
But Basilio, even when finally converted to the revolution, shrinks from Simoun's command to exterminate not only the counter-revolution but all who refuse to rise up in arms:
"All! All! Indios, mestizos, Chinese, Spaniards. All whom you find without courage, without spirit. It is necessary to renew the race! Coward fathers can only beget slave children. What? You tremble? You fear to sow death? What is to be destroyed? An evil, a misery. Would you call that to destroy? I would call it to create, to produce, to nourish, to give life!"
Unlike Montecristo, Simoun fails. Dying, he flees to the house beside the Pacific where lives Father Florentino; and through Father Florentino, Rizal seems to annul what he has been saying so passionately, during the novel, through Simoun. What had sounded like a savage sneering at reform becomes a celebration of reforms, of spiritual self-renewal. Salvation cannot come from corruption; garbage produces only toadstools. In Dumas, the last words had been: Wait and hope. In Rizal, the last words are: Suffer and toil. And the jewels with which Simoun had thought to fuel the holocaust, Father Florentino hurls into the ocean, there to wait until a time "when men need you for a holy and high purpose."
This final chapter is beautiful [end of page 71] but unsatisfactory. The Noli Me Tangere had mocked the naiveté of the reformist, the futility of collaboration; El Filibusterismo should, therefore, have unequivocally justified revolution -- but it takes back in the final chapter what it pushed forward in the preceding ones.
What had happened?
The Creole revolution had flopped.
A few decades before, Sinibaldo de Mas had predicted the impasse:
"Among the whites born in the colony, there arise local interests opposed to those of the mother country and which end by arousing the desire for independence. A Filipino Spaniard may be called a Spaniard but he has never been to Spain and has neither friends nor relatives there. He has spent his infancy in the Philippines; there he has enjoyed the games of childhood and known his first loves; there he has domiciled his soul. The Philippines is his native land. But the Filipinos (that is, the Creoles) are continually snubbed. Their resentment when a boat from Cádiz arrives in Manila with alcaldes mayores or military and finance officers is so obvious one must close one's eyes and even at times one's ears to avoid noticing it.
"However, much as the Spanish officials may suppose the Filipino Spaniards to be disloyal and desperate, it was not possible for me to believe that it would ever occur to them to rise up and arm the natives (because the Creoles are) much less loved than the Europeans by the Indios, without the support of the friars, without capital, and too weak a minority to subdue the more than 200,000 rich, active and intelligent Chinese mestizos and the three and a half million natives. In case of a break, the Spanish population rooted in the country stands to lose most; the Europeans can return to Spain, but the Filipino Spaniards will be uprooted, lose all and have to search for another homeland. Yet can these individuals in question be deemed stupid and blind if they favor separation from Spain when we repeatedly read in the history of popular uprisings that the most eminent men believe they can guide a revolution according to their plans, never suspecting for a moment that they will fall victims of the revolting masses that they incite to revolt?"
That indeed was what more or less happened. As the insurgent Creoles were joined by the rising native ilustrados, initiative passed from one to the other; and the Creole got cold feet with the thought of what might happen to him if the Indio should rise up in arms. For the Creole might think [end of page 73] his insurgence the revolt of Filipinos against the Peninsulars; but to the Indio, it was merely a quarrel between one set of Spaniards and another set of Spaniards. And while the two sets quarreled, the Indio snatched back his land. So, in Europe, while king and bishop squabbled, the bourgeois slipped through and seized power.
But the abortive Creole revolution did create a climate of subversion; to that extent, Simoun had succeeded. There's a clear line of development from 1872 to 1896, as we acknowledge by accepting Burgos as a national hero. But what happened in America did not happen here. An actual Creole revolt did not break out; the Indio beat the Creole to the draw; and when the hour of reckoning came the Creole sided with the hated Peninsulars -- though he later somewhat redeemed himself by joining the second phase of the Revolution, the war against the Americans. When that, too, collapsed, the Creole returned to the side of the imperialist: the Partido Federalista was the Creole party. The failure of that party removed the Creole from the mainstream of the national life -- though, ironically, the very failure led to the realization of the old Creole dream: it was a Quezon that took possession of Malacañang.
The modern descendants of the Creoles have had no one fate. The very rich ones, who were, in the 1870s, becoming more and more Filipino have, today, become more and more Spanish. The poorer ones have had, as Sinibaldo de Mas predicted, to search for a new homeland, Australia being the current goal of their exodus. Others, as a modern Creole observes, emigrate to San Lorenzo Village: "Go to the Rizal Theater any night and you'd think you were in a foreign country." But there's another segment that seems to be reviving what might be called the Spirit of '72 and which may be studied in an Emmanuel Peláez or Manuel Manahan, tentative Hamletish figures that baffle us with their scruples, their militancies, their enigmatic "honor." Are they Ibarra or Simoun? Are they resuming an unfinished revolution of their own, the revolt of the Creole?
The jewels of Simoun wait in the sea.
Or are they surfacing at last?
Joaquin, Nick. "Jose Rizal: June 19, 1861 - December 30, 1896." In A Question of Heroes: Essays in Criticism on Ten Key Figures of Philippine History. Makati: Ayala Museum, 1977. pp. 50- 74