Forgotten history

A few months ago, I began to wonder how private Catholic schools are able to reconcile their curriculum with Filipino history: the struggle of our ancestors against clerical tyranny is one that cannot easily be ignored. On a larger perspective, I also wondered how Filipinos have reconciled their religion with the sins of the Church against Spanish-occupied Philippines, thereby sustaining Catholicism in the country.

And then I came across the Catholic Church’s statement during the centennial celebration of the country’s Independence Day (which I blogged about) and I found the answer to be simple: the Church merely ignores its history and the people merely forgets it. (Confirmed here, The Spanish Friars, After 1898.)

On this note, below are excerpts from John Foreman’s The Philippine Islands, specifically his account of the events that led to Jose Rizal’s arrest and murder. I edited it for brevity’s sake (ellipses show redacted parts) but the full version starts at this page.

Rizal avowed that he had been given to understand that he could return to the Islands without fear for his personal safety and liberty. He arrived in Manila and was arrested. His luggage was searched in the Custom-house, and a number of those seditious proclamations… were found, it was alleged, in his trunks. It is contrary to all common sense to conceive that a sane man, who had entertained the least doubt as to his personal liberty, would bring with him, into a public department of scrutiny, documentary evidence of his own culpability. He was arraigned before the supreme authority, in whose presence he defended himself right nobly. The clerical party wanted his blood, but Gov.-General Despujols would not yield. Rizal was either guilty or innocent, and should have been fully acquitted or condemned; but to meet the matter half way he was banished to Dapítan, a town on the north shore of Mindanao Island. I saw the bungalow, situated at the extremity of a pretty little horse-shoe bay, where he lived nearly four years in bondage…

… Reading between the lines of the letters he was allowed to send to his friends, there was evidence of his being weighed down with ennui from inactivity, and his friends in Europe took the opportunity of bringing pressure on the Madrid Government to liberate him…

… finally the Gov.-General of the Philippines, Don Ramon Blanco, was authorized to liberate Rizal… The governor of Dapítan was instructed to ask Rizal if he wished to go to Cuba as an army doctor, and the reply being in the affirmative, he was conducted on board the steamer for Manila…

… There were no inter-island cables in those days, and the arrival of Rizal in the port of Manila was a surprise to the friars. They expostulated with General Blanco. They openly upbraided him for having set free the soul of disaffection; but the general would not relinquish his intention, explaining, very logically, that if Rizal were the soul of rebellion he was now about to depart. The friars were eager for Rival’s blood, and the parish priest of Tondo arranged a revolt of the caudrilleros (guards) of that suburb, hoping thereby to convince General Blanco that the rebellion was in full cry, consequent on his folly. No doubt, by this trick of the friars, many civilian Spaniards were deceived into an honest belief in the ineptitude of the Gov.-General. In a state of frenzy a body of them, headed by Father Mariano Gil, marched to the palace of Malacañan to demand an explanation of General Blanco. The gates were closed by order of the captain of the guard. When the general learnt what the howling outside signified he mounted his horse, and, at the head of his guards, met the excited crowd and ordered them to quit the precincts of the palace, or he would put them out by force. The abashed priest thereupon withdrew with his companions, but from that day the occult power of the friars was put in motion to bring about the recall of General Blanco. In the meantime Rizal had been detained in the Spanish cruiser Castilla lying in the bay…

… But the clerical party were eager for his extermination. He was a thorn in the side of monastic sway; he had committed no crime, but he was the friars’ arch-enemy and bête noire. Again the lay authorities had to yield to the monks. Dr. Rizal was cabled for to answer certain accusations; hence on his landing in the Peninsula he was incarcerated in the celebrated fortress of Montjuich (the scene of so many horrors), pending his re-shipment by the returning steamer. He reached Manila as a State prisoner in the Colon, isolated from all but his jailors. It was materially impossible for him to have taken any part in the rebellion, whatever his sympathies may have been. Yet, once more, the wheel of fortune turned against him. Coincidentally the parish priest of Mórong was murdered at the altar whilst celebrating Mass on Christmas Day, 1896. The importunity of the friars could be no longer resisted; this new calamity seemed to strengthen their cause. The next day Rizal was brought to trial for sedition and rebellion, before a court-martial composed of eight captains, under the presidency of a lieutenant-colonel. No reliable testimony could be brought against him. How could it be when, for years, he had been a State prisoner in forced seclusion? He defended himself with logical argument. But what mattered? He was condemned beforehand to ignominious death as a traitor, and the decree of execution was one of Polaviejal’s foulest acts…

… Fortified by purity of conscience and the rectitude of his principles, he felt no felon’s remorse, but walked with equanimity to the place of execution. About 2,000 regular and volunteer troops formed the square where he knelt facing the seashore, on the blood-stained field of Bagumbayan. After an officer had shouted the formula, “In the name of the King! Whosoever shall raise his voice to crave clemency for the condemned, shall suffer death,” four bullets, fired from behind by Philippine soldiers, did their fatal work. This execution took place at 6 a.m. on December 30, 1896. An immense crowd witnessed, in silent awe, this sacrifice to priestcraft. The friars, too, were present en masse, many of them smoking big cigars, jubilant over the extinction of that bright intellectual light which, alas! can never be rekindled.


3 thoughts on “Forgotten history

  1. Iggy says:

    I'm not sure if it's true, pero sabi ng prof ko dati, ang PI 100 (Philippine Institutions 100, or the Life and Works of Rizal), which colleges are mandated by law to teach, are not taught at some Catholic universities…


  2. Ana Filibini says:

    Life and works of Rizal are being taught at Ateneo De Davao – a Jesuit catholic University – for the 3rd to 4th year college students as pre-req. Not sure about Dominican schools though.


  3. Jason says:

    Alam ko sa UST it's required — just not sure kung may spin ba, if any. As for Noli in HS, I've yet to check if our book was censored; natago pa daw ng nanay ko yung book.


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