Sunday, May 4, 2008

Epistolaries of Rizal

Jose Rizal’s letters tell so much about him and how he spent his life. Looking at the correspondences of Rizal is like reading his diaries as he communicates with another person. 

By doing so, we are given access to his psyche and after reading some, I must say that I was not just amazed but inspired at the same time. I can just imagine all the troubles Rizal had to face to write those letters. Only a patient man could do that and we lack such kinds of men nowadays. 

Now, tasked to analyze four letters of Rizal from four different perspectives including correspondences with family, fellow reformists, Blumentritt and miscellaneous writings under the pretext of our month of birth (mine is February), I found the following letters: 

First, Rizal (1964, p. 422) in Dapitan writing to his sister Lucia on Feb. 12, 1896. In this letter, Rizal mentioned about about the arrival of Teodosio Herbosa and brother Estanislao Herbosa, sons of Lucia and the late Mariano Herbosa. Rizal points out that we must follow what we think will make us most productive. This is in connection with Estanislao’s inclination to books and Teodosio’s soil. 

Second, Rizal (1963, pp.126-135) writing to Vicente Barrantes on Feb. 1890. This letter is a response to Barrantes’ criticism of Noli Me Tangere. According to the footnote of this letter, Vicente Barrantes is a member of the Real Academis de la Lengua and other learned societies, held high positions in the Philippine government. In Spain he was regarded as a learned man, but in the Philippines his name was execrated, for his writings were pronouncedly anti-Filipinos, biased and superficial (p.126). In summary, the letter points out the inconsistencies of Barrantes’ arguments against Rizal as author of Noli Me Tangere. 

Third, Rizal (1992, pp.272-275) in London writing to Marcelo H. del Pilar on Feb. 4, 1889. Rizal mentions in this letter regarding the publication of La Solidaridad and the excessive Ilocanism of Isabelo de los Reyes apropos the question of Diego Silang. According to this letter, Marcelo, together with other Filipino scholars, should be critical towards writing history and one example of it is the chronicles about Diego Silang. 

Fourth, Rizal (1961, pp. 327-328) in Brussels writing to Blumentritt on Feb. 2, 1890. This letter talks about the Jesuitical contrasts about dealing with people and about Father Sanchez praising Noli. In addition, the letter mentions too how Rizal sees his way of writing in awakening Filipinos from lethargy.

Recurrent from Rizal’s epistolaries is the issue of Noli Me Tangere. This novel elicited two reactions- one negative, the other positive. 

In Rizal’s letter to Barrantes (which was published in La Solidaridad), we see that Barrantes was not pleased with the work. It appears that Barrantes was trying to accuse Rizal of not considering the latter’s compatriots men because there was a certain scene in the Noli where the captain general talked first to the protagonist (Ibarra) and from this Barrantes deducted his assumption. 

Also, Rizal was accused of reducing artists of Paete to mere carpenters. These are some of the inconsistencies which Rizal refuted. Rizal’s reply was quite complicated but the be and all of it was that Barrantes’ premises were all illogical. On the other hand, Rizal mentions in his letter to Blumetritt that Father Sanchez, a Jesuit praised Noli.

Another case in point is the issue of Rizal with the friars. We know for a fact that Rizal had a grudge with religious corporations especially when it comes to writing Philippine history. Evident from Rizal-Del Pilar correspondence mention Rizal mentions,
“Despite the ardent desire of the Augustinians – like all the friars – to exaggerate always, and to put themselves in the forefront of all Philippine questions…(p.274)”

This repugnance towards friars was again observed in Noli Me Tangere.
Considering how Rizal portrayed the Augustinians in the character if Padre Damaso. However, the repugnance was not quite so much when it comes to the Jesuits from Rizal (1961)-Blumentritt correspondence, Rizal gives Jesuits a more gentle description,

“Concerning Father Faura, I believe that he did not have evil intentions when he assured Dr. Pardo de Tavera that I had to die. In my way of thinking it was Jesuitical astuteness. The Jesuits have to show in public feelings that they may not perhaps feel. (p. 327)”

These are but some of the things that we can learn about the epistolaries of Rizal
and I am sure that there is more to discover, more to divulge and until that time that I can unearth all motivations and line of thinking of Rizal then I will always be on the prowl, waiting.

Works Cited:

Rizal, J. (1961). The Rizal-Blumentritt correspondence. (E. Alzona, Trans.). Manila: Jose
Rizal National Centennial Commission, 327-328. DS 675.8 R5 A45 1961a E5 pt.2, DMLF

Rizal, J. (1963). Miscellaneous correspondence. (E. Alzona, Trans.) Manila: National
Heroes Commission, 126-135. DS 675.8 R5 A45 1961e E5, DMLF

Rizal, J. (1964). Letter between Rizal and family members. Manila: National Heroes
Commission, 422-423. DS 675.8 R5 A45 1961 E5

Rizal, J. (1992). Rizal’s correspondence with fellow reformists. (E. Alzona, Trans.).
Manila: National Historical Institute, 272-275. DS 675.8 R5 A45 1992a E5, DMLF

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