Monday, December 30, 2013

Rizal's Holiday

Guest blog post by PJ Lanot.

As we remember the legacy of the great Filipino icon this holiday, Jose Rizal, I am reminded of what he wrote his family, presumably from his Bagumbayan prison cell on December 29, 1896, a day before he was to be martyred:

“Bury me in the ground. Place a stone and a cross over it. My name, the date of my birth and of my death. Nothing more. If later you wish to surround my grave with a fence, you can do it. No anniversaries. I prefer Paang Bundok*.”

December 30 also reminds me that I’m celebrating Christmas and New Year without my folks, who are now based in the US with my Kuya. Thanks to technology, my thoughts of them never stay in my head for so long, for I know they are just a Facebook Wall Post, or a Skype and Viber Chat away. 

It wasn’t the same for Rizal in 1886: 25 years old, alone and cold, homesick, and always short on allowance. He writes from Berlin, Germany to his mother in Calamba, Laguna on Christmas Day, his fifth in Europe:

“Today, Christmas, I take up the pen to write you a few lines; I want to devote a few hours this morning to a mental conversation with you…”

“For three nights now I have continually dreamed of you and sometimes the dream is repeated in a single night… I like to believe that you are constantly thinking of me and that makes my brain reproduce what is going on in yours, for after all my brain is a part of yours, and it is not surprising, because when I’m asleep here, you are awake there and so on.”

Apparently, thousands of miles, and a seven-hour time differential cannot separate a son’s telepathic musings with a mother. I concur. Another part of his letter reads:

“You know that since I attained the age of discretion, I have always tried to celebrate this holiday for being the birthday of a great man who was the first to proclaim the equality of men, and because this holiday always brings me back many memories of the paternal home…”

“For almost about a week nothing but snow falls; I’m wrong, people on the street also fall, for snow is slippery when it is treaded upon. My friend Viola** and I walk carefully, holding on to each other so that in case one falls, he can grasp the other.”

Note the depth in Rizal’s reference to Jesus’ stance on equality, as Indios in the 19th Century were suffering heavily from racial discrimination from Spaniards in the Philippines. Note also the comedy he puts in snow, and his bromance in Berlin. 

As we throwback on his memories today, I’m sure he’s less concerned that we completely ignored his plea for “no anniversaries” for 117th time. I think he’d be more disappointed that there’s still no fence surrounding his grave :) Happy Rizal Day everybody, enjoy the long holiday. 

* Paang Bundok is a humble place where the Manila North Cemetery and Chinese Cemetery are.
** Maximo Viola earned his place in the gallery of heroes when he funded the publication of Rizal’s first novel “Noli Me Tangere”, earning for himself its proofs, and its first copy. Born in Bulacan, Viola met Rizal in Spain while the former was studying Medicine in the University of Barcelona.

Read PJ's previous Rizal Day post here.