Saturday, December 25, 2010

Antonio Luna read Rizal

Antonio Luna, who became the commanding general of the First Philippine Republic's Armed Forces, read the NOLI ME TANGERE and its sequel EL FILIBUSTERISMO, seditious novels by his friend and compatriot, Jose P. Rizal. He must have been so inspired after he read the NOLI that in a review he wrote for "La Solidaridad" A. Luna described it as bearing the "seal of truth" and vividly exposing the humiliating conditions of colonial society, cleverly concealed by layers of "beautiful lies".

Luna said Rizal's novels garnered praises and were deeply appreciated for having lifted the "veil of inexplicable mysteries" while awakening and stimulating the minds and sentiments of the youth to take up the challenge found in the FILI. I suppose Luna was alluding to Fr. Florentino's poignant words in the final chapter.

He described Rizal as being in a class all his own, but because he had become highly controversial, "he is often judged severely by those who want to diminish his worth." On the other hand, Rizal " is smothered with the incense of adulation, surrounded by a tempestuous whirlwind of irrational and mindless enthusiasm" which Luna hoped would not be like artificial fireworks, dazzling but all too brief.

Luna wrote that before Rizal came into the scene other patriots had advocated Filipino civilization and championed progressive ideas like the three martyred priest Burgos, Gomez and Zamora, (unlamented,Luna mourned ) liberal-minded lawyers like Antonio Regidor and of course, the paladins of the Propaganda Movement, Marcelo del Pilar and Lopez Jaena. They all symbolized a transformation that will inevitably lead the Philippines to progress. However, it was Jose Rizal who defined more concretely the ideas of those noble precursors by giving them flesh and substance, life, energy and dynamism through the characters he created--Elias, Capitan Tiago, Tasio, Ibarra and Maria Clara, and other personages of the NOLI and FILI. As a result, the revolutionary ideas espoused by all Filipino patriots became more widespread.

Significantly, the disciplinarian Antonio Luna also commented that the youth of the 1884 generation were "cowardly and hypocritical, who behaved as if it were a crime to love the country" until Rizal, an extraordinary man, indicated how it should be done. (What could Luna have said about today's youth?)

Clandestinely shipped and smuggled into the Philippines, the NOLI and FILI were read and discussed in secret among circles of friends, in factories and workshops, even convents and classrooms, in cities as well as in isolated corners of the countryside. As expected, those caught with the books were apprehended by colonial authorities , but such vicious persecution only served to strengthen a just cause .

Source: article by Taga-Ilog, Antonio Luna's pseudonym, "La Solidaridad", October 1891.
(original in Spanish, loose translation is mine)

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