Saturday, December 25, 2010

When Rizal left

"Nothing new here, and we do not see much of each other; you can imagine how aloof we have become, each one going to wherever the wind blows him. Since you left, big groups of "Chinese" [Filipino expats were then called "Chinos"] no longer congregate...; it seems that a strong hurricane of egoism has shattered the harmonious relations that were evident among our countrymen. Today, there are no more tertulias like we had before when friends would meet in whatever place to share and exchange impressions, if at all, there are a few groups...that are the source of unjust rumors; others hurl complaints at one another; as a result, good relations are dampened...The (Filipino) colony needs something that can remedy the situation; in that context, I can assure you that your absence caused the malady."(original in Spanish, loose translation is mine)

That was a letter to Jose Rizal from Ceferino de Leon written in Madrid on 2 March 1886. A native of San Miguel de Mayumo, Bulacan, Mr. de Leon was the scion of a prosperous family who could afford to send him to Manila to study and later to Spain to read law at the Universidad de Madrid. He had already heard of Jose Rizal before meeting him personally in Madrid.

After receiving his diploma, Mr. de Leon returned to the Philippines to practice law. Like many other ilustrados, he joined the Revolution and was appointed representative of Benguet in the Malolos Congress. His daughter Trinidad married Manuel Roxas who became President of the Philippines, when Independence (declared on 12 June 1898) was finally restored to us after the Second World War.

Unwittingly, the de Leon letter reveals an irrefragable aspect of Rizal's character that has not been studied thoroughly. Rizal is often portrayed as a "stand alone" hero, aloof but elegant in that black winter coat, brooding, writing seditious novels, studying and reading in the dead of night, charming women with his erudite conversation, making memorable extemporaneous speeches , healing the sick, teaching etc. Apparently, he was a sagacious and patient consensus and coalition builder who ably united the multifarious Filipino community in Madrid.

Rizal's primordial objective was to transform Filipinos through education and love of country, that is why he left voluminous records of his ideas, historical annotations, analysis of colonial society and insights into our future. But, on top of all that, he also had a talent for organizing people to strive for a common goal and together build a nation. That was why he returned to the Philippines and founded La Liga Filipina; from writing, he moved on to organizing a socioeconomic movement.a brotherhood. No wonder he had to be eliminated!

Source: Rizal Ante Sus Contemporaneos, (National Historical Institute, 1961)

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