Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Legislating Rizal, 1

Sixty years after Dr. Jose Rizal was execusted in Bagumbayan, mere mention of his two novels, the Noli Me Tangere (1887) and El Filibusterismo (1891) , could stilll whip up a bitter controversy. Firebrand of the Senate, Claro. M. Recto, was reported to have described Rizal's books as, " a constant and inspiring source of patriotism with which the minds of the youth , specially during their formative and decisive years in school, should be suffused."

It was still the post-war, a grim period of rebuilding a devastated economy, recovering shreds of natonal self-respect while choking on unequal treaties so, naturally, there was a resurgence of nationalism. Senator Claro M. Recto invoked Jose Rizal and authored a bill which made his novels (the unexpurgated versions) compulsory reading in all colleges and universities in the Philippines. This was sponsored by the Committee on Education headed by Senator Jose P. Laurel and supported by all senators with the exception of three--Franciso (Soc) Rodrigo, Decoroso Rosales and Mariano Cuenco.

There was weeping and gnashing of teeth at committee hearings that began in April 1956. Vehemently opposed to the bill were the Catholic hierarchly, the Catholic Action of the Philippines, Congregation of Missions, Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Teachers Guild and other Catholic organizations. Stinging commentaries by radio personalities of Church-supported stations called Rizal a ' 'thing of the past and his books an "inadequate Bible of Philippine nationalism today."

With daggers drawn, the Veteranos de la Revolucion (Spirit of 1896) rallied behind Senators Recto and Laurel. Indignant, so did the Alagad ni Rizal, Freemasons, and the Knights of Rizal. The archaic posture of the Church infuriated even the Book Lovers Society. They all affirmed that prohibiting generations of Filipino youth from reading the novels and works of Rizal was tantamount to executing the hero all over again, just like what the Spanish friars and colonial authorities did.

Many of those who opposed the Noli and Fili had not read the novels carefully, or not read them at all, except perhaps for a certain Fr. Jesus Cavanna who tried to slaughter the nationalists with a curious numbers game. He said that in the Noli, out of 332 pages only 25 had patriotic passages while 120 pages attacked the Church; as for the Fili, out of 293 pages only 41 alluded to patriotism and 80 were anti-Catholic. He must have gone through the novels with a fine-toothed comb but interestingly, he is the very same Fr. Cavanna who was inextricably involved in the Rizal retraction hoax.

Source: Totanes, Stephen Henry S., "The historical impact of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo" (Budhi Papers, #7, Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1987)

Legislating Rizal, 2

No legislation was ever so divisive; none has so brutally gashed old national wounds. Never since the Revolution had the Catholic Church been the object of such derisive indignation.

Heading the Veteranos de la Revolucion, Emilio Aguinaldo, President of the First Philippine Republic, denounced the Filipino clergy for putting themselves "under the yoke of the old Spanish friars, against whom the Filipinos of 1896 had risen in arms..."[with] our blood spilled on the battlefields." He demanded the true separation of Church and State and said that Rizal's novels were "banned by the Spanish authorities who had kept Filipinos subject for more than 300 years under the guise of Christianity".

It was Magdalo times all over again ! Four thousand (4,000) revolucionarios gathered at Imus, Cavite, some gave moving testimonies of how they risked their lives just to be able to read the NOLI and FILI when still under Spanish subjugation. They unanimously approved a manifesto calling "un-Filipino and morally repulsive" any opposition to Senator Recto's bill. An old venerable declared he would stop going to church until the bill was approved. Another exclaimed, "My loyalty to religion ends where my loyalty to the country begins."

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines insisted that Rizal attacked "the possibility of miracles, purgatory, the sacraments, indulgences, prayers, disparaged the veneration of saints, images, relics, the Blessed Mother and questioned Papal authority. Worst, Rizal doubted "God's omnipotence". In a pastoral letter, Bishop Rufino Santos of Manila explained their opposition to the "compulsory reading in their entirety of such books in any school where Catholic students may be affected."

Senator Laurel, head of the Education Committee, modified Recto's bill for expediency's sake by allowing exemptions for "reasons of religious belief." On 12 June 1956, Republic Act. No. 1425 (Rizal Law) was finally passed. Thus, the writings of Rizal especially the unexpurgated versions of the NOLI and FILI, became compulsory for all public and private schools in the Philippines.

Source: Locsin, Teodoro, "The Church Under Attack", "Phillippines FreePress", May 1956

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Forging Rizal, 1

To this day (30 Dec 2010), one hundred and fourteen years after Dr. Jose Rizal was executed at Bagumbayan, the myth about his retraction continues to confuse, if not obfuscate. Although the retraction strategy was hatched by Spanish Jesuits in the 19th century, soon after they were discombobulated by the NOLI ME TANGERE, Rizal's first seditious novel published in Belgium in 1837 , as late as 1961, a facsimile of the alleged retraction document, supposedly signed by the hero, was printed in the textbook PHILIPPINE HISTORY FOR HIGH SCHOOLS by Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide.

Incredibly prescient, Rizal knew he was going to be vilified after death. When he returned to Manila in 1887, he visited the Ateneo, talked to Padre Faura who told him that everything he had written in the NOLI was true, but that he may lose his head for it and if he should persist in his beliefs (Masonry) he should never again set foot in his alma mater. The Jesuits were probably alarmed because if their famous alumnus had turned his back at Mother Church, others would eventually follow suit.

In July 1892, four days after he established La Liga Filipina in Manila, Rizal was arrested and hastily deported to the wilderness of Dapitan. According to Rafael Palma, an early biographer of Rizal, the Jesuits there offered him quarters at their mission house (probably the most liveable) but only after a spiritual retreat during which he would recant his anti-religious and politically subversive ideas. Needless to say, the steadfast Rizal politely refused.

From his execution on 30 December 1896 to the 1960's six (6) retractions all ludicrous and blatant forgeries have surfaced. These are: (1) "Rizal 's Retraction", Photostat copy, in Jose M. Hernandez's, RIZAL, (Alemars, 1950); (2) "Rizal's Retraction" in "I Abjure Masonry" allegedly by Jose Rizal, San Beda College pamphlet, 1950; (3) "Rizal's holograph", in RIZAL'S UNFADING GLORY, by Fr. Jesus M. Cavanna (revised edition, 1950); (4) "Facsimile of Rizal's Retraction", SELECTED READINGS FROM RIZAL, Ricardo C. Bassig, 1959; (5) "Facsimile of Rizal's Retraction" , PHILIPPINE HISTORY FOR HIGH SCHOOLS, Gregorio F. Zaide, `1961; (6) "Facsimile of Rizal's Retraction", "Statement of the Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines", 1956.

Absolutely no one has seen the original retraction document from where all these facsimiles were supposedly taken. Amazing, to say the least.

Source: THE FORGERY OF THE RIZAL RETRACTION AND JOSEPHINE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Runes, Ildefonso T. & Buenafe, Mamerto M. (Pro-Patria Publishers, 1962)

On July 1892, four days

Forging Rizal, 2

This fascinating book, THE FORGERY OF THE RIZAL RETRACTION AND JOSEPHINE'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY, by Ildefonso T. Runes and Mamerto M. Buenafe is worth reprinting for the 150th birthday of the national hero. First published in 1969 by the Manila-based Pro-Patria Publishers, there have been no other editions.

According to the authors, a certain Fr. Manuel Garcia claimed to have dscovered the retraction document in the archives of the Archbishopric of Manila after which reproductions were circulated to interested parties like historians Jose Hernandez and Gregorio Zaide who printed the facsimiles in their books for Phhilippine schools, obviously without first scrutinizing the original. So did editor Ricardo Bassig, Fr. Jesus Cavanna , and San Beda College.

Authors Runes and Buenafe were baffled by the discrepancies in the facisimiles themselves, considering these were supposed to be copies of the original document. In Hernandez's book, RIZAL, the date of the facsimile was--"Manila 29 de Diciembre de 1890"--which the authors believed Rizal could not have signed because he was in Madrid at that time finishing his second novel , EL FILIBUSTERISMO. Curiously, in the San Beda College pamphlet, " I Abjure Masonry", allegedly by Rizal and also printed in 1959, the " 0 " of 1890 was half erased and appeared like a new moon or a letter " C ".

In Fr. Jesus Cavanna's book, RIZAL'S UNFADING GLORY (1956), the dateline was "1896" and was so "heavily doctored" observed Runes and Buenafe that the entire text of the facsimile was traced over to match the thickness of the dubious date. Zaide's textbook, printed in 1961, had a more carefully retouched "1896". The discrepancies described above are illustrated on pages 86 and 87 of Runes and Buenafe's revealing book.

Evidently, the mastermind of the retration forgery aimed to neutralize, if not kill the ideas of Rizal. Rizal himself told his close friends that he would be slandered after death. Had he retracted, all his writings especially the two novels, would have been reduced to worthless pulp. Moreover, the retration hoax had to include his mistress, Josephine Bracken, and that romantic tale about their marriage before he was led to Bagumbayan. Rizal did want to marry her while in Dapitan, but the parish priest there refused to consecrate their union because he was a Mason and a filibustero. Clearly, a last- minute marriage was meant to reinforce the crude retraction hoax. Since he allegedly abjured Masonry and returned to the fold, Rizal could then receive the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Rizal remains polemical even beyond the grave. Sixty years after his execution, in 1956, the Catholic hierarchy strongly opposed a bill that required the teaching of Jose Rizal's life, labors and writings in Philippine schools. Despite the raging controvery, President Ramon Masaysay purposefully signed Republic Act 1425.