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THE FIL-AM PRESS
Houston Texas
--------------------------

An adaptation of an article about Rizal's

friends that appeared in the June 2006 issue of

FIL-AM PRESS

by Lope Lindio

The Tagalog Association will be celebrating the 108th death anniversary of Jose Rizal at the Gold Ribbon Restaurant this Saturday, the 30th of December. Since Sir Knight Ben Ongoco is working hard to get the required number of members to be able to organize the Knights of Rizal, I will not be surprised if the ghosts of Rizal's friends would also come and help Sir Knight Ben encourage our Filipino-Americans to join the KOR.

Among those who would be dropping by from their celestial journey to be on time for Rizal's death anniversary in Bagumbayan, Luneta, in Manila, will be close friends and admirers of his, some close to 200 years old, and others around Rizal's age of 150 years old, if all were alive today. They were his boyhood friends in Binan, nice old ladies whose lives became storied by their having met him during their prime, and younger people of about 130 years olds, his former students in Dapitan, who became famous despite their humble origin, only because they were associated to him as his students.

All these uninvited guests will be reminiscing about him. His classmate Pedro in Binan, where Rizal prepped-up for further studies in Manila, would gleefully recall his fight with him whom he thought to be a weakling. His physique was rather too small to carry a disproportionately big head; he was cerebral or nerdy as known today, rather than physical, and reticent. But he was thrown to the ground by Rizal who held him down immobile, to his chagrin and the delight of their classmates. But another classmate Andres Calundana will be bragging of his having beaten Rizal in an arm-wrestling match fair and square.

The ladies would have light moments in their apparition reminiscing the ways of Rizal as a lover boy. Segunda Catigbac of Lipa would be telling the story of how she thought him to have fallen in love with her at first sight. She later learned to her dismay that he wouldn't bite out of respect for another young man who was already engaged to her. The daughter of Francisco Pi y Margall, a friend of Rizal whom we will meet later in this article, would have a vignette of her own to tell. She often watched Rizal playing chess with her father. If he proposed to her, as she dreamed he would do, Rizal would have stayed in Spain and raised their family, instead of coming home and being martyred in Bagumbayan.

The guests, ghosts and all, would be talking about their taking him for an ordinary mortal like them, but Rizal had grand dreams that led him to do extraordinary deeds. Of course, his genius had something to do with it, but in the end it's not just because of his superior intelligence. What made him a class by himself was his good judgment. It was often borne out by a balanced interplay of principles, patience, personal honor, self-control, and good habits.

The people who knew Rizal remained his friends or admirers for life. The friends he acquired as he moved on from place to place, stayed loyal to him even after his death. And those who hated him because of his works and beliefs dramatically changed their attitude towards him as they learned more of his life and the purity of his intentions.

In any such death anniversaries like this year's, Ferdinand Blumentritt would have the bragging right of saying that he was one of his closest friends, without being his paisano. He could say he already knew about the Philippines even before Rizal came to know him, and it was precisely because of his scholarship that Rizal cultivated his friendship. He would even bring out a not so well-known fact that at one time Rizal asked him to teach in a school he was going to organize in the Philippines . He was asked to write a true-to-fact history of the Philippines . It was only when Blumentritt couldn't do it that he took it upon himself to annotate Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas in order to correct the false impression that foreign historians, especially the Spanish friars, left the readers with their supposedly historical narratives about the Philippines. And Blumentritt would not be too modest to disclose that they were so close that he was also consulted by Rizal of his plans to settle his relatives in British North Borneo in order to find a place for them and other dispossessed people in Calamba who were deprived of their leaseholds by the Dominican friars.

A gathering of Rizal's friends on a December 30 anniversary would surely include Francisco Pi y Margall. Very much of a part of Spanish history, having been the president of Spain's short-lived First Republic in 1873 after the monarchy fell down, he would say Rizal's most prized possession upon arriving in Madrid in 1882 was his book, Las Nacionalidades (1876). It is believed that this was one of the first books Rizal purchased upon arrival in Spain which advocated that the Philippines should be made an autonomous part of Spain . Rizal frequently visited him at his house where they played chess.

Pi y Margall could even claim that he was one of the lawyers asked by Rizal to represent his family and other leaseholders in Calamba in a lawsuit against the Dominicans. And to add his own what-if-tale on the issue of what could have prevented the execution of Rizal, Pi y Margall, as reported by Manuel Sarkisyanz rin his book, Rizal and Republican Spain, he even stepped down from his moral high horse and begged the King's prime minister, Canovas, to spare Rizal's life.that Pi y Margall, even if he refused to recognize the legitimacy of the monarchy then in power.

A gathering of Rizal's friends on death anniversary is not complete without Miguel Morayta. He would take credit for being the one blamed by the Archbishop of Barcelona for Rizal's perdition. Rizal supposedly confessed to Padre Faura just hours before he was shot in the Luneta that he lost his religion in Spain and became a filibustero because of Morayta, a rumor given credence because he was a well-known liberal and progressive professor at the Universided Central de Madrid. Besides, he was also the Grand Master of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Spain at that time. His professorship tenure and lectures were controversial that students often rioted to protect him from being removed by the government, Filipinos among them.

In an 1884 banquet attended by Morayta, Rizal toasted that although Spain's flag should disappear (when the Philippines becomes independent) , her memory will remain eternal and imperishable. Morayta was so moved and awed by this speech that he urged Rizal to take his examinations the very next day or he would flunk him if taken 3 months later as he preferred. After the examination, he was given the mark excellent.

One guest who would elbow his way to the center for attention is Wenceslao Retana. He could take the dubious distinction of being Rizal's enemy first, during his lifetime, and then later his admirer, in the fashion of St. Paul on his way to Damscus, upon Rizal's death.

Wenceslao Retana, a noted Spanish writer and Spanish government official who doggedly persecuted him because of his works against the excesses of the friars and his vision of a free Philippines . Retana recounted that in August 1890 he wrote an article in the newspaper La Epoca which said, in part: Don Jose Rizal arrived in Calamba from Europe , and from then on, the settlers refused to pay rent, especially the relatives and friends of Rizal. In less than 24 hours, Rizal's representative came to him to challenge him to a duel, because Rizal said that while anyone was free to attack him since he's a fighting man and he knew how to deal with it, he couldn't tolerate his relatives being mixed up with what he did.

Retana later became an ardent and relentless Rizal admirer. He even moved to the Philippines to know more of Rizal's life and the circumstances of his death in preparation for his writing his biography, considered one of the best of all the books written about him.

We have named only the important men who would be coming to his death anniversary. But if you wander behind the throng of the well-dressed men and women ghosts, you would meet a Chinese Asing and a Cebuano, Tinong. These two are ordinary people who were cooks in Hong Kong and Dapitan, respectively.

The late Senator Vicente Sotto, grandfather of the now ex-senator Vic Sotto, was a Cebuano journalist who interviewed Asing in 1913 in Hong Kong . Tinong was interviewed in 1929. Both said that Rizal was most considerate, simple in his meals, and a very easy person to deal with.

If you moved outside Gold Ribbon and mingle with the crowd in the parking area, you would meet his students in Dapitan whom he brought to Manila for further studies when he volunteered to serve as a military doctor in Cuba. In Spanish, and Tagalog, that's is tinged with a heavy Cebuano accent, Jose Dalman, Jose Caancan, Tomas Edjawan, Romulo Amat, and Jose Aseniero, would regale you with anecdotes and little stories of Rizal's teaching methods and his occasional spats with his live-in Josephine Bracken.

(lopelindio@AOL.com).

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