The Passing of Spanish Dominian

Source:
Forbes-Lindsay, C. H.: The Philippines under Spanish and American Rules. Philadelphia, 1906: pp. 161-200

The Patriot of the Philippines

The most notable victim of this system of lawless persecution was Rizal, the hero patriot of the Philippines, who suffered deportation, and ultimately death, as a result of the machinations of the friars.

Jose Rizal y Mercado was born about the year 1865, at Calamba, in Laguna Province. His father, a Filipino of some means, was able and anxions to afford him all possible facilities for acquiring a liberal education, especially after the boy had displayed unusual talent and application under the instruction of the Jesuits at Manila. He was sent to the University of Madrid, from which he secured the degree of Doctor of Medicine and Philosophy. Later he prosecuted his studies in Paris and at varions German universities, not without imbibing something of the socialistic ideas that pervaded those institutions at the time. The unhappy condition of his native land was the subjcct of Rizal's constant concern, and he pondered deeply upon the problem of its deliverance from the thraldom of the friars. Neither then, nor at any later time, does Rizal appear to have harbored any treasonable thoughts against the Spanish Government. Indeed, his last voluntary act was an exhibition of loyalty. But in his early years he became formly convinced that the future prosperity of the Philippines depended upon its freedom from the domination of the friars, and he was ready to support any movement having that object in view.

During Doctor Rizal's stay in Germany he published a romance entitled "Noli me tangere," in which the priests of the Philippines were depicted in an unattractive light and their worst practices exposed. This was followed by another political novel on somewhat similar lines. The hooks were written in Spanish and were doubtless widely read amongst the class which was held up to odium in them.

Upon bis return to the islands, shorty after the publication of these works, Rizal further excited the enmity of the ecclesiastical body by disputing the title of the Dominican Order to certain lands which they occupied in his native town. He also allied himself with other patriots of similar disposition and founded the "Liga Filipina," a secret society, most of the members of which were Freemasons. The principal article of their program was the "expulsion of the friars, and confiscation of their estates."

At length it became patent to Rizal that his safety depended upon leaving the country. He returned to Europe, and during his absence his relatives and the chief families of Calamba were evicted without notice or compensation from the holdings they rented from the religious order.

In 1893 Rizal took up his residence in Hong Kong with the intention of following his profession. He appears to have received the assurance of the Governor-General, through the Spanish Consul, that he might return to the Philippines with confidence as to his personal safety. It is hardly probable that without some such garantee he would have ventured to land openly at the capital and less probable that he would have included in his luggage revolutionary literature. However, he was immediately arrested upon the charge that the Custom House officers had discovered seditious proclamations amongst his effects.

Rizal was tried and sentenced to an indefinite term of "enforced residénce" at Dapitan, on the north shore of Mindanao Island. In July, 1896, he petitioned the Governor-General to be permitted to go to Cuba and serve the Government as an army doctor. His request was granted, and he proceeded to Manila, arriving, by unfortunate chance, just as the Rebellion broke out. Ere this time name of Rizal had become a power with bis countrymen, and his exile had strenghtened, rather than relaxed, his hold upon their memories and affections.Emilio Aguinaldo had not yet come into the public view, and there was at this time no Filipino whose influence over the masses could have been as great as that of Rizal. His presence in the capital at this juncture excited the apprehension of the authorities and he was shipped to Spain at the earliest possible opportunity.

In view of succeeding events it is well to note that Rizal carried commendatory letters from Governor-General Blanco to the Minister of War and to the Minister of the Colonies. They were similar in strain and recited that: "I recommend to you with real interest Dr. Jose Rizal, who leaves for the Peninsula to place himself at the disposal of the Govemment as volunteer army doctor in Cuba. His conduct during the four years he has been in exile in Dapitan has been exemplary, and he is, in my opinion, the more worthy of pardon and benevolence, because he is in no way associated with the extravagant attempts which we are now deploring, neither in conspiracy nor in the secret societies which have been formed."

Had he wished, Rizal might have left the steamer at Singapore as his companion and fellow-patriot Rojas did.

Upon his arrival at Barcelona, Rizal was arrested and confined in tue fortress of Montjuich. Charges had been formulated against him by bis relentless enemies, the friars, and cabled to tlhe authorities in Spain. At the close of the year 1896 Rizal, a closely guarded state prisoner, was handed over to the Insular jurisdiction. By tlhis time Blanco, whose humanity and sense of justice would at least have prevented the judicial murder of Rizal, had been recalled at the behest of the ecclesiastical party. Polavieja was at the head of the Insular Government and the country was under martial law.

Rizal was hastily brought before a court-martial on the charges of sedition and rebellion. The testimony adduced by the prosecution was of the flimsiest character, and was amply refuted by Rizal, who conducted his own defense with ability and eloquence. Considering the fact that he bad been virtually a state prisoner for close upon five years and that it was physically impossible for him to have taken any active part in the rebellion, it is difficult to see how the charges conld have been substantiated. Nevertheless, Rizal was convicted and sentenced to be shot. The execution was carried out on the last day of the year 1896.

The death of Rizal was one of several similar acts in which the priests allowed their hatred to get the better of their judgment, and brought upon themselves a eopious harvest of vengeance. The affair created a more profound impression upon the Filipinos than even the execution of Doctor Burgos.

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