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Rizal wrote a patriotic letter to Blumentritt on his 26th birthday

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I wonder: if the Sandiganbayan did not issue a hold departure order against Senator Jinggoy Estrada, would the latter have left the country to escape allegations of his involvement in the telenovela that is the PDAF scandal?

Meanwhile, another co-accused, Senator Ramón “Bong” Revilla, Jr., openly declared that he will not leave the country and will squarely face the charges against him.

Both senators, despite their ordeal, are still determined to pursue their political plans in the next national election on 2016. As always, “public service” is their mantra, nay, excuse for doing so. But in fairness to them, their decision to stay put in the country rather than escape means that there is indeed an intention for them to clear their names, that they could be, perhaps (and just perhaps), innocent of the charges filed against them. We are then reminded of an incident not too long ago of a former senator, Pánfilo “Ping” Lacsón, who sneaked out of the country rather than face the charges against him in connection to the grisly murder of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito 14 years ago. Rather than fight it out tooth and nail, he opted for the safe way out: by flying out of the country (his ordeal later on inspired a film). On the other hand, it is difficult to blame the former Director-General of the Philippine National Police (who once declared that he hated politics and politicians) for he was up against a formidable wall: the Arroyo Administration.

These three lawmakers’ varying decisions on how to deal with high-profile court cases now remind us of how our national hero, whose birthdate falls today, comported himself in times of crisis. We all know how José Rizal got himself into trouble when he joined Freemasonry and started attacking the friars through his writings, particularly his novels and essays. During his first trip to Europe, the Calambeño wrote and published there his first novel, Noli Me Tangere. It was published in early 1886, and one of the first copies was sent to his Austro-Hungarian BFF, Ferdinand Blumentritt. Copies were subsequently sent to Filipinas.

Rizal and Blumentritt met only once, but they had been sending each other tons of letters for many years since 1886 (the last of this snail-mail correspondence was written from Rizal’s Fort Santiago cell on the eve of his execution); in an age when there was still no Internet and electricity, we can say that the two formed part of an earlier generation of social media users. Even though they were miles apart, they had formed a kindred bond, like that of brothers. So when Blumentritt finished reading Rizal’s first novel, alarm struck his heart for he realized the potential danger caused by his dear Filipino friend’s pen. He advised Rizal to just stay in Madrid for good and from there continue his Propaganda activities.

Rizal responded to Blumentritt. In a letter dated 19 June 1887, the patriot wrote:

Su consejo de quedarme en Madrid y escribir allá es muy benévolo; pero no puedo ni debo aceptarlo. No puedo soportar la vida en Madrid; allá todos somos “vox clamantis en deserto”; mis parientes quieren verme y yo quiero verlos también; en ninguna parte la vida me es tan agradable como en mi patria, al lado de mi familia. Todavía no estoy europeizado como dicen los filipinos de Madrid; siempre quiero volver al país de mis aborígenes. “La cabra siempre tira al monte”, me dijeron.

(MY TRANSLATION: Your advice for me to stay in Madrid and write from there is very kind of you, but I cannot even accept it. Life is difficult in Madrid. All of us there are but “vox clamantis in deserto”.* My relatives preferred seeing me and I feel the same way. In no place is life as nice as the one in my country, with my family right by my side. I’m still not Europeanized, as Filipinos say in Madrid. I always want to return to my native country. As they say, “the goat always goes to the mountain”.**)

Did you know? Rizal wrote in excellent German. A few years ago, I purchased volume 5 of the Epistolario Rizalino, composed of two parts, from eminent historian Benito Legarda, Jr. This letter of Pepe Rizal to his German-speaking penpal, Ferdinand Blumentritt, was written on the day the former turned 26, and it appears in the Epistolario’s first part.

The letter, originally in German, was written from Geneva, Switzerland. It was a long one and covered other topics. But the above lines stood out from the rest of the letter’s content as having more heart. It illumined our national hero’s affection not only for his country but for his family as well. We are accustomed to hear about Rizal the Patriot but rarely about Rizal the Family Guy. Of course, his courage speaks volumes here, something to be marveled at (a decade later, however, at the outbreak of the Tagalog rebellion, Rizal was singing a different tune: there was no more swagger left in him when he set sail to Cuba, but that’s another story and matter).

Rizal did not even remind Blumentritt in that letter that it was his birthday; anyway, birthdays were not celebrated back then as they are celebrated today (perhaps that fact could be another interesting topic for a future blogpost).

May this letter serve as an inspiration to our so-called public servants: country and family first, before the Self. And yes, conviction… but in the right place.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

* “A voice crying out in the wilderness”, a reference to John the Baptist (Isaiah 40:3, Mark 1:3, John 1:23).
** A Spanish proverb which means a person’s fondness or attachment to one’s native land.

What goes around comes around.

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I’m not supposed to blog yet because of a deadline. But I just couldn’t let this one pass my restless attention:

MANILA, Philippines – A Manila court found prominent tour guide and reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdrán guilty of “offending religious feelings,” according to a statement made by Celdrán himself on Twitter.

Celdrán was charged with violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code (offending religious feelings) after he disrupted a service at the Manila Cathedral on Sept 30, 2010. Clad as the Filipino national hero José Rizal, the outspoken reproductive health advocate held up a sign with the words “Dámaso,” in reference to the villainous priest in Rizal’s famous novel “Noli Me Tangere.”

But here’s the best part:

A copy of the decision tweeted by Celdrán shows that he was sentenced to serve a prison term of not less than two months and 21 days and not more than one year, one month and 11 days.

From Rappler.com.

This photo’s gonna get real soon. But I’ll visit you there, Twitter buddy. I promise.

 

By the way. Today is the birthday of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Church’s greatest theologian and philosopher, and patron saint of intellectuals. I just don’t believe that today’s development coinciding with the saint’s birthday is a coincidence. It ain’t. 😀

I only have four beautiful words for this ultrapositive development: justice has been served.

Lo que se siembra se cosecha, Carlos. Just ask your dad what the heck does that mean.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or St. John Chrysostom: whence did Juan Crisóstomo come from?

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Mozart takes no offence. While Lady Gaga and Kesha will be forgotten in a matter of two years, his music will be listened to for many generations to come. His work is timeless.
gabbcia, YouTube user—

The name Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is no doubt one of the most familiar names to have come out from the 18th century. He is known throughout the world from Antarctica to Somalia as perhaps the greatest composer of all time. However, in today’s world dominated by the Lady Gagas and Justin Biebers, who actually enjoys listening to his music aside from classical music enthusiasts?

Little do we know that much of his most famous musical pieces are still being played today, but relegated usually to TV and radio commercial jingles as well as phone on hold music. We hear his music almost everyday in various audio-visual media not knowing that these are actually masterpieces of the Austrian prodigy.

Since we’re at it, it is also not widely known that Wolfgang’s full name is quite kilometric: Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. To Filipinos exposed to Romance languages, the first two names ring a bell. When translated into Spanish, it becomes Juan Crisóstomo.

For us Filipinos, Juan Crisóstomo is the first name of the country’s most well-known fictional hero: Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin of Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. Like Rizal, it is interesting to note that Wolfgang was a Freemason. Could it be that Rizal named his novel’s protagonist in honor of one of Europe’s most famous Freemasons? Was the literary gesture done to honor a brother Mason?

But there is another Juan Crisóstomo to consider: Saint John Chrysostom, the Early Church Father who was also the Archbishop of Constantinople from 398 to 404. Although a warrior of the Church, Saint John fought against certain ecclesiastical abuses he encountered during his time, actions that would have put a smile on every hardcore Freemason’s face such as Rizal the Idealist.

So could it have been Saint John Chrysostom? One of his symbols is a pen, a writer’s tool.

It is still doubtful, however, if it was Saint John Chrysostom. The saint fought only abuse of authority within the Church, not exactly the Church. Mozart, therefore, is the more possible candidate especially since Freemasonry played a very important role in his life and music. However, although the musical genius joined Freemasonry, he remained loyal to the Catholic Church. In fact, he received a Catholic funeral service (evidence that he may have abjured from Freemasonry).

Or maybe Rizal wasn’t thinking of anyone after all when he baptized his creole hero Juan Crisóstomo. The possibilities are endless.

The above theories may be irrelevant and a waste of time to many. However, trivialities such as these make the study of Philippine Filipino History highly interesting and engaging.

On another note: could it be that Mozart was named after St. John Chrysostom? 😀

That is no longer our concern. So to wrap this blogpost up, I share to you my most favorite Mozart piece called Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467…

Makes me wonder if Rizal enjoyed Mozart’s music, not as a Mason but as a connoisseur of things beautiful.

Rizal’s Mi Último Adiós stirs patriotic fervor (Lifestyle – GMA News Online – Latest Philippine News)

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A young lady scribbles a comment in Spanish on a message wall at Instituto Cervantes to mark José Rizal's 150th birthday (Earl Rosero of GMA News).

Please click here to read the full news.

150th birth anniversary of José Rizal: but no Spanish is so unRizal

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Para leer en el destino de los pueblos, es menester abrir el libro de su pasado. —José Rizal—

Krystal at the Rizal Shrine in Ciudad de Calambâ (taken just this morning).

Today, modern Philippine history is making history by celebrating history.

Our nation’s polymath national hero, Dr. José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realondo, turns 150 years today, the sesquicentennial anniversary of his birth. The whole archipelago, Filipino communities abroad, and all places of historical significance to Rizal are commemorating his natal day with lavish parties, parades, quiz bees, art and writing contests, and discombobulating speeches from politicians (happy is the “public servant”, indeed, who has been given the chance to grandstand on this very special occasion). There are even rock concerts and “special” appearances of TV personalities to boot.

It is indeed a national event (and international as well since overseas Filipino communities are also celebrating), an event that is reminiscent of the centennial celebration of our country’s “independence” 13 years ago.

During the previous years, I try to make it a point to attend Rizal’s natal day celebration in his hometown of Calambâ, La Laguna. Over the years, I find nothing new, except for the annual themes that nobody cares to enshrine into himself, primarily because they’re either in a foreign language (English) or they’re too over-the-top for an ordinary baker/bus driver/factory worker/saleswoman/mason/office clerk/service crew/etc. to comprehend. This year’s theme is Rizal: Haligi ng Bayan (Rizal: el Pilar de la Nación).

But what I do realize is that the Filipinos are made to appreciate him more and more. The “Love and Idolize Rizal” campaign has been brought outside the classroom is now out in the field, especially in this era of social networking in the internet. Filipinos are now encouraged to travel to places where Rizal had trod. This “appreciation campaign”, however, is focused more on Rizal’s life and loves and travels. Whatever energy that is left to make us appreciate his works is de-emphasized especially since his literary masterpieces are mere translations.

Who reads Rizal?

And that is what I want to rant about on this special day. How come that, in spite of a year-long preparation for his 150th birthday, the Spanish language —the language closest to Rizal’s heart and soul, the language of his mind— is again left out? How will the Filipinos ever have a full and genuine appreciation of his literary masterpieces —all written in Spanish— if they are made to read English and Tagalog translations?

And speaking of literature, there is yet another crisis: who reads Rizal’s work nowadays? And when I say read I mean to say reading for the sake of reading, i.e., enjoyment and pleasure.

On writing about Rizal’s famous novels, National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquín wove it perfectly more than anyone could:

Rizal’s books have been so beatified, so canonized, so enshrined, that they have almost ceased to belong to literature.

Whatever the motives of a writer to produce a work of literary art —be it religious, political, emotional, nationalistic, or just for the heck of it—, the reader’s enjoyment and/or mental gain will matter the most in the end. But in our case, the Filipino is being forced to read Rizal. A work of art, no matter what nationalistic bull it symbolizes, should never be enforced to be seen nor appreciated solely for the purpose of instilling nationalism. That is why this compulsory imposition of Rizal’s works further alienates the national hero from the average Juan de la Cruz.

Rizal law

In that, the late Senator Claro M. Recto had failed. A rabid nationalist and anti-WASP, he (together with Senator José P. Laurel) authored Republic Act No. 1425, more popularly known as the Rizal Law. This law is the reason why college students have Rizal’s Life and Works as a school subject. The opening lines of the law state:

WHEREAS, today, more than any other period of our history, there is a need for a re-dedication to the ideals of freedom and nationalism for which our heroes lived and died…

It should be noted that when this law was authored, the president back then was Ramón Magsaysay. He was well-loved by the masses but was notorious against Filipino nationalists such as Recto because the latter knew that the former had the full-backing of imperialist US (via CIA agent Edward Lansdale). Overwhelmed by imperialist enemies and alarmed by the seeming apathy of the Filipino masses, Recto thought it best to bring back Rizal’s nationalist endeavors to his milieu.

Unfortunately for the nationalist senator, he was barking up the wrong tree.

To begin with, Rizal’s novels were more anti-Catholic than anti-Spanish in nature (hardly nationalist), that is why he was met with opposition from the Catholic Church. The Vincentian friar Fr. Jesús Mª Cavanna argued intelligently that the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo belonged to a different milieu and that teaching them would misrepresent current conditions. It was therefore unwise to enforce the books in schools. But all protestations were ignored. Recto won and his bill was signed into law on 12 June 1956.

A curious section in this law, the first one actually, states that:

Courses on the life, works and writings of José Rizal, particularly his novel Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, shall be included in the curricula of all schools, colleges and universities, public or private: Provided, that in the collegiate courses, the original or unexpurgated editions of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo of their English translation shall be used as basic texts.

The author(s) mentioned the word unexpurgated. This means that Rizal’s novels should be taught without censoring or amending it. If we are to go into technicalities (which is the wont of most laws and lawyers, if not all), translating his novels from Spanish to English is already tantamount to expurgation. And if taught in translation, the novels can be expurgated. This is evident enough in the numerous Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo textbooks that our schools use.

In this regard, the Rizal Law is, humorously, violating itself.

Rizal and the Spanish language

Truth to tell, although the said law states that English translations shall be used in the teaching of Rizal’s novels, Recto never had the English language in mind especially since this Tiáong native has Spanish as his first language. And being an intellectual and linguist (he reportedly mastered the English language in only three months!), he should have known first hand the dangers of translation. The late Ilonga writer/translator Soledad Lacson vda. de Locsín herself shared her insights into this matter while translating Rizal’s novels into English:

Spanish is a beautiful language; but translated into English literally, it becomes florid and clumsy with its long periodic sentences, shifting tenses and wandering modifiers and, therefore, less comprehensible.

To make the above statement simpler, how many ingenious Tagalog jokes are robbed of its humor when translated into English, and vice versa?

Translation per se is not bad. But oftentimes, it robs the cadence, the emotion, the sparse clarity, the wit, the humor, and the soul of what the original language had wanted to convey. Those who read Rizal through English translations of his novels do not notice the stark sarcasm of the author towards the institutions and persons that he was maligning. Another flaw which Lacon-Locsín had wisely observed was that there seemed to be a “greater pursuit to depict the political and social thoughts of Rizal’s time in the context of the translator’s milieu rather than simply to tell the story of a different world in a different time.”

Although translations have to be in tandem with the semantics of the age in which they are read to be appreciated, my own personal view is that they should, as much as possible, capture much of the nuances and cadence of the period in which they had been written; even at the risk of sounding awkward or stilted.

And how can the nuances and cadence of Rizal’s period be captured? By “capturing” Rizal’s mind. And how to capture this still mysterious mind?

There is a key: the Spanish language, of course.

We always quote Rizal: “To foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book that tells of her past.” But reading our past through translations is never enough. And it is not giving justice to Rizal whenever we read his poems, novels, and essays in English/Tagalog. English is so foreign to him as Swahili is so distant to us. In order to understand Rizal fully, it is necessary to capture the nuances of his genius.

Not only that, by learning Spanish we will uncover more about ourselves. We shall be able to, at last, open the book that tells us of our past. Our real past. Already, the small amount of “Spanish evidence” that we have is shedding much light about who we are and what we were. What more if we are able to salvage more than 13 million documents stocked in the National Archives, written in Spanish, waiting to be “decoded”?

Hopefully, our nation’s leaders will make something that is significantly historic: by fully reintegrating the Spanish language back into our lives. In doing so we will be able to understand what Rizal was all about, what his motives were, his emotions and attitude towards everything he tackled, and why he truly deserves to be called el pilar de nuestra nación.

*******

My Facebook photos of Rizal@150.

Marcelo H. del Pilar, a broken dad till the end…

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Today is the 160th birth anniversary of Marcelo H. del Pilar, one of the leaders of the Propaganda Movement.

Below is a brief biographical sketch of the bulaqueño native written by Carmencita H. Acosta from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Commission of the Philippines (recently known as the National Historical Institute).

Yeyette in front of Marcelo H. del Pilar's monument in Plaza Plaridel (Remedios Circle), Malate, Manila. This monument used to be in front of nearby Manila Zoo. Fellow Círculo Hispano-Filipino member and Heritage Conservation Society president Gemma Cruz de Araneta (a descendant of Rizal's sister María) suggested the transfer of this monument to this site. It was done last year under the guidance of Mayor Alfredo Lim.

MARCELO H. DEL PILAR
(1850-1896)

“The most intelligent leader, the real soul of the separatists…” — these were the words used by Governor General Ramón Blanco, chief executive of the Philippine colony, in describing Marcelo H. del Pilar. A master polemist in both the Tagalog and Spanish languages, del Pilar was the most feared by the Spanish colonial authorities.

Del Pilar was born in Bulacán, Bulacán on August 30, 1850, the youngest of ten children of Julián H. del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaitán. His father had held thrice the post of gobernadorcillo in their home town. Del Pilar studied at the Colegio de San José in Manila and at the University of Santo Tomás; at the age of thirty he finished the course in law. He devoted more time to writing than in the practice of his profession because in the former he saw a better opportunity to be of service to his oppressed country. His oldest brother, Father Toribio H. del Pilar, a Catholic priest, had been deported along with other Filipino patriots to Guam in 1872 following the Cavite Mutiny.

He founded the Diariong Tagalog in 1882, the first daily published in the Tagalog text, where he publicly denounced Spanish maladministration of the Philippines. His attacks were mostly directed against the friars whom he considered to be mainly responsible for the oppression of the Filipinos.

In 1885, he urged the cabezas de barangay of Malolos to resist the government order giving the friars blanket authority to revise the tax lists. He instigated the gobernadorcillo of Malolos, Manuel Crisóstomo, to denounce in 1887 the town curate who violated government prohibition against the exposure of corpses in the churches. In the same year, he denounced the curate of Binondo for consigning Filipinos to poor seats in the church while assigning the good ones to Spanish half-castes.

On March 1, 1888, the populace of Manila staged a public demonstration against the friars. Led by the lawyer Doroteo Cortés, the demonstrators presented to the civil governor of Manila a manifesto entitled “¡Viva España! ¡Viva la Reina! ¡Viva el Ejército! ¡Fuera los Frailes!“. This document, which had been signed by eight hundred persons, was written by Marcelo H. del Pilar. It enumerated the abuses of the friars, petitioned for the deportation of the archbishop of Manila, the Dominican Pedro Payo, and urged the expulsion of the friars.

It was because of his having written this anti-friar document that del Pilar was forced to exile himself from the Philippines in order to escape arrest and possible execution by the colonial authorities.

“I have come here not to fight the strong but to solicit reforms for my country,” del Pilar declared upon arrival in Barcelona, Spain. La Soberanía Monacal en Filipinas (Friar Supremacy in the Philippines) was among the first pamphlets he wrote in Spain. The others included Sagót ng España sa Hibíc ng Filipinas (Spain’s Answer to the Pleas of the Philippines), Caiigat Cayó (Be Like the Eel) — del Pilar’s defense of Rizal against a friar pamphlet entitled Caiiñgat Cayó denouncing the Noli Me Tangere.

Del Pilar headed the political section of the Asociación Hispano-Filipina founded in Madrid by Filipinos and Spanish sympathizers, the purpose of which was to agitate for reforms from Spain.

In Madrid, del Pilar edited for five years La Solidaridad, the newspaper founded by Graciano López Jaena in 1889 which championed the cause for greater Philippine autonomy. His fiery and convincing editorials earned from him the respect and admiration of his own Spanish enemies. “Plaridel” became well-known as his nom de plume.

In November, 1895, La Solidaridad was forced to close its offices for lack of funds. Del Pilar himself was by then a much emaciated man, suffering from malnutrition and overwork. He was finally convinced that Spain would never grant concessions to the Philippines and that the well-being of his beloved country could be achieved only by means of bloodshed — revolution.

Weakened by tuberculosis and feeling that his days were numbered, he decided to return to the Philippines to rally his countrymen for the libertarian struggle.

But as he was about to leave Barcelona, death overtook him on July 4, 1896.

His passing was deeply mourned by the Filipinos for in him they had their staunchest champion and most fearless defender. His death marked the passing of an era –the era of the Reform Movement– because scarcely two months after his death, the Philippine Revolution was launched.

I am not really a big fan of Marcelo H. del Pilar, especially when I learned that he was a high-ranking Mason. Besides, I believe that what he fought for would not equate to heroism. He was, to put it more bluntly, another American-invented hero. The American government, during their colonization of the Philippines, virtually influenced the Philippine puppet government to recognize “heroes” who fought against Spain.

But a closer observation on Marcelo’s life will reveal that, like Rizal and other Filipino “heroes” of his generation, he never fought against Spain. They fought against the Church, the sworn enemy of their fraternity (Freemasonry).

What really captivated me about Marcelo is his heartbreaking fatherhood. Since I am a father of four, I can empathize with his sorrowful plight.

A few years ago, when Yeyette and I had only one child (Krystal), and we were still living in a decrepit bodega somewhere in Las Piñas, I happened to stumble over Fr. Fidel Villaroel’s (eminent historian and former archivist of the University of Santo Tomás) monograph on del Pilar — Marcelo H. del Pilar: His Religious Conversions. It was so timely because during that time, I had just gone through my own religious conversion, having returned to the Catholic fold after a few years of being an atheist and agnostic.

In the said treatise by Fr. Villaroel, I learned of del Pilar’s anguish over being separated from his two daughters, Sofía and Anita. Due to his radical activities as an anti-friar, as can be gleaned in Acosta’s biographical sketch above, del Pilar escaped deportation. He left the country on 28 October 1888, escaping to Hong Kong before moving to Spain. And he never saw his little kids and his wife ever again.

Sofía was just nine years old at the time of his escape; Anita, one year and four months. Father Villaroel couldn’t have written this painful separation better:

Month after month, day after day, for eight endless years, the thought of returning to his dear ones was del Pilar’s permanent obsession, dream, hope, and pain. Of all the sufferings he had to go through, this was the only one that made the “warrior” shed tears like a boy, and put his soul in a trance of madness and insanity. His 104 surviving letters to the family attest to this painful situation…

…He felt and expressed nostalgia for home as soon as he arrived in Barcelona in May 1889, when he wrote to his wife: “It will not be long before we see each other again.” “My return” is the topic of every letter. Why then did he not return? Two things stood in the way: money for the fare, and the hope of seeing a bill passed in the Spanish Cortes suppressing summary deportations like the one hanging on del Pilar’s head. “We are now working on that bill.” “Wait for me, I am going, soon I will embrace my little daughters, I dream with the return.” How sweet, how repetitious and monotonous, how long the delay, but how difficult, almost impossible!

Here are some of those heartbreaking letters (translated by Fr. Villaroel into English from the Spanish and Tagalog originals) of Marcelo to his wife (and second cousin) Marciana “Chanay” del Pilar and Sofía:

In 1890: I want to return this year in November (letter of February 4); Day and night I dream about Sofía (February 18), I will return next February or March (December 10).

In 1891: It will not be long before I carry Anita on my shoulders (January 22); Sofía, you will always pray that we will see each other soon (August 31).

In 1892: If it were not for lack of the money I need for the voyage, I would be there already (February 3); I am already too restless (March 2); I feel already too impatient because I am not able to return (April 14); This year will not pass before we see each other (May 11); Be good, Sofía, every night you will pray one Our Father, asking for our early reunion (September 14; it is interesting to note that del Pilar advised her daughter to pray the Our Father despite his being a high-ranking Mason –Pepe–); Don’t worry if, when I return, I will be exiled to another part of the Archipelago (November 9).

In 1893: Who knows if I will close my eyes without seeing Anita (January 18)!; My heart is shattered every time I have news that my wife and daughters are suffering; hence, my anxiety to return and fulfill my duty to care for those bits of my life (May 24); I always dream that I have Anita on my lap and Sofía by her side; that I kiss them by turns and that both tell me: ‘Remain with us, papá, and don’t return to Madrid’. I awake soaked in tears, and at this very moment that I write this, I cannot contain the tears that drop from my eyes (August 3); It is already five years that we don’t see each other (December 21).

In 1894: Tell them (Sofía and Anita) to implore the grace of Our Lord so that their parents may guide them along the right path (February 15); Every day I prepare myself to return there. Thanks that the children are well. Tears begin to fall from my eyes every time I think of their orfandad (bereavement). But I just try to cure my sadness by invoking God, while I pray: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ I am the most unfortunate father because my daughters are the most unfortunate among all daughters… I cannot write more, because tears are flowing from my eyes aplenty (July 18); We shall meet soon (December 5)

I have to admit, reading these letters never fail to move me to tears because I, too, have experienced the same orfandad and the longingness for a father. It is because I have never lived with my dad for a long time since he was always overseas. When we were young, he only stayed with us for a couple of weeks or a few months. And my dad was a very silent man.

His work overseas, of course, was for our own benefit. But the price was depressing: we’ve been detached from each other forever. Whenever he comes home to us, my dad was like a total stranger to me. Especially now that I have my own family and I rarely see him nowadays. No, we are not in bad terms (although I know that he still resents the fact that I married at a very early age). But we are simply not close to each other because of those years of separation and lack of communication. I do not know him, and he doesn’t know me. We do not know each other personally. But I know for a fact that my dad loved us dearly, and that he experienced the same anguish experienced by del Pilar. I’ve read some of dad’s letters to mom, and in those letters he expressed the same desire to come home with us and stay permanently. But nothing like that happened.

The same thing with del Pilar. After all those patriotic talk and nationalistic activities, nothing happened. His sacrifice of being separated from his family was, sadly, all for naught…

When he died a Christian death in Barcelona (yes, he also retracted from Masonry shortly before he passed away), he was buried in the Cementerio del Oeste/Cementerio Nuevo where his remains stayed for the next twenty-four years. Paradoxically, a renowned Christian member of the Philippine magistrate, Justice Daniel Romuáldez, made all the necessary procedures of exhuming the body of del Pilar, one of the highest-ranking Masons of the Propaganda Movement. His remains finally arrived on 3 December 1920. He was welcomed by members of Masonic lodges (perhaps unaware of del Pilar’s retraction, or they simply refused to believe it), government officials, and his family of course.

Sofía by then was already 41; and del Pilar’s little Anita was no longer little — she was already 33.

Anita was very much traumatized by that fateful separation. Bitter up to the end, she still could not accept the fact that her father chose the country, ang bayan, before family. An interesting (and another heartbreaking) anecdote is shared by Anita’s son, Father Vicente Marasigan, S.J., regarding her mother’s wounded emotions:

[My] first flashback recalls April 1942. Radio listeners in Manila had just been stunned by the announcement of the surrender of Corregidor. There was an emotional scene between my father, my mother, and myself. My mother was objecting to something my father wanted to do ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’. My mother answered, ‘Lagi na lang bang para sa kabutihan ng bayan?’ [‘Is it always for the good of the country?’] And she choked in fits of hysterical sobbing. All her childhood years have been spent in emotional starvation due to the absence of ‘Lolo’ [Grandfather] Marcelo, far away in Barcelona sacrificing his family para sa kabutihan ng bayan.

“The second flashback is rather dim in memory. I was then two years old, in December 1920. I think I was on board a ship that had just docked at the [Manila] pier, carrying the remains of Lolo Marcelo. All our relatives from Bulacán were present for the festive occasion. Some aunt or grandaunt was telling me how proud and happy I must be. I did not understand what it meant to feel proud, but I knew I was unhappy because I felt that my mother was unhappy. In the presence of that casket of bones, how could she forget the emotional wounds inflicted on her by her father ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’ [for the good of the country]?

History is not just about dead dates, historical markers, and bronze statues of heroes. It has its share of eventful dramas and personal heartbreaks. And this is one heartbreak that I will never allow my children to experience.

To all the fathers who read this: cherish each and every moment that you have with your children.

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