by Manuel L. Quezon III
(from an article, 1996)
The following extract is taken from Luis Serrano’s translation (from Tagalog) of the “controversial” memoirs of Dr. Pio Valenzuela, recounting the conversation he had, as emissary of the Katipunan, with Rizal on June 21, 1896, at Dapitan. Valenzuela’s memoirs conflict with the testimony he gave on October 6, 1896, when he was captured and interrogated by the Spaniards, in which he said Rizal vehemently refused to have anything to do with the Katipunan or a revolution. But his memoirs, and testimony he gave at court (he was cross-examined by Vicente Sotto, who had been sued for libel by a former Katipunero) in 1917, after the Spanish era, said that Rizal really favored a revolution but not just yet; some historians explain the discrepancy as Valenuela’s attempt to not implicate Rizal after his capture. The Rizal in Valenzuela’s memoirs is the Rizal I choose to admire.
Rizal: You have to use all precautions to prevent the discovery of the association.
Valenzuela: And if the precautions fail?
R: You, the principal chiefs, must see that the resolutions of the Katipunan are faithfully complied with; you are duty-bound to avail yourselves of all means to prevent the shedding of blood. When the generals do not command, the soldiers stay still.
V: The case of the Katipunan is different; if the generals do not give orders, the soldiers will order the soldiers. If the Katipunan is discovered, the revolution will inevitably break out…
R: Does the association count with its membership many persons in high society in Manila and in the provinces?
V: Unfortunately, no; in Manila and the provinces, there are about a hundred from the middle class; the rest are poor.
R: There is no other remedy but to attract to your association all the rich and influential persons of Manila and the provinces. You may also avail yourselves of Antonio Luna who is a very intelligent man, and who has free access to the homes of wealthy Filipinos. Luna, at the same time, can direct the campaign in case hostilities break out.
V: What shall we do if we fail to attract these aristocratic people to the Katipunan?
R: These Filipinos will be your worst enemies if you commit the imprudence of attacking the Spaniards without the necessary preparation. When they see you without arms, they will go over to the side of Spain and persecute you; and being Filipinos and rich too, they will win over your soldiers with their money.
V: And what are we to do then?
R: See to it that these persons are at least neutral -that they help neither the Spaniards nor the Filipinos.
V: Neutrals (sic)? By what means can we make them neutrals?
R: That is difficult to answer now. The means are born of circumstances and events…
The doctor invited me to talk on the beach, and upon arriving at a certain place he pointed to a spot in the sea where the boat to take him to a foreign land may drop anchor. Later, we returned to his house and during the walk the following conversation took place between us:
Rizal: Tell our countrymen that, at the same time that we are preparing for a war against Spain, I desire to see college established in Japan which will be converted later into a university for Filipino youths. I shall be greatly pleased to be the director of said college.
Valenzuela: I shall bear in mind all what you say and counsel, but I believe you would rather direct the revolution than manage the college.
R: I am ready for both.
V: As soon as we have arms and munitions we shall try to take you out of Dapitan before the revolution starts in order that the Spaniards may not get to you and shoot you.
R: As soon as you obtain arms, start the war against Spain right away; do not bother about me for I will know how to get out of here by any craft with the help of the Moros. When it comes to the redemption of the country, you must not look behind for just one man.
V: If the revolution breaks out before schedule and you are still in Dapitan, the Spaniards will hold you and have you shot.
R: To die and conquer is pleasant; but to die and be conquered is painful.
This is a Rizal far different from the one a Fr. Alfeo Nudas, S.J. chooses to proclaim as great; the Rizal who wrote, from prison, that “I have recommended study and the civic virtues, without which no redemption is possible. I have also written… that reforms, if they are to bear fruit, must come from above, for reforms that come from below are upheavals both violent and transitory… I cannot do less but condemn, as I do condemn, this ridiculous and barbarous uprising, plotted behind my back, which both dishonors us Filipinos and discredits those who might have taken our part. I abominate the crimes for which it is responsible and will have no part in it. With all my heart I am sorry for those who have rashly allowed themselves to be deceived. Let them, then, return to their homes, and may God pardon those who have acted in bad faith.”
And yet the Spaniards, as Fr. de la Costa (another Jesuit) once wrote, refused to release this “reasoned” condemnation of the revolution on the grounds that (as the Spanish Judge Advocate General commented) “Dr. Jose Rizal limits himself to criticizing the present insurrectionary movement as premature… as far as Rizal is concerned, the whole question is one of opportunity, not of principles and objectives… a message of this sort, far from promoting peace, is likely to stimulate for the future the spirit of rebellion.”
An individual’s choice of heroes, one’s decision to admire -and venerate- a particular character out of the past, says a lot about that person. What is even more interesting is that one’s choice of which particular facets to emulate in a hero -and, people being what they are, which facets to suppress or simply gloss over, since they are incompatible with one’s preconceptions, biases, or goals- reveals a great deal, too.
But reveals nothing about the true nature of the hero.
“I do not mean to say that our freedom must be won at the point of the sword. The sword now counts for very little in the destinies of our time, but do I say that we must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual loving what is just, what is good, what is great to the point of dying for it. When a people reach these heights, God provides the weapon, and the idols and the tyrants fall, like a house of cards, and freedom shines in the first dawn.” — Jose Rizal, FILI (1891)