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Despujol's Duplicity: Life of the Philippine National Hero

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Despujol's Duplicity: Life of the Philippine National Hero
« on: February 21, 2008, 09:35:40 PM »

Despujol's Duplicity

As soon as he had set in motion what influence he possessed in Europe
for the relief of his relatives, Rizal hurried to Hongkong and from
there wrote to his parents asking their permission to join them. Some
time before, his brother-in-law, Manuel Hidalgo, had been deported
upon the recommendation of the governor of La Laguna, "to prove to
the Filipinos that they were mistaken in thinking that the new Civil
Code gave them any rights" in cases where the governor-general agreed
with his subordinate's reason for asking for the deportation as well
as in its desirability. The offense was having buried a child, who
had died of cholera, without church ceremonies. The law prescribed
and public health demanded it. But the law was a dead letter and the
public health was never considered when these cut into church revenues,
as Hidalgo ought to have known.

Upon Rizal's arrival in Hongkong, in the fall of 1891, he received
notice that his brother Paciano had been returned from exile in
Mindoro, but that three of his sisters had been summoned, with the
probability of deportation.

A trap to get Rizal into the hands of the government by playing
upon his affection for his mother was planned at this time, but it
failed. Mrs. Rizal and one of her daughters were arrested in Manila
for "falsification of cedula" because they no longer used the name
Realonda, which the mother had dropped fifteen years before. Then,
though there were frequently boats running to Kalamba, the two women
were ordered to be taken there for trial on foot. As when Mrs. Rizal
had been a prisoner before, the humane guards disobeyed their orders
and the elderly lady was carried in a hammock. The family understood
the plans of their persecutors, and Rizal was told by his parents
not to come to Manila. Then the persecution of the mother and the
sister dropped.

In Hongkong, Rizal was already acquainted with most of the Filipino
colony, including Jose M. Basa, a '72 exile of great energy, for whom
he had the greatest respect. The old man was an unceasing enemy of all
the religious orders and was constantly getting out "proclamations,"
as the handbills common in the old-time controversies were called. One
of these, against the Jesuits, figures in the case against Rizal
and bears some minor corrections in his handwriting. Nevertheless,
his participation in it was probably no more than this proofreading
for his friend, whose motives he could appreciate, but whose plan of
action was not in harmony with his own ideas.

Letters of introduction from London friends secured for Rizal the
acquaintance of Mr. H. L. Dalrymple, a justice of the peace--which is
a position more coveted and honored in English lands than here--and
a member of the public library committee, as well as of the board
of medical examiners. He was a merchant, too, and agent for the
British North Borneo Company, which had recently secured a charter
as a semi-independent colony for the extensive cession which had
originally been made to the American Trading Company and later
transferred to them.

Rizal spent much of his time in the library, reading especially the
files of the older newspapers, which contained frequent mention of
the Philippines. As an oldtime missionary had left his books to the
library, the collection was rich in writings of the fathers of the
early Church, as well as in philology and travel. He spent much time
also in long conversations with Editor Frazier-Smith of the Hongkong
Telegraph, the most enterprising of the daily newspapers. He was
the master of St. John's Masonic lodge (Scotch constitution), which
Rizal had visited upon his first arrival, intensely democratic and
a close student of world politics. The two became fast friends and
Rizal contributed to the Telegraph several articles on Philippine
matters. These were printed in Spanish, ostensibly for the benefit of
the Filipino colony in Hongkong, but large numbers of the paper were
mailed to the Philippines and thus at first escaped the vigilance
of the censors. Finally the scheme was discovered and the Telegraph
placed on the prohibited list, but, like most Spanish actions, this
was just too late to prevent the circulation of what Rizal had wished
to say to his countrymen.

With the first of the year 1892 the free portion of Rizal's family came
to Hongkong. He had been licensed to practice medicine in the colony,
and opened an office, specializing as an oculist with notable success.

Another congenial companion was a man of his own profession, Doctor
L. P. Marquez, a Portuguese who had received his medical education in
Dublin and was a naturalized British subject. He was a leading member
of the Portuguese club, Lusitania, which was of radically republican
proclivities and possessed an excellent library of books on modern
political conditions. An inspection of the colonial prison with him
inspired Rizal's article, "A Visit to Victoria Gaol," through which
runs a pathetic contrast of the English system of imprisonment for
reformation with the Spanish vindictive methods of punishment. A
souvenir of one of their many conferences was a dainty modeling in
clay made by Rizal with that astonishing quickness that resulted from
his Uncle Gabriel's training during his early childhood.

In the spring, Rizal took a voyage to British North Borneo and with
Mr. Pryor, the agent, looked over vacant lands which had been offered
him by the Company for a Filipino colony. The officials were anxious
to grow abaca, cacao, sugar cane and coconuts, all products of the
Philippines, the soil of which resembled theirs. So they welcomed the
prospect of the immigration of laborers skilled in such cultivation,
the Kalambans and other persecuted people of the Luzon lake region,
whom Doctor Rizal hoped to transplant there to a freer home.

A different kind of governor-general had succeeded Weyler in the
Philippines; the new man was Despujol, a friend of the Jesuits
and a man who at once gave the Filipinos hope of better days,
for his promises were quickly backed up by the beginnings of their
performance. Rizal witnessed this novel experience for his country
with gratification, though he had seen too many disappointments to
confide in the continuance of reform, and he remembered that the like
liberal term of De la Torre had ended in the Cavite reaction.

He wrote early to the new chief executive, applauding Despujol's policy
and offering such cooeperation as he might be able to give toward
making it a complete success. No reply had been received, but after
Rizal's return from his Borneo trip the Spanish consul in Hongkong
assured him that he would not be molested should he go to Manila.

Rizal therefore made up his mind to visit his home once more. He
still cherished the plan of transferring those of his relatives
and friends who were homeless through the land troubles, or
discontented with their future in the Philippines, to the district
offered to him by the British North Borneo Company. There, under the
protection of the British flag, but in their accustomed climate, with
familiar surroundings amid their own people, a New Kalamba would be
established. Filipinos would there have a chance to prove to the world
what they were capable of, and their free condition would inevitably
react on the neighboring Philippines and help to bring about better
government there.

Rizal had no intention of renouncing his Philippine allegiance, for
he always regretted the naturalization of his countrymen abroad,
considering it a loss to the country which needed numbers to play
the influential part he hoped it would play in awakening Asia. All
his arguments were for British justice and "Equality before the Law,"
for he considered that political power was only a means of securing
and assuring fair treatment for all, and in itself of no interest.

With such ideas he sailed for home, bearing the Spanish consul's
passport. He left two letters in Hongkong with his friend Doctor
Marquez marked, "To be opened after my death," and their contents
indicate that he was not unmindful of how little regard Spain had
had in his country for her plighted honor.

One was to his beloved parents, brother and sisters, and friends:

"The affection that I have ever professed for you suggests this
step, and time alone can tell whether or not it is sensible. Their
outcome decides things by results, but whether that be favorable or
unfavorable, it may always be said that duty urged me, so if I die
in doing it, it will not matter.

"I realize how much suffering I have caused you, still I do not
regret what I have done. Rather, if I had to begin over again, still
I should do just the same, for it has been only duty. Gladly do I go
to expose myself to peril, not as any expiation of misdeeds (for in
this matter I believe myself guiltless of any), but to complete my
work and myself offer the example of which I have always preached.

"A man ought to die for duty and his principles. I hold fast to
every idea which I have advanced as to the condition and future of
our country, and shall willingly die for it, and even more willingly
to procure for you justice and peace.

"With pleasure, then, I risk life to save so many innocent persons--so
many nieces and nephews, so many children of friends, and children,
too, of others who are not even friends--who are suffering on my
account. What am I? A single man, practically without family, and
sufficiently undeceived as to life. I have had many disappointments
and the future before me is gloomy, and will be gloomy if light does
not illuminate it, the dawn of a better day for my native land. On the
other hand, there are many individuals, filled with hope and ambition,
who perhaps all might be happy were I dead, and then I hope my enemies
would be satisfied and stop persecuting so many entirely innocent
people. To a certain extent their hatred is justifiable as to myself,
and my parents and relatives.

"Should fate go against me, you will all understand that I shall die
happy in the thought that my death will end all your troubles. Return
to our country and may you be happy in it.

"Till the last moment of my life I shall be thinking of you and
wishing you all good fortune and happiness."

 * * * * *

The other letter was directed "To the Filipinos," and said:

"The step which I am taking, or rather am about to take, is undoubtedly
risky, and it is unnecessary to say that I have considered it some
time. I understand that almost every one is opposed to it; but I know
also that hardly anybody else comprehends what is in my heart. I cannot
live on seeing so many suffer unjust persecutions on my account; I
cannot bear longer the sight of my sisters and their numerous families
treated like criminals. I prefer death and cheerfully shall relinquish
life to free so many innocent persons from such unjust persecution.

"I appreciate that at present the future of our country gravitates
in some degree around me, that at my death many will feel triumphant,
and, in consequence, many are wishing for my fall. But what of it? I
hold duties of conscience above all else, I have obligations to the
families who suffer, to my aged parents whose sighs strike me to the
heart; I know that I alone, only with my death, can make them happy,
returning them to their native land and to a peaceful life at home. I
am all my parents have, but our country has many, many more sons who
can take my place and even do my work better.

"Besides I wish to show those who deny us patriotism that we know
how to die for duty and principles. What matters death, if one dies
for what one loves, for native land and beings held dear?

"If I thought that I were the only resource for the policy of progress
in the Philippines and were I convinced that my countrymen were
going to make use of my services, perhaps I should hesitate about
taking this step; but there are still others who can take my place,
who, too, can take my place with advantage. Furthermore, there are
perchance those who hold me unneeded and my services are not utilized,
resulting that I am reduced to inactivity.

"Always have I loved our unhappy land, and I am sure that I shall
continue loving it till my latest moment, in case men prove unjust
to me. My career, my life, my happiness, all have I sacrificed for
love of it. Whatever my fate, I shall die blessing it and longing
for the dawn of its redemption."

And then followed the note; "Make these letters public after my death."

Suspicion of the Spanish authorities was justified. The consul's
cablegram notifying Governor-General Despujol. that Rizal had fallen
into their trap, sent the day of issuing the "safe-conduct" or special
passport, bears the same date as the secret case filed against him
in Manila, "for anti religious and anti patriotic agitation." On
that same day the deceitful Despujol was confidentially inquiring
of his executive secretary whether it was true that Rizal had been
naturalized as a German subject, and, if so, what effect would that
have on the governor-general's right to take executive action; that
is, could he deport one who had the protection of a strong nation with
the same disregard for the forms of justice that he could a Filipino?

This inquiry is joined to an order to the local authorities in the
provinces near Manila instructing them to watch the comings and goings
of their prominent people during the following weeks. The scheme
resembled that which was concocted prior to '72, but Governor-General
de la Torte was honest in his reforms. Despujol may, or may not,
have been honest in other matters, but as concerns Rizal there is
no lack of proof of his perfidy. The confidential file relating to
this part of the case was forgotten in destroying and removing secret
papers when Manila passed into a democratic conqueror's hands, and
now whoever wishes may read, in the Bureau of Archives, documents
which the Conde de Caspe, to use a noble title for an ignoble man,
considered safely hidden. As with Weyler's contidential letter to the
friar landlords, these discoveries convict their writers of bad faith,
with no possibility of mistake.

This point in the reformed Spanish writer's biography of Rizal is
made occasion for another of his treacherous attacks upon the good
name of his pretended hero. Just as in the land troubles Retana held
that legally Governor-General Weyler was justified in disregarding
an appeal pending in the courts, so in this connection he declares:
"(Despujol) unquestionably had been deceived by Rizal when, from
Hongkong, he offered to Despujol not to meddle in politics." That
Rizal meddled in politics rests solely upon Despujol's word, and
it will be seen later how little that is worth; but, politics or no
politics, Rizal's fate was settled before he ever came to Manila.

Rizal was accompanied to Manila by his sister Lucia, widow of that
brother-in-law who had been denied Christian burial because of his
relationship to Rizal. In the Basa home, among other waste papers,
and for that use, she had gathered up five copies of a recent
"proclamation," entitled "Pobres Frailes" (Poor Friars), a small
sheet possibly two inches wide and five long. These, crumpled up,
were tucked into the case of the pillow which Mrs. Hervosa used on
board. Later, rolled up in her blankets and bed mat, or petate, they
went to the custom house along with the other baggage, and of course
were discovered in the rigorous examination which the officers always
made. How strict Philippine customs searches were, Henry Norman, an
English writer of travels, explains by remarking that Manila was the
only port where he had ever had his pockets picked officially. His
visit was made at about the time of which we are writing, and the
object, he says, was to keep out anti friar publications.

Rizal and his sister landed without difficulty, and he at once went to
the Oriente Hotel, then the best in town, for Rizal always traveled
and lived as became a member of a well-to-do family. Next he waited
on the Governor-General, with whom he had a very brief interview,
for it happened to be on one of the numerous religious festivals,
during which he obtained favorable consideration for his deported
sisters. Several more interviews occurred in which the hopes first
given were realized, so that those of the family then awaiting exile
were pardoned and those already deported were to be returned at an
early date.

One night Rizal was the guest of honor at a dinner given by the masters
and wardens of the Masonic lodges of Manila, and he was surprised and
delighted at the progress the institution had made in the Islands. Then
he had another task not so agreeable, for, while awaiting a delayed
appointment with the Governor-General, he with two others ran up on
the new railway to Tarlac. Ostensibly this was to see the country,
but it was not for a pleasure trip. They were investigating the sales
of Rizal's books and trying to find out what had become of the money
received from them, for while the author's desire had been to place
them at so low a price as to be within the reach of even the poor, it
was reported that the sales had been few and at high prices, so that
copies were only read by the wealthy whose desire to obtain the rare
and much-discussed novels led them to pay exorbitant figures for them.

Rizal's party, consisting of the Secretary of one of the lodges of
Manila, and another Mason, a prominent school-teacher, were under
constant surveillance and a minute record of their every act is
preserved in the "reserved" files, now, of course, so only in name,
as they are no longer secret. Immediately after they left a house it
would be thoroughly searched and the occupants strictly questioned. In
spite of the precautions of the officials, Rizal soon learned of this,
and those whom they visited were warned of what to expect. In one home
so many forbidden papers were on hand that Rizal delayed his journey
till the family completed their task of carrying them upstairs and
hiding them in the roof.

At another place he came across an instance of superstition such as
that which had caused him to cease his sleight-of-hand exhibitions
on his former return to the Islands. Their host was a man of little
education but great hospitality, and the party were most pleasantly
entertained. During the conversation he spoke of Rizal, but did not
seem to know that his hero had come back to the Philippines. His
remarks drifted into the wildest superstition, and, after asserting
that Rizal bore a charmed life, he startled his audience by saying
that if the author of "Noli Me Tangere" cared to do so, he could be
with them at that very instant. At first the three thought themselves
discovered by their host, but when Rizal made himself known, the
old man proved that he had had no suspicion of his guest's identity,
for he promptly became busy preparing his home for the search which
he realized would shortly follow. On another occasion their host
was a stranger whom Rizal treated for a temporary illness, leaving
a prescription to be filled at the drug store. The name signed to
the paper was a revelation, but the first result was activity in
cleaning house.

No fact is more significant of the utter rottenness of the Spanish
rule than the unanimity of the people in their discontent. Only a
few persons at first were in open opposition, but books, pamphlets
and circulars were eagerly sought, read and preserved, with the
knowledge generally, of the whole family, despite the danger of
possessing them. At times, as in the case of Rizal's novels, an entire
neighborhood was in the secret; the book was buried in a garden and
dug up to be read from at a gathering of the older men, for which a
dance gave pretext. Informers were so rare that the possibility of
treachery among themselves was hardly reckoned in the risk.

The authorities were constantly searching dwellings, often entire
neighborhoods, and with a thoroughness which entirely disregarded
the possibility of damaging an innocent person's property. These
"domiciliary registrations" were, of course, supposed to be unexpected,
but in the later Spanish days the intended victims usually had
warning from some employee in the office where it was planned, or
from some domestic of the official in charge; very often, however, the
warning was so short as to give only time for a hasty destruction of
incriminating documents and did not permit of their being transferred
to other hiding places. Thus large losses were incurred, and to these
must be added damages from dampness when a hole in the ground, the
inside of a post, or cementing up in the wall furnished the means of
concealment. Fires, too, were frequent, and such events attracted so
much attention that it was scarcely safe to attempt to save anything
of an incriminating nature.

Six years of war conditions did their part toward destroying what
little had escaped, and from these explanations the reader may
understand how it comes that the tangled story of Spain's last half
century here presents an historical problem more puzzling than that
of much more remote times in more favored lands.

It seems almost providential that the published statement of
the Governor-General can be checked not only by an account which
Rizal secretly sent to friends, but also by the candid memoranda
contained in the untruthful executive's own secret folios. While
some unessential details of Rizal's career are in doubt, not a point
vital to establishing his good name lacks proof that his character
was exemplary and that he is worthy of the hero-worship which has
come to him.

After Rizal's return to Manila from his railway trip he had the
promised interview with the Governor-General. At their previous
meetings the discussions had been quite informal. Rizal, in
complimenting the General upon his inauguration of reforms, mentioned
that the Philippine system of having no restraint whatever upon
the chief executive had at least the advantage that a well-disposed
governor-general would find no red-tape hindrances to his plans for
the public benefit. But Despujol professed to believe that the best
of men make mistakes and that a wise government would establish
safeguards against this human fallibility.

The final, and fatal, interview began with the Governor-General asking
Rizal if he still persisted in his plan for a Filipino colony in
British North Borneo; Despujol had before remarked that with so much
Philippine land lying idle for want of cultivation it did not seem to
him patriotic to take labor needed at home away for the development
of a foreign land. Rizal's former reply had dealt with the difficulty
the government was in respecting the land troubles, since the tenants
who had taken the old renters' places now also must be considered,
and he pointed out that there was, besides, a bitterness between the
parties which could not easily be forgotten by either side. So this
time he merely remarked that he had found no reason for changing his
original views.

Hereupon the General took from his desk the five little sheets of
the "Poor Friars" handbill, which he said had been found in the roll
of bedding sent with Rizal's baggage to the custom house, and asked
whose they could be. Rizal answered that of course the General knew
that the bedding belonged to his sister Lucia, but she was no fool
and would not have secreted in a place where they were certain to be
found five little papers which, hidden within her camisa or placed
in her stocking, would have been absolutely sure to come in unnoticed.

Rizal, neither then nor later, knew the real truth, which was that
these papers were gathered up at random and without any knowledge of
their contents. If it was a crime to have lived in a house where such
seditious printed matter was common, then Rizal, who had openly visited
Basa's home, was guilty before ever the handbills were found. But no
reasonable person would believe another rational being could be so
careless of consequences as to bring in openly such dangerous material.

The very title was in sarcastic allusion to the inconsistency of a
religious order being an immensely wealthy organization, while its
individual members were vowed to poverty. News, published everywhere
except in the Philippines, of losses sustained in outside commercial
enterprises running into the millions, was made the text for showing
how money, professedly raised in the Philippines for charities,
was not so used and was invested abroad in fear of that day of
reckoning when tyranny would be overthrown in anarchy and property
would be insecure. The belief of the pious Filipinos, fostered
by their religious exploiters, that the Pope would suffer great
hardship if their share of "Peter's pence" was not prompt and full,
was contrasted with another newspaper story of a rich dowry given
to a favorite niece by a former Pope, but that in no way taught the
truth that the Head of the Church was not put to bodily discomfort
whenever a poor Filipino failed to come forward with his penny.

Despujol managed to work himself into something like a passion over
this alleged disrespect to the Pope, and ordered Rizal to be taken
as a prisoner to Fort Santiago by the nephew who acted as his aide.

Like most facts, this version runs a middle course between the extreme
stories which have been current. Like circulars may have been printed
at the "Asilo de Malabon," as has been asserted; these certainly came
from Hongkong and were not introduced by any archbishop's nephew on
duty at the custom house, as another tale suggests. On the other hand,
the circular was the merest pretext, and Despujol did not act in good
faith, as many claim that he did.

It may be of interest to reprint the handbill from a facsimile of an
original copy:

Pobres Frailes!

Acaba de suspender sus pages un Banco, acaba de quebrarse el New

Grandes pedidas en la India, en la isla Mauricio al sur de Africa,
ciclones y tempestades acabaron con su podeiro, tragnadose mas de
36,000,000 de pesos. Estos treinta y seis millones representaban las
esperanzas, las economias, el bienestar y el porvenir de numerosos
individuos y familias.

Entre los que mas han sufrido podemos contar a la Rvda. Corporacion
de los P. P. Dominicos, que pierden en esta quiebra muchos cientos
de miles. No se sabe la cuenta exacta porque tanto dinero se les
envia de aqui y tantos depositos hacen, que se necesitarlan muchos
contadores para calcular el immense caudal de que disponen.

Pero, no se aflijan los amigos ni triunfen los enemigos de los santos
monjes que profesan vote de pobreza.

A unos y otros les diremos que pueden estar tranquilos. La Corporacion
tiene aun muchos millones depositados en los Bancos de Hongkong, y
aunque todos quebrasen, y aunque se derrumbasen sus miles de casas de
alquiler, siempre quedarian sus curates y haciendas, les quedarian los
filipinos dispuestos siempre a ayunar para darles una limosna. ?Que son
cuatrocientos o quinientos mil? Que se tomen la molestia de recorrer
los pueblos y pedir limosna y se resarciran de esa perdida. Hace un
ano que, por la mala administracion de los cardenales, el Papa perdio
14,000,000 del dinero de San Pedro; el Papa, para cubrir el deficit,
acude a nosotros y nosotros recogemos de nuestros tampipis el ultimo
real, porque sabemos que el Papa tiene muchas atenciones; hace cosa
de cinco anos caso a una sobrina suya dotandola de un palacio y
300,000 francos ademas. Haced un esfuerzo pues, generosos filipinos,
y socorred a los dominicos igualmente!

Ademas, esos centanares de miles perdidos no son de ellos, segun dicen:
?como los iban a tener si tienen voto de pobreza? Hay que creerlos
pues cuando, para cubrirse, dicen que son de los huerfanos y de las
viudas. Muy seguramente pertencerian algunos a las viudas y a los
huerfanos de Kalamba, y quien sabe si a los desterrados maridos! y
los manejan los virtuosos frailes solo a titulo de depositarios para
devolverlos despues religiosamente con todos sus intereses cuando
llegue el dia de rendir cuentas! Quien sabe? Quien mejor que ellos
podia encargarse de recoger los pocos haberes mientras las casas
ardian, huian las viudas y los huerfanos sin encontrar hospitalidad,
pues se habia prohibido darles albergue, mientras los hombres estaban
presos o perseguidos? ?Quien mejor que los dominicos para tener tanto
valor, tanta audacia y tanta humanidad?

Pero, ahora el diablo se ha llevado el dinero de los huerfanos y de
las viudas, y es de temer que se lleve tambien el resto, pues cuando el
diablo la empieza la ha de acabar. Tendria ese dinero mala procedencia?

Si asl sucediese, nosotros los recomendariamos a los dominicos que
dijesen con Job: Desnudo sali del vientre de mi madre (Espana),
y desnudo volvere alla; lo dio el diablo, el diablo se lo llevo;
bendito sea el nombre del Senor!

Fr. Jacinto.

Manila: Imprenta de los Amigos del Pais.

Produced by Jeroen Hellingman and Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders


A Study of the Growth of Free Ideas in the Trans-Pacific American






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