Arrest and Martyrdom




A cablegram from Manila led to Rizal's arrest shortly after the streamer reached the Mediterranean, so he was placed on the returning steamer at Barcelona.

In Singapore, his London friends, led by Dr. Regidor, made an effort to save him by cabling a firm of lawyers there to apply for a writ of habeas corpus, but the steamer flew the Spanish royal flag and was carrying troops so that the court held it was not a merchant ship that would be subject to British law but a war vessel which remained Spanish wherever it was.

Had Dr. Rizal ever been brought before a British court he would have gone free for only in Spain of all nations claiming to be civilized did the charges against him constitute a crime, "carrying on an anti-religious and anti-patriotic campaign of education" (poor propagandas anti-religious y anti patriotic as).

Three times hated England tried to aid him; with the consul general's protest against his imprisonment without trial: when an Englishwomen sought an interview in Madrid with the Queen Regent and on being refused waylaid the Queen's carriage in her drives to cry out, "Justice, madam, for poor Rizal"; and this third time when the greatest safeguard of Anglo-Saxon liberty was invoked in his behalf.

Manila had been frightened by the insurrection and in their fear the authorities blindly resorted to their old policy of trying to strike terror. The jails were crowded, executions were made public demonstrations of patriotism and Poliavieja, an ardent terrorist, superseded the only man, Blanco, who had had the courage to remain calm.

Under these circumstances Rizal was brought to trial before a military court and was even denied the right of counsel, for he was only permitted to choose his advocate from a list of strange young Spanish officers who were untrained in the law. Fortunately one was the brother of his bodyguard on his first return home and this Lieutenant Luis Taviel de Andrade did all intelligence and devotion could do to get a fair trial for the stranger dependent on his chivalry. It took real courage to make such a defense as he did in so unpopular a cause. But the result was never in doubt.

Dr. Rizal was brought back to be shot and the trial was a sorry farce. The charge was that JosÚ Rizal Mercado was the principal organizer and the soul of the insurrection in the Philippines, a founder of societies, newspapers, and books devoted to favoring and making public rebellious and seditious ideas among the people, and the chief of filibusterism in the country.

Witness were examined to give testimony against him only to have evidence of his entire ignorance of the plan made plain and to escape this embarrassment the court said it was not necessary to hear any more testimony, the charges had been sufficiently proven. No mention was made of the unsuccessful attempt to torture Paciano Mercado into admitting that he and his brother knew of the insurrection, though the use of the thumbscrews and hanging him by the arms had taken place in Manila just after Dr. Rizal had sailed for Spain. In those days the Doctor answered very frankly except where others were concerned. The use of symbolic names among his Masonic acquaintances made it possible for him to say in many cases that he did not know any one of such a name. At the other times his memory was made the excuse for not caring to answer, but where it concerned himself there were no subterfuges. The man whose word so sacred to him that he would not take any of the many chances to escape offered during his years in banishment disdained any attempt at deception. He had said that his conscience was clear and in his trial he seemed only anxious that his real position should be understood. In fact he asked permission to address a proclamation to the rebels in the field who had been deceived into insurrection by the fraudulent use of his name, and when the prosecutor read it that zealous official added it as another proof of disloyalty. It urged that they disband now, for they were unfitted for independence and should first educate and fit themselves before they attempted to separate from Spain. There was no cringing or denying of responsibility but neither was there any bravado. Rizal's additions to his defense were as clearly reasoned and dispassionate as though he were debating with a friend and not on trial for his life.

No time was lost neither in convicting him nor in confirming the military court's decision but he was sentenced to be shot on December 30, 1896.

Just after Rizal became aware of his sentence to death but before his transfer to the chapel he wrote the poem now famous as "The Final Farewell." It was copied on a small sheet of notepaper, folded lengthwise into a narrow strip and then doubled and wedged inside the tank of a little alcohol lamp on which his cooking in the cell had been done. At the farewell to his sister Trinidad while in the chapel he said: "I have nothing to give you as a souvenir except the cooking lamp Mrs. Tavera gave me while I was in Paris." And then so the guard might not understand he said in a low tone, in English, "There is something inside." The lamp was taken with his other belongings from the fort and it was not until the night of the second day after his death that it was deemed safe to investigate. Then when the verses were found they were immediately copied and the copy without comment mailed to Hong Kong. There they were published. But Rizal had time to polish the poetry a little and through another channel safely sent the revised poem so the morning after his death copies of it were found on the desks of prominent Filipino sympathizers.

He had been a prisoner in Fort Santiago, at first "incommunicado" in one of the dungeons and later in a cell on the ground floor. After his sentence he was removed to the fort chapel with troops on guard in the courtyard in front of it. The military chaplains offered services that he courteously declined but later Jesuits came, from his old school, whom he warmly welcomed. These brought a little wooden image of the Sacred Heart which, as a schoolboy, he had carved with a penknife during playtime and had put up inside the door in the dormitory. During all the twenty years it had stayed in the same place for Rizal was no only the favorite of his fellows as a student but had remained the hero of the Ateneo boys up to that time. The recollection of his happy school days brought up memories of when for his exemplary conduct he had been a leader in the Marian Congregation, and of the verses he had written in honor of the Virgin.

The Archbishop required a retraction before he could receive the consolations of his religion and several forms were proposed. Practically every victim of political persecution had left a retraction couched in such language that its spontaneousness was always questions. The one dictated for Rizal was no exception and the Jesuits knew he would never sign it so they substituted a form of their own, giving what was essential for reconciliation with the Church and worded in a way that would not recall the differences Rizal had had with some of its ministers.

With its ideas the prisoner was satisfied but he very reasonable argued that unless in his style no one would believe that he had changed the habit of a lifetime in its last moments. To this request the Jesuits say they agreed and the retraction was re-worded by him.

Unfortunately the original has been lost and that it was ever made was disputed at the time it was first published. No one of his family was permitted to see.

Nevertheless the attending circumstances all argue in favor of its having been made. Strongest of all is the testimony of the Jesuits who were not mixed up in the politics of that time when church and state were so interwoven that it was argued that no one could be a good Catholic who was not a good Spaniard.

Two copies, differing only in phraseology, have been published. Of these the one telegraphed to Madrid and published in "El Imparcial" on December 31st, 1896, seems to be more Rizal's style and is free from those formal church terms which he would have been likely to avoid. There is in it nothing he could not have signed in Dapitan when he was expressing his religious views to Father Pastells. But then a political recantation as well as a religious reconciliation was desired.

The retraction reads:

"I declare myself a Catholic. I want to live and die as a Catholic. I retract all my heart whatever I have said or written or done against the Church and our Lord Jesus Christ. I give up Masonry which is an enemy of the Church."
"The head of the diocese may publish this retraction, which I make of my own accord, to repair as far as may be possible the scandal caused by my writings and by my acts. May all men forgive me for the injury which I have caused to many."

After his confession Dr. Rizal was married to Josephine Bracken, the adopted daughter of a Hong Kong retired engineer who had come to Dapitan to see if there was any cure for his lost sight. Rizal had fallen in love with the girl, who was ten years younger than him, and had asked her to stay in Dapitan until they could be married but though authorized by law there was no provision in the Philippines for civil marriage and so there was no chance for the ceremony until this reconciliation with the church. His wife, the daughter of an Irish sergeant in the British army in India and, to judge by her features, an Indian mother, was also of his faith.

The belief that Mrs. Rizal was an Eurasian is borne out by the fact that she was educated in the Italian convent of Hong Kong which has so many of that mixed blood. Her adopted mother, Mrs. Taufer, from whom she took her middle name of Leopoldine, was Portuguese, and through her knowledge of that language she found Spanish ways to learn. If she had not known Rizal personally she at least knew of him while he was practicing medicine in Hong Kong.

It was now morning and after a short interval the march to the place of execution, on the Luneta, was begun, on foot and with a heavy escort of soldiers.

In the same place where the three priests had been killed in 1872 and where his very-very-great-grandfather had his rice store, two centuries back, beside a bastion of the same name he had given to Kalamba in the novel for which he was dying. Jose Rizal with a pulse that beat as naturally as ever was shot by Filipino soldiers behind whom stood Spanish soldiers to see the order was unhesitatingly obeyed. The request that he might not be shot from the back because he was neither a traitor to Spain nor to his own country was refused. A powerful effort of the will in falling led the victim to turn himself so as to fall with his face to the sky. So the Spanish soldiers saw him as they filed past his dead body and the cheers for Spain and the triumphal music of the band as it played the March of Cadiz did not prevent a feeling of admiration for the brave man. Spain's was a brief triumph, for the first anniversary of his death was celebrated by desecrating his grave, the second found it decorated, and each succeeding year has seen an increased importance given to the day which has become the great holiday of the Philippines.

The martyr's body was put in an unmarked grave in Paco cemetery but a way was found to have a small marble stone, bearing his initials in reversed order, dropped in with the coffin's remains.

Within less than two years, on the first day of American occupation, the body was raised for a more decent interment and the marble slab rests for a more decent interment and the marble slab rests under a cross bearing only the date "Dec. 30, 1896". The ashes have since been put in an urn of Philippine woods carved by the skillful hands of Dr. Rizal's instructor in carving, and will be finally deposited in what will be by far the finest of Manila's monuments, the 100,000 peso memorial which is to mark the place where he gave his life for his country.

His widow joined the insurgents at Cavite, and later returned to Manila and then to Hong Kong where in 1898 she was married to a Filipino student from Cebu. She taught in the public schools of Manila in 1901, and in the following year died in Hong Kong and is buried there in the Catholic part of Happy Valley cemetery beside the monument of her adopted father, George Taufer, the blind man, who was an American.

Dr. Rizal's father survived him but a year, but his mother still lives and not long ago refused a proffered pension from the Assembly with the statement that she did not believe in paid patriotism and was content that her son had done his duty.

Of the numerous Rizal relatives there seem to be none in politics but all are industrious and seeking to bring about the independence of their country in the way their distinguished kinsman recommended, working to increase its wealth and availing themselves of every opportunity for education.

A new province bears Doctor Rizal's name, his picture appears upon the most generally used values of postage stamps and paper money, every town in the Philippines has its Rizal Street or Rizal Square, Manila has a flourishing Rizal University, a Rizal Ateneo and a Rizal Business College, and his birthday is getting to be observed as well as the day of his death, but Filipinos are forgetting the lessons he taught and remembering him to keep alive old prejudices which no longer serve any useful purpose.

Self-control, industry and education are still as necessary to good citizenship as they were in the days of Spain. The evils of cock-fighting, the folly of long, high sounding speeches in which nothing is said, and the utter incongruity of pretending to honor the memory of a Rizal and then elevating an Andres Bonifacio to the dignity of a national hero, are more timely topics than discussing the friar landlord after he has parted with his lands, and more profitable than vainglorious parades of empty patriotism.

The man who works is a better patriot than the one who talks of the past and dreams of the future. The real reverence for Rizal is not shown in December 30th processions but in heeding his teachings and following his example from January 1st to December 31st, inclusive. Reading supplemented the more modern methods of the Jesuit schooling and prepared him for education abroad so that he seems to have entered into the spirit of free institutions and talks of liberty with a realization of its responsibilities that is absent from the beautiful dreams of most writers of Latin countries. Could the magic of his name cause the Spanish-trained generation of Filipinos to study and heed the lessons he prepared for them these Islands might enjoy without delay that prosperity and free government for which otherwise they must wait till power comes into the hands of the schoolchildren who are now through a democratic education acquiring the sense of responsibility and regard for the rights of others which Dr. Rizal recognized as essential to the success of popular government.

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The Life and of Dr. JosÚ Rizal
Dr. Robert L. Yoder