Thursday, October 20, 2005

Reflections of a Filipino (Jose Rizal)

"For a people to be without history, or to be ignorant of its history, is as for a man to be without memory - condemned forever to make the same discoveries that have been made in the past, invent the same techniques, wrestle with the same problems, commit the same errors; and condemned, too, to forfeit the rich pleasures of recollection. Indeed, just as it is difficult to imagine history without civilization, so it is difficult to imagine civilization without history." - American historian Henry Steele Commager (1965)

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" Fear history, for it respects no secrets" - Gregoria de Jesus (widow of Andres Bonifacio)
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Hi All,

Rizal in this satirical piece demonstrates his deep understanding of the considerations and train-of-thoughts of the "normal or average" educated person (ilustrado), maybe middle class, confronted with his politically (and economically, today) troubled society. 

Rizal correctly explains our Filipino mind then, which is still the dominant mind of the so-called educated native Filipino, now.

Rizal saw our strongly limited, selfish concerns. He saw our lack of social concern. He saw our opportunistic tendencies ("segurista"). He saw knowledge and understanding of the sociopolitical milieu used for self-aggrandizement and self-preservation rather than social transformation.

In this piece if we change the speculating Rizal with ourselves, the so-called educated, if we change the friars with the ruling elite (in government, business, military,etc), we will still see his thoughts reflecting us native Filipinos of today, more than 100 years hence!

We native Filipinos today have not changed much for the better. Thanks in large part to our ignorance of our own history.

( It's amazing and interesting, if not amusing, to note Jose Rizal's perceptiveness when he talks of "...that I, my number one..". He predates Michael Korda, who wrote the book "LOOKING OUT FOR #1", in the 1970s!! )


To those who wonder "why dig the past": We engage in revisiting and revising our past, i.e. historical "revisionism", to develop new emphases and raise new questions on assumptions and explanations for key historical issues and policies --given by our former colonial master America, government officials and authors of history books, then and now.

In our homeland's case, we can not afford a "balanced" approach to history since in the past and present years, our homeland's history, as it refers to Philippine-US relationships, has been imbalanced in favor of the Americans, who as far as we baby boomers can remember, are only "the good guys" and "do-gooders" in history.

It is time for us, especially for Filipinos-in-the-Philippines to recover our history, a nationalist history, which necessitates uncovering the lies and myths about America; since the American arrival into and 50-year occupation of our homeland, the sweet nothings about "Philippine-American Special Relations", etc. perpetuated through our school textbooks, mass media, government pronouncements, Filipinos with Americanized minds, etc.

We Filipinos, here and abroad, past and present, relied and continue to use official explanations that lead only to our ignorance of hidden truths and knowledge of untruths, thus perpetuating the post-WW2 neocolonial conditions that brought only worsening impoverishment to the Malay Filipino majority; foreign control of the national economy and the dwindling of our national patrimony.

- Bert



When I contemplate the present struggle between the religious corporations and the advanced groups of my country, when I read the numerous writings published by this and that group in defense of their ideas and principles, I’m prompted to ask myself at times if I, a son of the country, ought not to take part in the struggle and declare myself in favor of one of the two groups, for I should not be indifferent to anything concerning my native land. 

Or, if I’m more prudent and have learned my lesson better, my role should be to remain neutral, to witness and watch the struggle, to see which party wins and immediately take its side in order to gather more easily the fruit of victory.

My life has been one of continuous doubting and continuous vacillation. Which party should I side? 
Let’s examine closely the matter and afterwards we shall see.

What are the advantages of being anti-friar?

Nothing really. The more I analyze the thing the more I find it silly and imprudent. This thing of struggling so that the country may progress… the country will progress if it can and if it cannot, no. Moreover, what do I care if the coming generation would enjoy more or less freedom than I, have better or worse education, if there be justice for all or there be none… 

The question is that I, my number one, don’t have a bad time; the question is the present. A bird in my hand is worth more than one hundred flying, says the proverb. Charity begins at home, says another. Here I have two proverbs in my favor and there’s not even half a proverb against me.

For the present, in fighting the religious orders, one risks being imprisoned or exiled to some island… Well, not so bad. I like travelling to know the islands, a thing that cannot be done better than by going as an exile. Passports are unnecessary and one travels more safely. Go to jail? Bah, everybody goes to jail. In that way, one gets free house, for as it is, there I don’t pay. 

Deportation and jail are nothing, but if… if number one is finished, if they take advantage of a mutiny and they charge me as its leader. A council of war tries me and they send me to the other life? Hmm! It’s a serious matter to be an anti-friar.

What do I care if the friars don’t want the education of the country? 

They must have a reason. I agree with them. Since I was a child, I have had a hard time going to school and a harder time getting out of it… because the teacher at times kept me a prisoner. Let there be a vote on the matter and see how all the children will vote for the friars, asking for the suppression of every kind of teaching… 

That the friars oppose the teaching of Spanish… and what’s the matter with that? For what do we need Spanish? To know the beautiful stories and theories of liberty, progress, and justice and afterwards get to like them? To understand the laws, know our rights and then find in practice other laws and other things different from them. Of what use is the knowledge of Spanish?

We can speak to God in all languages… if it were Latin I say, well. The curate says that God listens first to the prayers in Latin before those in Tagalog. That’s why Masses are in Latin and the curates live in abundance and we the Tagalogs are badly off. But Spanish? To understand the insults and swearing of the civil guards? For this purpose there’s no need to know Spanish. It’s enough to understand the language of the butt of guns and have the body a little sensitive. 

And of what use is it to us since we are forbidden to reply, because one can be accused of resisting authority and because the very same civil guard tries the accused, a prison sentence is certain. The truth is that I like to travel and see the islands, though tied elbow to elbow. In this matter of not teaching Spanish, I agree with the friars.

Now, they may say this and that about the friars, that they have many women, paramours, that they don’t respect married women, widows, or maidens and the like. On this matter I have my private opinion. I say if one can have two, three, and four women, why should he not have them? Women are to blame

Besides there’s something good about the curate. He does not let his paramours die of hunger, as many men do, but he supports them, dresses them well, protects their families, and leaves a good bequest to his daughters or nieces. And if there’s any sin in it, he’ll absolve them at once and without great penance.

Frankly speaking, if I were a woman, and I had to prostitute myself, I would do it to curate… for the time being, I’ll be the paramour of a semi-Jesus Christ, or of a successor of God on earth. In this regard, I believe that the enemies of the friars are merely envious. They say that they monopolize all the estates, get all the people’s money. The Chinese do the same

In this world, he who can enrich himself enriches himself, and I suppose that a friar for the mere fact of being a friar is not less of a man. Why then should not the Chinese and the merchants be persecuted? Moreover, who knows? 

Perhaps they take away our money to make us poor so that we may quickly get to heaven. Still we have to thank them for their solicitude. They are also accused of selling their scapulars, belts, candies, rosaries, and other things. This is to complaint just for the sake of complaining. Let him buy who wants to buy, he who doesn't don’t. 

Every trader sells her merchandise at the price he likes. The Chinese sells his tinapa sometimes two for a centavo, and at other times, three for two centavos. If we tolerate this practice of the Chinese dealer, why should we not tolerate this practice of the curate-trader of scapulars? Is the curate perchance less of a man than the Chinese? I say it is purely ill will.

Let them shout and say that with his money and power the friar imposes on the government; what does it matter to me? What do I care if this or that one should give the order if after all I’ll have to obey? Because, if the curate doesn't give the orders, any corporal of the carabineers will do so, and everything would be the same. In the final analysis, I see no reason whatsoever to go against the friar curates.

Let’s see now if there are advantages in siding with them against the liberal Filipinos.
The friars say that these are all atheists… that I don’t know I know only one called Mateo, but it doesn't matter. They say that they will all go to hell… Frankly, though we ought not to judge harshly anyone, the successor of Christ on earth is exempt from this injunction. He should know better than anybody else where we are going after death, and if he doesn't know, I say that nobody will know it better. 

The friars exile many of their enemies; of this I can’t or I shouldn't complain. I had a lawsuit and I won it because it happened that my adversary was an anti-friar and he was exiled when I was almost in despair of winning the case, for I had no more money to bribe the desk officials and to present horses to the judge and the governor. God is most merciful!

They charged administratively Captain Juan, who had a very pretty daughter whom he forbade to go to the convent to kiss the curate’s hand. Well done! That’s doubting the holiness of the curate and he truly deserve deportation. Moreover, what’s he going to do with his daughter? Why guard her so carefully if, after all, she’s not going to be a nun? And even if she had to be a nun, don’t certain rumors somewhere around say the nuns of St. Claire and the Franciscan friars understand each other very well? What’s bad about that? 

Aren’t the nuns the wives of Jesus Christ? Aren’t the friars his successors? Why so many women for him alone? Nothing, nothing, the friars are right in everything and I’m going to side with them against my countrymen. The Filipino liberals are anti-Spaniard. The proof that they are is… that the friars say so. But if the liberals win? If, tired, persecuted, and desperate for so much jailing and exiling, they throw all caution to the wind, they arm themselves as in Spain, behead their enemies, killing them in revenge may also reach me. Here! Here! Let’s consider well if this is possible.

Is a massacre of the friars possible in the Philippines? Is it possible here a slaughter to that which occurred in Spain thirty years ago as they say? No, a Filipino never attacks one who is unharmed, one who is defenseless. We see it among boys who are fighting. The biggest one does not use all his superior strength but fights the smallest with only one arm; he doesn't start the attack before the other one is ready. 

No, the Indio may be stupid, simple, fanatical, and whatever one may say, but he always retains a certain gentlemanly instinct. He has to be very, very much offended, he has to be in the last stage of despair to engage in assassinations and massacres of a similar kind. But, if they should do the friars what the friars did to the heretics on St. Bartholomew’s day in France?

History says that the Catholics took advantage of the night when the heretics were gathered in Paris and beheaded and assassinated them… if the anti-friar Filipinos, fearing that the friars may do to them what they did in France, take advantage of the lesson and go ahead. Holy God! If in this supreme struggle for survival, seeing that their lives, property, and liberty are in danger, they should stake everything and allow themselves to be carried away by excesses, by the terror that present circumstances inspire? Misfortune of misfortunes! 

What would then become of me if I side now with the friars? The best course is not to decide. So long as the government does not appease the minds of the people, it’s bad to take part in these affairs. It might be desirable to deport, to send to the gallows all the liberal Filipinos to extirpate the seed… but, their sons, their relatives, their friends… the conscience of the whole country? Are there today more anti-friars than before 1872?

Every Filipino prisoners or exile opens the eyes of one hundred Filipinos and wins as many for his party. If they could hang all Filipinos and leave only the friars and me to enjoy the country, that would be the best but… then I’ll be the slave of all of them. I’ll have to work for them, which would be worse. What is to be done? What is the government doing? Liberalism is a plant that never dies, said that damned Rizal… Decidedly I’ll remain neutral: Virtue lies in the middle ground.

Yes, I’ll be neutral. What does it matter to me if vice or virtue should triumph if I shall be among the vanquished? The question is to win
, and a sure victory is a victory already won. Wait for the figs to ripen and gather them. See which party is going to win, and when they are already intoning the hymn, I join them and I sing louder than the rest, insult the vanquished, make gestures, rant so that the others may believe in my ardor and the sincerity of my convictions. Here’s true wisdom! 

That the fools and the Quixotes allow themselves to be killed so that mine may triumph. Their ideal is justice, equality, and liberty! My idea is to live in peace and plenty! Which is more beautiful and more useful, freedom of the press, for example, or a stuffed capon? Which are greater, equal rights or some cartridges equally full of gold coins? Equality for equality, I prefer the equality of money, which can be piled up and hidden. Let the friars win; let the liberals win, the question is to come to an understanding afterwards with the victors. 

What do I care about the native land, human dignity, progress, patriotism? All that is worthless if one has no money!


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Anonymous said...

You know what i found in the politic of this contry?

There are too many hands in the politics..relgious and goverment leaders want to ran the government..Why are
the Bishops on the streets ralling against government..they are out of place..their duty is to
take care of souls and morality of the people..

Philippine politics i find it so funny..may be people who are concern are funny too. Look like there is no seriouness and direction.

To tell you the government is also
manipulated or sided by catholics and all kinds of relgions...becuase you are a christian nation as you
are always proud of.. Edsa one and two was not a polictical rally or demands it was strong a religious
thing...i was there and i felt that deeply..i was among the catholic goup.. siding to demand for freedom from Marcos and even that of Erap on corruption..all
kinds of catholic institutions and groups were in Edsa..can you imagine that? Tell me is that polictics of Religious activity demanding for the defend of
morality in this country..

The catholic and other relgions groups were those who demanede that Cory Aquino to be the president and it was instoled by the catholic leader Cardinal Sin...and the same is with Arroyo present president..was
instoled by the same person.. correct me if iam wrong.

I pity poor people now on the streets demanding the
regnition of Arroyo ( GMA)..i believe they felt that
they were not fairly treated by their leaders..whom they thmeselves have elected.. What is catholic leaders doing now..? they seat back and relax in their
kindom and palace while their sheep wander away in the
streets. Only few who wanted to join in the rally
because they see something wrong in the Government
when the Presendent imposse law (464)on rallist which
look agains the human right and right of expression .

Arroyo will never step down..because many filipinos
still suport her...she has a very important relationship with USA and USA is supporting her..Many
Catholic leadesrs are suporting and are in favor of her...even she cheated she cant be..turned dow..

She cant just leave her power she.She is fully suported by
her suporters and even in the palace.

You should rethink carefully as a know where you are wrong...just like what you are dong
right now as you are writing this articls.. i hope other citizens too read your article... Istead of
flying to others contries looking for jobs and find riches why not work as a nation to develop
economically and socially?..

You are fully come your leaders ran away with money....? instead develop and trengthen economically and reatain people in their nation....Just like what i told you before...Japan is
trong in economic because with have a strong sense
national identiy...we work hard...with great
discipline and seriousness...and we are good people
even not all are Christians like you do..

Every filipino should feel a true christian
by action and so much in words and not just merely a christian..

Thanks Sir
for your time..

Bert M. Drona said...

Hello Naime,

Your observations are correct. In brief, we Filipinos are essentially of a "herd mentality," and highly influenced by the church hierarchy, include the non-Catholic ones. It is sad, unfortunate and thus disastrous for us to have no nationalism or patriotism; the only paramount concern is simply ourselves/family, to which we may include the extended family of kins and the "kumares/kumpadres."

The fact that our 1896 nationalist revolution was not completed when the Americans intervened and occupied the country for 50 years subtly but effectively and practically destroyed our nationalist sentiments in the long-run, to the present time.

It saddens and angers me that Filipino nationalism has practically died while our Asian neighbors have strengthened theirs.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a student studying Rizal. Do you know where and when this essay was published during Rizal's time or if it was published at all till JRCC did so?