And what this has to do with Rizal and Marcos
By Raissa Robles
I’ve been writing since I was a kid.
Writing all sorts of stuff.
I’ve written about Sharon and Gabby, earthquakes and volcanoes, pearls and fashion, and even an adventure tale.
But increasingly, I do not know why I feel compelled to write about a puke-inducing period in our history — the Marcos dictatorship. I never was a student activist. I never was a communist. I only joined a street rally once at university to know how it felt like.
I was what you would now call a nerd, drawn to intellectual perambulations on the structure of a novel, on the number of angels that can fit on a pinhead or how the Theory of Relativity reshaped Christianity.
How did I move from poetry to politics?
The transition happened subtly when a good friend, Cris Reyes, showed me the actual papers of a dead and long reviled Philippine President. I saw with my own eyes that there was a continuum in our life as a nation. I saw how we Filipinos have long been ruled by a clique of men and women who saw politics as just a game and a way of making their personal fortunes. I saw how we Filipinos were blind to this and how we thought, and still think, we cannot do anything about it.
So why must I keep writing on the Marcoses.
I stumbled on the answer last month when I visited the Rizal Shrine at Fort Santiago.
And I saw what Jose Rizal had once written, which the shrine curators had placed on the wall. Here it is below:
Ferdinand Marcos is unfinished business. Marcos set the gold standard for corruption and continued deception for our present and all future politicians.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is also unfinished business. She is the spawn who thinks, that like Marcos, she to can get away with it. Just give it time and plenty of money. She was handed the presidency as a gift and an honor and chose to despoil it.
We have a lot of unfinished business. That is why as a nation we cannot move forward and progress economically.
We are like a woman who was raped in childhood but has forgotten she was raped by the very man who stays by her side as her “generous benefactor”. I’m not against politicians. Don’t get me wrong. I have encountered politicians who really have the nation’s future at heart but are oftentimes driven to do wrong for political expediency. I have met politicians who are thoroughly evil but quite charming outside. And politicians who really mean well but are inept in the political game. Perhaps, in this manner, I analyse politics in the way I used to examine poetry.
Oftentimes as a political reporter I get caught up in analyzing the itty-bitty bits of the political game – like who is in bed with whom or how will a certain issue play out.
My recent trip to Fort Santiago wrenched me to a larger perspective when I stared at the cell where Jose Rizal spent his last night. The curators did a wonderful depiction of it. See below:
It shows the aloneness of a man about to die. About to seek infinity.
And yet he has reached out across a century by cramming in tiny handwriting his message to us in poetry. I did not realize how small that piece of paper he wrote on was – somewhat larger than a deck of cards. And how readable his handwriting was.
I felt sad when I read again –
Mis sueños cuando apenas muchacho adolescente,
Mis sueños cuando joven ya lleno de vigor,
Fueron el verte un dia, Joya del Mar de Oriente,
Secos los negros ojos, alta la tersa frente,
Sin ceño, sin arrugas, sin manchas de rubor.
(My dreams, when I was a young boy,
My dreams, when the hopes of youth beat high,
Were to see your lovely face, oh gem of the Orient Sea
From gloom and grief, from care and sorrow free;
No blush on your brow, no tear in your eye)
One particular stanza felt to me like a haunting description of the Marcos holocaust:
Ora por todos cuantos murieron sin ventura,
Por cuantos padecieron tormentos sin igual;
Por nuestras pobres madres que gimen su amargura,
Por huerfanos y viudas, por presos en tortura,
Y ora por ti que veas tu redencion final.
(Pray for all those who have died without gladness,
For all those who have suffered beyond measure;
For our poor mothers who wept so bitterly
For orphans and widows, for prisoners of torture
And for your own final redemption )
I was struck by the bareness of the Shrine. The curators took a minimalist approach to depicting his last night. In one vast room, the only ornament was a shiny wooden floor on which a narrative of Rizal’s last night is etched.
I felt happy to see children skipping about among the words describing the final moments of Lolo Jose:
There was also a delicate marble carving by Rizal of a woman with a torch, perched on a skull. I forget what she stood for but I thought she symbolized Freedom. How hard it is to hold up the torch of freedom. And how deadly oftentimes.
It was really the first time that it hit me – Rizal was a real person.
And I got to wondering why he is a hero even to Indonesians and Malaysians. Why is he so admired? He never fought a Battle at Besang Pass like someone claimed he did. He never shot a man in cold blood and then boasted about it.
What makes a hero a hero?
A man can be a villain early on and then die a hero. Or vice versa.
In Marcos’ case, I believe what he did in the last phase of his life erased the good of his earlier years. This leader killed and robbed his own people blind.
Rizal never led a country but his ideas helped set up a nation. Compared to Marcos, Rizal was smart but in a different way. I don’t think Rizal ever had the six-pack abs that Marcos constantly bragged about.
It was in their dying that showed the hero from the heel.
Marcos died in bed, probably surrounded by family and aides. He left no last uplifting words for the nation to absorb. He probably just gasped to his family while still lucid that they must get back all that money the widow Corazon had seized.
In contrast, it was Rizal’s death that unwittingly helped ignite revolutions, not just here but elsewhere in Asia.
It was Rizal’s words reverberating across time that continue to inspire us. It was that small gesture of his at the moment of dying, willing his body to turn and face the hail of bullets and the light.
On the morning of his execution, Rizal was done with grieving. He had agonized the night before in his huge cell when he wrote:
Mi Patria idolatrada, dolor de mis dolores,
Querida Filipinas, oye el postrer adios.
Ahi te dejo todo, mis padres, mis amores.
Voy donde no hay esclavos, verdugos ni opresores,
Donde la fé no mata, donde el que reyna es Dios.
My country most adored, despair of my despair,
Beloved Filipinas, hear now my final farewell.
I leave you all: my parents and my beloved
For I go where no slaves are, no executioners nor oppressors,
Where faith does not kill, where God reigns on high.
Now what in God’s name are you and I doing about his precious legacy?
Roselle Doleta says
I have never been so affected reading this and so compelled to accord you my utmost respect and admiration. I have seen your names and your works many times but never came to this… i hope you remain the lady Rizal of our times. Your efforts may not yield and bear fruits as yet but somehow many especially the new generations would be able to read and feel the intensity and the importance of this message. More power and may you be blessed al the days of your life. Thank you for your wisdom, thank you for your gift.
Thank you, Roselle.
How I wish I could write like you.
I was surprised that you wrote this way back in 2011. Napaka relevant nung article that it could have been written yestrrday lang. While reading what Rizal wrote and finally understanding it, parang nahiya ako para sa atin. I was cringing the whole time na nagbabasa ako kasi parang pakiramdam ko nasasayang ang mga salitang ito na para sana sa atin. I was wondering kung ano kaya ang sasabihin ni Rzal ngayong nakikita nya na ganito ang inaasta ng iba nating kababayan. Na mukhang mas gusto pa nilang bumalik sa nakaraan instead of going forward from what we have achieved as a nation. Nakakalungkot na ito ang nangyayari sa ngayon.
Victor W Monsura says
This family’s ability to live on and hide plundered billions of dollars is a MAJOR reason why corruption and plunder goes on almost unabated in the Philippines because THIS FAMILY SHAMELESSLY PROVES PLUNDER AND CORRUPTION PAYS!
If only Senator JV Salonga’s book, “Presidential Plunder: The Quest for the Ill-Gotten marcos Wealth” could be translated into the major dialects of our country and also serialized in popular national/regional magazines and newspapers maybe, just maybe, we could go a long way in opening the mind of many of our fellow Pinoys, especially the young.
chit navarro says
“Now what in God’s name are you and I doing about his precious legacy?”
In my small corner of the world, I try to do my own small way of ensuring that my beloved country becomes the PLACE WHERE THERE ARE NO SLAVES
NO EXECUTIONERS OR OPPRESSORS
WHERE FAITH DOES NOT KILL AND
WHERE GOD REIGNS ON HIGH”
in my lifetime, not when I leave it behind and look at the “other side” as that place…
That’s why we are all campaigning for Roxas-Robredo because Roxas- Robredo have:
*** an economic platform to create more jobs and uplift our country’s economy (no more slaves to poverty)
*** do not advocate for killing orcurtailment of freedom but FOLLOWS THE RULE OF LAW IN A DEMOCRATIC SETTING ((no executioners or oppressors)
*** believe in the Glory of God; their faith in the Lord makes them morally upright
I have memorized this poem since my Spanish subject in my college days but have never appreciated it the way I do now, after your parsing it here in this article.
Way to go Raissa! Continue writing and may your book on Marcos be distributed to all the schools; better yet, may it be used as a standard textbook / reading material in our elementary and high schools.
God bless you and Allan and your family and keep you all safe always.
Raissa, O Raissa
Lahat ng salitang ginamit mo
Sa pagsulat nito
Tugmang tugma sa nais kong
Sabihin sa salitang
Para mo akong dinadala
Sa kinaroroonan mo
Maliwanag pero bitin
Pero, tapos na.
Salamat sa pagbasa mo.
Forgiven & Loved says
This is the fourth article na nabasa ko sa araw na ito. How I wish na lahat ng manunulat ay katulad mo na factual at tunay hinhalukay ang mga bagay na nakatago upang isiwalat ang katotohanan sa likod nito.
Thank you so much dahil sa ang uri ng iyong mga sinulat ay naipapaliwanag mong mabuti at higit sa lahat ang pagiging consistent mo na parating may nakakabit na supporting documents just to prove your point.
Muli, God bless po!
Ernie Delfin says
Having been a working student at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran before the martial law regime of this infamous Ilocano “nohero” , I have walked and been to Luneta and Fort Santiago many times, and the way you depicted Rizal came to life in my mind.. Nostalgic memories.
Been in the USA for over 30 years, and I am glad I have discovered you and your wriitings… greatest discovery I have this year and yes, your writing is easy reading but profound and quite insighful… More power to your pen, Raissa! (i mean laptop!)
Merry Christmas and Happy Prosperous New Year greetings from Fountain Valley (CA) USA to you and your family! (HOpe to meet you someday)