Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Issue #8: Rizal@160

Manuel L. Quezon III
8 min readJun 19, 2021

Today is the 160th birth anniversary of Rizal. Some weekend readings, to commemorate the occasion. I’m working on a two-part podcast on how and why, political party conventions, and the Convenor system, for finding and nominating, presidential candidates, came to be failures. Hopefully, not too tough a nut to crack!

EZ Izon’s editorial cartoon from 1961

This is, perhaps, the one piece of historical writing I’ve done, that’s had the widest circulation, even though it was written on a lark.

Adolf Rizal (and his Half Brother, Rizal Zedong) — Manuel L. Quezon

Adolf Rizal (and his Half Brother, Rizal Zedong) Manuel L. Quezon III, Today Newspaper Saturday, September 17, 1994 Here is the craziest thing I’ve heard (and I’ve heard it more than once, at parties): Adolf Hitler was really the illegitimate son of Jose Rizal. Here is the second craziest thing I’ve heard: Mao Zedong was actually Rizal’s illegitimate son. Two variations, I suppose, on the idea that “Yes, the Filipino Can!”

And this is hands down, the most serious thing I’ve written about Rizal, and one of the few lengthy pieces I’ve attempted in Filipino. It explores his idea of citizenship and civic virtues.

Si Rizal at ang Pilosopiya ng Pagtitiis — Manuel L. Quezon

Mensahe sa ika-107 anibersayo ng kamatayan ni Dr. Jose Rizal Calamba, Laguna, Ika-30 ng Disyembre, 2003

From our efforts to make the Official Gazette and the Presidential Museum and Library contribute to the national discourse, this online illustrated essay on the Rizal Monument, and Rizal Park remains one of the online projects I’m proudest of from our time in government.

TheCentenary of the Rizal

December 30, 2013 marks the centennial of the Rizal Monument, which was built as the tomb and memorial to Jose P. Rizal and has since then served as the de facto symbol of our nationhood. The following essay on the Rizal Monument — on its origins, complex history, and enduring legacy — is the Presidential Museum and Library’s contribution to the Rizal Day 2013 commemoration.

Most influential readings

From the first time I encountered this essay, it’s remained a great favorite of mine and one I always encourage people to read.

Rizal: The Tagalog Hamlet By Miguel de

The first part of this translation is based on the work of Antolina Antonio that appeared in Rizal: Contrary Essays, which was edited by Patronilo Bn. Daroy and Dolores S. Feria, and published in 1968. The original translation covers sections I to III of the essay. Sections IV to VIII are additional translations done by Joseph Casimiro.

The Ynchausti Foundation provided translation assistance and editorial review of the translated essay.

This passage from one of the books of the late Teodoro M. Locsin also influenced me deeply, and I try to use it as often as I can, when I can.

Teodoro M. Locsin,

…A man is presumed to have intended all the consequences of his act. Rizal was a revolutionary, for he incited the people to a revolution. That he did not mean to do so is beside the point.

The voice of moderation, pleading for due process of law under an absolute despotism, arguing the possibility of persuading the tiger to change its stripes and cease to be a tiger, does not know the tiger. Asking the tiger and the lamb to lie down together in gentleness –as though it were possible– disarms the lamb and feeds the tiger. It is a form of pharisaism: doing evil with a good conscience. Ultimately, the tiger, grown dull and stupid from undisputed rule, fails to distinguish between friend and food and devours not only lamb but pharisee.

In the story of his life as a revolutionary by consequence rather than by intention, the distaste for violence however necessary and the distrust of the masses native to him provide a kind of counterpoint to the main and classic theme of oppression and revolt. Rizal’s death, a monument to serene courage and intellectual confusion, of a peace that passes all understanding — his death which precipitated the revolution was one more instance of the peculiar logic and morality of the historical processes, the delicate perversity and smiling savagery of the gods.

In so many ways, Mabini, even more than Rizal, was the first Modern Filipino, and an unacknowledged bridge between the revolutionary generation (many of whom, like him, were late converts to the cause) and the independence-achieving generation that secured our political independence.

From Apolinario Mabini, La Revolucion Filipina,

Chapter VIII: First Stage of the Revolution: …In contrast to Burgos who wept because he died guiltless, Rizal went to the execution ground calm and even cheerful, to show that he was happy to sacrifice his life, which he had dedicated to the good of all the Filipinos, confident that in love and gratitude they would always remember him and follow his example and teaching. In truth the merit of Rizal’s sacrifice consists precisely in that it was voluntary and conscious. He had known perfectly well that, if he denounced the abuses which the Spaniards were committing in the Philippines, they would not sleep in peace until they had encompassed his ruin; yet he did so because, if the abuses were not exposed, they would never be remedied. From the day Rizal understood the misfortunes of his native land and decided to work to redress them, his vivid imagination never ceased to picture to him at every moment of his life the terrors of the death that awaited him; thus he learned not to fear it, and had no fear when it came to take him away; the life of Rizal, from the time he dedicated it to the service of his native land, was therefore a continuing death, bravely endured until the end for love of his countrymen. God grant that they will know how to render to him the only tribute worth of his memory: the imitation of his virtues.

Rizal’s Own Writings

This brief letter by Rizal, sparked joy the moment I encountered it in his collected writings, and I also never cease to enjoy sharing it with others.

My favorite Rizal letter

What is going to take a long time, is the inclusion of all of Rizal’s diaries, in the original Spanish and in translation, in The Philippine Diary Project. The link below takes you to what we have so far.

José Rizal, Author at The Philippine Diary

(June 19, 1861 — December 30, 1896), opthalmologist, sculptor, novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, civic organizer.

Rizal in full rhetorical flight, in English and the Spanish original.

Jose Rizal’s Homage to Luna and Hidalgo | Presidential Museum and Library
A toast delivered by Jose Rizal at a banquet in the Restaurant Ingles, Madrid, on the evening of June 25, 1884, in honor of Juan Luna, winner of the gold medal for his painting “El Expoliarium,” and Félix Resurección Hidalgo, winner of a silver medal for his painting “Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho” at la Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes de Madrid. [Translated from the original Spanish by Encarnacion Alzona for the Rizal Centennial Commission and Raul Guerrero Montemayor.]

A document that speaks for itself and which remains a litmus test for Filipinos.

Jose Rizal, “Additions to my Defense,” December 26, 1896

“Don Jose Rizal y Alonso respectfully requests the Court Martial to consider well the following circumstances: First — Regarding the rebellion. From July 6th, 1892, I had absolutely no connection with politics until July 1st of this year when, advised by Don Pio Valenzuela that an uprising was proposed, I counseled against it, trying to convince him with arguments. Don Pio Valenzuela left me convinced apparently; so much so that instead of later taking part in rebellion, he presented himself to the authorities for pardon.”

Readings from his era

Contemporary accounts, Rizal, the authorities, and his sisters.

Rizal, his sisters, and Malacañan Palace | Presidential Museum and Library
It was not long after I had begun to write a letter, and was already virtually finished with it, when I was summoned by the Governor General …

Additional contemporary readings and accounts.

Malacañan Palace in the time of Rizal | Presidential Museum and Library
Things now moved a little slower and more true to form that was seen with [General Joaquín] Jovellar under whom papers and funds had moved with admirable dispatch, but the new azotea may well have been completed when Rizal, the most celebrated and notorious proponent of liberal reform of his generation, was ordered to visit [Lieutenant General Emilio] Terrero at Malacañan in late August or early September 1887. Ordered to give an explanation for his novel Noli Me Tangere — a scathing portrayal of the Spanish administration and the religious orders branded immediately as subversive and subsequently banned — Terrero confronted Rizal in his office at the Palace and actually asked for a copy of the book that he may know what all the fuss was about. Rizal returned a second time to bring one to Terrero who “received me with more friendliness.”[i]

Other readings

Most of what appears are endless relitigations of old controversies. Some of the freshest and most independent new thoughts on Rizal are in the link below.

I Write As I Write: On Rizal

Collated below are various essays and posts on Jose Rizal and the importance of him and his ideas in Philippine culture and history.

Don’t forget!

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Manuel L. Quezon III

Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editor-at-large Views strictly mine. I have a newsletter, blog, podcast, and Patreon.