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JOSE RIZAL: From Dapitan to Bagumbayan

 
VARIOUS SIGNIFICANT EVENTS happened during Rizal’s Dapitan-to-Manila trip.
Leaving Dapitan for Manila on July 31, 1896, the steamer ‘España’ with Rizal as a passenger made some stopovers in various areas. In Dumaguete, Rizal had visited some friends like a former classmate from Madrid and had cured a sick Guardia Civil captain. In Cebu, he carried out four operations and gave out prescriptions to other patients. Going to Iloilo, he saw the historical Mactan island. He went shopping and was impressed by the Molo church in Iloilo. The ship then sailed to Capiz, to Romblon, and finally to Manila.

In Manila
It is said that as the steamer approached Luzon, there was an attempt by the Katipuneros to help Rizal escape (Bantug, p. 135). The Katipunero Emilio Jacinto, disguising himself as a ship crew member, was supposed to have managed to get close to Rizal, while another Katipunan member, Guillermo Masankay, circled the ship in a boat. Firm in his aim to fulfill his mission in Cuba, Rizal accordingly refused to be rescued by Katipunan’s envoys.
 
Rizal arrived in Manila on August 6, 1896, a day after the mail boat ‘Isla de Luzon’ had left for Spain, and so he had to stay in Manila until the next steamer arrived. Afraid that his one-month stay onboard the ship might bring him troubles, he requested the governor general that he (Rizal) be isolated from everyone except his family. The government reacted by transferring him near midnight of the same day to the cruiser ‘Castilla’ docked at Cavite.
 

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On August 19, the Katipunan plot to revolt against the Spanish authorities was discovered through the confession of a certain Teodoro Patiño to Mariano Gíl, Augustinian cura of Tondo. This discovery led to the arrest of many Katipuneros. The Katipunan led by Bonifacio reacted by convening many of its members and deciding to immediately begin the armed revolt. As a sign of their commitment to the revolution, they tore their cedulas (residence certificates). Katipunan’s first major assault happened on August 30 when the Katipuneros attacked the 100 Spanish soldiers protecting the powder magazine in San Juan. Because Spanish reinforcements arrived, about 150 Katipuneros were killed and more than 200 were taken prisoner. This bloody encounter in San Juan and the uprisings in other suburban Manila areas on that same day prompted the governor general to proclaim a state of war in Manila and other seven nearby provinces.
 
On the same day (August 30), Blanco issued letters of recommendation on Rizal’s behalf to Spanish Minister of War and Minister of Colonies with a cover letter clearing Rizal of any connection to the raging revolution. On September 2, he was transported to the ship ‘Isla de Panay.’

Going to Spain
The steamer ‘Isla de Panay’ left Manila for Barcelona the next day. Arriving in Singapore on September 7, Rizal was urged by some Filipinos like his co-passenger Don Pedro Roxas and Singaporean resident Don Manuel Camus to stay in the British-controlled territory. Trusting Blanco’s words, Rizal refused to stay in Singapore. Without his knowledge however, Blanco and the Ministers of War and the Colonies had been exchanging telegrams, planning his arrest upon reaching Barcelona.
 
As ‘Isla de Panay’ made a stopover at Port Said, Egypt on September 27, the passengers had known that the uprising in the Philippines got worsen as thousands of Spanish soldiers were dispatched to Manila and many Filipinos were either killed in the battle, or arrested and executed. Rizal had the feeling that he had already been associated to the Filipino revolution as his co-passengers became aloof to him. A day after, he wrote a letter to Blumentritt informing him that he (Rizal) received an information that Blanco had an order to arrest him. Before reaching Malta on September 30, he was officially ordered to stay in his cabin until further orders from Blanco come.
 
With Rizal as a prisoner onboard, the ‘Isla de Panay’ anchored at Barcelona on October 3, 1896. He was placed under heavy guard by the then Military Commander of Barcelona, General Eulogio Despujol, the same former governor general who deported Rizal to Dapitan in 1892. Early in the morning of October 6, he was transported to Monjuich prison-fortress. In the afternoon, he was brought to Despujol who told him that there was an order to ship him (Rizal) back to Manila in the evening.
 
He was then taken aboard the ship ‘Colon’ which left for Manila at 8 pm. The ship was full of Spanish soldiers and their families who were under orders not to go near or talk to Rizal. Though he was allowed to take walks on deck during the journey, he was locked up and handcuffed before reaching any port.

Arriving in Manila as a prisoner on November 3, 1896, Rizal was detained in Fort Santiago where he had been imprisoned four years ago. To gather pieces of evidence against him, some of his friends, acquaintances, members of the ‘La Liga,’ and even his brother Paciano were tortured and forcibly questioned. As a preliminary investigation, Rizal underwent a series of interrogation administered by one of the judges, Colonel Francisco Olive—the same military leader who led the troops that forced the Rizal family to vacate their Calamba home in 1890. Those who were coerced to testify against Rizal were not allowed to be cross-examined by the accused.
 
Rizal is said to have admitted knowing most of those questioned, “though he would deny to the end that he knew either Andres Bonifacio or Apolinario Mabini” (Bantug, p. 139).
Fifteen pieces of documentary evidence were presented—Rizal’s letters, letters of his compatriots like Marcelo del Pilar and Antonio Luna, a poem (Kundiman), a Masonic document, two transcripts of speech of Katipuneros (Emilio Jacinto and Jose Turiano Santiago), and Rizal’s poem ‘A Talisay.’ The testimonial evidence involved the oral testimonies of 13 Filipinos notably including that of La Liga officers like Ambrosio Salavador and Deodato Arellano, and the Katipunero Pio Valenzuela.
 
Olive submitted the reports to Blanco on November 26 and Captain Rafael Dominguez was assigned as special Judge Advocate in Rizal’s case. Dominguez made a summary of the case and delivered it to Blanco who subsequently sent the papers to Judge Advocate General Don Nicolas Dela Peña. After examining the case, Peña recommended that (1) Rizal be instantly brought to trial, (2) he must be kept in jail, (3) an order of attachment be issued against his property, and (4) a Spanish army officer, not a civilian lawyer, be permitted to defend him in court.
 
On December 8, Rizal was given the restricted right to choose his lawyer from a list of 100 Spanish army officers. He chose Lt. Luis Taviel de Andrade who turned out to be the younger brother of his bodyguard-friend in Calamba in 1887, Jose Taviel de Andrade. Three days after (December 11), the formal charges were read to Rizal in his prison cell, with Andrade on his side. In short, he was accused of being the main organizer and the ‘living soul’ of the revolution having proliferated ideas of rebellion and of founding illegal organizations. He pleaded not guilty to the crime of rebellion and explained that ‘La Liga’, the constitution of which he wrote, was just a civic organization.
 
On December 13, the day Camilo G. de Polavieja replaced Blanco as governor general, papers of Rizal’s criminal case were sent to Malacañang. Concern about the welfare of his people, Rizal on December 15 wrote a manifesto appealing to the revolutionaries to discontinue the uprising and pursue to attain liberty instead by means of education and of labor. But de la Peña interpreted the manifesto as all the more advocating the spirit of rebellion as it ultimately willed the Filipino liberty. Polavieja thus disallowed to issue Rizal’s manifesto.

On December 26 morning, the Filipino patriot who was once figuratively referred to by Spanish officials as a ‘trapped rat’ appeared in the kangaroo court inside the military building, Cuartel de España. He was tried before seven members of the military court with Lt. Col. Jose Togores Arjona acting as the president.
            Judge Advocate Dominguez presented Rizal’s criminal case followed by the lengthy speech of Prosecuting Attorney Enrique de Alcocer. To appeal to the emotions of the Spanish judges, Alcocer went as far as dramatically mentioning the Spanish soldiers who had died in the Filipino traitorous revolt and discriminately describing Rizal as “a typical ‘Oriental,’ who had presumed to rise from a lower social scale in order to attain powers and positions that could never be his” (Bantug, p. 144). At the end, Alcocer petitioned for a death sentence for Rizal and an indemnity of twenty thousand pesos.
            Rizal’s defense counsel, Lt. Andrade, then took the floor and tried his very best to save his client by reading his responsive defense, stressing too that it’s but natural for anyone to yearn for liberty and independence. Afterward, Rizal was allowed to read his complementary defense consisting of logical proofs that he could have not taken part in the revolution and that La Liga was distinct from Katipunan. He argued, among others, that he even advised the Katipunan emissary (Valenzuela) in Dapitan not to pursue with the plan to revolt; the revolutionists had used his name without his knowledge; he could have escaped either in Dapitan or Singapore if he were guilty; and the civic group La Liga which died out upon his exile did not serve the purpose of the uprising, and he had no knowledge about its reformation.
            Lt. Col. Arjona then declared the trial over. Expectedly, the entire defense was indifferently disregarded in Rizal’s mock trial as it instantaneously considered him guilty and unanimously voted for the death sentence.
 
The trial ended with the reading of the sentence. Doctor Jose Rizal was found guilty. The sentence was death by firing squad.
 
On December 28, Governor General Polavieja signed the court decision and decreed that the guilty be executed by firing squad at 7 a.m. of December 30, 1896 at Bagumbayan (Luneta). Because Rizal was also required to sign the verdict, he stoically signed his own death sentence.

Accounts on Rizal’s last hours vary and largely depend on the historian one is reading. What happened in Rizal’s life from 6 a.m. of December 29, 1896 until his execution was perhaps the most controversial in his biography, for the divisive claims—like his supposed retraction and Catholic marriage with Bracken—allegedly occurred within this time frame.
 
Standard biography nonetheless states that at 6 a.m. of December 29, Judge Advocate Dominguez formally read the death sentence to Rizal. At about 7 a.m., he was transferred to either his ‘death cell’ or ‘prison chapel’. He was visited by Jesuit priests, Miguel Saderra Mata and Luis Viza. They brought the medal of the Ateneo’s Marian Congregation of which Rizal was a member and the wooden statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus he had carved in the school. Rizal put the wooden image on his table while he rejected the medal saying "Im little of a Marian, Father.” (“Last Hours of Rizal”).
 
At 8 a.m., the priest Antonio Rosell arrived, after his co-priest Viza left. Rizal shared his breakfast with Rosell. Later, Lt. Andrade came and Rizal thanked his defense lawyer. Santiago Mataix of the Spanish newspaper ‘El Heraldo de Madrid’ interviewed Rizal at about 9 a.m. Then came the priest Federico Faura at about 10 a.m. He advised Rizal to forget about his resentment and marry Josephine canonically. The two had heated discussion about religion as witnessed by Rosell (“Last Hours of Rizal”).
 
Two other priests, Jose Vilaclara and Vicente Balaguer (missionary in Dapitan) also visited Rizal at about 11 a.m. The Jesuits tried to convince Rizal to write a retraction. Though still believing in the Holy Scriptures, Rizal supposedly refused to retract his anti-Catholic views, exclaiming, “Look, Fathers, if I should assent to all you say and sign all you want me to, just to please you, neither believing nor feeling, I would be a hypocrite and would then be offending God.” (Bantug, p. 148).
 
At 12 noon, Rizal was left alone in his cell. He had his lunch, read the Bible, and meditated. About this time, Balaguer reported to the Archbishop that only a little hope remained that Rizal would retract (“Last Hours of Rizal”). Refusing to receive visitors for the meantime, Rizal probably finished his last poem at this moment. Rizal also wrote to Blumentritt his last letter in which he called the Austrian scholar “my best, my dearest friend”.
 
He then had a talk with priests Estanislao March and Vilaclara at about 2 p.m. Balaguer then returned to Rizal’s cell at 3:30 p.m. and allegedly discussed (again) about Rizal’s retraction (Zaide, p. 265). Rizal then wrote letters and dedications and rested for short.
 
At 4 p.m., the sorrowful Doña Teodora and Jose’s sisters came to see the sentenced Rizal. The mother was not allowed a last embrace by the guard though her beloved son, in quiet grief, managed to press a kiss on her hand. Dominguez is said to have been moved with compassion at the sight of Rizal’s kneeling before his mother and asking forgiveness. As the dear visitors were leaving, Jose handed over to Trinidad an alcohol cooking stove, a gift from the Pardo de Taveras, whispering to her in a language which the guards could not comprehend, “There is something in it.” That ‘something’ was Rizal’s elegy now known as “Mi Ultimo Adios.”
 
The Dean of the Manila Cathedral, Don Silvino Lopez Tuñon, came to exchange some views with Rizal at about 5:30 p.m. Balaguer and March then left, leaving Vilaclara andTuñon in Rizal’s cell. As Rosell was leaving at about 6 p.m., Josephine Bracken arrived in Fort Santiago. Rizal called for her and they emotionally talked to each other (“Last Hours of Rizal”). At 7 p.m. , Faura returned and convinced Rizal to trust him and other Ateneo professors. After some quiet moments, Rizal purportedly confessed to Faura (“Last Hours of Rizal”).
 
Rizal then took his last supper at about 8 p.m. and attended to his personal needs. He then told Dominguez that he had forgiven his enemies and the military judges who sentenced him to death. At about 9 or 9:30 p.m., Manila’s Royal Audiencia Fiscal Don Gaspar Cestaño came and had an amiable talk with Rizal.
 
Historian Gregorio F. Zaide alleged that at 10 p.m. Rizal and some Catholic priests worked on the hero’s retraction (Zaide & Zaide, pp. 265-266). Supposedly, Balaguer brought to Rizal a retraction draft made by Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda (1890-1903) but Rizal did not like it for being long. A shorter retraction made by Jesuit Pio Pi was then offered to Rizal which he allegedly liked. So it is said that he wrote his retraction renouncing freemasonry and his anti-Catholic ideas. Zaide nonetheless admitted that the supposed retraction is now a (very) controversial document. For many reasons, Rizal’s assumed retraction and his supposed church marriage with Bracken have been considered highly dubious by many Rizal scholars.
            Rizal then spent the night resting until the crack of dawn of December, perhaps praying and meditating once in a while. Zaide however alleged that at 3 a.m., Rizal heard Mass, confessed sins, and took Communion.   
            At about 4 a.m., he picked up the book ‘Imitation of Christ’ by Thomas a Kempis, read, and meditated. At 5 a.m. he washed up, attended to his personal needs, read the Bible, and contemplated. For breakfast, he was given three boiled eggs. Rizal’s grandniece Asuncion Lopez-Rizal Bantug mentioned “three soft-boiled eggs” and narrated that Rizal ate two of them (Bantug, pp. 151-152). Known historian Ambeth R. Ocampo, on the other hand, wrote “three hard-boiled eggs” and related that Rizal “did not have any breakfast” (Ocampo, p. 227). Both historians however wrote that Rizal placed the boiled egg (or eggs) to a cell corner, saying in effect, “This is for the rats, let them celebrate likewise!”
 
Afterward, Rizal wrote letters, one addressed to his family and another to Paciano. To his family, he partly wrote, “I ask you for forgiveness for the pain I cause you … I die resigned, hoping that with my death you will be left in peace…” He also left this message to his sisters: “I enjoin you to forgive one another… Treat your old parents as you would like to be treated by your children later. Love them very much in my memory.” To Paciano, he partially wrote, “I am thinking now how hard you have worked to give me a career … I know that you have suffered much on my account, and I am sorry.”
 

Though some accounts state that Bracken was forbidden from seeing Rizal on this fateful day, Zaide wrote that at 5:30 a.m., she and Rizal’s sister Josefa came. The couple was said to have embraced for the last time and Rizal gave to Josephine the book ‘Imitation of Christ’ on which he wrote the dedication: “To my dear and unhappy wife, Josephine/ December 30th, 1896/ Jose Rizal”.

 
Before Rizal made his death march to Bagumbayan, he managed to pen his last letters to his beloved parents. To Don Francisco, he wrote, “Pardon me for the pain which I repay you … Good bye, Father, goodbye…”. Perhaps told by the authorities that the march was about to begin, Rizal managed to write only the following to his mother:
 
To my very dear Mother,
Sra. Dña. Teodora Alonso
6 o’clock in the morning, December 30, 1896.
Jose Rizal

At 6:30 a.m., Rizal in black suit and black bowler hat, tied elbow to elbow, began his slow walk to Bagumbayan. He walked along with his defense lawyer, Andrade, and two Jesuit priests, March and Vilaclara. In front of them were the advance guard of armed soldiers and behind them were another group of military men. The sound of a trumpet signaled the start of the death march and the muffled sound of drums served as the musical score of the walk.       
 
Early in that morning, plenty of people had eagerly lined the streets. Some were sympathetic to him, others—especially the Spaniards—wanted nothing less than to see him die. Some observed that Rizal kept keenly looking around and “it was believed that his family or the Katipuneros would make a last-minute effort to spring him from the trap” (Ocampo, p. 228).
 
Once in a while, Rizal conversed with the priests, commenting on things like his happy years in the Ateneo as they passed by Intramuros. Commenting on the clear morning, he was said to have uttered something like, “What a beautiful morning! On days like this, I used to talk a walk here with my sweetheart.”
 
After some minutes, they arrived at the historic venue of execution. Filipino soldiers were deliberately chosen to compose the firing squad. Behind them stood their Spanish counterparts, ready to execute them also should they decline to do the job.
 
There was just a glitch in the proceeding as Rizal refused to kneel and declined the traditional blindfold. Maintaining that he was not a traitor to his country and to Spain, he even requested to face the firing squad. After some sweet-talk, Rizal agreed to turn his back to the firing squad but requested that he be shot not in the head—but in the small of the back instead.
 
When agreement had been reached, Rizal thankfully shook the hand of his defense lawyer. The military physician then asked permission to feel the pulse of the man who had only a few minutes to live and the doctor was startled to find it normal. Before leaving Rizal in his appointed place, the priests offered him a crucifix to kiss “but he turned his head away and silently prepared for his death” (Ambeth Ocampo, p. 228).
 
When the command had been given, the executioners’ guns barked at once. Rizal yelled Christ’s two last words “Consummatum est!” (“It is finished!”) simultaneously with his final effort to twist his bullet-pierced body halfway around.
Facing the sky, Jose Rizal fell on the ground dead at exactly 7:03 in the morning of December 30, 1896.  (© 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog)
 
Jensen DG. Mañebog, the contributor, is a book author and professorial lecturer in the graduate school of a state university in Metro Manila. His unique book on Rizal comprehensively tackles, among others, the respective life of Rizal’s parents, siblings, co-heroes, and girlfriends. (e-mail: jensenismo@gmail.com)

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TAGS: Jose Rizal, Death, Execution, Martyrdom, Bagumbayan, Luneta, Dapitan, History, Philippine Studies, Filipino Heroes; JOSE RIZAL: From Dapitan to Bagumbayan
 

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