The Dr. Maximo Viola (Penelope V. Flores) / Dr. Jose Rizal (Patricia Laurel) connection.
History repeats itself.
Photo below. Seated: Penelope V. Flores, Gemma Cruz-Araneta
Standing: John David Jara, Patricia Laurel, Jane Inocencio, Chiara Inocencio
June is Dr. Jose Rizal's birth anniversary. I take this opportunity to relive my own family connection with the Philippine National Hero. I do this by reproducing an editorial written by Patricia Laurel, editor of Art In Site Magazine, Manila, Philippines. It is an incredible narrative of our respective ancestors' connection with Dr. Jose Rizal and an uncanny meeting last May 21st, 2009, Manila Hotel, Philippines.
"Message from Patricia Laurel. Editor, Art In Site Magazine" with Penélope’s Annotation
What are the odds of two complete strangers meeting in the year 2009 for the first time, finding themselves in similar circumstances, as did their male ancestors more than 100 years ago?
PENELOPE'S ANNOTATION: Exactly 123 years ago. (May 1886 to May 2009).
The only difference in the similarity of this incredible tale is that the ancestors were friends and colleagues, and the women descendants had never met until recently. Instead of the usual welcoming message and what to expect in this first online edition, AIS would like to share our experience this past May (2009), and give thanks to those who value and care for our culture and the arts.
Read on . . .
“It revived me,” said Rizal. “It gave me new hope. I went to the station to receive him and spoke to him about my work. He said he might be able to help me. I reflected and then decided to shorten the book, and eliminated whole chapters . . . but these will have a place in the continuation . . . I plan to publish seven volumes about Philippine conditions.” (Translated from Jose Rizal’s notes)
“To my dear friend, Maximo Viola, the first to read and appreciate my work - Jose Rizal, March 29, 1887, Berlin” (Rizal’s dedication to Maximo Viola written on the galley proofs of Noli Me Tangere.)
Message below was posted on AIS ezine:
Penelope V. Flores
Date: 2009-05-10 17:44:46
I want to congratulate the persons behind the idea of the art in site magazine, including the creation of the Manila Center for the Arts. I will be visiting Manila this month (May/June) and would love to get in touch with the organizers. I’m a professor at San Francisco State University where I work with graduate teachers. I’m interested in meeting the young brilliant visual artists, creative writers and musical talents of our country. I look forward to meeting you all.
PENELOPE’S ANNOTATION: I was attracted by the idea of a Manila Center for the Arts. Could it be similar to the School Of The Arts (SOTA) here in San Francisco?
The dwindling staff of Art in Site Magazine, waited at the lobby of the Manila Hotel on the day of the appointed meeting with Penelope Flores. They put aside the reality that things were not going well with the magazine to meet with the professor from San Francisco State University.
PENELOPE’S ANNOTATION: The Center was but a bold idea, however the publication was a tangible product. I was impressed with the Art In Site magazine. The articles were well written; the quality images attractive, and the overall presentation commanded respect.
Indeed, prospects were not bright and cheery for the continuation of Art in Site. The publication was in danger of being known as the one-time, one-hit run culture and the arts magazine - awaiting the inevitable throes of the death rattle. (For more details, please refer to previous online message from the editor.)
Enter Penelope, radiating with a lively exuberance that will stay with us nay sayers for a long time. Infected with the professor’s happy attitude at meeting the staff and being back home, the stooped-shoulders demeanor of the staff straightened, replaced by equal enthusiasm, but not quite up to par with that of the smiling lady, wearing a barong decked with pearls.
Penelope had arranged a tour of the Douglas MacArthur suite, but first invited the staff up to her room to get more acquainted, and to learn more about the magazine. She asked and received an earful of doom and gloom scenario from the business manager.
PENELOPE’S ANNOTATION: Filipinas Magazine editor, Gemma Nemenzo gave me an assignment to visit Manila Hotel's penthouse and submit an article about MacArthur’s Suite for the October 2009 issue.
The flow of conversation moved on to another topic.
Snippets of the conversation between the editor and Penelope went something like this:
Penelope: My husband and I had planned a trip to Germany, in particular Berlin, to research and trace the footsteps of Jose Rizal where Noli Me Tangere was published.
PENELOPE’S ANNOTATION: Manuel Flores and I recently completed a pictorial article of the apartments and places visited by Jose Rizal in Madrid: circa 1884-1886.
Editor: That’s interesting. Maybe I can be of help there. I lived and worked in Germany, and went to school in Heidelberg. (Editor looked hesitantly at her business manager, unsure of whether to continue.) My great grandmother, Maria, was the sister of Jose Rizal. I can also ask other family members for more information to help you in your research, if you like.
Penelope stared at the editor incredulously.
PENELOPE'S ANNOTATION: Cool. I'm now having a conversation with Rizal's great-grand niece.
Penelope: My great grandmother was the sister of Maximo Viola.
PENELOPE’S ANNOTATION: Maximo Viola's sister Juliana Viola (who married a Villarica) was my grandmother, not great grandma. I’m much older, in fact, a generation above that of my newly minted friend, Patti. Loaded with my huge ego and super vanity, I don't correct her.
Editor: The name is familiar. Wasn’t he a friend of Rizal’s? Oh, wow! This is too incredible! (Editor’s eyes go wide and smacked her forehead as realization sank in.) It’s a good thing I have an idea of the family’s history. That would be embarrassing if I didn’t!
PENELOPE’S ANNOTATION: Amazing! Patti Laurel, the editor, remembered the connection between Viola and Rizal! Precious few people barely learned this small historical footnote.
Penelope: My great-great uncle financed the publication of your great-great uncle’s book, Noli Me Tangere. Rizal considered it a loan, but Viola refused payment. It was agreed the money should be used for a worthy cause.
Editor: Naninigil po ba kayo? (Are you collecting on the debt?)
PENELOPE’S ANNOTATION: Viola lent Rizal 300 pesetas. Viola canvassed Berlin for a reasonably prized printer. Noli me Tangere being considered a subversive novel, it would have been impossible to find a printer in Spain.
Laughter, the cure-for-all heartaches, took over and an atmosphere of unity and a bond was formed between Penelope and the staff of AIS.
Former Part-time AIS business manager and voice of the Filipino underdog, Jane Inocencio, took it as a cue and stepped up to the plate, not showing any qualms about speaking up. She reiterated the severe lack of funds of Art in Site, the official publication of the future Manila Center for the Arts.
Penelope nodded in understanding and invited the staff to a buffet dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. Well, that was that. Jane tried her best, like she always did. Resigned once again to the eventuality of the magazine’s demise, the staff sat down to dinner and enjoyed the company of their hostess.
Penelope: I will help you.
The editor excused herself. When she returned, she smacked her forehead again in habit.
PENELOPE’S ANNOTATION: Patti must have broadcasted this incredible happenstance to her cousin Gemma Cruz Araneta, ( a Philippine icon in her own right), who was another of Maria Rizal’s descendants. She soon joined us at Manila Hotel (see picture above).
Editor: It’s a sign! Our meeting today happened for a reason. Penelope, our ancestors must have had a meeting up in the cosmos. Your great-great uncle reached out to you in your dreams and told you that his friend’s descendant was in need of help.
Penelope, an author and artist, who seldom reads her email, and only opened the one forwarded AIS email invitation blast from PAWA (Philippine American Writers and Artists) to view the site, overwhelmingly agreed. Is it divine intervention or the musings of an insane, worrywart, overworked imagination of an editor? Call it what you will, but something was at work out there and it was a sign that the work must continue, come hell or high water.
PENELOPE’S ANNOTATION: Gemma Cruz-Araneta gave me a copy of her book: Stones of Faith: Roman Catholic Churches in the Philippines. Les Pierres De La Foi. She autographed a moving message on the frontispage:
To Penelope V. Flores –
History repeats itself if I may say so. All good wishes. Our ancestors must be smiling. Gemma
21, May 2009
Today, we are still in the red, and the printer continues to bang loudly on the door, demanding payment for the remaining balance of the first publication of the magazine. But one thing remains certain - we have our Penelope cheering us on until we get to the light at the end of the tunnel. She is the catalyst that gave us the courage and the drive to push through. She arrived in the nick time to the rescue of this editor desperately grasping at straws and on the verge of ending this worthwhile project.
The editorial staff of Art in Site Magazine wishes to dedicate the first online edition to our champion in difficult economic times, Penelope Flores, without whose generous support would have sunk us deeper into the depths of oblivion. Our hats off to you, Penelope!
PENELOPE'S Blog Message:
Let's celebrate Dr Jose Rizal Holiday. Greetings to you all.