I had religiously read and re-read José Rizal's letters to his parents, brothers and sisters in the Philippines and to his good friend Ferdinand Blumentritt of Lietmeritz, Austria. It is a daunting experience. Taken in current contemporary times, it's like Rizal was blogging and I was a blog follower. There are several volumes printed in 1961 by the National Historical Institute, National José Rizal Centennial Edition.
At that time, the mail boat schedule was announced and posted in all municipal offices. If one wanted a letter to be posted for abroad, it had to make the deadline. It took forty to forty-five days for the steam boat to and from the Philippines. Fortunately, a mail boat left every week.
Since he started writing his letters to his family, these letters had taken on a life of a travelogue. He wrote about his observations and his thoughts and even his dreams while aboard the ship through Suez Canal, stopping in Naples, Italy, then docking and weighing anchor at Marseilles, France, From there he took the express train to Barcelona, Spain. He wrote about the difference between the courteousness and politeness of the French border patrols and the coarse bullying of the Spanish border guards.
Rizal instructed his sisters that they should save his letters addressed to "My dear parents, brothers and sisters," because he planned to compile all these letters when he got home from studies abroad. I'm so glad that the Rizal family saved all his letters. Others had pages missing but in spite of that I can get a glimpse of the José's unique characteristics and persona as a young adult being acculturated to Madrid's social life. I particularly like the fact that he goes to theaters and occasionally to "bailes". Pero na mimintas siya.
Once, he wrote about going to Alhambra, a dance hall. It was a masquerade ball and he went with friends. Of course, they oogled the girls. Soon three young girls floated by. What attracted Rizal was the fact that they were wearing the Filipino dress. Let's read what his observations were.
"11 January 1883.
There we saw (and they attracted the attention of everybody in the theatre), three young women wearing very elegant Filipino dresses, one with tapis and the others without it. Although I suppose they didn't know how to wear it (namintas pa--he makes some criticism. pvf.) as well as the true daughters of Malate, Ermita, Sta. Cruz and Binondo, for only two of them were Filipino women; nevertheless, they seemed to us, divine and elegant. They walked about dragging along their shirts of bright red and white, yellow and white, violet and white, topped with jusi blouses, piña neckpieces that everybody stared at them."
In the spirit of Christmas and the New Year, I tried to find out if he greeted anybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. He actually did, in a letter to Ferdinand Blumentritt written in German and dated 10 December, 1891 Hongkong. See facsimile of his letter below: On top of the page, he writes, "Merry Christmas."
What a lovely and charming way to greet you all a Merry Christmas *Weihnacht* straight from Rizal's own holiday greeting, and to top it all, in his own penmanship.