Thursday, April 19, 2012

Did Dr. José Rizal Ever Receive an Insulting, Scathing Letter?

Did Dr. José Rizal Ever Get a Good Scolding Letter?  Answer:  Yes
Why?   He asked for it.
Who sent it?  An anonymous friar from Manila.

José Rizal: Miscellaneous Correspondence, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, 2011
On 15 February 1888, José Rizal received a  scolding letter from Manila signed “A Friar” addressed familiarly "To Pepe.”

The letter was a virtual assault on Rizal’s character and integrity.  It says, “I am duty bound to send you these lines whether you like them or not.”  Then the catalogue of character assassination began:

You are very ungrateful.
…You have an atom of honesty.
…You attack cruelly without reason and without basis.
…You are becoming more and more stupid and vicious.
…You are totally submerged in the chaos of ignorance.

Of course, the friar reminds Pepe of what his religious order had bestowed on Rizal:

…You have repaid with blackest ingratitude the priceless benefits, which you received, from us.
…You owe us much of your education.
…What we are doing now is inhumanely impossible in bringing you out of ignorance.

The letter continues with a blame game involving God and Nature:

…We are not God that we could make bright minds out of nothing.
…If the fault is not yours, blame God and ask for an explanation of your backwardness.
…Blame Nature, which created you with innate incapacity.
If you are miserable than before, it is not our fault.

This anonymous writer calls the Government  “the monster” and the culprit in influencing Pepe’s atrocious behavior:

That monster claims to be your father;

…That Government which is duty bound to give you education, riches, and
solely responsible for you before humanity and God is;
…Destroying you,
…Spoiling you,
…Grabing your bread,
…Little by little annihilating you,

The anonymous author urges Pepe to attack this Government.

You should attack it severely.
…If you do that you shall have us at your side.

This letter becomes more and more interesting because it attributes Rizal’s negative views to his readings.  

…The abuses and insults you hurl to us came from your trashy books. 

At that time, Rizal was reading Voltaire, Rousseau, Zola and other French celebrated intellectuals who, through their works, defined the meaning of  "The Age of Enlightenment."  
Rizal's sketch of Voltaire statue

Marble statue, Voltaire, Louvre Museum

Rizal was also working on the Tagalog translation of Schiller's call for freedom in "William Tell".

Page 4 of Rizal's  Guillermo Tell Tagalog translation

And finally, to add insult to injury, this anonymous letter-writer challenges Pepe to a duel!

If you are offended, challenge us and we shall accept it.
…We are no cowards as you are.
 …Not discounting the possibility that a hidden hand may put an end to your life.

And piously, the “Friar” ends with:

 We could almost hear Rizal roar with laughter.  He was delighted to receive this kind of letter because he actually asked for this letter.  Earlier, he had requested his friend, Sixto Lopez, to send him "anonymously" a very insulting letter for four reasons:

1)    He knew that his letters were being opened and censored.
2)    He wanted to satirize the censors by giving them a dose of their own medicine.
3)    The letter expresses exactly the friars' general  attitude toward the educated Filipinos or the "ilustrados." And most importantly,
4)    By receiving this kind of letter, Rizal is reassured that all his future letters will be delivered to him promptly.

Reference: Jose Rizal’s Miscellaneous Correspondence, NHCP, 2011, pp. 96-97.