Monday, May 27, 2013

THE GREATEST HEIST: Rizal’s El Filibusterismo Stolen: How it was Retrieved

Rizal’s El Filibusterismo Stolen: How it was Repossessed

In my previous blog, I wrote about how the Mi Ultimo Adios was stolen, retrieved from the Rizaliana Thief. (See http://penelopevflores,blogspot/12/5/2113/The Greatest Heist in Rizaliana History/html

In this blog, I continue with my story based from the newspaper clippings of Elizabeth Roces Pedrosa.

Review Act 1.  The Three Rizal original documents were stolen on 8 Dec. 1961.  It appeared like an inside job.  Secretary of Education Anding Roces met with the thief “emissary” and by sheer personality sleight of hand, and bravado, got the Mi Ultimo Adios without paying a single cent for ransom.

We begin this blog with Act Two.

Act Two, Scene 1. The El Filibusterismo negotiations at Luneta Grandstand

Roces and the mystery man agreed to meet again at the Luneta Grandstand, on 3 Feb. The thief complained about the news coverage.

“What is happening?  We should be the  bida’ but in the news, it’s you Sekretaryo who is the bida, "the starring role."

 “And why not,” the Sekretaryo riposted,  Porque ba ako ay bigotillo, ay palagi na akong contra-bida?”  [Just because I have a moustache doesn’t mean I’m always the villain]. In Philippine movies, the villain is always characterized as wearing a moustache.  

The Sekretaryo has now changed his strategy through humor.  The frantic negotiator lowered the ransom amount to 100,000 pesos. 

Roces remarked that no money could be exchanged.  At this point, the thief suggested paying the ransom “in kind".  "Can you get me a civil service job?"

“Gladly.  I can give you a teaching job. Do you have a teaching certificate? I can assign a Rizal course for you.  But you have to give me your full name and address.”

“No way. I do not want to incriminate myself.”

The thief said he wants to be admitted to the medical school at Far Eastern University with full free tuition and books.

“Done,” said Roces, “give me your transcript of records, I will have you registered to take the Medical Entrance Exam. How is your chemistry and advanced calculus test taking skills?  You have to pass this, you know.”

He felt trapped and looked defeated. 

They got into Roces' car.  From there the emissary told him to go to Dewey Blvd, going through a most circuitous way on to EDSA to ensure no one is following them.

They arrived at a Quezon City restaurant called Café Alba.  There they sat down and renewed their negotiations over a glass of soft drinks for the thief, and a glass of sangria for the Sekretaryo.


Scene 2.  Café Alba Restaurant, Quezon City
Manila Times, news coverage, Feb. 8, 1962.
The ransom money was now lowered to 10,000 pesos for the 2 books. Roces absolutely refused any talk about ransom money, but insisted on the return of the stolen goods:The Noli and the Fili.  But the emissary grew agitated,  "No, not  the Noli.  That one is buried deep up to here," and he put his open palm down at his neck as a marker. 

Anding Roces is a young creative writer and author. He worked his six -item-talking points on this thief.

“Have you ever stolen anything of value before?”


“So, have you really thought out the full and unintended consequences of this theft?”

“Like what?  Just give us the ransom money so my family and I can live in comfort.”

“By now, you know that several things have disrupted your comfortable and simple life until the theft, Remember…

1] That you and your accomplices won’t get a single centavo from the government, and presently, you are making a woeful progress in our negotiations;

2] No one in their right mind would touch the Noli and Fili as purchase items because these have become notoriously too hot to handle.  We know you approached the museum director of Santo Tomas University with no success;

3] You have in your hands red hot potatoes with nowhere to turn.  The police are ready to pounce on you.  

4] I can easily give the National Bureau of Investigations your physical descriptions. Your face will be all over the newspapers, but not your accomplices.   Naisahan ka nila.  [They put one over you.] You’re a marked man. The Manila mayor, Arsenic Lacson, is on a wild rampage to get you-all.

It is very clear to me that you are only acting as a contact man for the real criminal masterminds. 

5] If, as you threatened, you will burn the novels, you and your family, and for generations to come, will be dammed and cursed always and for all eternity recurring every time Rizal’s memorial is celebrated twice a year: on his birthday in June and his martyrdom in Dec.  

You can be hanged.  Is this what you really want?

6] Make a right rationalization and for national posterity, return the historical documents to me now. All your defenses have crumbled.  

There was a long pause.  The thief looked so nervous and scared. His eyes darted sideways several times.  Roces believed the real culprits were peeking from somewhere.

Roces knew when to rein the rope tight and when to give slack. This time he followed in an amianable manner: 

“However, if you do give it back ako ang bahala sa iyo.”  [I’ll not leave you on a lurch.]'  

Spoken in Tagalog it carries an emotional assurance.

That nailed it. 

Act Two, Scene 3, Barrio Fiesta, EDSA

Back on the car they drove to the Bonifacio Monument at Balintawak, Caloocan, Rizal.

Two kilometers past the monument, they parked in front of Barrio Fiesta Restaurant on Highway 54, (now EDSA).  The man reiterated he’d return it for some money consideration. 

Roces replied, "No, never!  The country will not pay anything. Just give it back through your loyalty and patriotism.”

He got out of the car and said, “Wait here.” The wait time was as thick as molasses.  He had been out long and Roces was beginning to feel that he lost him.  

But he reappeared  carrying a box. He put the box on the car’s passenger seat. He mumbled, "Kayo na ang bahala sa akin." [cover my back.]  

Roces opened it, and the three figures of the three martyred Filipino priests: Gomez, Burgos and Zamora on the book cover assured him that the  El Filibusterismo was finally in his hands.

In my next blog, I'll write the sensational drama behind the return of the Noli me tangere.  Stay with me for Act Three.

Sources, newspaper clippings of The Manila Times, The Daily Mirror,  The Chronicle, 
The Evening News,  and Kislap-Aliwan. Magazine,  Feb 4 to 8,  Mar 1, 3, 21  1962.