Sidetrip: Rizal sa Dapitan

Josephine, Josephine
Who to these shore have come
Looking for a nest, a home,  
Like a wandering swallow;

If your fate is taking you
To Japan, China or Shanghai,
Don’t forget on these shores
  A heart for you beats high.

To Josephine, Jose Rizal c 1890

Visiting Dapitan made me go back to the writings of Rizal, our hero who until now has not found peace for his rightful place in our nation’s history.  Hero or traitor, revolutionary or reformist, God-fearing or atheist, Jose Rizal is no doubt the greatest Filipino who ever lived.

Beside a spacious beach of fine and delicate sand
and at the foot of a mountain greener than a leaf,
I planted my humble hut beneath a pleasant orchard,
seeking in the still serenity of the woods
repose to my intellect and silence to my grief.

Its roof is fragile nipa; its floor is brittle bamboo;
its beams and posts are rough as rough-hewn wood can be;
of no worth, it is certain, is my rustic cabin;
but on the lap of the eternal mount it slumbers
and night and day is lulled by the crooning of the sea.

The overflowing brook, that from the shadowy jungle
descends between huge bolders, washes it with its spray,
donating a current of water through makeshift bamboo pipes
that in the silent night is melody and music
and crystalline nectar in the noon heat of the day

From My Retreat, 1895

Rizal spent his last living years in Dapitan, before he was executed in December 1896.  Aware of the fate that awaits him in Manila, he spent his exile years in Dapitan building a school, a hospital and a water system.  He became the first barrio doctor and barrio teacher.  It is also in Dapitan that Jose Rizal found his one (of many) true love in Josephine Bracken.  It is a pity and a source of wonder that their son Francisco did not survive to live.

To doubt God is to doubt one’s own conscience, and in consequence, it would be to doubt everything; and then what is life for? Now then, my faith in God, if the result of a ratiocination may be called faith, is blind, blind in the sense of knowing nothing. I neither believe nor disbelieve the qualities which many attribute to him; before theologians’ and philosophers’ definitions and lucubrations of this ineffable and inscrutable being I find myself smiling. Faced with the conviction of seeing myself confronting the supreme Problem, which confused voices seek to explain to me, I cannot but reply: ‘It could be; but the God that I foreknow is far more grand, far more good: Plus Supra!

I believe in (revelation); but not in revelation or revelations which each religion or religions claim to possess. Examining them impartially, comparing them and scrutinizing them, one cannot avoid discerning the human ‘fingernail’ and the stamp of the time in which they were written… No, let us not make God in our image, poor inhabitants that we are of a distant planet lost in infinite space.  However, brilliant and sublime our intelligence may be, it is scarcely more than a small spark which shines and in an instant is extinguished, and it alone can give us no idea of that blaze, that conflagration, that ocean of light. I believe in revelation, but in that living revelation which surrounds us on every side, in that voice, mighty, eternal, unceasing, incorruptible, clear, distinct, universal as is the being from whom it proceeds, in that revelation which speaks to us and penetrates us from the moment we are born until we die. 

From Rizal’s letter to Father Pastell, c 1890


That was a mouthful from our national hero.  His thoughts on religion remind me of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, that advances man is part of God, or the concept of at-one-ment.  Being a Freemason himself, Rizal might have already  known “the secret” at that time.


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