“One gathers from Rizal’s own account of his boyhood that he was brought up in circumstances that even in the Philippines of our day would be considered privileged. Rizal’s father became one of the town’s wealthiest men, the first to build a stone house and buy another, keep a carriage, own a library, and send his children to school in Manila. Jose himself had an aya, that is to say, a nanny or personal servant, although he had five elder sisters who, in less affluent circumstances, could have been expected to look after him.
His father engaged a private tutor for him. Later, he would study in private schools, go to the university, finish his courses abroad. It was the classic method for producing a middle-class intellectual, and it does much to explain the puzzling absence of any real social consciousness in Rizal’s apostolate so many years after Marx’s Manifesto or, for that matter, Leo XIII’s Rerum Nova- [end of page 55] rum.
Rizal’s nationalism was essentially rationalist, anti-racist, anti-clerical — political rather than social or economic. ” Guerrero surmises that, even if born a peasant and in penury, Rizal would still have made his mark: “His character, in a different environment, with a different experience of the world, might have made him another Bonifacio. But, reared in bourgeois ease, Rizal became a bourgeois idealist, putting his faith in reason and the liberal dogmas of the inevitability of progress, like any proper Victorian, and preferring reform to revolution, and “revolution from above” to “revolution from below. ” What he wanted to be — what he might have been if the policy of the ilustrados had prevailed – was representative for the Philippines in the Spanish parliament.
Reported Governor Carnicero from Dapitan in 1892: “One of Rizal’s ambitions is to become Deputy for the Philippines, for, once in the Cortes, he says that he could expose whatever happens in the islands,” And Guerrero’s laughing comment is: “Congressman Rizal, and a congressman dedicated to making exposures, at that! ” This ambition of Rizal must have been well-known among the ilustrados; one of their plans to spring him from jail in 1896 was to get him elected to the Cortes; the governor-general would then have been forced to release him so he could go to Spain and attend parliament.
As the Philippine representative in Madrid, says Guerrero, Rizal would have worked for the expulsion of the friars, the sale of their estates to the new middle class, the establishment of a certain measure of self-government in the islands and more native participation in it; and this would have resulted in an alternation in power between conservatives and liberals, this political activity being, however, limited to the educated and the propertied. In other words, the two political parties would have represented only one social class; the bourgeoisie.
If this is really what Rizal envisioned, then his dream has come to pass, for the two political parties that alternate in power today are limited to the educated and the propertied and actually represent only the middle class. Yet there was a Bonifacio latent in Rizal, according to Guerrero, who calls him “the reluctant revolutionary. ” El Filibusterismo in 1891 shows the hero divided. Observes Guerrero: “‘Assimilation’ has been rejected as a vain hope. ‘Separatism,’ or in plainer words, independence, has been advocated almost openly.
Rizal in the Fili is no longer the loyal reformer; he is the ‘subversive’ separatist, making so little effort of concealment that he arrogantly announces his purpose in the very title of his novel, which means ‘subversion. ‘ No solution except independence! But how is it to be achieved? At this point Rizal hesitates and draws back. The last chapters of the Fili are heavily corrected, and it may not have been due only to Rizal’s desperate need to cut down his novel to match Ventura’s money. The thought of revolution in real life may have called up too many ‘bloody apparitions. ‘”
So, Father Florentino is made to deny in the final apostrophe of the novel that freedom must be won at the point of the sword: “What is the use of independence if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? ” “What,” asks Guerrero, “are we to conclude from this? In Rizal’s mind the Filipinos of his generation were not yet ready for revolution because they were not yet ready for independence, and they were not ready for independence because they were still unworthy of it. ” The Hamlet split in Rizal between the will to act and the tendency to scruple preceded the flagrant schizophrenia of El Fili- [end of page 56] busterismo.
In 1887 he was saying that “peaceful struggle will always turn out to be a futile dream because Spain will never learn the lesson of her former colonies in South America. ” That was the Bonifacio in Rizal speaking. But Rizal the man of property quickly added: “In the present circumstances, we do not desire a separation from Spain; all that we ask is more attention, better education, a higher quality of government officials, one or two representatives in parliament, and more security for ourselves and our fortunes. Four months later, he turned 26, and both sides of him wrote: “I have no desire to take part in conspiracies which seem to me premature and risky in the extreme. But if the government drives us to it, if there remains no other hope than to seek our ruin in war, then I too shall advocate violent means. “
That sounds like a final statement: it was not. The following year, 1888, while one side of him was crying, “It is too late; the Filipinos have already lost the hopes they placed in Spain! another side was murmuring that the happiness of the Philippines must be obtained by “noble and just means” and that “if to make my country happy I had to act vilely, I would refuse to do so. ” Comments Guerrero: “We think of Rizal as a mild and gentle reformer who shrank from the thought of separation from Spain, most of all a violent revolution; it would seem that he appeared to his contemporaries, especially after the publication of the openly subversive Fili, as a wild firebrand, as demagogic as Lopez-Jaena. The question is: Who saw Rizal plain? Guerrero wickedly relates that when firebrand Lopez-Jaena thought of migrating to Cuba, Rizal opined that Lopez-Jaena should return to the Philippines and “let himself be killed in support of his ideas. “
Home went Lopez-Jaena, bravely declaring himself “resigned to everything, ready to fight if necessary, ready to die if need be. ” But after only four days in Manila he left in a hurry, fearing he would “land in Bilibid or the Marianas. And Rizal himself, who had called Cuba “an empty shell,” would, when the Revolution broke out in the Philippines, enlist for Cuban service, laying himself open to the charge that, by offering to serve the Spanish government in Cuba, he was not only trying to flee from the struggle in his own country but was making clear on which side of the struggle he stood. Says Guerrero: “There can be no argument that he was against Bonifacio’s Revolution. Not only had he offered his ‘unconditional’ services to help suppress it but he had indicted a manifesto condemning the Revolution. He called the idea of revolution “highly absurd. ” The condemnatory manifesto was gratuitous; it was not made to influence the court, he had been offering to make it even before he was arrested. But the court was alert; it noted that Rizal condemned Bonifacio’s Revolution but not Bonifacio’s aim of independence for the Philippines.
“Rizal,” says Guerrero, “believed in the gradual and natural evolution of the Filipino Nation in the course of years and foresaw the international developments that would make eventual independence an inevitable conclusion on which metropolis and colony would peaceably agree. In short, in the life-long duel between Rizal the subversive and Rizal the progressive, the latter won in the end. He had flirted, in his fiction, with revolution; but when faced by the fact of it, he called it absurd and retreated to Reason, Reform, Evolution, Inevitable Progress, and all the other Victorian catchwords. The malicious could say that his was the retreat of a man with property to lose. Guerrero says that Rizal was “a nationalist who did not recognize his Nation when it suddenly rose before him, a bloody apparition in arms. “
But it was he who, as the First Filipino, had most created the idea of that ation. “Throughout the centuries,” says Guerrero, “one tribe after another took up arms, against the missionary friars or for them, in protest against a wine tax or against forced labor, in the name of the old gods or in the name of the new Spanish Constitution. Whether the revolt was long-lived like Dagohoy’s, which lasted 85 years, or as short-lived as Novales’s, who ‘was outlawed at midnight, proclaimed emperor at two o’clock in the morning, and shot at five in the evening, natives — allies, converts, merce- [end of page 57] naries — fought against natives and kept the archipelago Spanish and Christian.
Malong proclaimed himself king of the Ilokanos, and Apolinario de la Cruz, king of Tagalogs. No one proclaimed himself a Filipino. ” What Guerrero misses here is that the Filipino forces sent to subdue Malong the Pangasinense or Almazan the Ilocano or De la Cruz the Tagalog were fighting (whatever the Spaniards may have intended) to keep the Filipino one. They were proclaiming themselves Filipino, and not merely Pangasinense or Ilocano or Tagalog, as the American northerner sent to subdue the American Southerner in the Civil War proclaimed the oneness of the American.
The Filipino allies, converts, mercenaries sent against the Filipino rebel may have kept the archipelago Spanish and Christian, but they also kept it from falling apart again into the numberless tribes it used to be, prevented the return of separate kingdoms for Pangasinenses, Ilocanos and Tagalogs. The paradox is cruel, but Rizal could proclaim himself a Filipino only because Dagohoy failed, and Novales and Malong and Almazan and De la Cruz.
Their success could have meant the end of the idea of the Filipino. But each failure was more stone added to the construction of the nation. When Rizal arose, the Philippines had been Spanish and Christian long enough to feel itself ready to be something else. The preliminary mold was necessary (as our present difficulties with the “cultural minorities” indicate) but now the matrix could be broken, the womb abandoned. It was Rizal,” says Guerrero, “who taught his countryman (sic) that they could be something else, Filipinos who were members of a Filipino Nation. He was the first who sought to ‘unite the whole archipelago’ and envisioned a ‘compact and homogeneous society’ of all the old tribal communities from Batanes to the Sulu Sea, based on common interests and ‘mutual protection’ rather than on the Spanish friar’s theory of double allegiance to Spain and Church. He would arouse a consciousness of national unity, of a common grievance and common fate. He would work through his writings, overleaping the old barriers of sea and mountain and native dialect, from Vigan to Dapitan. Without this new middle class of which he was the exemplar, now national by grace of school, the printing press, and [end of page 58] newly discovered interests in common, the Kabite Revolution of 1896 might not have had greater significance than that of 1872.
Instead, what might have been only one more peasant revolution, what might have been a Tagalog uprising to be crushed as before with levies from Pampanga or the Ilokos or the Bisayas, was transformed into the revolution of a new nation. It was Rizal who would persuade the principales, and with them, and sometimes through them, the peasants and the artisans that they were all equally ‘Filipinos,’ and in so doing would justify the opportunities of his privileged birth. “