Today marks the death anniversary of José Rizal, generally considered as the greatest Filipino hero. I copied the entry from Wikipedia to share some facts about Rizal, which is sadly unbeknown or completely forgotten by a lot of my countrymen including myself. I spent an ample part of my day reading more about his history and legacy including the controversies.
José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda
(June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896, Bagumbayan), was a Filipino polymath, patriot and the most prominent advocate for reforms in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era. He is considered a national hero of the Philippines, and the anniversary of Rizal’s death is commemorated as a Philippine holiday called Rizal Day. Rizal’s 1896 military trial and execution made him a martyr of the Philippine Revolution.
The seventh of eleven children born to a wealthy family in the town of Calamba, Laguna, Rizal attended the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, earning a Bachelor of Arts. He enrolled in Medicine and Philosophy and Letters at the University of Santo Tomas and then traveled alone to Madrid, Spain, where he continued his studies at the Universidad Central de Madrid, earning the degree of Licentiate in Medicine. He attended the University of Paris and earned a second doctorate at the University of Heidelberg. Rizal was a polyglot conversant in at least ten languages, and novelist whose most famous works were his two novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. These are social commentaries on the Philippines that formed the nucleus of literature that inspired dissent among peaceful reformists and spurred the militancy of armed revolutionaries against the Spanish colonial authorities.
As a political figure, Jose Rizal was the founder of La Liga Filipina, a civic organization that subsequently gave birth to the Katipunan led by Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo. He was a proponent of institutional reforms by peaceful means rather than by violent revolution. The general consensus among Rizal scholars, however, attributed his martyred death as the catalyst that precipitated the Philippine Revolution. continue reading…
My most notable encounter with Rizal as a subject of a debate was during a drinking spree three years ago in a Makati watering hole where I met an indie film maker. He pointed out that my music is heavily western influenced closing with the sentence “You should make music for your people”.
To which I replied, “Who are my people?”
I exactly knew what he was trying to imply, but as far as my knowledge of the Philippine history is concerned, the diversity of our culture are attributed to the migration of Malayo-Polynesian and Taiwanese aborigines to our lands which eventually intermarried with the Chinese, Spanish, American and Japanese arrivals and occupation. This includes Arabs, Britons, other Europeans, Indonesians, Koreans and South Asians. I myself can be mistaken as a Korean or Chinese. Even Rizal has a Chinese ancestry.
I love this country and the imperfections that goes with it. I do not think that acquiring knowledge, sensibility and influence from other culture will make me less patriotic. And I pointed Jose Rizal as the perfect example. Speaking many tongues and getting the best of his education in foreign universities did not prevent him from giving back what he has learned and the talent he has developed to his countrymen in need of something to hold on during the Spanish occupation. He even wrote his novels in Spanish and not in Tagalog.
That discussion contributed to an ambitious goal of researching a poem of Jose Rizal and turning it into a contemporary song. A version completely my own. My research led me to choose the Song Of Maria Clara which can be found in the pages of Noli Me Tangere. For added challenge, I decided to sing it in its original text (Spanish), add Rondalla arrangements and include the recording in the debut album of my band The Camerawalls. And I am mighty proud of the result.
Canto De Maria Clara – The Camerawalls
The poem’s original text is in Spanish and has been translated into so many different languages all over the world. Maria Clara is a character in Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere“. She is the sweetheart of Ibarra Crisostomo. Later, upon hearing of his death, she becomes a nun. The poem can be found in Chapter 23.
Canto De María Clara
Dulces las horas en la propia patria
Donde es amigo cuanto alumbra el sol,
Vida es la brisa que en sus campos vuela,
Grata la muerte y más tierno el amor!
Ardientes besos en los labios juegan,
De una madre en el seno al despertar,
Buscan los brazos a ceñir el cuello,
Y los ojos sonríense al mirar.
Dulce es la muerte por la propia patria,
Donde es amigo cuanto alumbra el sol;
Muerte es la brisa para quien no tiene
Una patria, una madre y un amor!
Song of Maria Clara
Sweet are the hours in one’s own Native Land,
All there is friendly o’er which the sun shines above;
Vivifying is the breeze that wafts over her fields;
Even death is gratifying and more tender is love.
Ardent kissed on a mother’s lips are at play,
On her lap, upon the infant child’s awakening,
The extended arms do seek her neck to entwine,
And the eyes at each other’s glimpse are smiling.
It is sweet to die for one’s Native Land,
All there is friendly o’er which the sun shines above;
And deathly is the breeze for one without
A country, without a mother and without love.
Awit ni Maria Clara
Mga sandali’y matamis sa sarili nating Bayan;
Doo’y kaibigang tangi bawat’ sikatan ng araw;
Buhay ang sa hanging simoy na lumilipad sa parang;
Kamatayan ay masarap, kay-lambing ng pagmamahal!
Marubdob na mga halik ang naglalaro sa labi
Ng inang pagkagising na sa kandunga’y bumabati;
Sabik kawitin ng bisig ang kanyang liig na pili,
At pagtatama ng tingin, mga mata’y ngumingiti.
Kamatayan ay matamis nang dahil sa Inang-Bayan,
Doo’y kaibigang tangi bawa’t sikatan ng araw;
Nguni’t ang simoy ng hangi’y mapait na kamatayan
Sa taong walang sariling lupa, ina’t kasintahan.
The first time I performed the song live with a Rondalla ensemble.