By Cornell Wallace, Jr.
I write this letter on this day, 24 December 2018, which is not only my birthday, but the day before the Christmas; a joyous and celebratory time of the year in many countries and cultures around the world. This is true especially for the majority of the Filipino people.
As a non-Filipino it is an honor to be amongst you, to feel your joy, to be saddened by your pain, to understand the concept of being separated from family and friends back home or elsewhere, but most of all, an honor to be by your side in remembering your National Hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal as we come closer to the date of his death.
Dr. Rizal, is not my National Hero, he is yours, and as such he deserves the utmost respect and deference from us non-Filipinos in many ways. One way is to learn Filipino history, to understand the Filipino people as best as we can, and in doing so, learn about Dr. Jose P. Rizal himself to get a clearer picture of what he did in his lifetime has to offer not only to Filipinos, but to the world. Another way is to study his works; for in studying his works, we can better understand his mind set and vision for the Philippines as a Nation and the Filipino as a people. Lastly, but definitely not the least, we can try to emulate all of the great aspects of Dr. Rizal, from educating ourselves to educating others, from helping the poor and sick, to traveling and learning different languages and cultures and if need be, sacrifice ourselves for our beliefs, our country and our people.
Imagine this week being his last Christmas and knowing it would be his last time to have some sort of semblance of a joyous moment in time, though I expect he was anything but joyful. I suspect Dr. Rizal, was at a place of peace with himself and his life during this time while at the same time agonizing over his impending fate. If anything, his last poem, “Mi Ultimo Adios”(originally written in Spanish) gives us some insight into his thinking in his final days:
Farewell, dear Fatherland, clime of the sun caress’d
Pearl of the Orient seas, our Eden lost!,
Gladly now I go to give thee this faded life’s best,
And were it brighter, fresher, or more blest
Still would I give it thee, nor count the cost.
On the field of battle, ‘mid the frenzy of fight,
Others have given their lives, without doubt or heed;
The place matters not-cypress or laurel or lily white,
Scaffold or open plain, combat or martyrdom’s plight,
T is ever the same, to serve our home and country’s need.
I die just when I see the dawn break,
Through the gloom of night, to herald the day;
And if color is lacking my blood thou shalt take,
Pour’d out at need for thy dear sake
To dye with its crimson the waking ray.
My dreams, when life first opened to me,
My dreams, when the hopes of youth beat high,
Were to see thy lov’d face, O gem of the Orient sea
From gloom and grief, from care and sorrow free;
No blush on thy brow, no tear in thine eye.
Dream of my life, my living and burning desire,
All hail ! cries the soul that is now to take flight;
All hail ! And sweet it is for thee to expire ;
To die for thy sake, that thou mayst aspire;
And sleep in thy bosom eternity’s long night.
If over my grave some day thou seest grow,
In the grassy sod, a humble flower,
Draw it to thy lips and kiss my soul so,
While I may feel on my brow in the cold tomb below
The touch of thy tenderness, thy breath’s warm power.
Let the moon beam over me soft and serene,
Let the dawn shed over me its radiant flashes,
Let the wind with sad lament over me keen ;
And if on my cross a bird should be seen,
Let it trill there its hymn of peace to my ashes.
Let the sun draw the vapors up to the sky,
And heavenward in purity bear my tardy protest
Let some kind soul o ‘er my untimely fate sigh,
And in the still evening a prayer be lifted on high
From thee, 0 my country, that in God I may rest.
Pray for all those that hapless have died,
For all who have suffered the unmeasur’d pain;
For our mothers that bitterly their woes have cried,
For widows and orphans, for captives by torture tried
And then for thyself that redemption thou mayst gain.
And when the dark night wraps the graveyard around
With only the dead in their vigil to see
Break not my repose or the mystery profound
And perchance thou mayst hear a sad hymn resound
‘T is I, O my country, raising a song unto thee.
And even my grave is remembered no more
Unmark’d by never a cross nor a stone
Let the plow sweep through it, the spade turn it o’er
That my ashes may carpet earthly floor,
Before into nothingness at last they are blown.
Then will oblivion bring to me no care
As over thy vales and plains I sweep;
Throbbing and cleansed in thy space and air
With color and light, with song and lament I fare,
Ever repeating the faith that I keep.
My Fatherland ador’d, that sadness to my sorrow lends
Beloved Filipinas, hear now my last good-by!
I give thee all: parents and kindred and friends
For I go where no slave before the oppressor bends,
Where faith can never kill, and God reigns e’er on high!
Farewell to you all, from my soul torn away,
Friends of my childhood in the home dispossessed !
Give thanks that I rest from the wearisome day !
Farewell to thee, too, sweet friend that lightened my way;
Beloved creatures all, farewell! In death there is rest !
-Translated by Charles Derbyshire
These words, the feeling and emotion behind them, the thoughts and thanks inside, the introspect and wisdom of knowing, and the resolute, yet agonizing acceptance of what was to come, rings like a bell in the bell tower announcing the coming home of a soul to heaven itself, is a reminder to all, Filipino and non-Filipino alike, that there is something greater than the material things we come to know, greater than wealth, which we fight so hard to obtain, greater than fame many strive so hard to achieve and greater than the life we have with every breath we take.
So, on this day, one which I do not celebrate personally but use as a day of reflection of my own life, past and present, I set aside some time to contemplate the wisdom and words of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the National Hero of the Philippines, who gave his life to his country and fellow Kabayans so that Filipinos all around the world can one day achieve his dream of a Free and Independent Philippines, a Free and Independent Filipino and most of all the completion of the Revolution, not of violence and bloodshed, but of Education, Knowledge, Progressiveness and Spirituality in whatever forms they may take. May we non-Filipinos come to know and understand more, so we can see in full his vision of the future.
May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Sir Cornell J Wallace Jr, KOR
”Today is Christmas Eve. Whether or not Christ was born exactly on this date is not important. But chronological accuracy has nothing to do with tonight’s event. A grand genius had been born who preached truth and love; who suffered because of his mission; and on account of his sufferings the world has become better, if not saved. Only it gives me nausea to see how some people abuse his name to commit numerous crimes. If he is in heaven, he will certainly protest!”- Dr. Jose P. Rizal
If you wish to contribute to The Rizalian Corner, please contact Sir Cornell email@example.com
– Non Omnis Moriar; (I shall not wholly die)