Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Look in my shoes" (Rizal@150)

Jose P. Rizal
 Come the most Valiant

In the morning of the 29nth of December 1896, a day before his execution,  José Rizal wrote a short note to his family. It was an urgent call of a man seeking to be heard by his family for the last time. It was a wish, hours before death to see his love ones for the last time. The note goes:

My dear Parents and Brother-Sisters
     I would like to see each one of you before dying,  though it may cost much pain.  Come the most valiant.  I have some important things to say.
Your son and brother who loves you,
                                                                                 José Rizal                                                                                            

Jose Rizal's mother(center), sisters and nieces
In the late afternoon of the same day, the women members of the Rizal family came to Fort Santiago to bid goodbye.  First was the mother,  Doña Teodora Alonzo. They had only a few minutes to speak. It was said that they were held by the guards apart. That mother and son ended their last conversation in tears. Then came the sisters one by one. To each Rizal gave a present. All were in tears.They listened to him intently but were speechless. Then came the important instructions, which must not be heard by the guards. So when it was the turn of his three sisters,  Lucia, Josefa and Trinidad, the three who had been with him in Hong Kong and who could speak English, the instructions was made clear and in secret.  He whispered that he is leaving some personal things to them. To Trinidad he gave an alcohol burner,  a present to him by his friends the Taveras and which he used in his cell. Then to prevent detection from the guards he whispered to Trinidad  in English "There is something inside it." And to another sister he whispered also in English "Look in my shoes." ( Trinidad would then contradict the account of that final meeting with his brother years later, claiming that Rizal remark was not in English but in Visayan)

That something inside the alcohol burner turned out to be the immortal untitled poem we now know as "Mi Ultimo Adios". But what was inside the shoes?

Rizal's alcohol burner

A Sister's Dilemma

Nobody in the Rizal family witnessed the execution of  their beloved José. During the early morning of  the 30th of December  the family remained at home in the extremity of grief, many of them in prayers.  They had made arrangement earlier to the authorities for the retrieval of the body. Narcisa in particular ordered coffin and hearse, to leave for the Luneta as soon as word was received that the execution had been carried out.When news came that all was over, the hearse was dispatched at once. But when it reached Luneta, the body was not there anymore. It was said that Narcisa in grief, spent the whole day going to different cemeteries trying without success to locate his brother's burial place. Then by chance in the late afternoon, she passed by the abandoned Old Paco Cemetery where she noticed a group of Guardia Civil. It was highly unusual for the Gurdia Civil to be there. She went inside without being questioned by the guards.  Then she noticed  freshly dug earth, a length of a man. Again highly unusual since in  Paco Cemetery that time,  coffins were inserted to niches. ( The so called "Apartment type" in our present time). She had the inclination that it was her brother.
Narcisa Rizal
Narcisa had a plaque made with initial of his brother in reverse R.P.J and bribed the cemetery guardian to mark it in the site. Hoping that someday, in better circumstances, they could retrieve the body and give it a proper burial.

In August of 1898,  a few days after the Americans defeated Spain in the mock battle of Manila, Narcisa obtained permission from the American authorities to have the body exhumed. It was found that the body was buried without a coffin. What was left with the clothes established the identity. The shoes had survived. Whatever was left inside the shoes was indistinguishable because of the decay. What was in the shoes?

Paco Park marker. Where the body of Rizal first laid.
A Manifesto?                                                  

What was inside the shoes could have had a great significance in the story of Rizal.  Perhaps it could have been  another copy of the poem now known as "Ultimo Adios",  he wanted to make sure that his final thoughts would not be lost, he secured two copies. One he put in the alcohol burner and the other in one of his shoe. That in case one get lost surely a spare is in hand . But that it is highly improbable since he was constrained by time and other circumstances to do another copy. Could it be that it was another poem? Improbable,  for the content of the "Ultimo Adios" speaks for itself: . A second poem would definitely make the first lesser in meaning and lesser in impact.

During Rizal's trial, he wrote a manifesto to which many historians concluded that he disowned the revolution. Fortunately for Rizal, the Spanish colonial authorities disallowed it's publication.

 Could the note that was left in his shoes be another manifesto this time calling the people to unite and fight for the revolution?

When end was imminent and death could not be impede, Rizal accepted his fate calmly.  Perhaps he was never a traitor to Spain but with this injustice now done to him and also learning his brother was tortured by the authorities because of him, what could have run into his mind? For José Rizal the last straw was none other than himself. There is indeed a big possibility that in the shoes was a note. And could it be that written in the said note was a call to unite behind the revolution?

December 30, 1896,  at exactly 7:03 was over.

Days after his execution, the family perhaps recalling the final instruction of José Rizal to his sister Trinidad about the alcohol burner,  finally retrieved a piece of paper inside.... It was the "Ultimo Adios". The Rizal family quickly sent friends and colleagues copies of the said poem. The Katipunan on the hills of Cavite was among the first to received a copy..I leave the conclusion to you.

Early photo of Rizal's tomb in Paco Cemetery


  1. Dear Mr Francis Yumul, I thank you very much, that you let me know the hole and very important biography of José Rizal! His deceased Sculptor Richard Kissling vom Wolfwil/Switzerland, where I live, would say the same. May best wishes to you and your family! Yours sincerely Erich Schenker