A Sad Christmas for Rizal and his Family
By Rodolfo A. Arizala
25 December 2011
As we celebrate on 30 December 2011, the 115th Death Anniversary of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, it occurred to my mind that Yuletide 1896 must have been difficult and trying moment to his family as well as to himself. Let us recall the events and dates when Rizal underwent trial and then had to face death by musketry at Bagumbayan field (now called Rizal Park).
The Trial of Jose P. Rizal
On 20th December 1896, Rizal together with his counsel, Lt. Taviel de Andrade of the Spanish Artillery, prepared for his defense.
Five days later, on 25th December, a Christmas Day, Rizal was informed that on the following day, at 19:00 a.m., the Council of War would convene. Rizal wrote his counsel Taviel asking for a conference prior to appearing before the Council, However, it was not known whether such pre-trial conference between Rizal and his counsel took place.
On 26th December, at the Cuartel General de Espana, a soldier’s dormitory was converted into an improvised courtroom.
The trial proceeded with the reading of the accusations against Rizal “as principal organizer” and “moving spirit of the Philippine insurrection, founder of societies, of newspapers, and has written books designed to foment and propagate ideas of rebellion and sedition among the people, as well as the principal leader of the anti-government in the country.”
Taviel de Andrade, Rizal’s defense counsel argued that in the law applying the Penal Code of Spain in the Philippines, none exists to establish the guilt of the accused; he likewise challenged the veracity and impartiality of those who have given statements incriminating Rizal; and closed his defense requesting the court to reject the images by wars, for they could only provoke ideas of vengeance, and that judges should not be vengeful but fair and just.
After giving Rizal an opportunity to speak in his defense, the Court after deliberations rendered its decision finding Rizal of being the author of rebellion and sentenced him to death.
On 28th December Governor General Polavieja approved the sentence of the Council of War after knowing that none of the members of the Council of Authorities recommended the commutation of the sentence against Rizal.
On 29th December, Judge Dominguez went to Fort Santiago to notify Rizal officially of the sentence. Rizal read the report or verdict but refused to sign it, stating that he was innocent. He also alleged that he was not of a Chinese mestizo as stated by the auditor in the report but a pure indio. Rizal was informed that no modifications were allowed in the text of the judgment.
In the morning of 30 December 1896, Rizal was executed at Bagumbayan field by musketry.
The Execution of Rizal
At 6:30 a.m. on 30 December 1896, Jose Rizal, bound elbow-to-elbow, left Fort Santiago by foot for Bagumbayan field accompanied by a bugler, a drummer and two Jesuit priests, Fr. Estanislao March and Fr. Jose Villaclara. They took the Paseo de Maria Cristina, now called Bonifacio Drive. Behind Rizal was his defense counsel Lt. Luis Taviel de Andrade. A squad of soldiers surrounded them as they walked slowly. Upon reaching Bagumbayan field, Rizal placed himself in the middle of the square, filled with 400 men, with a band playing.
Eight native soldiers comprised the firing squad. Behind them were eight Spanish soldiers with “Mauser” rifles, ready to shot the native soldiers if they refused to shoot Rizal.
Rizal refused to be shot in the back saying he had not been a traitor to the country or to Spain. But the Spanish Captain in charge of the execution told him that he had orders to shoot him in the back. Rizal reluctantly agreed but he firmly refused to kneel or be blindfolded. One last request of Rizal was that the soldiers spare his head and instead shoot him in the back near the heart. The Captain agreed. Rizal then shook hands with his defense counsel, Lt. Taviel de Andrade and thanked him for his efforts in defending him. A military doctor came to take his pulse; it was normal. The Jesuits raised a crucifix for him to kiss, but Rizal had already turned away silently and prepared himself for death.
The order to fire was given. Before the shots rang out, Rizal shouted “Consummatum est!” (It is finished!). When the bullets hit their mark, Rizal made a last effort to turn around, thus, falling lifeless with his back on the ground, his face to the sky. Another soldier gave the body a “tiro de gracia” - one last shot to make sure Rizal was dead. Shouts of “Viva Espana!” rent the air. the band of the regiment struck the first chords of “Marcha de Cadiz”. By 7:03 a.m., the execution was over.
It is said a dog (mascot) ran around the lifeless body, whining. Whose mascot was it? Nobody knows or nothing was written about it except that it was captured by the camera’s eye as among the crowd which witnessed the execution that morning.
Rizal Buried Without a Coffin
After the execution of Rizal his body was placed in a van and with utmost secrecy buried in the old and unused Paco cemetery. Sra. Teodora, the mother of Rizal, wanted to comply with the last wish of her son, that the family take charge of his remains. After several objections on the part of some Spanish officials, Civil Governor Manuel Luengo agreed to the petition of Sra. Teodora. However, when the funeral coach left, they had already secretly taken the body away and Rizal's sister, Narcisa, went to all the cemeteries of Manila looking for the remains of Rizal in vain. On the way back, she saw, through the open gate of the Paco cemetery, some guardia civiles. This gave her a hint. She entered the cemetery and after much searching found a freshly dug-in grave covered with earth. She gave the gravedigger some money and placed a plaque with the initials of her brother in reverse, R.P.J., which means Rizal, Protacio Jose. (Jose Rizal, Filipino Doctor and Patriot, by Jose Baron Fernandez, Paragon Printing Corporation, Manila, 1992, pp 370-371).
A few days after the Americans occupied Manila in August 1898, Rizal's sister Narcisa asked permission of the new authorities to exhume the remains of Rizal. Permission was granted. When the body was exhumed, it was discovered that Rizal's body had not even been placed in a coffin. The shoes were identified, but whatever had been hidden inside them had already disintegrated.(Ibid., p 393).
In 1911, Rizal’s remains were transferred from the Paco Cemetery to the base of the monument which had earlier been erected at the Luneta (now Rizal Park). His aged beloved mother was still able to attend the ceremonies of such transfer. A few weeks later Rizal’s mother Sra. Teodora Alonso Quintos died. It appears she made that effort to survive her son, to go on living until such time that her son’s memory would be officially vindicated. Such is how deep and enduring is a mother’s love for her son.
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