Chapter 07: London



Library Permission British Museum The Morga History

Upon reaching London on May 24, 1888, Rizal at once secured a card permitting him to work in the British Museum Library. He plunged into study and writing, which occupied his time for the next ten months. He found here one of the few remaining volumes of De Morga's Succesos de Filipinas (Events in the Philippines), which had been published in 1609. Rizal, as was said in the first chapter, first heard of this book when nine years of age at the home of his uncle in Biñan through a visit of Sir John Bowring, governor of Hong Kong. (01) He copied every word of De Morga's book and had it published at his own expense. It was of the utmost importance to Rizal, the patriot, as well as to Rizal, the anthropologist, for it completely exploded a falsehood which all Spaniards and nearly all Filipinos had come to believe. De Morga showed that when Spain reached the Philippines she did not find the people "in caves eating raw meat", for there was a creditable civilization centuries old, and flourishing commerce with foreign countries on the mainland of Asia. The book revealed that in certain respects Spain had actually done the Filipinos harm.

Rizal could now write with irrefutable authority that "the Filipinos have not always been what they are now. . . . All the historians of the first years after the discovery of the Islands. . . . abound in accounts concerning the industry and agriculture of the natives; mines, gold-washing, looms, farms, barter, naval construction, raising of poultry and stock, weaving of silk and cotton, distilleries, manufacture of arms, pearl fisheries, the civet industry, the horn and hide industry, etc. . . . are things encountered at every step." Thus he nailed with telling finality the old fiction about "Filipino Indolence". (02)


The way to kill the spirit of a man (or a people) and to check all progress is to make him believe he never was, is not, and never can be anything but a stupid slave. This is what the Spanish schools, churches, and papers had taught the Filipinos. Rizal, with the insight of a great leader, determined to shatter this sense of inferiority. Indeed, that had always been one of the motives for his prodigiously hard effort to make himself a leading scholar in so many fields. Now De Morga gave him the unanswerable facts which he needed to stir his fellow-countrymen to new faith in themselves. He collected notes and wrote page after page of articles out of his enkindled brain and burning heart, some for the book which he meant to write as a sequel to Noli Me Tangere, and some for magazine articles.

Reinhold Rost

Rizal's amazing linguistic accomplishments drew him to other linguists. He became a lifelong friend (03) of the eminent Sanskrit scholar Doctor Reinhold Rost, who was librarian of the India Office. Professor Craig considers Rost to have been the greatest linguist of that century. It was in the Rost home that José spent most of his Sundays. (04) Rizal discussed with him the booklet of his friend Dr. Pardo de Tavera on "Sanskrit in the Tagalog Tongue". (05) Sanskrit is an Aryan language, and its presence in Tagalog might, together with other evidence, indicate Aryan blood in the Filipinos. Their friend Blumentritt was quite convinced that the Tagalogs and Germans were related! (06)

La Solidaridad Staff (Left to Right: Rizal, del Pilar, and Ponce)

It happened that the Filipinos in Barcelona and Madrid were preparing to launch a new magazine in place of the periodical España en Filipinas, which had just died. Mariano Ponce, a new friend who ardently loved Rizal and was hunting books which Rizal needed in Spain, urged him to accept the directorship of this new magazine, and an overwhelming majority of the Filipinos pressed this position upon him. He declined to accept the management, because, as his letters explain, others were ambitious for the position. The insincere attacks, which are common among candidates for an elective office, hurt him. He was eager for true criticism, but wounded when he knew it was false. The man finally chosen to head La Solidaridad was Graciano Lopez Jaena, while Rizal was unanimously elected as honorary president. M. H. del Pilar and Mariano Ponce were associate editors.

In February, 1889, Del Pilar wrote exultantly that "at last our little periodical is born, democratic in its criticisms, but much more democratic in its personnel." During that and the following year articles appeared from the pen of Rizal in nearly every issue, very much the most important material the paper ever published. And every article drove a nail into its author's coffin, if ever he should dare to place himself in the power of his enemies!

Indeed, Rizal was suffering. Since he had escaped under the protection of Governor Terrero, and was safe in England, the friars had begun to attack his relatives in the Philippines with new ferocity. His brother-in-law Manuel T. Hidalgo was exiled as "a conspirator and representative of José Rizal," and wrote letters begging Rizal to plead with the Governor General for his pardon.

Then other people living on the Dominican hacienda, especially José's sister Lucia, were persecuted. "The judge," she wrote, "confessed that he could not work against the Corporation, for he had formerly been a servant of the Trustee. On the other hand, the unfortunates are without money to carry on litigation."

It was persistent persecution of this type that changed the spirit of Rizal from an idealist, smiling through his tears on every page of Noli, into a man with a heartache that had no smile. He was indeed being driven to the desperation of a wounded stag.

We will not repeat all the scathing words which he wrote for La Solidaridad, "hot lava from a volcano," because those Spanish friars and officials whom he attacked have all been removed from the Philippines. The evils they committed have been or are in process of being remedied.

Now, with unprejudiced eyes, we can understand the temptation which these friars had been too weak to resist. They had come to far distant islands with all the flaming passion of St. Francis Xavier, and had protected the Filipinos from many a Spanish sword, or rape, or robbery. Thus they had won the love and abject submission of the people. Their virtues had earned for them control of the government and the people, and this power proved their undoing. Being human they were too weak to be safe with absolutely despotic powers. The early saintly friars died, and their successors very slowly yielded one after another to the temptation to become luxurious, lazy, and immoral. In saying these things one does not attack the Church, for these men were traitors to their church as well as to the people whom they controlled. Nobody has ever said this so well as Rizal, in the now famous article The Philippines a Century Hence. (07)

"The priests of that early epoch, wishing to establish their domination over the people, got in touch with them and made common cause with them against the oppressive encomenderos. Naturally the people saw in them greater learning and some prestige, and placed their confidence in them, followed their advice and listen to them even in the darkest hours. If they wrote, they did so in defense of the rights of the native and made his cry reach even to the distant steps of the Throne. . . All this has passed away. . . The people no longer have confidence in their former protectors, now their exploiters and executioners. They have seen that the love and piety of the past have come to resemble the devotion of a nurse who, unable to live elsewhere, desires eternal weakness for the child, in order that she may go on drawing her wages and existing at its expense; they have seen that she not only fails to nourish it to make it grow, but that she poisons it to stunt its growth, and at the slightest pretext she flies into a rage! The ancient show of justice, the holy residencia, has disappeared; confusion of ideas begins to prevail; -- obligations and taxes increase -- a regime of continual terror and uncertainty disturbs the mind -- the country is poor; the financial crisis through which it is passing is acute, and everyone points with the finger to the persons who are causing the trouble, yet no one dares lay hands upon them!

"The batteries are gradually becoming charged, and if the prudence of the government does not provide an outlet for the currents that are accumulating, some day the sparks will be generated. . . . what outcome such a deplorable conflict might have. . . . depends upon chance, upon the weapons, and upon a thousand circumstances which man cannot foresee. . . ."

While José Rizal's heart was bleeding over reports of persecutions in the Philippines, he received a request from Editor Del Pilar of La Solidaridad to write a letter to the courageous young women of Malolos, who had dared to hoot at some disreputable friars. Instead of a letter, Rizal wrote almost a book. He used Tagalog and meant the letter for private reading, and so could write with a frankness not possible in a printed article. Nowhere else can we find more unmistakably what Rizal really believed about the friar estates, about the Church, God, and womanhood. His arraignment of the friars is terrible. They had made the people believe that God demands blind unthinking obedience and endless payments of money and ritual, but Rizal declares that God wants "stainless conduct, singleness of purpose, and righteous judgment. . . . God, who is full of truth, does not ask that a man, made in his image and likeness, should be tricked and blinded, but that the gift of reason, which his grace has bestowed upon us, should shine, and that we should use it. . . . Nobody ought to make himself a slave to the will and power of another.

"The highest holiness is obedience to the right, come what may. 'Good works and not words, is what I desire of you', said Christ. 'The man is not a son of my Father who comes saying, "Father, Father", but who lives according to the will of my Father!'

"We ought to be reasonable and open our eyes. Especially ought you women, because you are first in influencing the consciences of men. Bear in mind that a good woman must bring up her son in a way becoming the image of the true God, -- a God who is not an extortioner, nor covetous for money; a God who is Father of all, and perfectly just; a God who is not a vampire of the poor, who does not make sport of the agonies of those in tribulation, nor twist the straight course of justice.

"I do not expect the country to have honor and prosperity so long as woman is a slave and ignorant and does not know how to protect the steps of her child. . . The friars have blinded her, bound her, and left her feeble-hearted; and they live without risk, because while the Filipino woman is enslaved, they can enslave all her children. This is the cause of Asia's prostration -- the womanhood of Asia is ignorant and in slavery. Woman is powerful in Europe and in America, because she is free and educated, with clear intelligence and a strong will of her own. . .

"We know that you are deprived of books with which to instruct you, that nothing is taught you, day by day, excepting that which is designed to extinguish your natural light; we know this and therefore we pledge ourselves to help that light to reach you which has spread over your sisters in Europe. . . We will not feel fatigued if you will help us. God too will help to dissipate the fog, for He is the God of truth. The name of the Filipino woman will return to its pristine state, she of whom only this judgment can rightly be passed -- that by nature she is very good. This is the ardent dream of our hearts -- the honor of our womanhood. . . The kind of girl whom a man loves, not only for her beauty and genial disposition but also for the courage of her spirit, or the lofty ideals she holds for life, ideals which lift the weak and cowardly, and drive away vain thoughts; a girl proud of her country, who demands a man's respect. . . .

"When they are married, women ought to aid their husbands, give them strength, share danger with them, and sweeten their pains, remembering that there is no suffering that a brave heart cannot endure, nor any heritage more biter than infamy and slavery. Open the eyes of your children, so that they may protect and guard their honor, loving their neighbors, their country and the fulfillment of their duty. Teach them that they ought to prefer death with honor to life with dishonor. . .

Antonio Rigidor Gertrude Beckett

The life of Rizal measured up to these lofty ideals for women. He was against the "double standard of morality." He believed that men as well as women should have "stainless conduct, singleness of purpose, and right judgment." Indeed, he was facing and conquering temptation at that very time. He was staying with Dr. Antonio Regidor when he first reached London, but later transferred to the home of Mr. Beckett, the organist of St. Paul's Cathedral, the best-known cathedral in England. The youngest daughter began to show signs of being very much in love with Rizal. But back in the Philippines was the little black-eyed girl eating her heart out for José, and through his letters and Leonor's never reached their destination, each knew that the other loved with a deathless love. Rizal determined to leave London before the symptoms of this new infatuation grew serious. Retana makes the following explanation:

"Rizal did not understand love excepting with a good purpose: and holding in his heart a lofty affection for one of his countrywomen (Leonor), like another Don Quixote he fled from danger before he could be disloyal to her and to the English lady."

Reluctantly he gave up the wonderful library of the British Museum, and departed for Paris the middle of March, 1889.

Valentin Ventura, with whom Rizal lived in Paris during the following year, wrote jokingly to his friend in London just before Rizal's departure: "It is rumored here that you are running away from a fire for fear you may get burned; you are acting wisely; it is better to apply a remedy in plenty of time." (08)

(01) Blumentritt had told Rizal that another copy existed in the Royal Library of Berlin. These were the only copies he could find.
(02) Professor Craig has published an English translation of his excellent treatise on that subject. José Rizal, "The Indolence of the Filipino," Austin Craig. Rizal's Life and Minor Writings. Manila: Philippine Education Co., 1927, pp. 265-309.
(03) Craig, vol. 4, p. 171.
(04) Ibid., p. 101.
(05) Epistolario Rizalino, 5 vols. Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1930-1938, v. 3, p. 12.
(06) Ibid., v. 3, p. 6.
(07) Craig, p. 223.
(08) Epistolario Rizalino, op. cit., v. 2, p. 141.

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The Life and of Dr. José Rizal
Dr. Robert L. Yoder