The Best Known Speech of José Rizal: His Toast to Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo

Juan Luna and Felix Resureccion Hidalgo

 

 

Rizal Begins Public Life: The Toast in Restaurante Ingles*

Free translations from the original Spanish

by Elizabeth Medina

The Hotel Inglés and her present day dining room.

 

For a reflection piece click here

 

But before we see him leave for abroad, let us present him under a new light: as a public speaker. "Today I pronounced my first toast," is read in one of the entries in his diary, on June 25, 1884. He pronounced it, in effect, that night. The toast was a pretext for a political speech which at that time, from force of circumstance, practically fell in a vacuum. Today, read slowly, what a wealth of things it says! Upon the occasion of the Ilocano painter D. Juan Luna's triumph with his famous Spoliarium, the Filipino colony of Madrid organized a banquet in honor of Luna and his companion in the arts, D. Félix Resurrección Higaldo, another son of [the Philippines]. Up to sixty people attended the dinner, the majority of them paisanos of the celebrated painters. It was in the Restaurante Inglés and began at 9 p.m., until which time RIZAL had been, as he says in his diary, "hungry and without money."

The Spoliarium by Juan Luna

Retana used as a reference an article published in El Imparcial of Madrid, June 26, 1884 to name some of the guests:

Presiding was the painter Luna, to his right were Sres. Labra, Correa, Nin y Tudó, and to his left were Sres. Moret, Aguilera y Mellado (D. Andrés). Also among the dinner guests were Sres. Morayta, Regidor, Azcárraga (D. Manuel de), Araus, Fernández Bremón, Paterno (D. Alejandro, D. Antonio and D. Máximo), Vigil, del Val, Moya, Cárdenas, Govantes, Rico, Gutiérrez Abascal, Ansorena, García Gómez and many other painters, literati and journalists...

From La Independencia, September 25, 1898, Retana included this description of Rizal:

A young Filipino doctor rose to pronounce the first toast, Sr. D. José Rizal...RIZAL was a speaker with a brief and easy manner; when he spoke he seemed to meditate on everything he said, and his pleasant appearance, with his thinking man's face, attracted people immediately.

Retana then included Rizal's impromptu speech in its entirety.

We do not know of the details of any other speech of RIZAL's, and therefore we will include it complete, repeating that what he said contained not a few substantial concepts: his program, his hopes, his complaints, which were those of the Filipinos.1 He spoke thus [Emphases are Retana's]:

"GENTLEMEN: Upon taking the floor I am untroubled by the thought that you might listen to me with indifference, because you are here to join your enthusiasm to ours, which is fired by our youth, and you cannot help but be indulgent. The air is full of empathetic good feeling; currents of brotherhood fly in every direction; generous souls are listening and, therefore, I do not fear for my humble person nor doubt your benevolence. Men of heart, you only seek hearts, and from the heights where noble emotions dwell, you single out nothing that is petty mean-spiritedness. You see the whole, you judge the cause and hold out your hand to one such as myself, who wishes to join you in one single thought, one sole aspiration: the glory of genius, the splendor of the country.(Good, very good; applause.)

"In effect, I shall state the reason why we are gathered. In the history of nations there are names that by themselves signify an achievement, that bring to mind affections and greatness. Names which, like magic formulas, evoke pleasant and smiling ideas; names which become something like a pact, a symbol of peace, a bond of love between nations. The names of Luna and Hidalgo belong among them - their glories illuminate two ends of the globe: the East and the West, España and Filipinas. Upon pronouncing them, gentlemen, I envision two brilliant arches, each rising from the two regions, that entwine above in the heights, impelled by the sympathy of common origin, and from that height they bind two peoples with eternal ties, two peoples separated in vain by the seas and space, two peoples in which the seeds of disunion do not germinate, BLINDLY SOWN BY MEN AND THEIR TYRANNY. Luna and Hidalgo are as much Spanish glories as they are Filipino. Just as they were born in the Philippines, they could have been born in Spain, because genius has no country, genius blossoms everywhere, genius is like the light, the air, it is the heritage of all - cosmopolitan 2 like space, like life and like God. (Applause)

"The patriarchal era of Filipinas is passing. The illustrious achievements of her children are no longer consummated within the home. The Oriental chrysalis is leaving the cocoon. The tomorrow of a long day is announced for those regions in brilliant tints and rosy dawns, and that race - lethargic during the historical night while the sun lit up other continents - awakens again, powerfully moved by the electric shock produced in it by contact with the Western peoples, and it clamors for light, life, the civilization that time once gave as its legacy, confirming in this way the eternal laws of continual evolution, of transformation, of periodicity, of progress.

"This you know well and you glory in it. To you Filipinas owes the beauty of the diamonds that stud her crown. She has given the stones, Europe has polished them. And we contemplate proudly, you your work, ours the flame, the breath, the materials provided.(Bravos.)

"They drank there the poetry of nature, a nature great and terrible, and her cataclysms, in her evolution, in her dynamism. Nature sweet, tranquil and melancholy in her constant, static manifestation. Nature that leaves her imprint on everything she creates and produces. Her children take that imprint wherever they go. If you do not believe me, examine their character, their work, and no matter how little you may know that nation, you will see them act in everything as forming their science, as the soul that presides over all, as the spring in the mechanism, as the substantial form, as the raw material. It is impossible not to reflect what is felt in oneself, it is impossible to be one thing and to do another; the contradictions are only apparent, they are only paradoxes. In The Spoliarium, through that canvas which is not mute, one hears the noise of the crowd, the shouts of the slaves, the metallic clanking of the dead bodies' armor, the sobbing of orphans, the murmured prayers, with as much vigor and realism as one hears the deafening noise of thunder amid the crashing sound of a waterfall or the awesome, terrifying shaking of an earthquake. The same nature that births such phenomena also intervenes in those brushstrokes. In contrast, in Hidalgo's painting beats the purest sentiment,3 the ideal expression of mournfulness, beauty and vulnerability, the victims of brute force, and it is because Hidalgo was born beneath the brilliant azure of that sky, the lullaby of its sea breezes, amid the serenity of its lakes, the poetry of its valleys and the majestic harmony of its hills and mountains.

"For this reason, in Luna there are shadows, contrasts, dying light, the mystery and the horror, as resonance of the dark tempests of the Tropics, the lightning and the roaring explosions of its volcanoes. This is why Hidalgo is all light, color, harmony, sentiment, purity, as Filipinas is in her moonlit nights, in her quiet days, with her horizon that invites to meditation, cradle gently rocking the infinite. And both of them, despite being so different, at least in appearance, are the same in their substance, just as all our hearts are the same despite our notable differences. Both, upon reflecting with their palettes the splendor of the Tropical sunlight, transform it into rays of eternal glory with which they wreath THEIR COUNTRY -- HUMANITY SUBJECTED TO SEVERE TESTS; UNREDEEMED HUMANITY; reason and aspiration in open struggle against personal troubles, FANATICISM AND INJUSTICE, because sentiment and opinion will break open a path through even the thickest walls; because for them all bodies have pores, all are transparent, and if they lack the pen, if the printing press does not second them, then palette and brush not only will give pleasure to the eyes -- they will also be eloquent orators.

"If the mother teaches her child her language in order to understand his joys, his needs or pains, Spain as a mother also teaches her language to Filipinas, despite the opposition of those short-sighted midgets who secure their position, INCAPABLE OF LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE and not weighing the consequences. Sickly wetnurses, corrupted and corrupting, who tend to snuff out all legitimate feeling and pervert the hearts of nations, sowing in them the seeds of discords such that later their fruit is harvested: wolfsbane. The death of future generations.

"But I put aside such troubles! Peace to those dead, because dead are they - they have no breath, no soul, and the worms feed on them! Let's not evoke their dismal memory; let's not breathe in their stench amid our joys! Fortunately the brothers exceed them in numbers; generosity and nobility are innate beneath the Spanish skies - you are all its clear proof. You have responded in one voice, you have assisted, and you would have done much more, had more been asked of you. Seated and participating in our reception and honoring the illustrious sons of Filipinas, you also honor Spain; because you know this well - the limits of Spain are neither the Atlantic, nor Cantabria, nor the Mediterranean; what meanness it would be were the sea a dike against her greatness, her thought. -- Spain is there, there where she makes her beneficent influence felt, and even if her flag were to disappear, her memory would remain, eternal, imperishable. What can a piece of red and yellow cloth do, what can guns and cannon do, there where the feeling of love, of affection, does not spring; WHERE THERE IS NO FUSION OF IDEAS, UNITY OF PRINCIPLES, ACCORD AMONGST OPINIONS...? (Prolonged applause.)

"Luna and Hidalgo belong as much to you as to us. You love them and we see in them generous aspirations, precious examples. The Filipino youth of Europe, always enthusiastic, and some other persons whose hearts remain youthful because of the disinterestedness and enthusiasm that mark their actions, offer a crown to Luna, a modest gift, small, yes, compared to our fervor, but it is the most spontaneously and freely offered gift of all the ones presented until now.

"However, the gratitude of Filipinas to her illustrious sons was not yet satisfied, and wanting to give free rein to the ferment in our thoughts, the feelings overflowing in our hearts and the words that escape from our lips, all of us have come here to this banquet to join our wishes, to materialize the mutual embrace of TWO RACES who love and care for each other, UNITED morally, socially and politically throughout the space of four centuries, SO THAT IN FUTURE THEY MAY FORM ONE SOLE NATION IN SPIRIT,in their duties, their perspectives, their privileges. (Applause)

"Therefore I raise a toast to our artists Luna and Hidalgo, legitimate and pure glories of TWO PEOPLES! I raise a toast to those who have given them assistance along the painful path of art! I offer a toast that the Filipino youth, sacred hope of MY COUNTRY, may imitate such precious models and that Mother Spain,4 solicitous and attentive to the wellbeing of her provinces, may soon put into practice the reforms that she has long considered; for the furrow has been plowed and the earth is not barren! And finally, I offer a toast to the happiness of parents who, deprived of their sons' affection, from those distant regions follow them with tearful gaze and beating heart through the seas and the distance, sacrificing on the altar of the common good the sweet consolations that are so scarce in life's twilight - precious and solitary winter flowers blooming beside the tomb's snow mantled borders.(Warm applause, congratulations to the speaker.)"5

Retana described the reason for the impact of Rizal's speech over the gathering - that he spoke from a position of manly equality with the Spanish:

In truth, it was impossible to ask for more grace of bearing and bravery: RIZAL speaks in the name of Filipinas, not with the submission that was demanded of that country's children by the Spaniards, but as an ally who is such out of personal choice:we are TWO PEOPLES; we are TWO RACES; we are as much men as you and for this very reason we want what you want. Are we denied what we believe we deserve? Look to the future! The circumstances of the present cannot be eternal! No Filipino, and even less in the presence of prestigious Spaniards, had ever dared to say anything like it. RIZAL wanted the union of Spain and the Philippines to be preserved; but he demanded, for that union to prevail, that the Filipinos should have identical rights as the Spanish. He considered that to live without them diminished the dignity of his race, and he refused to submit to such an offense.

_____________________________________

1 The Filipinos' grievances were unknown to the Spanish because no one dared to state them, and even less, publicly -- for he would have been branded a filibustero [subversive]. According to the referenced Ilocano writer D. Isabelo de los Reyes:

1. That each year the friars arbitrarily raised the rent on their lands, despite the severe economic and agricultural crisis that the country had been in since (sic) close to ten years, because the ricefields were destroyed by clouds of locusts, the coffee plantations by another even worse pest, and the prices of abaca, sugar, indigo and other products of the Philippines had hit rock bottom.

2. That besides rent, the friars demanded (it is unknown by what right) an additional rental fee for the trees that the tenants planted on their parcels, instead of being grateful for this favor, since it constituted a great improvement of said lands.

3. That the friars, instead of using the legal measure when collecting rent in kind, would measure out rice in 33 or 33 gantas instead of 25, which is the capacity of the legalcavan [unit of dry measure used for rice in the Philippines]

4. That the friars arbitrarily set the prices of the products for calculating the payments in metal currency that they had to charge.

5. That in addition to these unheard-of abuses, it is possible that they usurped lands that the Filipinos had inherited from their parents, simply by including them in their maps, or if not, they despotically took away lands from the tenants that the latter had improved for years at the cost of continual labor and expenditures.

6. That the friars mercilessly persecuted those who dared to file legal complaints until they succeeded in getting the government to banish them, causing the ruin of so many families.

7. That they did not bury the poor at no charge as is mandated, and when they collected parish fees they went beyond the ecclesiastical tariff, disregarding the excommunication that was the punishment for violators, and forcing the poor through abusive treatment to sell the little they owned in order to pay for their relatives' burials.

8. That the friars get involved in family and neighborhood affairs to promote intrigue and to persecute whomever takes a dislike to them.

9. That they oppress the native clerics with arbitrary imprisonments and suspensions, transfers from one province to another, poor coadjutors [Assistant parish priests; qtd. A. García.] having to travel great distances and pay for the trips themselves. In this way they punish those who do not know how to flatter their superiors.

10. That the friar bishops make unfair changes of parish appointments in favor of their brothers, that harm the interests of the native priests.

11. That they do not grant full tenure to parish priests on the basis of qualifications as mandated by the Council of Trent, so that the parishes might be entrusted to those with the dignity to occupy such office, but, in order to discredit the native clergy, they choose the most inept, the sycophants and the clueless as temporary parish priests, and only as temporary curates, so that these may always feel obliged to flatter and serve the friars, in whose all-powerful hands their destinies lie.

12. That the friars brazenly ignore the laws and provisions of the Government and the Church, overstepping all of them with impunity, as they have transgressed the absolute prohibition against appointing friars as public suppliers and treasurers, which His Majesty's Government recently called attention to in 1896; and yet, all those appointed [to act in such capacities] continue to be the friars.

13. That they [the friars] depress and persecute educated Filipinos, and even those who can barely sputter in Spanish.

14. That, being that they ought to be examples of transparent conduct before their parishioners in the towns they administrate, they are instead the cornerstone of scandal because of their vices and loose behavior, sacrificing to their carnal appetites the tranquillity of honorable families.

15. That they oppose the country's progress, even blocking Spanish immigration because they believe it may lead to oversight and create obstacles for their abuses; the construction of railways, as harbingers of civilization; the introduction of laws and all kinds of governmental and administrative reforms, brazenly referring to the highly distinguished former foreign affairs ministers Balaguer, Maura, Moret, Romero Robledo, Becerra, and others to whom the country owes a few beneficial reforms, as exploiters and filibusteros - La sensacional Memoria de Isabelo de los Reyes, Madrid, 1899, pp. 13-16.

Almost all these grievances (in some of which there is evident exaggeration) are exposed, in some way, in the novel Noli me tángere. Since RIZAL's warning did not produce the result that it should have done in our colonial political regime and the grievances continued unresolved, they were what moved the progressive Filipinos, the admirers of RIZAL, to found the Katipunan. - This is what the referenced Sr. Reyes said in a Memorandum dated April 25 1897, which he sent from the Manila Prison to D. Fernando Primo de Rivera, Captain General of the Philippines. Sr. Reyes's Memoir got its author sent, after his imprisonment in Manila, to the dreadful Montjuich Castle in Barcelona. He did not have such a hard time of it, though - others who did less than Reyes had been shot.

2 Cosmopolitanism is defined in Diccionario del Nuevo Humanismo as: "(From the Greek kosmos, world, and polítes, citizen) An ideological current that considers the human being as a citizen of the world. It arose during the French Revolution of 1789, to some extent as a reaction to the formation of the National State and, subsequently, to the Napoleonic wars of plunder. It was thus a position that was critical of the official chauvinism [this term's origin is ascribed to Nicolas Chauvin, a sergeant in the Napoleonic Army in the early 1800s and enthrones the superiority of the conqueror over the conquered, the strong over the weak, the exploiter over the exploited etc., with a strong nuance of racism]. Cosmopolitanism is opposed to patriotism and nationalism. It is frequently confused with internationalism. The difference between them is that the first allows minimizing traditions and national values for the benefit of certain planetary tasks, while the second seeks the path toward the planet's harmony and combination. The first, to a large extent, reflects the interests of the world bourgeoisie; the second springs from the priority of unifying the interests of the oppressed on a world scale against imperialism and the dictates of the superpowers. Under current conditions, cosmopolitanism should be directed toward the achievement of international consensus in order to resolve global problems: hunger, health, disarmament, environment and demographics (D. del N. H., Centro Mundial de Estudios Humanistas, 15, 21-22).

3 Resurrección Hidalgo's painting depicts Christian virgins stripped of their clothing and sold as slaves. A/TN

4 Mother Spain: Let the reader note that he does not say Motherland.  Motherland [would be] the natural title, whereas Mother Spain is only a moral one.

5 Published for the first time in the Madrid magazine Los dos mundos [The Two Worlds] in 1884 and reproduced in the brochure Homenaje á Luna [Tribute to Luna, Publication of D. José Rodón y Abella, Catalonian.]. Madrid, Imp. De F. García Herrero, 1888; pp. 97-104. - After RIZAL spoke: López Jaena (who attacked the theocracy), Govantes, Cárdenas, Del Val, Nin y Tudó, Más (Valencian painter), "other Filipino orators," Azcárraga, Luna (to express thanks), Regidor, Fernández Labrador (Cuban), Labra, Azcárraga (for the 2nd time), Morayta, Rodríguez Correa and Moret (who summarized). - The banquet ended at midnight. Paterno, who had been the principal organizer, excused himself from offering a toast.

*Copyright © 2000 Elizabeth Medina. Translated from the original Spanish from the second edition of Rizal According to Retana by Ms Elizabeth Medina.

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