The Explainer: A serious and silly look at Rizal

Besides Calamba, Laguna, I don’t know if many parts of the country paused to recall that today’s the birth anniversary of Jose Rizal. But we should, both in a serious and –why not- in a light-hearted manner, too.

So in honor of Rizal’s birthday, a serious and silly look at our national hero.

I’m Manolo Quezon. The Explainer.


I. Rizal The Incredible


Often glossed over, coming as it does a little less than a week after independence day, is the birth anniversary of Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero. In recent decades, the near-unassailable preeminence of Rizal in the official roster of heroes has come under attack. The foremost Filipino reformist, after all, has left a difficult legacy for those pursuing reform rather than revolution. That is, if one assumes reform is less difficult, and thus, ignoble, compared to revolution.

In his magnificent, but not often read biography, “Rizal,” the late Teodoro M. Locsin Sr. observed that- Explainee, would you like to read?

 “…A man is presumed to have intended all the consequences of his act. Rizal was a revolutionary, for he incited the people to a revolution. That he did not mean to do so is beside the point.”

Locsin then wrote one of the most magnificent passages on political thought written by a Filipino. Explainee, would you like to read what Locsin wrote?

“The voice of moderation, pleading for due process of law under an absolute despotism, arguing the possibility of persuading the tiger to change its stripes and cease to be a tiger, does not know the tiger. Asking the tiger and the lamb to lie down together in gentleness — as though it were possible — disarms the lamb and feeds the tiger. It is a form of pharisaism: Doing evil with a good conscience. Ultimately, the tiger, grown dull and stupid from undisputed rule, fails to distinguish between friend and food and devours not only lamb but pharisee.”

What did Locsin mean by this? He goes on to put his statement in context –Explainee, would you like to read further?

“In the story of [Rizal’s] life as a revolutionary by consequence rather than by intention, the distaste for violence however necessary and the distrust of the masses native to him, provide a kind of counterpoint to the main and classic theme of oppression and revolt. Rizal’s death, a monument to serene courage and intellectual confusion, of a peace that passes all understanding — his death which precipitated the revolution was one more instance of the peculiar logic and morality of the historical processes, the delicate perversity and smiling savagery of the gods.”

A perversity and logic Locsin saw in Rizal; but what’s interesting here is how Locsin says Rizal was subjected to intellectual confusion. Or was it, that others were confused by what Rizal said?

Prior to the revolution of 1896, one was inducted into the secret, revolutionary Katipunan under a picture of Rizal. And the Katipuneros, according to one of them, went to Rizal, still in exile in Dapitan, for advice.

Here’s an extract taken from Luis Serrano’s translation (from Tagalog) of the “controversial” memoirs of Dr. Pio Valenzuela, recounting the conversation he had, as emissary of the Katipunan, with Rizal on June 21, 1896, at Dapitan.

Valenzuela’s memoirs conflict with the testimony he gave on October 6, 1896, when he was captured and interrogated by the Spaniards, in which he said Rizal vehemently refused to have anything to do with the Katipunan or a revolution.

But his memoirs, and testimony he gave at court (he was cross-examined by the grandfather of Tito Sotto Vicente Sotto, who had been sued for libel by a former Katipunero) in 1917, after the Spanish era, said that Rizal really favored a revolution but not just yet ; some historians explain the discrepancy as Valenuela’s attempt to not implicate Rizal after his capture. The Rizal in Valenzuela’s memoirs is the Rizal I admire.

Explainee, let’s read from the account. It reads like a spy novel or like Star Wars, with Rizal being Yoda-like at times. Would you like to be Rizal or shall I?


         Rizal: You have to use all precautions to prevent the discovery of the association.

         Valenzuela: And if the precautions fail?

         R: You, the principal chiefs, must see that the resolutions of the Katipunan are faithfully complied with; you are duty-bound to avail yourselves of all means to prevent the shedding of blood. When the generals do not command, the soldiers stay still.

         V: The case of the Katipunan is different; if the generals do not give orders, the soldiers will order the soldiers. If the Katipunan is discovered, the revolution will inevitably break out…

         R: Does the association count with its membership many persons in high society in Manila and in the provinces?

         V: Unfortunately, no; in Manila and the provinces, there are about a hundred from the middle class; the rest are poor.

         R: There is no other remedy but to attract to your association all the rich and influential persons of Manila and the provinces. You may also avail yourselves of Antonio Luna who is a very intelligent man, and who has free access to the homes of wealthy Filipinos. Luna, at the same time, can direct the campaign in case hostilities break out.

         V: What shall we do if we fail to attract these aristocratic people to the Katipunan?

         R: These Filipinos will be your worst enemies if you commit the imprudence of attacking the Spaniards without the necessary preparation. When they see you without arms, they will go over to the side of Spain and persecute you; and being Filipinos and rich too, they will win over your soldiers with their money.

         V: And what are we to do then?

         R: See to it that these persons are at least neutral -that they help neither the Spaniards nor the Filipinos.

         V: Neutrals (sic)? By what means can we make them neutrals?

         R: That is difficult to answer now. The means are born of circumstances and events…


At this point, Valenzuela breaks off the dialogue and says Rizal invited him to talk on the beach, and when they arrived at a certain place Rizal pointed to a spot in the sea where the boat to take him to a foreign land might drop anchor.  Later, they returned to Rizal’s house and during the walk the following conversation took place between them.


So let’s continue the dialogue, Explainee. Rizal makes a modest proposal: he should become a patriotic Japayuki.


Rizal: Tell our countrymen that, at the same time that we are preparing for a war against Spain, I desire to see a college established in Japan which will be converted later into a university for Filipino youths. I shall be greatly pleased to be the director of said college.

         Valenzuela: I shall bear in mind all what you say and counsel, but I believe you would rather direct the revolution than manage the college.

         R: I am ready for both.

         V: As soon as we have arms and munitions we shall try to take you out of Dapitan before the revolution starts in order that the Spaniards may not get to you and shoot you.

         R: As soon as you obtain arms, start the war against Spain right away; do not bother about me for I will know how to get out of here by any craft with the help of the Moros. When it comes to the redemption of the country, you must not look behind for just one man.

         V: If the revolution breaks out before schedule and you are still in Dapitan, the Spaniards will hold you and have you shot.

         R: To die and conquer is pleasant; but to die and be conquered is painful.


Now wasn’t that last statement the ultimate in Yoda-like vagueness?

So, does this mean that being a reluctant and accidental martyr, Rizal should be deprived of his status as our secular St. Stephen: the first martyr of our new nationhood?

It seems to me that precisely because of his dignity throughout the trial meant to make him a scapegoat for the revolution, he earned his distinction as first among patriots.

For though he did leave a document behind condemning the revolution, we can see that the Spaniards, in a momentary fit of intelligence, chose not to circulate it because it was not condemnation enough — merely a statement of indignation over the revolution being premature.

Explainee, read what the Spanish Judge Advocate in Rizal’s trial said:

“Dr. Jose Rizal limits himself to criticizing the present insurrectionary movement as premature… as far as Rizal is concerned, the whole question is one of opportunity, not of principles and objectives… a message of this sort, far from promoting peace, is likely to stimulate for the future the spirit of rebellion.”


You can see in Rizal’s posthumously titled last poem, “Ultimo Adios,” that there was no distinction to his mind between his fate and the fate of those dying in the trenches of the Katipunan. Explainee, would you like to read the lines?

Others are giving you their lives on fields of battle,

Fighting joyfully, without hesitation, or thought for the consequence.

How it takes place is not important. Cypress, laurel or lily,

Scaffold or battlefield, in combat or in cruel martyrdom,

It is the same when what is asked of you is for your country and your home.

Let my personal favorite among our heroes, Rizal’s contemporary, Apolinario Mabini, have the final say.

Writing in his “La Revolucion Filipina,” Mabini penned this estimation of Rizal. Explainee, would you like to read it?

“[Rizal] was found guilty of having been [the revolution’s] chief instigator because, had it not been for the articles he had published in La Solidaridad and for his novels, the people would never have taken to politics. This judgment was totally incorrect because political activities in the Philippines antedated Rizal, because Rizal was only a personality created by the needs of these activities: If Rizal had not existed, somebody else would have played his role. The movement was by nature slow and gentle, it had become violent because obstructed. Rizal had not started the resistance, yet he was condemned to death: Were he not innocent, he would not be a martyr.”

Mabini then goes on to point out that to understand why Rizal calmly faced his execution, helps us understand how Rizal understood his own role in our history:

“In contrast to [Fr.] Burgos who wept because he died guiltless, Rizal went to the execution ground calm and even cheerful, to show that he was happy to sacrifice his life, which he had dedicated to the good of all the Filipinos, confident that in love and gratitude they would always remember him and follow his example and teaching. In truth the merit of Rizal’s sacrifice consists precisely in that it was voluntary and conscious. He had known perfectly well that if he denounced the abuses which the Spaniards were committing in the Philippines, they would not sleep in peace until they had encompassed his ruin; yet he did so because, if the abuses were not exposed, they would never be remedied.”

And Mabini then concludes with a meditation on Rizal’s commitment to his country:

“From the day Rizal understood the misfortunes of his native land and decided to work to redress them, his vivid imagination never ceased to picture him at every moment of his life the terrors of the death that awaited him; thus he learned not to fear it, and had no fear when it came to take him away; the life of Rizal, from the time he dedicated it to the service of his native land, was therefore a continuing death, bravely endured until the end for love of his countrymen. God grant that they will know how to render to him the only tribute worthy of his memory: the imitation of his virtues.”

To Mabini’s prayer we can only say, Amen.


When we return, a lighter look at Rizal –and what we say about him.


II. Adolf Rizal


Explainee, here’s a charming letter by Rizal. Would you like to read it?


33 Rue Philippe de Champagne, Brussels

5 March 1890


Dr. A.B. Meyer


My distinguished friend,


         I received your letter of the 27th last month and excuse me for not answering you before this, for i have had to consult some countrymen and books concerning your question about hashish.

         No book, no historian that i know of speaks of any plant whose use is similar to that of the hashish. I myself, though in 1879 I used hashish, did it for experimental purposes and I obtained the substance from a drugstore. I do not believe that its use has been introduced either before or after the arrival of the Spaniards. The Filipinos drank  arak ,  nipa-palm and coconut wine, etc. and they chewed  buyo  before the arrival of the Spaniards, but not hashish.

         Neither is a word resembling it found in the language. The  is is  or  asis  is a kind of wild fig-tree.

         If I had Fr. Blanco’s  Flora , I could find out if this plant exists. I believe therefore that its use is unknown. Opium was introduced only after the arrival of the Spaniards. We Tagalogs call it  apian….

Jose Rizal

(Letter 62, Miscellaneous Correspondence, Vol. II Book IV, translated by Encarnacion Alzona)


Rizal’s life is full of interesting tidbits like this letter. But let me fast forward to what we say about him.


Here is the craziest thing I’ve heard (and I’ve heard it more than once, at parties): Adolf Hitler was really the illegitimate son of Jose Rizal.


Here is the second craziest thing I’ve heard: Mao Zedong was actually Rizal’s illegitimate son. Two variations, I suppose, on the idea that “Yes, the Filipino Can!”


Sadly, I found the two theories so funny that I never thought of asking the people who told them to me to explain on what grounds they based their claim about Der Fuehrer and the Great Helmsman.


A dentistry student friend from UE has also heard these fanciful theories, but it also did not occur to him to ask on what evidence these fanciful claims were based.


So I did a little research to find out how people could make up such a story.


The claim that Adolf Hitler was Rizal’s progeny must be based on the following facts:



Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889 (that means he could have been conceived sometime in August 1888), in the little village of Braunau, near the German- Austrian border.


He was born an Austrian and remained one until the 1930s.


The name of Hitler mother was Klara Polz.


At one time she was a maid in Vienna.


Hitler always considers a town Linz, in Austria, as his hometown (in his Political Testament he referred to ” my hometown of Linz on the Danube”).


Hitler’s oldest brother, Gustav born on May 17, 1885, and his sister Ida, born in 1886, both died before he was born.


Bavaria was considered the “cradle” of Nazism.


The Nazis made Japan one of the Axis powers. At one point they tried to prove that the Japanese were Aryans, to make the Japanese members of the “master race.”


Now combine the above information with the following, culled from the life of Rizal:



On February 1, 1886, he left Paris for Germany. He went to Heidelberg, Wilhelmsfeld, Munich (in Bavaria), all somewhat near a German–Austrian border; on August 9, 1886 he left for Leipzig (“visiting various German cities along the way,” one book says), arriving there on August 14. In October he went to Dresden and then to Berlin.


In Berlin he finished Noli Me Tangere. One of the book’s characters is named Maria Clara.


On May 11, 1887, Rizal began his Grand Tour of Europe. He went to Dresden, Teschen (now Decin in the former Czechoslovakia), Prague, and then Brunn (where he lost a diamond stickpin), and Vienna (where he got back his diamond stickpin, which was found by a maid in the hotel he stayed in Brunn) in Austria.


On May 24, 1887, he left Vienna by riverboat to see sights on the Danube River (on the boat he saw paper napkins for the first time). His voyage ended at Linz.


From Linz he went to Munich (where Hitler attempted a putsch in 1923) and Nuremberg (site of the Nazi Party rallies and the War Crimes trials), and other German cities.


Rizal was in the German Empire, sometimes past the German-Austrian border, from February 1886 until he went to Switzerland in early June 1887.


Rizal was again in Europe from May 24, 1888, until October 18, 1891. He was in London, Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Biarritz, Ghent. He was in Europe during the time Hitler was conceived and when he was born.


Rizal in 1888 had an affair with a Japanese woman, Seiko Usui, when he visited Japan. She had an only daughter, Yuriko, by a foreign husband some years after her encounter with Rizal. Yuriko later married the son of a Japanese politician.


Put all these information together and you may be able to conclude the following:

Hitler was conceived either in 1887 when Rizal passed through Linz or other towns (such as Brunn – How do you think he lost the diamond stickpin? And who was the “maid” who found it later and gave it to Blumentritt who forwarded it to Vienna?) near the Austrian border. In which case Hitler’s older siblings were fictitious, to cover up his mother’s being pregnant with him. In other words, Hitler was actually born before 1889.

Or he was conceived in August 1888, when Rizal was supposedly in London. Or perhaps in September 1888, when Rizal went to Paris for a week (to have a rendezvous with Klara?).

Maybe he went to Paris in 1889 so he could communicate more easily with the now-expecting Klara? Klara Polzl’s affair with Rizal may have centered around Linz, which is why the Hitler family moved there later (so Mama Hitler could live where she had An affair to Remember), which would explain Hitler’s fondness for the town.

Finally, Seiko Usui’s only daughter was not really fathered by her husband, Alfred Charlton. He was simply a front. Yuriko, you see, was Rizal’s daughter! And Hitler knew she was his half-sister.

She used her influence on her brother Adolf to persuade him to enter into an alliance with Japan (making it one of the Axis powers). Which is why Japan invaded the Philippines!??Yuriko made it clear to Hirohito that Hitler would appreciate it if his ally were to take over his father’s homeland.

And of course the reason why Hitler wanted to become dictator of Germany was because his natural father had spent some of the most interesting years of his life there!

That, I think, is the rationale behind such a fantastic claim based on information that can be gathered from any high school textbook on Rizal and any good biography of Adolf Hitler. Naturally, this can only be done through selective use of the evidence, but it does make for an amusing piece of historical fiction.

Now, as to the idea that Mao Zedong was also Rizal’s son. Unfortunately this claim cannot be supported by even the most spurious evidence. Mao Zedong was born in 1893, in Hunan Province, which you could say is kind of near Hong Kong. But at that time (1893), Rizal was in exile in Dapitan.

Now it would have been possible for Rizal to scamper around Europe and get Klara pregnant without anybody noticing, but he couldn’t possibly have jumped into a boat and rowed to Hongkong without being caught. He did pass through Hong Kong in 1888 and 1891 but he never seems to have visited other parts of China (unless you count Xiamen and Macao).

So there are no details that can be manipulated.

These exercises in foolishness prove how creative Filipinos can be. What other people would be able to make the bogus claim that one of their heroes fathered one of the most evil human beings ever born?

And speaking of births –when we return, our guest will argue that it’s Rizal’s birthday, not his death anniversary, that deserves our full attention.


My view


Rizal, in 1889, had observed, “All the little insurrections that have hitherto occurred in the Philippines have been the work of a few fanatics or mutinous officers who have had to deceive or cajole or exploit their followers to achieve their ends. And so they failed: all of them. Not one of these insurrections had the people behind it; not one sprang from a whole race’s need; not one was fought for the rights of man or the claims of justice. On the contrary; once the people’s wounds had healed and they recognized themselves as the victims of deceit, they applauded the fall of those who had perturbed their peaceful existence. But suppose a movement were to arise from the people themselves, with the miseries of the people as its motive power? What then?”

The question still lingers, because hard as some have tried, they have yet to put together such a movement. Not that our mainstream politicians since Martial Law have done any better; when Ferdinand Marcos moved the date of the inauguration of presidents from December 30 to June 30, he divorced the country’s leadership from the heavy shadow of Rizal’s insistence on self-control as the root of good governance.

I for one, wish our official’s terms began, as they used to, on December 30, and not in June. It would remind everyone of Rizal’s observation, tal pueblo, tal gobierno. As the people are, so is their government.


Manuel L. Quezon III.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.