Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Plaridel Recalls his Conflict with Rizal

For the past months, I have been reading the collected letters of Marcelo H. Del Pilar, which were published in English translation by the National Historical Institute. One of the more memorable letters in the collection is Del Pilar's letter to Deodato Arellano dated March 31, 1891 in which Plaridel tells Deodato the events that led to Rizal's parting with the Filipinos in Madrid and Rizal's eventual return to the Philippines.

In this letter, Plaridel gives us a different glimpse into Rizal's persona, his beef with the freeloaders on a New Year's Eve banquet, their debate on whether the La Solidaridad is independent of their political organization, and the elections among the Filipinos in Madrid, which Rizal grudgingly won over Plaridel. Del Pilar shows why Rizal stands way above his peers.

Madrid March 31, 1891

Ka Dato:

I received your letters last February 8 and 20 as well as those from Chanay, Ponciano and those addressed to Teofilo and Don Fernando. I also received from the house of Bayo a letter for Rizal, which was sent immediately to its destination, as were the others.

I owe you an explanation on what you call a conflict between Rizal and myself; the briefness of my previous statements seems to have brought about his judgment. There was no such conflict between us nor among the members of the colony, although in the election for leader there were pro-Rizal and pro-Pilar groups. Doctor Rosario must be there already and he can give you a more detailed account. And even now I call it childishness.

It is a traditional habit in the colony to enjoy at a fraternal banquet on the night of December 31. In the morning of that day, the suggestion was raised regarding the drinking of champagne, since the young men had been preparing their respective speeches. A thousand means were discussed to obtain champagne for the night; and at lunchtime, many jokes were passed around, but I kept quiet and was thinking of paying for the champagne; I wanted to surprise them. After the meal, I went to the house of Bayo to get the money for the champagne. From the house of Bayo, at around three in the afternoon, I went to the house of Doña Justa Jugo (a Filipina), where we were invited for tea, since it was the birthday of a son of hers. While I was there, Rizal arrived and he called me aside and told me: “Before coming here I passed by your house and heard a proposal that you spend for tonight’s coffee.” “Accepted”, I replied. Imagine why I would not accept that offer when I was willing to spend a lot more.

Nighttime comes, the young people, always gay, sign a paper which they do not allow me to read; and at the hour when we sat down at the table, the proposal signed by 25 table companions (I believe we were 31) was presented, having been prepared with much grace by Lete, asking that I pay for the coffee, Cunanan for the cigars, and Rizal and Dominador Gomez (who had not arrived yet) for the champagne.

I expressed my acceptance and so did Cunanan. But Rizal had the good or bad grace to protest and argue. I attempted to drown that protest, proposing that besides those mentioned, Modesto Reyes and Mariano Abella pay for the champagne. They also accepted. It may have been that Rizal did not hear me since we were far from each other, I at the presidential center of the table, he at the extreme left and the proponents at the extreme right; so that no one paid any attention to my proposal and Rizal began to collect, starting from the left of the table, a contribution of one peseta from each person for the champagne. In the midst of the hubbub, someone approached me and whispered, saying: “Mister Director, the proposal has been retracted, but we thank you for the coffee. We expected no less from your graciousness.”

I understood the bitterness that provoked Rizal’s protest. Not being aware of my proposal, he remained happy and witty, and I worried that there would be some conflict. The collection of one peseta went on, going from the extreme left toward the center; from here to the extreme right; no one wanted to give anything.

Very ingenious, but very strong arguments against Rizal began at the extreme right; I took advantage of the fact that Rizal was not aware of the extent of the arguments and I got up and approached the extreme right to tell them secretly not to spoil this brotherly reunion. All of them listened to me and the meal continued without any more quarrels.

The moment for the toast came. Dr. Rosario initiated the toasts and so magnificent was the moment when he lamented the lack of interest of some in their studies so that he received great applause; but at the end of the applause, the voice of Rizal was heard to say “We should feel it instead of clapping.” This caused some discontented looks.

When the banquet was finished, Naning and I accompanied Doña Marina and Micaela, who had gone to watch the banquet and were going home alone at midnight: then we went home to Atocha street and met the group that had been arguing. It was five in the morning and since I had an appointment at eight, I immediately went to bed but I know that there was talk about Rizal, saying that he liked to impose his will and I don’t know what else.

At eight in the morning I went to my appointment and later, at about twelve, I ate lunch and went back to sleep. But at five in the afternoon, I was awakened and told that the colony was going to meet in my rooms for the purpose of naming a leader whom they could respect; and in fact the members of the colony started arriving. Half asleep and half awake, I was surprised at this sudden determination on their part and told myself that I did not see the need for such an arrangement. I continued lying in bed thinking, and it occurred to me that this might be a trick against Rizal to make him realize that his leadership was not indisputable like many believed. That thought made me rise from bed ready to go against the idea that was being presented as a means of uniting the colony (which was already united). I searched for reasons but they all told me that it was the best way to unite us, and I did not date to voice my suspicions, since these were apparently unfounded.

At this moment Rizal arrives surrounded by the persons who had begun the idea with the support of Rizal himself, and without giving me time to do much, the session began. The idea was presented by Lete, who supported his proposal and he announced that he was counting on Rizal’s support. Some spoke up asking for clarification, and I replied in rebuttal. “Every institution, every organization,” said I, “has reason to exist only when it answers a need. What need does this new organization answer? For legitimate political ends we have the Spanish-Philippine Association; for purposes of propaganda we have another group at our disposal which gives great support.

They all contradicted me and I was beaten as the only one opposed to the idea. Naning thought like me, but did not consider it wise to insist and thus kept quiet.

A commission was formed to prepare the statutes, and Llorente, Rizal and I were elected. The commission met immediately after and Rizal was appointed chairman.

Once the project of Statutes had been prepared, I was ready to approve it without reading it. For me it was enough since Rizal had drafted it and I told Llorente this, but he insisted that I nevertheless read it. I leafed through it and was taken aback by an article that said that the head of the colony would decide the policies of the colony and that the Solidaridad would become subordinate to it.

I called the attention of Rizal to this saying that the Solidaridad depends on another entity. He replied : “Be quiet since, at the end, you will be elected head, since I and my companions at home will vote for you and that does not matter.” I gave him other explanations and I was able to modify the article, altering it as follows: that the leader shall direct its policies and in this sense the Solidaridad shall be its official organ.

A general council was formed to discuss the ruling and on coming to the article cited, a question was presented regarding the wisdom of an “official organ,” and whether this meant its subordination. It was my turn to reply and I said that it meant that the leader of the colony has the means to publish his agreements and thoughts and that without being his subordinate, the paper was willing to insert his authentic decisions. Rizal, without speaking to me directly, said “And if the Solidaridad published something that is not convenient for the interests of the colony, would there be solidarity in the colony because of what the La Solidaridad says?”

I pretended not to hear this question and said: “Gentlemen, the Solidaridad is willing to lend all kinds of service to the colony and even to those who are not part of the colony, as long as it is for the good of the Philippines; what I cannot do is to abdicate its independence; and I cannot do this because it belongs to another very respectable entity, whose instructions are incompatible with subordination to any other group that has not been previously designated. You may vote unanimously for the subordination of the paper; and if the paper does not become subordinate, your votes will lose their validity.”

This explanation was received with approval and Rizal announced that he would request from that Center the authorization that was needed to establish the paper in the colony.

The discussion about the rule ended, we proceeded to the election of the leader and the obligatory majority was not reached. The candidates were Rizal and myself. The voting was repeated thrice and the results were the same, and Rizal and I parted with great cordiality, so much so, that he told me that since the voting would be repeated the next day, it would be convenient to name a third person in order to avoid the formation of factions, to which I agreed.

In the afternoon of the following day the elections were repeated; I wished to go out and did not attend, leaving to Naning my right to vote and to sign agreements. Upon my return to my house I was greeted with the following news: that during the first election, there was no majority; that Naning met in secret with Rizal proposing a third candidate of the coalition who would be recommended by the two contending parties; that Rizal, without accepting or refusing the proposal, replied that he would be going abroad to work alone, and that where there are two Filipinos, it is not possible to have unity. The second election took place without any results either; so that in view of this, Rizal counted the votes in his favor and in the presence of everyone said: “Good, I see that I have 19 friends in the colony; goodbye, gentlemen, I am going to pack my bag, till then,” picked up his hat and left. Naning who had instructions from me to avoid the success of my candidacy, talked with those who he knew voted for me and asked them, for the sake of harmony, to vote for Rizal. Voting took place and Rizal won.

A Counselor was elected from the two who, according to rules, should exist and Lete was chosen. In the election for the other Counselor there was no majority between Naning and Apacible and voting was suspended, to be repeated the following day. The Rizalists agreed to support the candidacy of Naning, but Naning worked so that the Pilarists would not vote for him and it was agreed to vote for Doctor Rosario. The following day it was my turn to preside at the elections, and again no results were obtained; Rosario did not obtain a majority. There is more: Rizal himself said that he would not accept the leadership if the candidacy of Rosario succeeded. The Rizalists spoke to me to return to the candidacy of Naning, and I replied that they had seen me make all kinds of concessions for the sake of reconciliation, but at this point, they should also look for other conciliatory means. At this point, Rosario approached me and said: “Director, let us carry to the extreme our willingness to comply; we have already given in as to the leadership; let us also give in now so that we can prove that we are not elements of discord.” I suspended the session in order to confer and by common agreement a third person of the coalition was proposed: Don Modesto Reyes. Elections took place and he won.

The day of the oath-taking came and I presided. Having read the Act, I asked Rizal the following question: if he was accepting the position and was willing to swear an oath, and he asked to be heard. He made a long recriminatory speech, he goaded Lete, and added that Mr. Del Pilar should have immediately withdrawn his candidacy for the reason that he himself had judged his triumph ill-timed (it is true that I said that); that in Manila the news of his defeat would be poorly received, since he is recognized there as the leader, and it would be very bad if he were not also the leader in Madrid; that the leadership in Manila is in the letter that the Center sent him comparing him with Ruiz Zorilla and besides, his leadership was undisputed there, since all opinions in that area right now have come about through him. (It took me great effort to maintain my composure, after the presidency.)

The speech over, Lete asked to be heard and before agreeing to this, I warned him that the occasion was not meant to start controversies but to turn over the position, and Lete calmed me down by saying that he had no intention of arguing about anything but only to say a few words to clear himself of the charges directed against him.

Finally, I accepted the oaths of Rizal and the Counselors and swore them in. Dominador Gomez and Tomas Arejola made speeches alluding to the event, mentioning the conciliatory behavior with which the supporters distinguished themselves.

I found myself obliged to speak and said, more or less: there should not be any divisiveness in the Philippine Colony and there is none; some share the sentiments that encourage us, others are for the ideals that we pursue: the abolition of everything that stands in the way of our liberty in the Philippines, and at the same time and for the same reason, of that of the Spanish flag also. Divisiveness will bring us nowhere and since our efforts to obtain peace are recognized, I ask for nothing more but that all of us forget the bitterness felt because of the past arguments.

Thus I ended this act. A few weeks later, Rizal went on his planned trip abroad and I was elected to the position he vacated. I considered resigning, but thinking that they would misinterpret my resignation, I accepted.

That is the true story of the case: I appeal for the testimony of those who have recently returned there. Now I leave it to your judgment. I am of the opinion that we should avoid at all costs any unfavorable judgment of Rizal: I wish to keep unsullied the great name that he enjoys. You will remember that when he was insisting on returning there, I asked you to see to it that nothing should occur to belittle him; I precisely did that since I could foresee the event that I have just witnessed. My reputation was not established in the libraries, and the libraries do not take into account the circumstances surrounding the reality that prompts us to work.


1 comment:

DJB Rizalist said...

Haha! Yes indeed very good Marvin!