THE TRIP TO CUBA THAT ENDED IN LUNETA
VW Bro. Bernardino L. Saplaco, Jr.
Past Grand Pursuivant
I simply want, in this article, to recreate important events that culminated in Dr. Jose Rizal's execution on Bagumbayan field (now the Luneta), the centennial anniversary of which we commemorated on December 30, last year (1996); to pose at certain points, perhaps for polemical reasons, some pertinent questions which, to me, still clamor for satisfying answers; to reiterate a couple of famous tributes to Illustrious Brother and Dr. Jose Rizal; and to suggest how we latter-day Filipinos can best honor the memory of our foremost National Hero. Why, in the first place, did Dr. Rizal follow Professor Ferdinand Blumentritt's suggestion that he volunteer his services as a physician attached to the Spanish medical corps in Cuba? For sure, in his flirewell letter to his family which he wrote before the Isla de Panay sailed for Spain on his way to Cuba on September 2, 1896, Rizal said in part: "We are all in the hands of Divine Providence. Not all who go to Cuba die; and in the end, if one has to die, let him die at least doing something good." (Teodoro M. Kalaw, editor; Epistolario Rizalino, Vol IV, p.285). But, what was the "something good" Dr. Rizal would do in Cuba? Helping the Spaniards, whose misrule of the archipelago he had vividly exposed in his writings, quell the Cubans' struggle for independence? Why, furthermore, did Governor-General Ramon Blanco accept Dr. Rizal's application to serve as a volunteer physician attached to the Spanish medical corps in Cuba? Why did he, moreover, give Rizal a letter of recommendation, addressed to the Ministers of War and of the Ultramar, a portion of which is given below? "His (Rizal's) conduct during the four years he remained in Dapitan has been exemplary, and he is, in my opinion, the more deserving of pardon and benevolence in that he is in no way involved in the chimerical attempt we are deploring, neither in the conspiracy nor in any of the secret societies that have been formed." (Ibid, p.294). Some say that the governor-general, a 32nd Mason (Masonic name: Barcelona), wanted to assist a distressed worthy Brother. Since public unrest was growing in Manila, he wanted Rizal out of the Philippines to keep him away from the friars' clutches. In any case, when on September 30 the Isla de Panay was cruising the Mediterranean Sea, the ship captain informed Dr. Rizal that he had just received a telegraphic order to arrest and confine Dr. Rizal in his cabin. (Documentos Rizalinos, 1953, p. 64). The Minister of Colonies had sent Governor Blanco a telegram, which read: "Not advisable that Rizal go to Cuba. He should be watched." Thereafter the friars exerted pressure on the authorities, particularly Governor Blanco, to be strict on Rizal. Worse, Rizal's name kept cropping up in the investigations of those arrested in connection with the Revolutionn. He was, therefore, suspected of being the Revolution's secret leader. When the Isla de Panay reached Barcelona on October 6, Dr. Rizal was immediately transferred to the prison Montjuich Castle, the officer in charge of which was General Eulogio Despujol, the governor who had him arrested and deported to Dapitan. (Ibid., pp. 66-67). Dr. Rizal was then transferred to the SS Colon, which arrived in Manila on November 8. Forthwith, he was again confined in Fort Santiago. From November 20 to 24 he underwent rigorous investigation, during which he patiently bore the questions propounded to him by the Judge Advocate, Colonel Francisco Olive, the same man who in 1890 commanded the troops that invaded Calamba and drove the Rizal family from their home. Dr. Rizal was accused of being "the principal organizer and the living soul of the insurrection in the Philippines." He was also identified as the person principally responsible for the introduction into the Philippines of Masonry among Filipinos. Specifically, his enemies claimed that it was Rizal...
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