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Demythologizing Rizal by Ambeth Ocampo

Demythologizing Rizal by Ambeth Ocampo

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Published by Emmanuel S. Caliwan
i really learn history the good way by reading Ocampo's reflexion with it hope you would also learn to love and rescue history from where isit now.
i really learn history the good way by reading Ocampo's reflexion with it hope you would also learn to love and rescue history from where isit now.

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Published by: Emmanuel S. Caliwan on May 24, 2010
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07/07/2013

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Demythologizing Rizal
by Ambeth Ocampo
 
Whether you are talking about your neighbor, your enemy, apolitician or someone who lived 200 years ago, sex never fails tocatch people's interest and imagination. Despite columns I havewritten about Apolinario Mabini's polio and that he died of choleraafter drinking infected
gatas ng kalabas
[water bullfalo's milk],people still insist on the
tsismis
[gossip] that syphilis causedMabini's paralysis. So many readers have asked me to elaborateon the sex lives of former Philippine presidents or our heroes.I am always asked if Andres Bonifacio's widow, Gregoria deJesus, was really raped by Colonel Agapito Bonzon when theywere in captivity, or whether it is true that General AntonioLuna's girlfriend really was a presidential ancestor named IsidraCojuangco. Whenever I volunteer information, it is always seenas
tsmis
regardless of my documentation. Maybe this is a way of copeing, because our heroes have been so glorified that peoplecannot imagine them eating, drinking, womanizing, or havingplain human emotions like you and me. It is for this reason thatwe go into the national hero, José Rizal.Doctor Maximo Viola, as every schoolchild knows, was the manwho paid for the printing of Rizal's
Noli me Tangere
. What theschoolchild doesn't know, however, is that Rizal and Violatraveled together around Europe and that Viola had written anaccount of this trip.Rizal stayed with Viola in Barcelona around June or July 1886 at atime when Viola was preparing for his medical examinations, soRizal was forced to roam the city alone. Viola writes:
"It can be said that the life of the illustrious traveler in this city had nothing notable about it. He visited without pomp and ceremony... During the day I couldn't accompany him in his
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excursions as much as I wished, for I was preparing for my final examinations. At night, I sometimes accompanied him to theCafé Pelayo -- gathering place of the Filipino expatriates -- and sometimes to other amusement centers, including casas de polomas de bajo vuelo (in Pilipino, kasa ng mga kalapatingmababa ang lapid); in English brothels whose ways, luxury or  poverty, and other customs of refinement of vice were unknownto him in Madrid. In as much as he was eager to knoeverything, because the day when, as a writer, he would have tocombat such a vice in its diverse manifestations for beingunnatural an anti-psycological, according to him, he would beinformed of its cause the better to correct it. It must be noted that in these excursions, rather of a character more inquisitorial than voluptious, he always hinted to me thathe had never beenin favor of obeying blindly the whims of nature when theeir call was not duly justified by a natural and spontaneous impulse." 
The original Spanish is florid and corny, so much the better toveil Rizal's "educational-observation" trips to the brothels. I usea translation by the José Rizal Centennial Commission because if I translate these notes to their bare essentials, it will appear as if I were trying to denigrate Rizal. What one should keep in mindwhile reading Viola is that these recollections were not written in1886 but in 1913, so many years after the actual events. Rizalwas already the national hero and so, Viola had to paint adignified picture of his friend. It is because of writings like thesethat Rizal has become a figure of myth to today's Filipinios.Viola says that the brothels
"were unknown to him (Rizal) at Madrid." 
But if you take the time to read the volumes of Rizal'scorrespondence, hyou will find a letter of Rizal to his brother,Paciano, from Madrid dated 13 February 1883 (three years beforehe visited Viola in Barcelona). Rizal says:
"Women abound evenmore (here in Madrid) and it is, indeed, shocking that in many  places they intercept men and they are not the ugly ones either." 
I have seen these dark esquintitas in Madrid, like Calle de laMontera, where my sisters were always warned never to go aftersix. Here you find pretty young things (but it's hard to be seen in
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the semidarkness) who lie in wait; the ugly ones are aggressiveout of despair, so they pull men off the street into their sleazylittle rooms. I wonder where these kalapati [doves] were inRizal's time. From Rizal's letter it is obvious he know what he'stalking about.
"With respect to morality there are some who are models of virtue and innocence and others who have nothing womanly about them, except their dress or at most their sex. Rightly it has been said that the women in the South of Europe have fire intheir veins. However, here prostitution is a little more concealed than at Barcelona, though not less unrestrained." 
Now, tell me, how can Viola say with a straight face that these"amusements" were unknown to Rizal?In May 1887 Rizal and Viola traveled together around Europe. Itwas in Vienna where Rizal
"encountered the figure of a temptressin the form of a Viennese woman, of the family of the Camelliasor hetaeras of extraordinary beauty and irresistible attraction," 
who seemingly had been expressly invited to offer for a momenta cup of mundane pleasure to the apostle of Philippine freedomwho until then had enjoyed among his intimates the fame worthyof his glorious namesake, St. Joseph.
"With these exceptions of this case, I knew of no other slip of Rizal during more than six months that we were travelingtogether..." 
Is this column
tsismis
(gossip)? The documentation exists. Thepoint is that there is not need to hide the humanity of our heroesbecause it is precisely their being human that makes themadmirable. Whether Rizal was a saint or a sex fiend does notdetract from his greatness. The problem today is rewriting all thedistorted hagiography teachers force students to read. What of today's sex scandals?I'll leave that for the historical columnist of 2089 A.D.
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