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Illustrado views of the climate in the 19th

century

By: Filomeno Aguilar, 2016


Pedro Serrano Laktaw (D.A. Murgas), a Manila-
based correspondent of La Solidaridad, listed
down the disasters that inflicted our country.

-cholera epidemic (an infection of the small


intestine by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio
cholerae)
-horrific fires (heat waves-39 degrees temperature)
-earthquake (geophysical condition)
-suffocating heat
-commercial paralysis (economic woes)
No single cause is identified, and there is
no suggestion that one calamity is
related to another.

The letter was meant to inform the


compatriots in Europe of conditions in
the Philippines.
In Europe, however, the Ilustrados
(Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Graceano
Lopez Jaena, Antonio Luna)
wrote about the tropical climate and the
hazards of nature from a different
vantage point of view.
According to Benedict Anderson (1998), Jose
Rizal characterized the comparative
approach of his Noli, involving a phantom:
the specter of comparisons.

( Something apparently seen, heard, or sensed,


but having no physical reality. An image that
appears only in the mind)
In the late 1880s, Rizal would change his vision by
acknowledging the tropical climates ill effect on
humans-the moment of inverted telescope.

Both Rizal and his confreres in the Philippines


shared the same conviction, that although the
tropical climate could be calamitous, there was a
far worse disaster: Spanish colonial governance.
Rizal at 23 y.o., delivered a much-applauded
speech in a banquet in Madrid in honor of the
two painters (Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo)
This a response to the Spaniards racist
taunts about native inferiority. If this
supposed inferiority had been due to the
tropical climate of the Philippines, then Luna
and Hidalgo served as resounding evidence
against the denigration of the native, and
that the tropics were a cradle of artistic
genius and creativity.
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.
While in Spain, Rizal and the other Ilustrados
missed the tropical climate and environment
they had known since their tender years.

Antonio Luna arrived in Spain in 1886- wrote


in La Solidaridad in Oct. 31, 1889 issue (Taga-
Ilog), What a miserable season! I am tired
already of white snow.
Rizal in Berlin told Blumentritt (Jan.26,1887)-
This climate is not healthy for me. (chest
pains and suspected tuberculosis)

Del Pilar, who left Manila on Oct. 28, 1888,


wrote to Deodato Arellano that everything in
Barcelona is rickety and miserable. The sun
has no warmth.
According to Head and Gibson (2012),
Ilustrados romanticization of the tropical
climate made them forget the human
suffering brought about by the calamities.
Despite their grand project of modernity,
they did not participate in the modernist
aspiration of mitigation(reducing
pain/intensity). They did not see disaster the
way they do now.
Del Pilar and Lopez Jaena lived in Spain until
they died, both from tuberculosis.

Rizal traveled back home after the


publication of Noli.
In Sobre la indolencia de los Filpinos, Rizal
admitted the existence of indolence in the
Philippines but blamed Spaniards for this
situation.
Hot climate means rest and inactivity while a
cold climate propels work and action- based
on pseudoscientific assertion about the
relationship between blood and climate.
Given the European notions about the
tropics, the Ilustrados idealization of the
climate was a discursive political strategy.