Memorias de un Estudyante de Manila
Memorias de un Estudyante de Manila or Memoirs of a Student in Manila by P. Jacinto.
This is taken from the book José Rizal: Life, Works, and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero by Gregorio F. Zaide and Sonia M Zaide. Published by All-Nations Publishing Co., Inc. Zaide House, 24 Pittsburgh St., Silangan Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines, 2014.
This is the student memoirs or reminiscences of Jose Rizal. he wrote it from 1879 to 1881, from the age of 17-20. English translation by the Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission.
P. Jacinto was the first pen-name used by Rizal in his writings. His other pen-names were Laong-Laan and Dimas Alang.
My Birth – Early Years
I was born in Calamba on 19 June 1861, between eleven and midnight, a few days before full moon. It was a Wednesday and my coming out in this vale of tears would have cost my mother her life had she not vowed to the Virgin of Antipolo to take me to her sanctuary by way of pilgrimage. All I remember of my early days is I don’t know how I found myself in a town with some scanty notions of the morning sun, of my parents, etc. The education that I received since my earliest infancy was perhaps what has shaped my habits, like a jar that retains the odor of the body that it first held. I still remember the first melancholy nights that I spent on the terrace [azotea – Z] of our house as if they happened only yesterday — nights full of the saddest poem that made impression of my mind, the stronger the more tempestuous my present situation is. I had a nurse [aya – Z] who loved me very much and who, in order to make me take supper (which I had on the terrace on moonlit nights), frightened me with the sudden apparition of some formidable asuang, [ghosts], of a frightful nuno, or parce-nobis, as she used to call an imaginary being similar to the Bu of the Europeans. They used to take me for a stroll to the gloomiest places and at night near the flowing river, in the shade of some tree, in the brightness of the chaste Diana. . . . . Thus was my heart nourished with somber and melancholic thoughts, which even when I was a child already wandered on the wings of fantasy in the lofty regions of the unknown. I had nine sisters and one brother. My father, a model of fathers, had given us an educational commensurate with our small fortune, and through thrift he was able to build a stone house, buy another, and to erect a little nipa house in the middle of our orchard under the shade of banana trees and others. There the tasty ate [atis] displays its delicate fruits and bends its branches to save me the effort of reaching for them; the sweet santol, the fragrant and honeyedtampooy, the reddish macupa, here contend for supremacy; farther ay are the plum tree, the casuy, harsh and piquant, the beautiful tamarind, equally gratifying to the eyes and delightful to the palate, here the papaya tree spreads its broad leaves and attracts the birds with its enormous fruits, yonder at thenangca, the coffee tree, the orange tree, which perfumes the air with the aroma of its flowers; on this side are the iba, the balimbing, the pomegranate with its thick foliage and beautiful flowers that enchant the senses; here and there are found elegant and majestic palm trees loaded with enormous nuts, rocking its proud crown and beautiful fronds, the mistresses of the forests. Ah! It would be endless if I were to enumerate all our trees and entertain myself in naming them! At the close of the day numerous birds came from all parts, and I, still a child of thee years at the most, entertained myself by looking at them with unbelievable joy. The yellow caliauan, the maya of different varieties, the culae, the maria capra, themartin, all the species of pitpit, joined in a pleasant concert and intoned in varied chorus a hymn of farewell to the sun that was disappearing behind the tall mountains of my town. Then the clouds, through a whim of nature, formed a thousand figures that soon dispersed, as such beautiful days passed away also, leaving behind them only the flimsiest remembrances. Alas! Even now when I look out the window of our house to the beautiful panorama at twilight, my past impressions come back to my mind with painful eagerness! Afterwards comes night; it extends its mantle, sometimes gloomy through starred, when the chaste Delia does not scour the sky in pursuit of her brother Apollo. But if she appears in the clouds, a vague brightness is delineated. Afterwards, as the clouds break up, so to speak, little by little, she is seen beautiful, sad, and hushed, rising like an immense globe, as if an omnipotent and invisible hand is pulling her through the spaces. Then my mother would make us recite the rosary all together. Afterward we would go to the terrace or to some window from which the moon can be seen and my nurse would tell us stories, sometimes mournful, sometimes gay, in which the dead, gold plants that bloomed diamonds were in confused mixtures, all of them born of an entirely oriental imagination. Sometimes she would tell us that men lived in the moon and the specks that we observed on it were nothing else but a woman who was continuously spinning. When I was four years old I lost my little sister (Concha) and then for the first time I shed tears caused by love and grief, for until then I had shed them only because of my stubbornness that my loving proving mother so well knew how to correct. Ah! Without her what would have become of my education and what would have been my fate? Oh, yes! After God the mother is everything to man. She taught me how to read, she taught me how to stammer the humble prayers that I addressed fervently to God, and now that I’m a young man, ah, where is that simplicity, that innocence of my early days? In my own town I learned how to write, and my father, who looked after my education, paid an old man (who had been his classmate) to give me the first lessons in Latin and he stayed at our house. After some five months he died, having almost foretold his death when he was still in good health. I remember that I came to Manila with my father after the birth of the third girl (Trinidad) who followed me, and it was on 6 June 1868. We boarded a casco, a very heavy craft. I had never yet gone through the lake of La Laguna consciously and the first time. I did, I spent the whole night near the catig, (04) admiring the grandeur of the liquid element, the quietness of the night, while at the same time a superstitious fear took hold of me when I saw a water snake twine itself on the bamboo canes of the outriggers. With what joy I saw the sunrise; for the first time I saw how the luminous rays shone, producing a brilliant effort on the ruffled surface of the wide lake. With what joy I spoke to my father for I had not uttered a single word during the night. Afterward we went to Antipolo. I’m going to stop to relate the sweetest emotions that I felt at every step on the banks of he Pasig (that a few years later would be the witness of my grief), in Cainta, Taytay, Antipolo, Manila, Santa Ana, where we visited my eldest sister (Saturnina) who was at that time a boarding student at La Concordia. I returned to my town and I stayed in it until 1870, the first year that marked my separation from my family. This is what I remember of those times that figure in the forefront of my life like the dawn of the day. Alas, when shall the night come to shelter me so that I may rest in deep slumber? God knows it! In the meantime, now that I’m in the spring of life, separated from the beings whom I love and most in the world, now that sad, I write these pages. . . let us leave Providence to act, and let us give time to time, awaiting from the will of God the future, good or bad, so that with this I may succeed to expiate my sins.
8 Dulambayan, Sta. Cruz, Manila, 11 September 1878.
My Life Away from My Parents / My Sufferings
It is true that the memory of past days is like a gentle balm that pours over the heart a melancholy sweetness, so much sweeter and sadder the more depressed the one remembering it is. Turning my eyes, my memory, and my imagination towards the days past, that I don’t wish to remember for being very painful, the first that I discovered is Biñan, a town more or less an hour and a half distant from mine. This is my father’s birthplace and to which he sent me to continue the study of the rudiments of Latin that I had begun. One Sunday, my brother took me to that town after I had bade my family, that is my parents and brothers [sisters — Z] goodbye, with tears in my eyes. I was nine years old and already I tried to hide my tears. Oh, education, oh, shame, that obliges us to hide our sentiments and to appear different! How much beauty, how many tender and pathetic scenes the world would witness without you! We arrived at Biñan at nightfall and we went to the house of an aunt where I was to stay. The moon was beginning to peep, and in the company of Leandro, her grandson, I walked through the town that seemed to me large and rich but ugly and gloomy. My brother left me afterwards, not without having first introduced me to the teacher who was going to teach me. It seemed to me that he had also been his. He was tall, thin, long-necked, with a sharp nose and body slightly bent forward, and he used o wear a sinamay shirt, woven by the skilled hands of the women of Batangas. He knew by heart the grammars by Nebrija and Gainza. Add to this his severity that in my judgment was exaggerated and you have a picture, perhaps vague, that I have made of him, but I remember only this. When I entered his class for the first time, that is, in his house, which was of nipa and low, about thirty meters away from my aunt’s (for one had only to pass through a portion of the street and a little corner cooled by an apple tree,) he spoke to me in these words: “Do you know Spanish?” “A little sir,” I replied. “Do you know Latin? “A little sir,” I answered again. For these replies the teacher’s son Pedro, the naughtiest boy in the class, began to sneer at me. He was a few years older than I and was taller than I. We fought, but I don’t know by what accident I defeated him, throwing him down some benches in the classroom. I released him quite mortified. He wanted a return match, but as the teacher had already awakened, I was afraid to expose myself to punishment and I refused. After this I acquired fame among my classmates, perhaps because of my smallness so that after class, a boy invited me to a fight. He was called Andres Salandanan. He offered me one arm to twist and I lost, and almost dashed my head against the sidewalk of a house. I don’t want to amuse myself by narrating the whacks that I suffered nor describe what I felt when I received the first beating on the hand. Some envied me and others pitied me. Sometimes they accused me wrongly, sometimes rightly, and always the accusation cost me half a dozen or three lashes. I used to win in the gangs, for no one defeated me. I succeeded to pass over many, excelling them, and despite the reputation I had (good boy) rare was the day when I was not whipped or given five or six beatings on the hand. When I went in the company of my classmates, I got from them more sneers, nicknames, and they called me Calambeño, but when only one went with me, he behaved so well that I forgot his insults. Some were good and treated me very well, like Marcos Rizal, son of a cousin of mine, and others. Some of them, much later, became by classmates in Manila, and we found ourselves in very changed situations. Beside the house of my teacher, who was Justiniano Aquino Cruz, stood that of his father-in-law, one Juancho, an old painter who amused me with his paintings. I already had such an inclination for this art that a classmate of mine, called José Guevara and I were the “fashionable painters” of the class. How my aunt treated me can be easily deduced from the following facts: We were many in the house: My aunt, two cousins, two nieces, Arcadia and Florentina, and a nephew, Leandro, son of a cousin. My aunt was an old woman who must be seventy or so years old. She used to read the Bible in Tagalog, lying down on the floor. Margarita (Itay), my cousin, was single, very much addicted to confessing and doing penance. Her brother Gabriel was a widower. Arcadia was a tomboy, of an inflexible character and irritable, though she had a simple and frank nature. The other, Florentina, was a little girl of vulgar qualities. As to Leandro, he was a capricious, papered little boy, a flatterer when it suited him, of an ingenious talent, a rascal in the full meaning of the term. One day when we went to the river, which was only a few steps from our house, inasmuch as we passed beside an orchard, while we were bathing on the stone landing, for I did not dare go down as it was too deep for my height, the little boy pushed me so hard that had not one of my feet been caught, without doubt I would have been drowned for the current was already pulling me. This cost him some lashes with a slipper and a good reprimand by my aunt. Sometimes we played in the street at night for we were not allowed to do so instead the house. Arcadia, who was two or three years older than I, taught me games, treating me like a brother; only she called me “Uncle José”! In the moonlight I remembered my hometown and I thought, with tears in my eyes, of my beloved father, my idolized mother, and my solicitous sisters. Ah, how sweet to me was Calamba, in spite of the fact that it was not as wealthy as Biñan! I would feel sad and when, least expected, I stopped to reflect. Here was my life. I heard the four o’clock Mass, if there was any, or I studied my lesson at that hour and I went to Mass afterwards. I returned home and I went to the orchard to look for a mabolo to eat. Then I took breakfast, which consisted generally of a dish of rice and two dried small fish, and I went to class from which I came out at ten o’clock. I went home at once. If there was some special dish, Leandro and I took some of it to the house of her children (which I never did at home nor would I ever do it), and I returned without saying a word. I ate with them and afterwards I studied. I went to school at two and came out at fie. I played a short while with some nice cousins and I returned home. I studied my lesson, I drew a little, and afterwards I took my supper consisting of one or two dishes of rice with an ayungin. We prayed and when there was a moon, my nieces invited me to play in the street together with others. Thank God that I never got sick away from my parents.
From time to time I went to Calamba, my hometown. Ah, how long the way home seemed to me and how short the way back was! When I sighted from afar the roof of our house, I don’t know what secret joy filled my heart. Moreover I used to leave Biñan early in the morning before sunrise and I reached my hometown when its rays already were shining obliquely over the broad meadows. And I used to return to Biñan in the afternoon with the sad spectacle of the disappearance of the sun king. How I looked for pretexts to stay longer in my town; one more day seemed to be a day in heaven, and how I cried — though silently and secretly — when I would see the calesa that was going to take me. Then everything seemed to me sad, that I might not see them again upon my return. It was a new kind of melancholy, a sad pain, but gentle and calm that I felt during my early years. Many things that are of no importance to the reader happening to me until one day I received a letter from my sister Saturnina advising me of the arrival of the steamer Talim that was to take me on a certain day. It seemed that I had a presentiment that I would never come back so that I went very often and sadly to the chapel of the Virgin of Peace. I went to the river and gathered little stones to keep as a souvenir. I made paper fish and readied everything for my departure. I bade my friends and my teacher farewell with a pleasant and profound sadness, for even sufferings, when they have been frequent and continuous, became so dear to the heart, so to speak, that one feels pain upon leaving them. I left Biñan, then, on 17 December 1870 [sic. 1871 – Z]. I was nine years old at one o’clock on the afternoon of Saturday. For the first time I saw a steamer. It seemed to me very beautiful and admirable when I heard the conversation of my cousin, who took me, with the boatman on its manner of running. It was the only one they were waiting for. Two sailors put my things in a cabin and I went to see it. I thought I was going alone, without a companion, but a Frenchman called Arturo Camps, my father’s friend, was in charge of accompanying me. The trip seemed to me very long, according to my beliefs with regard to a steamer. At sea, I remember I spilled the chocolate. Finally we arrived at Calamba. Oh, my joy on seeing the beach! I wanted to jump at once into a banca, but a crewman took me in his arms and put me in the captain’s boat. Afterwards the Frenchman came and four sailors rowed us to the beach. It was impossible to describe my happiness when I saw the servant with the carriage waiting for us. I jumped and here I’m again in my house with the love of my family. Everything was for me joy, days of happiness. I found a little house with lie rabbits, well decorated and painted for the pre-Christmas Masses. My brothers [brother and sisters — Z] did not stop talking to me. This is the end of my remembrance of that sad and gay time during which I tasted strange food for the first time. . . Alas, it seems that I was born destined to painful and equally bitter scenes! I have withheld nothing important. My situation, how different from that one!
Salcedo Street, No. 22 Monday, 28 October 1878
From January 1871 to June 1872
*In his letter to Blumentritt, written at Geneva, June 10, 1887, Rizal said that he stayed in Biñan for “a year and a half.” (The Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence, Part 1, p 100. Rizal began his studies in Biñan in June 1870 and returned to Calamba in December 1871 — really one year and a half.)
I don’t know how to describe to you my past days. I would not have been able to furnish you with anything notable had not something occurred that was truly unpleasant and sad that I could not forget it. Have you ever felt your honor outraged, your name tarnished, by persons who owed you many favors? My pen refuses and would have refused forever to put on paper some remembrances that I should like to forget if my purpose were not to make a succinct narration of my joys and misfortunes. I will tell you that a few days after my arrival at my town, it was decided to make me stay there and send me to Manila later. The day came when I had desired to study under a teacher of the town. Of course, I learned nothing more than the multiplication table. During this time an uncle of mine (Mr. José Alberto) arrived from Europe. During his absence his wife failed lamentably in her duties as mother and wife. He found his house empty and his children abandoned two or three days before by the culprit. Frantic the poor man set out to look for the whereabouts of his wife until at last he found her. He thought of divorcing her but at my mother’s pleading, he agreed to live with her again. He passed through Calamba on his way to Biñan, where he resided. A few days later the infamous woman, in connivance with a lieutenant of the civil guard, who was a friend of our family, accused her husband of being a poisoner and my mother as his accomplice for which my mother was imprisoned by Mr. Antonio Vivencio del Rosario, a fanatical mayor, a servant of the friar. I don’t want to tell you our resentment and profound sorrow. Since then, though still a child, I have distrusted friendship and doubted men. We were nine brothers [brother and sisters – Zaide] and our mother was unjustly snatched away from us and by whom? By some men who had been our friends and whom we had treated as sacred guests. We learned later that our mother got sick, far from us and at an advanced age. Oh, God. I admire and respect your most sacred will! The mayor, at the beginning, deluded by the accusations, and cautioned against everything that is noble, treated my mother rudely, not to say brutally, and later made her confess what they wanted her to confess, promising to release her and to let her see her children if she would say what they wanted her to say. What mother could resist, what mother would not sacrifice her life for her children? My mother, like all mothers, deceived and frightened (because they told her that if she did not say what they wanted her to say, they would declare her guilty) submitted to the will of her enemies and weakened. The question became complicated until, oh, Providence! The mayor himself asked my mother for pardon, but when? When the case was already in the Supreme Court, he asked for forgiveness because he suffered remorse and he was horrified by his vileness. Messrs. Francisco de Marcaida and Manuel Marzan, the most famous lawyers of Manila, defended my mother. She finally succeeded to be acquitted and vindicated in the eyes of her judges, accusers, and even her enemies, but after how long? After two and a half years. In the meantime they discussed my career and they decided that I should go to Manila with my brother Panciano to take the entrance examinations and study the secondary course at the Ateneo Municipal. I therefore went down to Manila on June 10, 1872 and took an examination on the Christian Doctrine, arithmetic, and reading at the College of San Juan de Letran. They gave me a grade of “Approved” and with this I returned to my hometown happy, having for the first time experienced what examinations were. A few days later the town feast was celebrated, after which I went down to Manila, but with sad feelings that I would again become unhappy.
22 Salcedo Street 1 November 1872
1872 – 1875
Today I’m going to relate to you my studies. As I had expected, I was introduced at the Ateneo Municipal to the Rev. Father Miniter [administrator – Z] who at that time was Father Magin Ferrando. At first he did not want to admit me either because I had come after the period of admission was over or because of my rather weak constitution and short stature: I was then eleven years old. But later, at the request of Mr. Manuel Jerez [Manuel Xeres Burgos – Z], nephew of the ill-fated Father Burgos and now Licentiate in Medicine, the difficulties were removed and I was admitted. I dressed like the rest, that is, I put on a coat with a ready-made necktie. With what fervor I entered the chapel of the Jesuit Fathers to hear Mass, what most fervent prayers I addressed to God, for in my sadness I didn’t know whom else to invoke. After Mass, I went to class were I saw a great number of children, Spaniards, mestizos, and Filipinos, and a Jesuit who was the professor. He was called Father José Bech. He was a tall man, thin, with a body slightly bent forward, with hasty pace, an ascetic, severe and inspired physiognomy, sunken, small eyes, sharp Grecian nose, fine lips forming an arch whose ends turned towards his beard. The Father was somewhat a lunatic so that one should not be surprised to find him sometimes disgusted himself, playing like a child. Among my classmates I should mention to you some were quite interesting and perhaps would be mentioned by me frequently. One boy or young man of my own province called Florencio Gavino Oliva had an excellent mind but was of ordinary studiousness. One Joaquin Garrido, a Spanish mestizo, with poor memory but bright and studious. Resembling him very much was one Moises Santiago, mathematician and penman. One was Gonzalo Marzano, who then occupied the canopied throne of a Roman Emperor. You should know that in the Jesuit colleges, in order to stimulate students, they put up two empires, one Roman and the other Carthaginian or Greek, constantly at war, and in which the highest positions were won through challenges, the winner being the one who made three mistakes less than his rival. They put me at the tail end. I scarcely knew Spanish but I already understood it. After retreat I left and I found my brother waiting for me to take me home, which I was about twenty-five minutes from the college for I didn’t want to stay in the walled city which seemed to me very gloomy. I found a companion called Pastor Millena, a boy of my own age. The house was small, located at Caraballo Street. A river ran alongside two corners. The house consisted of a dining room, a drawing room, a sleeping room, and kitchen. A bower covered the small space between the gate and the stairs. My landlady was an unmarried woman called Titay, who owed us over 300. Her mother lived with us, a good old woman, almost harmless insane, and some young Spanish mestizos, the fruits of frail love affairs. I shall not tell you how much I suffered, nor shall I tell you of my displeasures and joys. I will only tell you what happened to me in the class during that year. At the end of one week, I was promoted and I stayed at noon at the Colegio de Sta. Isabel, paying three pesos there. I lived with Pastor. A month later I was already the emperor. Ah, how happy I was when for the first time I got a religious print for a prize! In the first quarter I won a first prize with the grade of excellent, but afterwards I was disgusted on account of some words uttered by my professor, and I did not want to study hard any more, so that at the end of the year, to my misfortune, I obtained only accessit in all my subjects, grade of excellent without getting any first prize. I spent my vacation in my hometown and I accompanied my elder sister Neneng to Tanauan for the town feast. This happened in 1873. But my happiness was never complete for my mother was not yet with us. I went to visit her then alone without telling my father about it. This was after the school term and I told her that I received accessit. With what delight I surprised her! But afterwards we embraced each other weeping. It was almost more than a year that we had not seen each other. Even now I remember with sad pleasure the mute scene that occurred between us. Ah, how cruel men are towards their fellow men! I visited her again. When vacation was over, I had to return to Manila to enroll for the second year course and to look for a landlady inside the walled city, for I was tired living outside the city. I found one on Magallanes Street, number 6, where lived an old lady called Doña Pepay, widow, with her daughter, also a widow, called Doña Encarnacion with four sons. José, Rafael, Ignacio, and Ramon. Nothing extraordinary happened to me this year. I only had other classmates, or rather, I encountered again three who were my classmates in Biñan. They were called Justiniano Sao-jono, Angel and Santiago Carrillo. At the end of the year I won a metal and I returned to my hometown. I visited my mother again alone and there, like another Joseph, I predicted, interpreting a dream of hers, that within three months, she would be released, a prediction that was realized by accident. But this time I began to devote myself to my leisure hours to the reading of novels, though years before I h ad already read El Ultimo Abencerraje, but I didn’t read it with ardor. Imagine a boy of twelve years reading the Count of Montecristo, enjoying sustained dialogues and delighting in its beauties and following step by step its hero in his revenge. Under the pretext that I had to study universal history, I importuned my father to buy me Cesare Cantu’s work, and God alone knows the benefit I got from its perusal, for despite my average studiousness and my little practice in the Castilian tongue, in the following year I was able to win prizes in the quarterly examinations and I would have won the medal were it not for some mistakes in Spanish, that unfortunately I spoke badly, which enabled the young man M. G., a European, to have an advantage over me in this regard. Thus, in order to study the third year course, I had to return to Manila and found Doña Pepay without a room for boarders. I had to stay at the house of D. P. M. together with a rich fellow townsman called Quintero. I was discontented because they were strict with me but I kept regular hours, which was good for me. I prayed and played with the landlord’s children. My mother was not delayed in coming out free, acquitted, and vindicated, and as soon as she was out she came to embrace me. I wept. . . . After two months and a half, I left that house and returned to the recently vacated room in the house of my landlady, Doña Pepay, and returned also to the same life as before. As a result of what happened to me in my studies, as I have already narrated, I received only the first prize in Latin, that is, a medal, not like last year, so that I returned to my hometown discontented, though I knew that many would have danced with joy for less. My family resolved to put me in the college as a boarder. Indeed it was time for I was giving very little attention to my studies. I was already approaching thirteen years and I had not yet made any brilliant showing to my classmates. Until here lasted my happiest days, though short; but what does it matter if they were short?
Calamba, 7 April 1879.
Two Years in College
Soon to become eighteen years old and disillusioned, scarcely have I stepped on life’s threshold, I direct my glance toward the first time the breath of the tempest, already engulfed, turns his glance toward the shore and reminds him of his peaceful hours. Ah, I weep for you, placid hours that disappeared from the scene of my life more rapidly and fugaciously than lightning that shines on the dark road of the traveler. So sad is my situation that I doubt if I had ever been happy at all for I doubt if those days had ever existed. During vacation my sisters made clothes for me and during that time also my sister made clothes for me and during that time also my sister Narcisa married . . . I cannot portray here what I felt on seeing the separation of a sister whom I loved so much . . . and notwithstanding it had to be thus. I entered college then on 16 June 1875. My classmates received me well. The brother wardrobe-keeper assigned to me an alcove located in the corner of the dormitory looking out to the sea and the embankment. It consisted of a space of about two square varas, an iron bedstead on which they placed my bedding, a small table with a basin, which a servant filled with water, a chair and a clothes rack. I forgot to say that in the little table I had a drawer with soap, comb, brushes for the hair and for the teeth, powder, etc. My little money that amounted to some eight pesos, I kept under my pillow. We didn’t go to the alcove but twice a day regularly, once at siesta to wash and again at night to sleep. On holidays, in the afternoons, we dressed and we went out for a stroll. The rest of the time we spent in the study hall, at recess, in the classes, in the dining room, and in the chapel. In spite of my thirteen years to fourteen, I was still very small, and as it is known that new students, especially the small ones, are received by the big ones with jokes, so it was on my first day, my pranks having attracted their attention. In a chorus they teased me and when they calmed down I told them in a tranquil voice: “Gentlemen, thanks.” Since then they respected me and they didn’t tease me maliciously. Excepting a few, all my companions were good, simple, pious, just, and amiable. There was no one among us who would want to control the rest by force, for power is achieved through skill. I had the luck to win if not the love at last the esteem of all of them. The names of some of my classmates shall never be eased from my memory; among them that of one Jovellanos, of one Lete (Enrique) and of others whose enumeration would be very pleasant for me but I foresee will be vexing to the reader. Our Professor was a model of uprightness, earnestness, and love of the advancement of his pupils; and so much was his zeal that I, who scarcely spoke very ordinary Spanish, at the end of a short time, succeeded already to write it moderately well. His name was Francisco de Paula Sanchez. With his aid I studied mathematics, rhetoric, and Greek with some advantage. Often I got sick with fever despite the gymnastic exercises that we had, in which I was very much behind, though not so in drawing under a teacher worthy of his name and under whose guidance I still continue to study. I’m proud to tell you, reader, that I spent this year better than anybody else as a student, as a man, and as a Christian. Ten months passed that I haven’t written anything in my diary because I don’t want to relate to you inspired occurrences, and
thank God I won five medals with an immense pleasure for with them I could somewhat repay my father for his sacrifices. What sentiments of gratitude did not then spring from my heart and wit what sad delight I kept them still! After having bidden farewell to my superiors, teachers, and companions, I left. . . Who has not felt the vague melancholy that seizes the heart upon separating from one’s companions? Who, at the age of fourteen years, if he has enjoyed the favor of the Muses, does not shed tears on the transition from childhood to young manhood? My arrival at my hometown in the company of a father who idolized me mitigated somewhat my sorrow, and I spent my vacation in the best way possible. I retained to college after three months and I began to study again, though the subject that I took was different. I was in the fifth year and already I was a philosopher. I had other professors, called Fathers Vilaclara and Minoves, the first one of whom liked me very much and to whom I was somewhat ungrateful. Although I was studying philosophy, physics, chemistry, and natural history and in spite of the fact that Father Vilaclara had told me to give up the society of the Muses and give them a last goodbye (which made me cry), in my leisure hours, I continued speaking and cultivating the beautiful language of Olympus under the direction of Father Sanchez. So sweet is their society that after having tasted it, I cannot conceive how a young heart can abandon it. What matters, I said to myself, the poverty that is the eternal companion of the Muses? Is there anything sweeter than poetry and sadder than the prosaic positivism of metallic hearts? Thus I dreamed then! I studied the fifth year course with the same success as the previous one, though under other circumstances. Upright, severe philosophy, inquiring into the why of things attracted also my attention as did poetry, beautiful as she alone can be, playing with the charms of nature and leaving traces that breathe sublimity and tenderness. Physics, lifting up the veil that covers many things, showed me a wide stage where the divine drama of nature was performed. The movement, sound, warmth, light, electricity, a thousand varied phenomena, the most beautiful colors and delicate beauties entertained me during my free hours. Polarization plunged me into a world of mysteries from which I have not yet emerged. Ah, how beautiful is science when the one teaching it knows how to embellish it! Natural history seemed to me somewhat antipathetic. Why, I asked myself, if the perusal of history and the description of the birds and flowers, of animals and of crystals captivate me so much, why do I loathe seeing them reduced to a harsh order and wild animals mixed with tame ones? Shells pleased me very much for their beauty and because I knew that they inhabited the beaches of which my innocent imagination dreamed and treading on them I imagined the most beautiful waters of the seas and lakes lapping my feet. Sometimes I seemed to see a goddess with a shell that I saw in the shelf. At last the end of the term came and the same thing happened to me. I carried away another five medals due to the indulgence with which my superiors treated me and to my no little luck in winning them. The day before the distribution of prizes, a feeling tormented me, the saddest and most melancholy that I had ever felt. On thinking that I had to leave that asylum of peace in which was somewhat opened my mind and my heart began to have better sentiments, I fell into a profound sadness. The last night on going to my dormitory and considering that night would be the last I would spend in my peaceful alcove, because, according to what they said, the world was waiting for me, I had a cruel presentiment which unfortunately was realized. The moon shone mournfully,
illuminating the lighthouse and the sea, presenting a silent and grand spectacle that seemed to tell me that the next day another life awaited me. I was unable to sleep until one o’clock in the morning. It dawned and I dressed. I prayed fervently in the chapel and commended my life to the Virgin so that when I should step into that world which inspired me with so much terror, she would protect me. The prizes were distributed, they gave me the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and I believe that any young man who was fifteen years old, loved by his companions and professors, with five medals and the degree of Bachelor of Arts, the dream of the student of the secondary course, should be very much contented. But, alas, it did not turn out that way! I was sad, cold, and pensive. Two or three tears rolled down my cheeks, tears offered as in farewell to the time past, to my good luck that would never come back, to my peace that soared to heaven leaving me alone on earth. Imagine it and you will feel if, if you have a heart. Now it remains for me to evaluate the two years that I consider the happiest of my life, if happiness consists in living without vexatious cares. In what way have I advanced, that is, what had I learned during the first year of my residence in college? What did I get from what I had learned? I entered college still a child with very little knowledge of Spanish, with a moderately developed mind, and almost without refined sentiments. By force of study, of analyzing myself, of aspiring higher, of a thousand corrections, I was little by little transformed thanks to the beneficent influence of a zealous professor. My mortality of that time makes me now sigh on remembering that state of sweetest tranquility of my spirit. By cultivating poetry and rhetoric, my sentiments were further elevated and Virgil, Horace, Cicero, and other authors showed me another road through which I could walk to attain one of my aspirations. I don’t know if my present state makes me see the beauty of the past and the sadness of the present, but the truth is that when I was a college student, I never wanted to leave college and that now I would give anything to get over this terrible age of youth. Had I been perchance like the brook that, while following its delightful way amidst willows and dense flowers smiles and frolics and upon being converted into a torrent angrily and turbulently flings itself until it is buried in the sea? My second year in college resembled the first with the difference that patriotic sentiments as an exquisite sensibility had been greatly developed in me. It passed like the first among principles of logic, physics, and poetical compositions. I had advanced somewhat in the cultivation of the Muses so much that I had composed a legend that suffered very slight correction by my professor and a dialogue that was staged for the first time at the end of the school term, alluding to the students’ farewell. Goodbye then, beautiful, unforgettable period of my life, brief twilight that will not shine again! If my eyes no longer shed tears upon recalling you, my heart melts and seems to be oppressed! I have your memory here in my heart, in my mind, in my whole being. Farewell fortunate hours of my lost childhood; fly to the bosom of pure Innocence that created you to sweeten the moments of tender hearts.
Manila, 1 December 1879.
April to December 1877
Wake up, Heart, kindle again your extinguished fire so that in its warmth you may remember that time which I dare not judge. Go, thinking mind, and go again through those places, recall those moments in which you drank together with the nectar the bitter gall of love and disappointment. After the vacation period of that memorable year, I looked for a house in Intramuros and I found one on Solina Street, whose landlord was a priest. My mother said that I had enough with what I knew and I should not return to Manila anymore. Had my mother a presentiment of what was going to happen to me? Has the heart of all mothers, in face, double vision. I enrolled in metaphysics, because, besides my doubt about the career that I would follow, my father wanted me to study it, but so little was my inclination for it that I didn’t even buy the textbook used by the other students. I found myself in Manila as if stupefied. A fellow collegian of mine, who had left college three months before and lived at that time on the same street as I, was the only friend I had then. My house companions were from Batangas, recently arrived at Manila. My friend M. went to our house every Sunday and other days and afterwards together we would go to Tronzo to the house of a grandmother of mine, friend of his father. For me the days passed happily and silently until one Sunday when we went to Trozo, we encountered there a girl of about fourteen years fresh, pleasant, winsome who received my companion with much familiarity, from which I had deduced that she might be his sister who I already had heard was going to marry a relative whose name I didn’t remember. In fact we found there a tall man, dressed nicely, who seemed to be her fiancé. She was short, with expressive eyes, ardent at times, and drooping at other times, pinkish, a smile so bewitching and provocative that revealed some very beautiful teeth; with an air of a sylph, I don’t know what alluring something was all over her being. She was not the most beautiful woman I had seen but I had never seen one more bewitching and alluring. They told me to sketch her, but I excused myself because really I didn’t know. Finally they compelled me and I drew a grotesque picture. I played chess and whether due to the lady with her fiancé or I was distracted seeing her or I was flattered or I didn’t know, the fact was I lost! Now and then she looked at me and I blushed. At last they talked about novels and other things about literature and then I took part in the conversation with advantage. That day passed until the young woman K, entered college after taking leave of all the others who were there. I returned home and I didn’t think seriously again of that day. A second Sunday came and I saw her followed always by her fiancé and other girls. Segunda Katigbak (The obect of Rizal’s affection) It happened that I changed my residence and a sister of mine entered the Colegio de la Concordia in which the young woman K, was a boarder. I went to call on her and she appeared in the reception hall accompanied by the young woman who had become her intimate friend. AS I had nothing to say to her nor had I had the honor of being introduced to her, besides my bashfulness as a collegian, I didn’t address her except a ceremonious and silent bow to which she responded with admirable grace and delicacy. When I returned, in the company of my aunts, we found them strolling. My sister followed us in a carriage and we went to the college where shortly afterwards the young woman appeared. No incident occurred to us worth mentioning. My friend M. was the brother of Miss K. One Thursday he came to invite me to go together to La Concordia to visit our respective sisters. I accepted the invitation gladly and we went. We found his sister in the hall. She greeted us and she asked me if I would like her to call my sister Olimpia. I thanked her and she went away nimbly but always with grace that I have never seen in any other woman. Shortly afterwards the two appeared and we formed a small circle. Since then we talked and animation reigned in our gathering. Her brother left us and went to speak with a girl to whom he was later married. I don’t remember how our conversation began, but I do remember that she asked me what flowers I liked best. I told her that I liked all, but that I preferred the white and the black ones. She told me that she liked the white and pink ones and she became pensive; but later she added: “Yes, I also like the black ones.” I kept quiet. “Have you a sweetheart?” She asked me after a moment of silence. “No”. I replied, “I never thought of having one because I know well that no one would pay attention to me, especially the beautiful ones.” “Why, is it possible? You deceive yourself! Do you want me to get you one?” “Thanks, Miss,” I told her, “but I don’t want to bother you.” I remembered at that moment that she would marry her uncle the following December, and then I asked her: “Do you go back to your town in December?” “No”, she answered me dryly. “They say that in your town a very big feast will be celebrated in which you will take an important part and it is possible that it will not be held without your attendance.” “No,” she replied and she smiled. “My parents want me to go home but I should not like to do so, for I wish to stay in college for five years more.” Little by little I was imbibing the sweetest poison of love as the conversation continued. Her glances were terrible for their sweetness and expressiveness. Her voice was so sonorous that a certain fascination accompanied all her movements. From time to time a languid ray penetrated my heart and I felt something that was unknown to me until then. And why did the years pass so rapidly that I didn’t have time to enjoy them? Finally when the clock struck seven, we took our leave of our respective sisters and then she said: “Have you any order to give me?”
“Miss, I never had the custom of ordering women,” I replied, “I expect them to command me.” We went down the wide staircase of the college and went home. I don’t remember how I spent the night then. The time that passed afterward was so painful that the beautiful and sweet were erased from my mind leaving only black shadows mixed with the tints of tediousness. My friend and I returned the following Sunday and we found only my sister because his had gone out that day with her father. It was a stormy night. My sister had asked me if I had requested her friend to make flowers and as I replied that I didn’t, she told me that she had asked for material from the sisters [nuns — Z]. I had made a pencil portrait of Miss K, that I copied from a photograph that she had given me last Thursday. After awhile her father and she appeared. I greeted him for we knew each other. They brought with them a cone of almonds that they offered us while she greeted us with her attractive smile. Her brother took a handful but I didn’t. She disappeared, returning afterwards with two white roses, one of which she offered her brother and the other to me which she herself placed in my hatband. I offered her the portrait I had made, which pleased her. Our conversation became animated and afterwards we took our leave, the same as last Thursday. She said that the white rose that she gave me was from my sister. And though, I knew it was not, I pretended to believe it. I went home and kept the rose, symbol of her artificial love. My aunts and I went there again on Thursday following that Sunday. They came out as usual, each one carrying a white rose; my sister gave me hers and she gave hers to her brother. We formed a circle and my seat was next to hers. My sister had to communicate I don’t know what feminine secret to my aunts and therefore she left us alone. I took advantage of the occasion to ask her who made those roses and to tell her that I consider my sister incapable of having made them for she didn’t know yet how to make them so well and moreover I wanted to know the name of my creditor. She confessed to me the truth blushing. I thanked her, promising her that I would keep it while I live and I added: “Do you know that it is very painful for me to lose you after having known you?” “But I’m going to get married!” she replied and two tears appeared in her eyes, having divined the very intention of my remark. After this my aunts returned and we continued our conversation. The subject turned to trifles. It is true that during the conversation our eyes met, and the most intense glances full of a loving melancholy expression came to enslave my soul forever. Our visits continued. I abstained; or rather I forbade my heart to love her knowing that she was engaged. But I said to myself: Perhaps she did love me: perhaps her love for her fiancé was nothing more than a girlish love as her heart had not yet opened to receive true love. Moreover I’m neither rich nor handsome nor gallant nor attractive; and if she love me, her love would be true, for it was not based on vain and shaky foundation. But even then, I decided to keep quiet until I could see greater proofs of sympathy between us. I would neither subject myself to her yoke nor declare myself to her. Once when I went alone to the college, I carried letters and orders for her and consequently I could send for her to come out to the reception room; but I didn’t do so, instead I waited for her little sister to whom I delivered them to be given to her. My sister came out telling me that K. was very sad on account of what I had done. I said nothing. After a short while, brother arrived and sent for her. She came out very serious and formal. I bowed to her and she scarcely responded with a slight inclination of the head without smiling, and went to another group. I went back to my seat then and began to speak with her brother. After awhile she came back to where we were; gay, loquacious, and witty, she entertained us delightfully with her pleasant conversation. When night came, the moon rose up majestically and we had to take our leave. Her brother and I were going to leave together and when we were already seated in the carriage, my sister called me and told me: “K. requests you not to come except in the company of her brother so that you can visit her.” I received a pleasing joy but a marmorean [marble] exterior hid it from all; I said yes and left. Since then everything changed for me. In the meantime chattering and lying rumor was already spreading out imaginary love, still in embryo, as certain. Everywhere I heard only talk about our relations and truth to tell we loved each other without having declared it clearly except that we understood each other through our glances. In the meanwhile, time was passing away, I, in going there every Thursday and Sunday, and she in receiving us always enchanting and attractive, always a conqueror of my heart that still refused to surrender. It happened once that my aunts, another young woman and a sister of mine had to make flowers for I didn’t know what saints and for this purpose went to the college in the morning and I had to fetch them in the afternoon; I went there already twice. Once I gave in to my friend, and another time I didn’t go, saying I was ill. The following day I found them on the landing of the staircase — she, my two sisters, an aunt of mine, and another young woman. She was simply but very elegantly dressed, with her hair loose, and with a smile on her lips. Oh always I saw her thus even in my dreams! She received me cheerfully, accompanying us with my sisters until the carriage. My sister collegian talked with my aunts and she with me. “Have you been sick?” she asked me in her sweet voice. “Yes,” I answered her, “but now I’m very well thanks to you . . . .” “Oh!” she replied, “last night I was praying for you fearful that something bad might happen to you.” “Thanks,” I replied, “But being so, I would like to get sick always inasmuch as in this way I have the happiness of being remembered by you; moreover death might do me much good.” “Why?” she replied. “Do you wish to die? Well, I’m sorry.” And we kept quiet. I don’t remember now what came out of our lips then, but we must have talked a great deal, inasmuch as night overtook us. Alas! Our conversation was so sweet, though we had not yet declared ourselves that more and more fastened the yoke already being laid on me. Ah! Once happy memories, now heart-rending! Oh, vanish from my memory, for instead of bringing me happiness, you inflame my despair and my skepticism.
I was then reflecting on my situation. New anxieties, new cares, new ideas, new sentiments, seized me. When least expected I spent the night almost sleepless, steeped in my reflections. My rebellious heart, which perchance forebode what was going to happen later, refused to expressed itself yet and consequently to bend its neck, perhaps fearful of entrusting its happiness to such fragile hands. Alas, why have I not followed the impulses of my presentiments and followed another route, fascinated by the melodious voice of this siren, much more terrible and powerful than those of antiquity? The eighth of December came, feast of the college in which she was a boarder. It was a Saturday, with an enviable sun. Some students and I went to the college. It was decorated with pennants, lanterns, flowers, etc. We went up and there I found my (unintelligible word) . . . beautiful as ever but with a certain severe and reserved air that I could not explain, I asked for my sister and she came and she tried to call her, but she only approached our group carrying some pictures which she left with my sister. I took one of them without telling her, for she did not converse with us that morning. Twelve o’clock struck and we were going to depart and I approached her and said, “Miss, pardon me for having taken your picture without your permission. Will you not be offended if I keep it? “No,” she said with a smile and made me forget her seriousness. Afterwards she called a friend of hers, thus cutting off our conversations. We took our leave. When we reached home, I kept the picture and pretended not to be in a bad humor. One day my grandmother took me to the college in the morning and sent for her and my sister. I still seem to see her coming out pale and panting and turning a glance to me that filled me with joy, though it did not dispel my secret sorrow. Then I learned that her mother, having given birth to a boy to whom was given the name José, had ordered her to go home that same month. A painful presentiment oppressed my heart but I concealed it under a cloak of indifference. My grandmother and the mother [nun -Z] went away leaving us four there, that is, her, my two sisters, and me. My grandmother and the mother came back awhile and we went down for I didn’t know what. While we were going down the stairs, she remained behind. I asked her then if it would not displease her to be of my hometown and she replied blushing that it would not. She stopped beside the carriage and I, too, and we remained thus looking at each other for our companions had gone away to see I knew not what. The time to take our leave came and we, my grandmother, my sister, and I, got into the carriage. My grandmother handed to me the letter in which her father ordered her to go home. I read and reread it and in the meantime I thought of what would become of us afterward should she become my partner. Oh, dreams! At last Thursday came and I went to the college to visit them and say farewell, as I had to go home the following day. We spoke a very few words but sad and affectionate. She told me that she was going home on the following Saturday, that is one day after my projected departure. I answered her then that once I had decided to go home on Friday it would be very ugly for me to retract, but at any rate we would see each other in my hometown. She kept quiet, but she became pensive and raised her eyes to the sky.
Even now it seems to me that I see her leaning against the door, in an attitude so thoughtful that had made me think so much. I took leave of her as at other times, and the moon which at that time was at its apogee, illuminated the one who was to modify so much my ideas, standing on the landing of the staircase, always poetic for my imagination. That was the first night that I felt an anguish and inquietude resembling love, if not jealousy, perhaps because I saw that I was separating from her, perhaps because a million obstacles would stand between us, so that my budding love was increasing and seemed to be gaining vigor in the fight. Since then I knew that I loved her truly and in my own way, that is, very different from other loves that I have heard mentioned. As I had promised, I did go home the following day and I found on the steamer a young college woman of Sta. Catalina, of the same age as K., of my town, who was also going home to Calamba for a few days with her father after having spent almost five years in the college. We knew each other very well, but the education that the sisters of her college gave her made her excessively timid and bashful, so much so that I refrained from using the least ambiguous word. I had to resign myself to speak with her back. Her father was with us. To entertain her during the trip I asked about her college, her friends, and her hopes or illusions. She answered me in monosyllables and I noted that she had forgotten half of Tagalog if not all of it. At last we arrived at our town: I, a little querulous about the bad treatment that I received from my fellow townswoman despite the fact that, continually besieged by the thought of my beloved, I could not think of joking with other women. When I reached home, my mother, who had already lost much of her sight, didn’t recognize me until after having observed me a long time. That saddened me at the beginning when I didn’t know yet the cause. My sisters received me joyfully and I could read their pleasure in their faces. They asked me about K. and they teased me. Of all of them my father was the most contented and the one who talked the least. Consider my situation and my illusions! My family was very much astonished when they learned that I new how to handle arms, for that very night I proved myself to be the best swordsman in my town. The following day, at the time when the steamer ought to arrive and therefore the family of my friend or my beloved after having waited for her a few minutes, we learned from my father, who had gone to meet her, that the steamer, on account of the wind, did not touch Calamba, but instead the passengers disembarked at Biñan. Consequently, her father, with all his companions, relatives of the fiancé and others who formed the escort, waited outside the town and from there to go to Lipa. I had a white horse saddled and I mounted it and went out of the town because I expected to see her for the last time. I went in the direction of Biñan and I passed precisely the point where all those awaiting her were encamped. I goaded my horse as if I didn’t notice them. Then I heard one crying out to me: “Stop, stop.”
I looked back and saw no one who talked to me and I tried to go ahead and then the same call was repeated. I looked around. I encountered her father who asked me smiling how long ago had I arrived. “Yesterday,” I replied, bowing. “Well, they are arriving today,” he replied. “Yes,” I answered, “It seems that a friend told me something about that.” But I knew very well that was the day of her arrival. I didn’t continue on my way. I took another road towards Los Banños, but I thought it would be better if I went to our lands, as they would pass there to go to their town. I did as I had thought and rushed the horse until I reached our mill. I got down the horse and I amused myself looking at the water that ran though the canal, comparing its velocity to my days. At this moment, only one coach arrived and I saw getting down the student of Sta. Catalina, an aunt of hers, an uncle, and a young man, student of the Ateneo, who had just arrived that day from Manila. They were going to their lands called Presa. I accompanied them on foot leaving my horse tied to a stake. When we had arrived at their mill, I took leave to return to the town, but really to wait again on the road in case they had not passed by yet. I arrived there and I inquired if there had passed by cavalcades orcarromatas. No one could tell me. Sadly I sat down by the bank of the brook that run the old mill that we had in it, thinking of many things at the same time and not being able to fix my mind on anything. I saw the swift currents carrying away branches that they tore from the bushes and my thought, wandering in other regions and having other subjects, paid no attention to them. Suddenly I perceived a noise, I raised my head and saw calesasand horses enveloped in a cloud of dust. My heart beat violent and I must have become pale. I took a short stroll returning to where I had the horse tied. There I waited. The first vehicle carried K’s father and another gentleman. He invited me to go to his town; I thanked him. How I would have liked to go! K., her sister, and other girls from La Concordia occupied the vehicle that came behind. She bowed to me smiling and waving her handkerchief, I just lifted up my hat and said nothing. Alas! Such has always happened to me in the most painful moments of my life. My tongue, profuse talker, becomes dumb when my heart is bursting with feelings. The vehicle passed like a swift shadow, leaving no other trace but a horrible void in the world of my affections. I mounted the horse while the third vehicle was approaching where my friend was riding. It halted and he invited me to go to his hometown. I was going to follow them for I was riding a pretty good horse. But in the critical moments of my life, I have always acted against my will, obeying different purposes and mighty doubts. I goaded my horse and took another road without having chosen it, exclaiming: this is ended thus. Ah, how much truth, how much meaning, these words then had! My youthful and trusting love ended! The first hours of my first love ended. My virgin heart will forever weep the risky step it took in the abyss covered with flowers. My illusion will return, indeed, but indifferent, incomprehensible, preparing me for he firs deception on the road of grief. I returned to the town inebriate and confused. Melancholy, sweet in its tortures, seized me. I knew she was the woman who satisfied fully the aspirations of my heart that told me I had lost her. I spent the two nights that followed this day in visiting, together with L., a young woman who lived toward the east in a little house at the right. She was a bachelor girl older than we were. She was fair and seductive and with attractive eyes. She, or we, talked about love but my heart and my thought followed K. through the night to her town. If the filthiest corpse had told met hat she too was thinking of me, I would have kissed it out of gratitude. I spent the last days of December in that monotonous melancholy so much more impossible as I could not find any other object to distract my thoughts. My father, who had learned about our visits, prohibited us from continuing them, perhaps because the name of the oriental maid did not figure in his calculations. I did not visit her again.
Manila, 16 November 1881. S. L. departed.
From January to December 1878
The short vacation ended without any important happenings. On the 6th of January I took leave of my parents and returned to Manila, my second hometown. The old house on Magallanes Street received again the guest who since childhood had taken shelter in its shelter in its shadow. An indefinable malaise and sadness like remorse took hold of my heart. I spent the night in vague, most melancholy reflections. It dawned. I sat down on my chaise lounge and I almost cried on remembering my family and my old friends. My roommate found me praying. The days of January, February, and March passed almost without any incident. I was waiting only for some news from her. During these months I had the discussion of Metaphysics, that is, I maintained most intricate, vyingly complicated questions in Latin.
I came out very middling for I had not prepared as I should. I took the examination in Metaphysics in March and I obtained the grace of excellent. I had the same success in the examinations in topography, winning two medals in this and in agriculture. My mother had given me for expenses that month something like 15.00 I bought a little tortoise-shell box and presented it to my professor of drawing. And not having anything more to do, I went home to spend the long vacation. (1)Don Augstine Saez, eminent painter in Manila.
My First Reminiscence
When I had not yet seen other rivers except the river of my town, crystalline and gay in its winding course, shaded by murmuring bamboo groves; when my world was only circumscribed by the bluish mountains of my province and the white surface of the lake that I discerned from after through some ruins, sparkling like a mirror and filled with graceful sails, I like stories very much and I believed with all my heart everything the books contained, convinced that what was printed must perforce be the truth. And why not, since my parents, who punished me for the smallest lie, emphatically enjoyed me to attend to my books, to read them diligently and understand them. My first remembrance concerning letters goes back to my earliest age. I must be very small yet because when they polished the floor of our house with banana leaves, I would still fall slipping on the shiny surface as did the little skilled skaters on ice. It was still difficult for me to climb up a chair, I went down the stairs step by step, holding on to every baluster, and in our house as in the whole town, petroleum was unknown, or had I seen until that time any quinque, nor had any carriage ever passed through the streets of my town that I believed to be the summum of joy and animation. One night, when everybody at home was already asleep, when all the lights in the globes had already been put out by blowing them off by means of a curved tin tube which seemed to me the most exquisite and wonderful toy in the world, I don’t know why my mother and I had remained watching beside the only light that in all Philippine houses burned all night long, and that went out precisely at dawn waking the people with its cheerful hissing. My mother then was still young. After a bath her hair which she let down to dry, dragged half a handbreadth on the floor, by which reason she knotted its end. She taught me to read in Amigo de los Niños, a very rare book, an old edition, which had lost its cover and which a very industrious sister of mine had covered again by pasting on its back a thick blue paper, the remnant of the wrapper of a bolt of cloth. My mother undoubtedly annoyed at hearing me read pitifully, for, as I didn’t understand Spanish, I could not give meaning to the phrases, took away the book from me. After scolding me for the drawings I had made on its pages, with legs and arms extended like a cross, she began to read asking me to follow her example. My mother, when she cold still see, read very well, recited, and knew how to make verses. How many times during Christmas vacation afterwards, she corrected my poems, making very apt observations. I listened to her full of childish admiration. Marveling at the ease with which she made them and at the sonorous phrases that she cold get from some pages that cost me so much effort to read and that I deciphered haltingly. Perhaps my ears soon got tired of hearing sounds that to me meant nothing. Perhaps due to my natural distraction, I gave little attention to the reading and watched more closely the cheerful flame around which some small
moths fluttered with playful and uneven flight, perhaps I yawned, be it what it might, the case was that my mother, realizing the little interest that I showed, stopped her reading and said to me: “I’m going to read to you a very pretty story; be attentive.” Upon hearing the word story I opened my eyes expecting a new and wonderful one. I looked at my mother who leafed through the book as if looking for it, and I got ready to listen with impatience and wonder. I didn’t suspect that in that old book that I read without understanding, there could be stories and pretty stories. My mother began to read to me the fable of the young and the old moths, translating it to me piece by piece into Tagalog. At the first verses my attention redoubled in such a way that I looked towards the light and fixed my attention on the moths that fluttered around it. The story could not have been more opportune. My mother emphasized and commented a great deal on the warnings of the old moth and directed them to me as if to tell me that these applied to me. I listened to her and what a rare phenomenon the light seemed to me more beautiful each time, the flame brighter, and I even envied instinctively the fate of those insects that played so cheerfully in its magical exhalation. Those that had succumbed were drowned in the oil; they didn’t frighten me. My mother continued her reading, I listened anxiously, and the fate of the two insects interested me intensely. The light agitated its golden tongue on one side, a singed moth in one of these movements fell into the oil, clapped its wings for sometime and died. That assumed for me that the flame and the moths were moving far away, very far, and that my mother’s voice acquired a strange, sepulchral timbre. My mother finished the fable. I was not listening; all my attention, all my mind and all my thoughts were concentrated on the fate of that moth, young, dead, full of illusions. “You see?” my mother said to me taking me to bed. “Don’t imitate the young moth and don’t be disobedient; you’ll get burned like it.” I don’t know if I replied, promised something, or cried. The only thing I remember is that it took me a long time before I could sleep. That story had revealed to m e tings unknown to me until then. To me moths ceased to be insignificant insects; moths talked and knew how to warn and advise as well as my mother did. The light seemed to be more beautiful, dazzling, attractive. I understand why moths fluttered around lights. Advices and warnings resounded feebly in my ears. What preoccupied me most was the death of the imprudent, but at the bottom of my heart, I didn’t blame it. My mother’s solicitude didn’t have all the success that she hoped it would. No; many years have elapsed; the child has become a man; has plowed [sailed -Z] the most famous foreign rivers and meditated besides their copious streams. The steamship has taken him across the seas and all the oceans; he has climbed the region of perpetual snow on mountains very much higher than the Makiling of his province. From experience he has received bitter lessons, oh, infinitely more than the sweet lesson that his mother gave him, and nevertheless the man preserves the heart of a child and he believes that light is the most beautiful thing there is in creation and that it is worthy for a man to sacrifice his life for it.
Zaide, Gregorio F. and Zaide, Sonia M. Jose Rizal: Life, works and Writings of A Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero. Second Edtion. Zaide House, 24 Pittsburgh st., Silangan Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines: All-Nations Publishing Co., Inc., 2014.