The debate still continues if Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero, really retracted? This has been the greatest controversy which is most talked about Rizal. He is recognized for the novels he had written during the Spanish period. Because of these courageous acts of rebellion against the said colonizers, he became our National Hero. But what if our national hero, at the last moments of his life retracted everything he had ever said and written? In 1935, a letter was found by Father Manuel Garcia. The said letter contains that Jose Rizal declared himself as a Catholic and that he retracts everything he had said, written, published and did against the Catholic Church.
Opinions regarding this issue would not be the same because some may agree and some may not. There so many questions speculating his retraction if in the first place, all of this is what he really fought for. From Fr. Balaguer’s version, Rizal, on the 29th day of December 1896, wrote and signed the retraction papers in front of him and with the other Jesuit priest present at the death cell. Rizal asked for a confession twice and for a rosary from the priest between the two confessions.
In Balaguer’s memorandum-record, Rizal asked for a mass and a request for Holy Communion, this was readily approved by the Jesuits and assigned Fr. Villaclara as the officiating priest of the mass inside the cell. He also mentioned that Rizal asked for the image of the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus which he carved when he was just 14. Balaguer described the scene as heart-warming because Rizal kissed the image that he had requested from the Jesuits. While kneeling and surrounded by the religious authorities in the death cell, Rizal read the retraction document. Balaguer also claimed that there was a servant-messenger for Josephine Bracken to prepare for the marriage at the San Ignacio Church where Fr.
Simo will conduct the confession and other things needed for the ceremonies, which will be materialized on the morning of the 30th. Lastly, before the execution and in the presence of the Archbishop and the Jesuit superior Reverend Fr. Pio Pi, Rizal kissed the image of the cross presented to him and has a rosary entwined in his hand. But how did Father Balaguer convinced Rizal to be converted into Cathloic before his execution?
This is one of the big unanswered questions of today. In addition to this, Rizal wrote a poem entitled “My Last Farewell” which was written on the eve of his execution, there was a line there saying, “I’ll go where there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen where faith does not kill and where God alone does reign (Rizal, 1896).”
With this, he mentioned God in this poem. Before he was executed, he wrote an undated letter to his family when he was in Fort Santiago: “Bury me in the ground, place a stone and a cross over it. My name, the date of my brith and of my death. Nothing more. If you later wish to surround my grave with a fence, you may do so. No anniversaries. I prefer Paang Bundok.“ Now, what do he mean by this? He wanted a cross over it. He died as a Catholic and was buried inside the sacred grounds of Paco Cemetery.
Unfortunately, his instructions were not granted. It was also argued that Rizal retracted in order to save his family from further persecution, to give Josephine Bracken a legal status as his wife and to assure reforms from the Spanish government. Speaking of Josephine as his wife, there was an article from Jose Rizal University that one day of early March 1896; Rizal played a practical joke on Josephine, which frightened her terribly. As a result, she prematurely gave birth to an eight-month baby boy. The baby was very weak and can hardly breathe. With this, Rizal immediately baptized him Francisco in honor of his father. He tried to save the life of his son but all his knowledge and skill as a physician could not save little Francisco.
Sorrowfully, Rizal saw his child die three hours after birth then he drew a sketch of his dead son and he buried him under a shady tree near his home. He prayed”: “Oh, God, I give you another tiny angel. Please bless his soul.” Again, this is one proof that even before the exile in Dapitan, he practiced being a Catholic.
On the other hand, the copy of the retraction paper that was allegedly signed by Rizal that was even kept secret and was only published in newspapers. It was said that the paper was lost when Rizal’s family requested for the original copy. Are the Jesuits too irresponsible for not knowing the importance of the document? Or was it just hidden? But 39 years later, the original copy was found in the archdiocesan archives.
Ricardo Pascual Ph. D, who was given permission by the Archbishop Nozaleda to test the document and later concluded in his book, “Rizal beyond the Grave” that the papers shown was a falsification. The common contradiction of this argument was either Father Balaguer or Father Pi had made errors in reproducing another copy of the original. The manuscript was also allegedly misplaced from 1922 – 1935.
Trinidad challenged the Jesuits to show to her the manuscripts so that she could validate that it was Rizal’s handwriting and signature. With this, finding out that there were several copies of it, some may imitate Rizal’s handwriting and signature. Another proof that Rizal did not retract is that when Father Balaguer claimed that Jose and Josephine, however, there were no marriage certificate or public record shown that could prove Father Balaguer’s accounts.
In addition, he performed the ceremony between 6:00 – 6:15 AM of December 30, 1896 with the presence of one of the Rizal’s sisters but Rizal family denied that none of them were there and Dr. Jose Rizal was martyred at 7:03 AM. Also, nobody had reported that Bracken was in the area of Fort Santiago in the morning of the execution.
Consider also the three priests (Fr. Jose Villaclara, Fr. Estanislao March, and Fr. Vicente Balaguer) to negotiate the expanse of the walk to give spiritual care to the condemned Dr. Jose Rizal, why is it that, only Fr. Balaguer stated that there was a wedding? Furthermore, where were Fr. Villaclara and Fr. March to verify the manifestation of a marriage ceremony? Or was there really even one at all?
Showing the two sides, where do you stand? Do you believe that Rizal really abjured or not? It’s up to you but this controversy should not eradicate Rizal’s works for our country. He awakened our knowledge of nationalism and patriotism. Jose Rizal’s writings helped in motivating the Filipinos to fight for our freedom against the Spanish colonizers and inspired a lot of Filipino revolutionaries to stand up for a cost. In my opinion, I still believe that his contributions to our country are far greater than the issue brought by this letter. I stick to his advocacy that war is not the solution for independence.
If you’re going to ask me if he really retract, I would say yes, because he really wanted to have peace and to stop the chaos during that time, he abjured everything due to the pressure to his family and became a Catholic.
I stated earlier that he has some requests to his family for his burial that there should be a cross over his grave, with this, he died as a Catholic and his family, on the 11th day after his death, was informed that early of the next day, a mass was to be celebrated for the eternal rest of his soul. Adding to this, he experienced hardships in writing his third novel entitled “Makamisa” because he is not fluent in Filipino language. How could he state: “A man who doesn’t love his native language, is worse than all animals and a smelly fish.”, if he, himself, can’t apply it.
And let’s understand that he retracted for the sake of his family’s persecution and wanted a reform for our country against the Spanish government. I’m sure all of us really love our family and will do such extraordinary things just to save them and would love to have peace on earth. But all this and more will retract nothing from his greatness as a Filipino.