Looking Back

Fighting over champagne

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Marcelo H. del Pilar once quoted Jose Rizal as saying, “Where there are two Filipinos unity is not possible.” We will never know if Rizal was misquoted, but that line should encourage us to do some soul-searching. It is more relevant to us today than another famous line put in Rizal’s mouth about the necessity of looking to the past to achieve one’s goals: “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinagdaanan,  di makararating sa paroroonan.” Rizal never said this; he actually wrote something better, in 1879, as an epigraph to his play “Council of the Gods.” It goes: “Con el recuerdo del pasado entro en el porvenir (I enter the future remembering the past).” If our textbooks carried better quotes to live by, the world would be better off.

People who think Rizal would have become a good president of the Philippines should think twice. He may have had a high IQ but he lacked EQ. He was respected but was not as well-liked as Plaridel (Del Pilar).

If Rizal went into politics today, he would not even be elected barangay captain because he was too serious. He would not sing or dance Gangnam style to woo voters. He would neither cheat nor buy votes. And if Rizal were elected at all, he would surely end up being shot in Bagumbayan all over again!

This anecdote narrated by Plaridel to Deodato Arellano in March 1891 is one reason Rizal did not get elected leader of the expatriates in Madrid:

“It is a tradition in the [Filipino] colony to have a fraternal dinner on the night of the 31st of December. In the morning of that day the question of serving champagne was brought up in our lodgings, all the more since the boys had taken a great deal of trouble preparing speeches. A thousand ways were discussed to make champagne available that night, and at lunch time there was a great deal of chaffing about it among ourselves, but I kept my mouth shut, and without saying a word was planning to pay for the champagne myself; I wanted to give them a surprise. No sooner said than done; after lunch I went to Bayo’s house to get hold of some money for the night’s champagne. From Bayo’s house I went, at about three o’clock in the afternoon, to the house of Doña Justa Jugo where we had been invited to tea on the birthday of her son. While I was there Rizal arrived and called me aside to tell me: ‘Before coming here I passed by your house and I saw a resolution being prepared asking you to pay for the coffee tonight.’ ‘Agreed,’ I answered. Imagine, how could I not agree when I had been ready to pay for something more expensive!

“Came the night and the young people, in high spirits as usual, signed a paper which they would not let me read: when we were sitting down to dinner, a resolution, very wittily drafted by Lete, and signed by twenty-five guests (we were all in all thirty-one, I believe) was read out, asking me to pay for the coffee, Cunanan for the cigars, and Rizal and Dominador Gomez (who had not yet arrived) for the champagne.

“I expressed my agreement and so did Cunanan. But Rizal had the good or bad taste to protest and argue. I tried to head off his protest by suggesting that the champagne be paid [for] by Modesto Reyes and Mariano Abella, who had agreed to do so, in addition to those already named; but perhaps because Rizal did not hear me, we being far apart, I at the head of the table and he at the extreme left, with the authors of the resolution at the extreme right, my suggestion for reinforcements was not taken up and, on Rizal’s initiative, he began at the left end of the table to collect one peseta per person to pay for the champagne. In the midst of the hubbub someone approached me and whispered: ‘Mr. Editor, the resolution is withdrawn but we are grateful for your kindness with regard to the coffee; we expected nothing less from your generosity.’

“I understood the bitterness that Rizal’s protest had aroused. The latter, who was oblivious to it, continued gay and witty while I worried about a quarrel breaking out. The collection of one peseta was paid from the left end to the center, but from there to the right end nobody wanted to contribute.

“Witticisms, very ingenious and wounding, began to be directed against Rizal from the right end, but I took advantage of the fact that Rizal did not seem to realize the point of the jokes and stood up to approach those at the right end and asked them confidentially not to spoil such a brotherly gathering. They all listened to me and there were no more jokes for the rest of the dinner.

“Came the time for the toasts. Dr. Rosario started them off and he was so eloquent in the periodic sentence in which he bewailed the lack of diligence of some in their studies that he drew tremendous applause, but at the end of the clapping Rizal was heard saying: ‘We should be sorry for it, not applaud it.’ This caused some sour looks but it passed.” (Translated from the original Spanish by Leon Ma. Guerrero)

It is unfortunate we only have Plaridel’s account of Rizal’s surly behavior. All we know is that the election between them was cooked up shortly afterward, resulting in Rizal’s election after repeated balloting. But Rizal walked out, thus giving the leadership to Plaridel by default.

In a letter to Plaridel in October 1891, Rizal referred to this episode with bitterness: “A glass of champagne has dissolved the idol made of clay. If it was really clay, what does it matter if it is gone?”

* * *

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu

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  • kayanatwo

    23may2013

    nobody asked me, but….was this being so “serious” traits of “pepe” was also made him of being branded a “pikon” by his classmates during the early years of his studies in “maynilad”?????.
    did the “the pikon” incident happened in letran or ateneo????????can’t recall which one of the two.

    • ApoLapullapu

      I believe that mediocre minds would never understand Rizal as a person.

      • tarikan

        I’m of a mediocre mind but I understand Joey Rizal alright. I understand he was of superior mind in the world of writing (in a couple of foreign languages at that if not more). What I don’t understand was his overrated athletic prowess and gigolo image. He could make his initials through pistol firing — could have been our first ever Olympic gold medalist. Expert in fencing — another Olympic medal prospect. Chess — could’ve been Asia’s first GM (sorry Eugene, you came toooo late). Boxing — could’ve been WBO’s first cottonweight champ as the Dapitan Flash Kid. But sadly he got no heirs.

      • ApoLapullapu

        There were rumors that Adolf Hitler was his son. Rizal was in Germany at about the time that Hitler was born. And Rizal was rumored to be an Atsay Killer. But Hitler also had no heir.

  • buninay

    May pinagdadaanan lang si Rizal. He was having issues and that is an open secret today.

  • tadasolo

    For all eternity I have been hearing about this “MYTH” about Unity among Filipinos as if our life depended on it and is the main reason why we do not progress. This is entirely wrong and unity is an excuse by people who lack ideas and leadership. What we need is to established a common interest to improve our lives and pursue it through good policies and leadership. Forget about this myth

    • ApoLapullapu

      According to one account, the Filipinos in the United States are very united that in Detroit alone, there are more than 100 Filipino organizations!

      • kayanatwo

        23may2013

        nobody asked me, but…why 100 organizations in just one city alone???that “sitrep” or example of yours only prove the “disorganize unity” of pinoys.

      • Ren-ren

        They are united naman, per region nga lang. Kapampangans go here, Bisaya there, Waray here and there. Ganun!

      • ApoLapullapu

        It’s really difficult. Pampanga and Bulacan is separated only by a bridge. But ebon, an egg in Pampanga is alreay an ibon, a bird across the bridge.

      • Ren-ren

        that’s why it’s really hard for us to get united no? malakas regionalism (or provincialism?).

      • tadasolo

        You are right and is a good example why unity is a “MYTH” for progress. Filipinos are still doing good and have as a group one of highest standard of living in the USA inspite of the fact they belong to millions of organization creating the impression of disunity. They worked hard due to the opportunities created within the system. Compared that with the Philippines and look around and you will be hard press to find opportunities and examples and leaders to emulate

      • mad_as_Hamlet

        * * * * *

        I agree with your point. United or not, we can always stand or sit if we choose to. United or not, falling is never an option. “Divided we fall,” is a slogan for scamming and networking, and for demagogues, too.

    • HoyGago

      Pero hindi ba nakasalalay sa pagkakaisa ang pagkakaroon ng common interest?

      • tadasolo

        I think unity as a slogan is overused and have lost traction and appeal. It does not mean anything in context of our nation development

  • tra6Gpeche

    In the Philippines, besides money and connection, you need “pakikisama” to be popular and be elected for something. I don’t think Dr. Jose Rizal knew anything about “pakikisama.” He was definitely a stubborn man. No wonder he preferred to die than bribe & mingle with the Spanish Friars and government authorities. I don’t think he would even like to get involved with the “Katipuneros.” That is Dr Jose Rizal…..no “pakikisama.” Look at our elected Senators and Congressmen, in general, they protect one another to preserve their position and power. And that is at the expense of the Filipino people and the country. “Pakikisama” should be outlawed!

    • ApoLapullapu

      How can pakikisama be outlawed when men with the minds of Rizal never get elected to the legislature?

      • tra6Gpeche

        I see your point kabayan. Just like political dynasty and pork barrel, I am extremely disappointed that these will have no chance to be outlawed by the Filipino lawmakers.

      • josh_alexei

        You do not really need too many Great and Compassionate Individuals to spearhead reforms and progress in a society, even one that had been borne out of “class” and Monarchist and even from the Most Stubborn group of Old School Masters of the Barons and Lords of the British Empire could crumble to the courage and determination of few men…Joseph Atkinson, the long time Publisher of the Canada biggest daily where at about the same time when Dr. Rizal is exposing the abuses of the Spanish Colonizers, Joseph was fighting the Lords and Masters who brought their cruel empire to Canada…and Lorded over the Poor and exploited them to the ground…He used his paper to expose price fixing until it shamed the government and act on them…he crusade for Clean water and Mother’s allowances at the Time when every 4 out of 10 children born NEVER GET to see their FIRST birthdays and nobody in this City would even wanted seen having dinner with Him except his very Loyal friend, the Prime Minister in Ottawa and with the support of his strong willed wife (during these years, women can not vote and not even publicly allowed to write in a paper, but she wrote under an alias of a MAN’S NAME and even a harder hitting than her husband. And Joseph Atkinson gave inspiration to the next generation of Tommy Douglas where he did his in Politics…Two Individuals, along with many others, made the Big Impact to the way the country is being run politically, governed, the Mentality, cultures and the influence that already settled residents influenced the newcomers into adopting the way of life and bring their own good cultures and junk their bad during their journeys.

        Gladly, we do not proclaim heroes, except those who fall in service for their country and fellowmen and or gave their own to save others. We do not have National heroes, but all soldiers who died in service and all men and women in uniform who gave their lives in service are heroes…

      • tra6Gpeche

        I learned a lot about Canada from you, kabayan. It is no wonder Canada is one of my favorite countries. I have been to Brampton and Mississauga and I saw cleanliness and efficiency of the Canadian. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, in general, the Filipinos, ordinary and the elite or leaders are the opposite of Canadians. I don’t think you will ever find someone like Joseph Atkinson. Rivers and creeks in Canada are color blue while in the Philippines, the color is disgusting & despicable. The environment? Most likely, you will see thrash everywhere. Did you see how the Filipinos drive in the Philippines? You would be crazy to really be able to drive here. It is a shame but there is nothing to be proud about. Have a good day.

    • Ren-ren

      “Pakikisama” is different from compromise. pakikisama is basically sacrificing your comfort for the benefit of somebody in more need of it. Example, I don’t drink for religious reasons, pero when an officemate was brokenhearted and needed to drown her sorrows, I went w/ her to her drinking place but I didn’t drink alcohol parin. That’s pakikisama w/o compromise.

      • tra6Gpeche

        In he Philippines, if your friend smokes, you have to smoke. If your friend drinks, you have to drink. and worst,you have to use the same glass to drink. In the government, if you don’t accept bribes like your co-workers, you have no “pakikisama” with them. In Congress, if you don’t steal the money of the Filipino taxpayers and bravely denounce your corrupt colleagues to the public, you have no “pakikisama” and worst, those who steal will be up all against you. In general, in the Philippines, “pakikisama” means going along with your friends or colleagues, right or wrong…mostly wrong. “Pakikisama is “in general, disastrous to the interest and welfare of the Filipino people, if that “pakikisama” is done by the elected politicians. By the way, if you go to a drinking place because of your broken hearted officemate, you would look hypocrite, pretentious and your broken hearted officemate would be more upset because you don’t drink with her. Also, you would look silly. So better not accompany her to that drinking place. Just go to see a movie or play tennis.

      • Ren-ren

        I beg to disagree. I think you are taking the concept of pakikisama to the extreme. Like I said, pakikisama is different from compromise.

        You don’t have to smoke if your friends do, and you are not a hypocrite if you choose to help a friend and remain true to yourself at the same time. Pakikisama works two ways, if I make an effort to get along w/ you, you should also understand if I can’t do some things that you do. If you make super pilit someone to do something, then you are the one w/o pakikisama. Pakikisama is a good value we Filipinos have, but it is never an excuse for compromise. I think what you’re referring to is peer pressure or bullying or something.

      • tra6Gpeche

        Of course, ‘pakikisama’ always works two ways. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Just like the Filipino politicians. Don’t expose my corruptions or my wayward behavior and I won’t expose yours. That is how I see it. Whether it is compromise or “pakikisama” if it is against the welfare and interest of the whole Filipino people and the country, I despise it. As to your “pakikisama'” if it does not hurt the interest of the country, it is okay with me kabayan.

    • cogito728sum

      As one of the very few whose sensible arguments I respect, allow me, for the first time, to make a rebuttal.
      “Pakikisama” is a part not only of our traditions but an essential element of the cultural evolution of the human specie. It is a part of our customs and traditions upon which laws are derived. It is a vital part of our ability to adapt to prevailing circumstances and adaptability is what brought humans to where they are now in the hierarchy of the animal kingdom. Hence, to outlaw “pakikisama” is tantamount to saying let’s abandon our character as a social animal and live a solitary life for the sake of political order.
      But you’re absolutely right. Rizal could not have been a politician because he was not carved out to be that way. He was more of a revolutionary and reactionary at the same time. The abuses he saw in the hands of the Spaniards made him react in such a way that he could only devote his time to be a revolutionist, with the power of his pen of course, because he loved his country.
      As you may very well know, power, to quote a political scientist, ” is not something that can be grasped in the physical sense that a monkey can grasp a coconut…. Rather, it is a relationship that can no more exist without someone to respond to the claims of the powerful than it could without someone to assert such claim.” As you yourself have insinuated, the powerful friars were there to assert their claims to powers but Rizal frustrated them by not responding to them. Because he knew of his bigger mission, martyrdom for his motherland. It is most unfortunate that this rejection of “a relationship” extended to his small circle of compatriots not out of smugness as much as aloofness because of his deep focus on his mission.
      “Pakikisama” becomes a liability only if moral principles are subordinated to it as most Filipino politicians are prone to do these days for political survival. But we don’t necessarily have to compromise our moral principles to survive politically. Politics per se is not that an obnoxious undertaking. Only when we use it as a vehicle for our personal and family ‘aggrandizement’ in exchange for our sacred trust and duties to our constituents that it becomes evil. Merci beaucoup!

      • D’ Equalizer

        A profound statement…amigo!

        We cannot question Rizal’s trait…as some of the commentaries made – herein. The man live by his principles…and died for the love of the motherland. No other Filipino ever did the same – as everyone has it’s own course of destiny in this troubled world.

        Filipinos – instead learn to appreciate what the man did for his country rather than look at his weaknesses and to ridicule the past. Without Rizal’s stand on his principles – Philippine history could have been different to what it is now – freedom or still under oppression from colonial power.

      • cogito728sum

        Gracias!

      • Alexandre Amproz

        Starving isn’t freedom but oppression !

      • tra6Gpeche

        I read everything in your rebuttal. I agree that “pakikisama” is a part of our traditions & customs. As to being essential element of the cultural evolution of the specie, this, I am not sure. However, The “pakikisama’ of yesterday is very much different from “pakikisama” of today. “Pakikisama'” then was to benefit the whole community and nation. The ‘pakikisama” of today is for self-interest reason. Filipinos of today have the tendency to abuse anything for their own greedy and selfish interest especially these current politicians. Filipinos of today, in general, are different from Filipinos of many, many years ago. Even Filipino politicians of long time ago are very different from the politicians of today. As to my experience, If I had succumbed to “pakikisama,” I would have become a corrupt person. Why? Just like my many corrupt co-workers in the BIR long time ago, I would accept the bribes offered to me. Because I refused to be part of it, my co-workers labeled me as without “pakikisama.” That I was making them “to look bad.” I had to quit my job because I felt I did not belong there. “Pakikisama” is good if that would mean for the welfare and security of the Filipino people and not only for a few group of individual. As for Dr. Jose Rizal, not too many people would understand him anyway because he was at least 100 years ahead of them, mentally and experience wise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003650050488 Albay Islands

    Its a matter of right or wrong. Kung ang mga JUDGES ay tumatangap ng BRIBE ASAN and HUSTISYA. Ang mga MAHIHIRAP pa kaya na walang makain. Kung si Ferdinand Marcos at kanyang mga ALIPORAS ay BILLION billion DOLLARES ang NINAKAW sa nagugutom na PILIPINO at IBINOTO pa nang Taong Bayan??? Man-loloko, Nag-papaloko, at Loko-loko, that’s the Philippine Society…If we want to change our Society for the sake of the young GENERATION, CYBER AGE is NOW, FEAR NO ONE. EXpose natin ang GAWAING MASASAMA…500 years ago nang i-COLONIZED tayo ng Spain, 500 years of BRAIN WASHING…

  • mad_as_Hamlet

    * * * * *

    I have it on the authority of my grandfather, who in turn had it on the authority of his, that what Rizal actually said was—“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan, ay mas mabaho pa sa malansang isda.” My grandfather claims that his grandfather had an actual recording of Rizal saying it. Unfortunately, according to my grandfather, the recorder, an old dictaphone, was confiscated by the Japanese during WWII, and subsequently disassembled, reversed engineered, improved, and eventually came out again as a Sony voice recorder. Rizal’s voice did not survive the reverse engineering, I think. Otherwise, we would have heard of it from some historians.

    • HoyGago

      I regret to be the one to cast doubt on that story, but Dictaphones did not come out until 1907, and earlier recording technologies would have been too fragile and equipment too convoluted or expensive to have recorded anything other than studio sessions.
      Regardless, Rizal’s words resonate needless of an actual audio recording.

    • cogito728sum

      Excellent hyperbole mi amici. Your inimitable sense of humour always brings a dose of laughter. Merci!

      • mad_as_Hamlet

        * * * * *

        Ha ha ha . . .thanks, my good friend! I had a mind to answer “HoyG” and thank him for being at least charitable and open-minded enough to entertain some doubts about that story. But I had to forego doing it, because I felt that it would then have been incumbent on me to candidly tell him that, after reading it, I not only doubted it myself, but actually didn’t believe it for a second. You see, my father was an orphan at birth. I hope “HoyG” doesn’t get to read this by not coming back to this thread for the next hundred years.

  • parengtony

    Thanks for the really good read.

  • NYPinoy

    So, our exiled ilustrados were acting just like any current politicians? Why I am not surprised?

  • WeAry_Bat

    ” He may have had a high IQ but he lacked EQ.”

    Eh, this would contradict the supposed-to-be many girlfriends of Rizal. But then, their definition of first base may be much farther away from the present.

  • tarikan

    I’m not surprised at all why no politician named Rizal came out of Calamba, Laguna. Was he good only in other endeavors (girls included…but overblown) but not in politics? Oh I remember, he’s got no child/children to speak of so no Rizal surname came out.

    • buninay

      I think Ross Rizal has just been elected vice mayor here in Calamba along with Tim Chipeco as mayor.

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