What their handwriting says of our heroes
Linda Marquez is a name that doesn’t ring a bell anymore. When I asked around, one person said she was some forgotten 1950s movie star who appeared in black-and-white Sampaguita films. Another, thinking in color, vaguely recalled her as either a sultry 1960s nightclub singer or a 1970s “Bomba” or soft porn star.
Marquez was a graphologist who wrote a daily column in the 1950s Evening News. She analyzed the handwriting of prominent people or government officials at the time, making public what their penmanship revealed of their personalities.
I have to return to the newspaper morgue sometime to go over her columns again for fresh material, because I only took down notes on her analysis of the scrawls of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Emilio Jacinto, Gregorio del Pilar and Manuel Luis Quezon. Offhand, all the heroes in the list were men born in the latter half of the 19th century, all of them figures in the struggle for independence against Spain; two lived long enough to continue the struggle for liberty against the United States.
Emilio Aguinaldo is prominently absent from the list probably because he was still alive at the time, a living relic of the Philippine Revolution in his Kawit home. I’m sure Marquez wasn’t making any historical judgments on who she considered heroes or not. Her choice of subject was determined primarily by a specimen of their handwriting, and, of course, the mug shots of these men appeared on the Philippine banknotes of the time.
Someone doing a PhD in history would do well to study the faces on our banknotes and find out how and why they were chosen, because the heroes in our consciousness were handed down to us not just through history textbooks, monuments and commemorations, but also because they were chosen by the postwar Central Bank of the Philippines.
I have reservations about Marquez’s analysis if they were based on only one document, because handwriting differs over time, and should be seen in context. The sample used for Rizal, for example, was the reverse of his valedictory poem, “Mi Ultimo Adios” (1896), that may have been legibly written, but should be studied in comparison with, say, the writing on the manuscripts of the “Noli Me Tangere” (1887) and “El Filibusterismo” (1891).
Marcelo del Pilar’s letter to his wife Tsanay (1889) will surely be different in form and content from the way he wrote to his colleagues in the Propaganda Movement like Graciano Lopez Jaena, Antonio Luna or even Rizal, against whom he harbored ill will.
The undated letter of Mabini is one of the remarkable few he wrote in English. Would analysis be different if the specimen submitted was that written in Spanish or in his native Batangas Tagalog?
Bonifacio’s flowing script was in a letter he wrote to Jacinto on April 24, 1897, shortly before his arrest in Limbon and his execution in the Maragondon range 16 days later. With Bonifacio, unfortunately we don’t have much to go on, and whatever extant writing he left behind was conserved in the collection of Epifanio de los Santos, the historian best remembered not for his writings but for the traffic-choked avenue that now bears his name.
Quezon and Heneral Goyo are analyzed basically from signatures on official documents, unlike Jacinto who reveals a lot in two pages of a handwritten draft, complete with many editorial corrections.
Marquez concluded that all seven men were straightforward and dependable, because the baseline of their handwriting was straight even without ruled paper. She said that all of their writing was smaller than average, suggesting “exceptional intelligence and vast powers of concentration.”
In reproductions of Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere,” Rizal wrote straight; the originals reveal he ruled the paper faintly in pencil and erased much afterwards. “Mi Ultimo Adios” was purposely written on a small slip of paper to be hidden in his portable alcohol stove. All its m’s and n’s are pointed and look like u’s and w’s, revealing abundant energy, superior determination and adaptability, according to Marquez.
Would it have made a difference if Marquez analyzed the handwriting blindly, without the writer being identified as a hero or a person from history? Would her analysis change if I was reading over her shoulder, adding context to the material? All this is a different way of tackling history.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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