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Rizal in the Lopez Museum

Raton de biblioteca, literally translated from the original Spanish, means “library mouse” in English, but a better rendering is “bookworm” or “bibliophile.” I fit the description to a tee because I grew up in a house with books and have lived most of my professional life in libraries. Fortunately, I have only come across a handful of librarians who were difficult to approach at first, with one encounter particularly memorable.

I visited a university library for the first time to survey its Rizal holdings by going through one and a half drawers in their card catalogue. Just to make sure I didn’t miss anything I went up to the reference librarian and inquired. Mature and formal, the librarian didn’t even look up from her desk and dismissed me by snorting: “Rizal? Have you consulted the work of Ambeth Ocampo?”

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Her attitude improved after I declared: “I am Ambeth Ocampo.”

I often console young people discouraged by library research that I was once like them, and that if they are new to Filipiniana they are best served by visiting user-friendly specialist libraries. At the top of my list are: the Lopez Museum and Library, the Filipinas Heritage Library, and the Ortigas Library. For really specialized research my top picks, aside from the libraries mentioned above, are: the National Library of the Philippines, the University of the Philippines Main Library, the “old” Rizal Library at Ateneo de Manila University, and the University of Santo Tomas Library. It also helps that very rare Filipiniana, sometimes jealously guarded by librarians, are available from the Library of Congress, the University of Michigan and the Biblioteca Nacional de España—some of them downloadable, too.

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For original Rizaliana there are only two places to visit: the National Library of the Philippines and the Lopez Museum and Library. I made a “Calendar of Rizaliana” for the National Library in the early 1990s and recently completed one for the Lopez Museum. This undertaking led to quite a number of surprises.

Most of the Rizal manuscripts in the Lopez Museum and Library are letters addressed to his family or individual family members. These are doubly significant because Rizal, in a letter dated Dec. 30, 1882, and sent from Madrid to his sister Maria, instructed her to:

“…keep all my letters in Spanish that begin with: ‘Mis queridos padres y hermanos,’ [My dear parents and brothers] because in them I relate all that is happening; when I return, I shall put them together and make them clearer.”

That Rizal considered some letters more important than others, such that these had to be preserved, suggests that some letters could be discarded, or perhaps, even destroyed after reading. Teodoro A. Agoncillo’s description of Rizal as a “conscious hero,” one who knew and carved his place in Philippine history, gains renewed credence when put in the context of Rizal compiling and editing the primary source material that has come down to us after his death.

The Lopez Collection forms part of Rizal’s correspondence which was first compiled, arranged chronologically and published by Teodoro M. Kalaw, director of the National Library of the Philippines, as the “Epistolario Rizalino.” These five volumes, in six books, appeared between 1930 and 1938. After the war, Rizal’s letters were reorganized and supplemented in 1961 by the Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission (JRNCC), which published them in four volumes in eight books: “Correspondence with Family (two books),” “Correspondence with

Colleagues in the Propaganda Movement” (two books); “Correspondence with Ferdinand Blumentritt” (three books); and “Miscellaneous Correspondence” (one book). Contrary to popular belief, the JRNCC volumes do not contain Rizal’s complete correspondence as known in 1961 because at least 49 letters are missing, of which 38 are extant and form part of the Lopez Collection of Rizaliana.

In 1953, according to Jose P. Apostol in his introduction to “One hundred letters of Jose Rizal to his parents, brother, sisters, relatives,” the National Library was unable to acquire a cache of original Rizal letters offered to the government for half a million pesos. Furthermore, the National Library could not even afford the P25,000 demanded by the seller for the right to make photostatic reproductions of the collection. Fortunately, Eugenio Lopez Sr. acquired most of these letters (except 11 of them) in 1955 from the original cache sold to two other collectors. These letters now form the core of the Lopez Collection of Rizaliana. The 11 remain unlocated.

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Luis Montilla, in 1959, wrote that the National Library prepared a compilation of these previously unpublished letters to form Volume 6 or a supplement of the prewar “Epistolario Rizalino.” However the National Library was directed to postpone publication so they would not preempt the JRNCC. When the 1961 compilation of Rizal’s correspondence was published, they inadvertently left out 38 of the letters in the Lopez Collection.

My revisiting of the Lopez Collection proved that all published Rizaliana remain incomplete with the stray items just waiting to be found. I had wished to get my life back after the Rizal Sesquicentennial in 2011, but it seems the rest of my life will be spent in an unending study of Rizal and his times.

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Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: bibliophile, bookworm, Jose Rizal, libraries, Lopez Museum, Rizaliana
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