Poems of Political Prisoners: José Rizal

José Rizal: Mi último adiós

 

Pray for all the hapless who have died,

For all those who unequalled torments have undergone;

For our poor mothers who in bitterness have cried;

For orphans, widows and captives to tortures were shied,

And pray too that you may see your own redemption.

 

And when the dark night wraps the cemetery

And only the dead to vigil there are left alone,

Don’t disturb their repose, don’t disturb the mystery:

If you hear the sounds of cittern or psaltery,

It is I, dear country, who a song to you intones.

 

And when my grave by all is no more remembered,

With neither cross nor stone to mark its place,

Let it be ploughed by man, with spade let it be scattered

And my ashes then to nothingness are restored,

Let them turn to dust to cover your earthly space.

 

Then it doesn’t matter that you should forget me:

Your atmosphere, your skies, and your vales I’ll sweep;

Vibrant and clear note to your ears I shall be:

Aroma, light, hues, murmur, song and moaning deep,

Constantly repeating the essence of the faith I keep.

 

My idolized country, for whom I most gravely pine,

Dear Philippines, to my last goodbye, now listen,

There I leave all: my parents, loves of mine,

I’ll go where there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen

Where faith does not kill and where God alone does reign.

 

Farewell, parents, brothers, beloved by me,

Friends of my childhood, in the home distressed;

Give thanks that now I rest from the wearisome day;

Farewell, sweet stranger, my friend, who brightened my way;

Farewell to all I love. To die is to rest.

 

These are just six verses from the long, last poem by José Rizal: ‘I’ll go where there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen…’ This  poem he writes during the night while awaiting execution the following day. It had no title; a friend called it ‘Mi último adiós’, ‘my last farewell’. Others have given it the title ‘Adios, patria adorada’, ‘farewell, beloved land’.

José Rizal is born in 1861, in the town of Calamba, Laguna, and lives through colonial discrimination under Spanish rule. In hope of political and social reform he had written, while in Europe, ‘Noli me tangere’ (Touch me not), a satirical novel on the arrogance and despotism of colonial  power, of its officials and its clergy. He had also published ‘El Filibusterismo’ (The Reign of Greed), a work mirroring the difficulty of continued belief in a  non-violent strategy as the way to change.

José Rizal’s reaction to the injustice of colonial officials provokes the emnity of power itself. Spanish agents shadow him and he is imprisoned in Fort Santiago in July 1892. From there, they send him into exile in Dapitan.

When the Philippine Rebellion begins on August 26, 1896, José Rizal is linked to the revolt by witnesses whom he never is allowed to confront. From November 3, 1886 to the day of his execution, he is again imprisoned in Fort Santiago.

Convicted of rebellion, sedition and of forming an illegal association, José Rizal is shot in the cold morning of December 30, 1896 at Bagumbayan Field.

 

José Rizal and the Asian Renaissance. Ed.: M. Rajaretnam, Institut Kajian Dasar and Solidaridad Publishing Home, 1996.

 

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