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Happy 115th Independence Day! Dr. Jose Rizal’s brindis to Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo 1884

Happy Independence Day! Art and nationalism came to the fore and confluence with Dr. Jose Rizal’s brindis or toast to Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo on June 25, 1884 after the two artists’ victories with their paintings Spoliarium (1884) and Las Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas Al Populacho (The Christian Virgins Being Exposed to the Populace , 1884) respectively.

Lopez Museum and Library recently visited Madrid and retraced the path of our National Hero. Nationalist Pedro Paterno organized a grand dinner at the Restaurante Ingles on Lobo Street (now Calle Echegaray). Luna was present to receive the honors but Hidalgo due to sudden illness sent a letter to be read on his behalf. Prominent Spaniards sympathetic to the Philippines, presided by Segismundo Moret graced the occassion along with eminent Filipinos. Graciano Lopez Jaena and Jose Rizal render oral tribute, their political agenda for the Philippines very much in mind.

Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s Toast

“GENTLEMEN: Upon taking the floor I am untroubled by the thought that you might listen to me with indifference, because you are here to join your enthusiasm to ours, which is fired by our youth, and you cannot help but be indulgent. The air is full of empathetic good feeling; currents of brotherhood fly in every direction; generous souls are listening and, therefore, I do not fear for my humble person nor doubt your benevolence. Men of heart, you only seek hearts, and from the heights where noble emotions dwell, you single out nothing that is petty mean-spiritedness. You see the whole, you judge the cause and hold out your hand to one such as myself, who wishes to join you in one single thought, one sole aspiration: the glory of genius, the splendor of the country.
“In effect, I shall state the reason why we are gathered. In the history of nations there are names that by themselves signify an achievement, that bring to mind affections and greatness. Names which, like magic formulas, evoke pleasant and smiling ideas; names which become something like a pact, a symbol of peace, a bond of love between nations. The names of Luna and Hidalgo belong among them – their glories illuminate two ends of the globe: the East and the West, España and Filipinas. Upon pronouncing them, gentlemen, I envision two brilliant arches, each rising from the two regions, that entwine above in the heights, impelled by the sympathy of common origin, and from that height they bind two peoples with eternal ties, two peoples separated in vain by the seas and space, two peoples in which the seeds of disunion do not germinate, BLINDLY SOWN BY MEN AND THEIR TYRANNY. Luna and Hidalgo are as much Spanish glories as they are Filipino. Just as they were born in the Philippines, they could have been born in Spain, because genius has no country, genius blossoms everywhere, genius is like the light, the air, it is the heritage of all – cosmopolitan like space, like life and like God. 

“The patriarchal era of Filipinas is passing. The illustrious achievements of her children are no longer consummated within the home. The Oriental chrysalis is leaving the cocoon. The tomorrow of a long day is announced for those regions in brilliant tints and rosy dawns, and that race – lethargic during the historical night while the sun lit up other continents – awakens again, powerfully moved by the electric shock produced in it by contact with the Western peoples, and it clamors for light, life, the civilization that time once gave as its legacy, confirming in this way the eternal laws of continual evolution, of transformation, of periodicity, of progress.

“This you know well and you glory in it. To you Filipinas owes the beauty of the diamonds that stud her crown. She has given the stones, Europe has polished them. And we contemplate proudly, you your work, ours the flame, the breath, the materials provided.“They drank there the poetry of nature, a nature great and terrible, and her cataclysms, in her evolution, in her dynamism. Nature sweet, tranquil and melancholy in her constant, static manifestation. Nature that leaves her imprint on everything she creates and produces. Her children take that imprint wherever they go. If you do not believe me, examine their character, their work, and no matter how little you may know that nation, you will see them act in everything as forming their science, as the soul that presides over all, as the spring in the mechanism, as the substantial form, as the raw material. It is impossible not to reflect what is felt in oneself, it is impossible to be one thing and to do another; the contradictions are only apparent, they are only paradoxes. In The Spoliarium, through that canvas which is not mute, one hears the noise of the crowd, the shouts of the slaves, the metallic clanking of the dead bodies’ armor, the sobbing of orphans, the murmured prayers, with as much vigor and realism as one hears the deafening noise of thunder amid the crashing sound of a waterfall or the awesome, terrifying shaking of an earthquake. The same nature that births such phenomena also intervenes in those brushstrokes. In contrast, in Hidalgo’s painting beats the purest sentiment,3 the ideal expression of mournfulness, beauty and vulnerability, the victims of brute force, and it is because Hidalgo was born beneath the brilliant azure of that sky, the lullaby of its sea breezes, amid the serenity of its lakes, the poetry of its valleys and the majestic harmony of its hills and mountains.

“For this reason, in Luna there are shadows, contrasts, dying light, the mystery and the horror, as resonance of the dark tempests of the Tropics, the lightning and the roaring explosions of its volcanoes. This is why Hidalgo is all light, color, harmony, sentiment, purity, as Filipinas is in her moonlit nights, in her quiet days, with her horizon that invites to meditation, cradle gently rocking the infinite. And both of them, despite being so different, at least in appearance, are the same in their substance, just as all our hearts are the same despite our notable differences. Both, upon reflecting with their palettes the splendor of the Tropical sunlight, transform it into rays of eternal glory with which they wreath THEIR COUNTRY — HUMANITY SUBJECTED TO SEVERE TESTS; UNREDEEMED HUMANITY; reason and aspiration in open struggle against personal troubles, FANATICISM AND INJUSTICE, because sentiment and opinion will break open a path through even the thickest walls; because for them all bodies have pores, all are transparent, and if they lack the pen, if the printing press does not second them, then palette and brush not only will give pleasure to the eyes — they will also be eloquent orators.

“If the mother teaches her child her language in order to understand his joys, his needs or pains, Spain as a mother also teaches her language to Filipinas, despite the opposition of those short-sighted midgets who secure their position, INCAPABLE OF LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE and not weighing the consequences. Sickly wetnurses, corrupted and corrupting, who tend to snuff out all legitimate feeling and pervert the hearts of nations, sowing in them the seeds of discords such that later their fruit is harvested: wolfsbane. The death of future generations.

“But I put aside such troubles! Peace to those dead, because dead are they – they have no breath, no soul, and the worms feed on them! Let’s not evoke their dismal memory; let’s not breathe in their stench amid our joys! Fortunately the brothers exceed them in numbers; generosity and nobility are innate beneath the Spanish skies – you are all its clear proof. You have responded in one voice, you have assisted, and you would have done much more, had more been asked of you. Seated and participating in our reception and honoring the illustrious sons of Filipinas, you also honor Spain; because you know this well – the limits of Spain are neither the Atlantic, nor Cantabria, nor the Mediterranean; what meanness it would be were the sea a dike against her greatness, her thought. — Spain is there, there where she makes her beneficent influence felt, and even if her flag were to disappear, her memory would remain, eternal, imperishable. What can a piece of red and yellow cloth do, what can guns and cannon do, there where the feeling of love, of affection, does not spring; WHERE THERE IS NO FUSION OF IDEAS, UNITY OF PRINCIPLES, ACCORD AMONGST OPINIONS…? 

“Luna and Hidalgo belong as much to you as to us. You love them and we see in them generous aspirations, precious examples. The Filipino youth of Europe, always enthusiastic, and some other persons whose hearts remain youthful because of the disinterestedness and enthusiasm that mark their actions, offer a crown to Luna, a modest gift, small, yes, compared to our fervor, but it is the most spontaneously and freely offered gift of all the ones presented until now.

“However, the gratitude of Filipinas to her illustrious sons was not yet satisfied, and wanting to give free rein to the ferment in our thoughts, the feelings overflowing in our hearts and the words that escape from our lips, all of us have come here to this banquet to join our wishes, to materialize the mutual embrace of TWO RACES who love and care for each other, UNITED morally, socially and politically throughout the space of four centuries, SO THAT IN FUTURE THEY MAY FORM ONE SOLE NATION IN SPIRIT,in their duties, their perspectives, their privileges.
“Therefore I raise a toast to our artists Luna and Hidalgo, legitimate and pure glories of TWO PEOPLES! I raise a toast to those who have given them assistance along the painful path of art! I offer a toast that the Filipino youth, sacred hope of MY COUNTRY, may imitate such precious models and that Mother Spain,4 solicitous and attentive to the wellbeing of her provinces, may soon put into practice the reforms that she has long considered; for the furrow has been plowed and the earth is not barren! And finally, I offer a toast to the happiness of parents who, deprived of their sons’ affection, from those distant regions follow them with tearful gaze and beating heart through the seas and the distance, sacrificing on the altar of the common good the sweet consolations that are so scarce in life’s twilight – precious and solitary winter flowers blooming beside the tomb’s snow mantled borders.”

Rizal’s Speech: Source and Acknowledgement


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