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Danilo Donor
The Death of Dr.Jose P.Rizal: Eyewitness AccountsPDFPrintE-mail
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Written by Danilo Donor
Every December 30 ,Filipinos throughout the world remember the heroic death of Dr.Jose P. Rizal in Bagumbayan ("New Town") , a city promenade that also served as a killing field for those who opposed Spanish colonial rule in the 19th century Philippines.

Rafael Palma (1),then a young man and who later on became the president of the University of the Philippines,witnessed the last moments in the life of the great Filipino Nationalist and Martyr. This is what he wrote in the December 3o,1896 entry of his diary:

"I attended the execution this morning. A great multitude invaded the field of Bagumbayan where the execution was to take place.

I was anxious to know the hero .I wanted to see his face ,the face that had challenged the tyrants; his head that had borne such a grand idea-the creation of a nation.; in short I wanted to see the figure of that illustrious patriot who was willing to shed his blood for his country.

I saw him two times, I imagine that he would be serene,tranquil as he marched to the scene of his glory and immortality and I can say I was not deceived. His face was pale and serene and bright like the sky above;he laugh at times as he joked with two Jesuit priests and the officer near him.

His lips shaded by thin mustache smiled at the world,as if he wanted to bid goodbye to all. His eyes were small ,but mobile and vivacious and seemed to play within their sockets. He walked with noble bearing ,his body was upright ,erect yet without affectation. To me that represented his whole character-inflexible, daring -I could understand why he did not bend either to tyranny or to death...

He hurried as he neared the place of the great sacrifice .One may say he ran after the glory that began to clear at the border of his sepulcher and which might be lost by his tardiness.

From that time on ,he disappeared in my sight.The people crowded around the scene and in spite of my efforts, I failed to see the moment of his death. A shot rang out and something like -an immense sigh arose from the multitude,indicating that all was over...

Shouts of 'Long Live Spain! Death to the Traitors!' could be heard three or four times.People began to disperse and to leave the place, contented and happy at satisfying their curiosity .I even saw some Filipinos laughing."

What Palma was not able to witness can be supplemented by the account of Alberto B.Mendoza(2), then a twenty year old member of the drum corps of the 'Leales Voluntarios de Manila'(Loyal Volunteers of Manila) who later on joined the revolutionists:

"When I saw him I know he was Jose Rizal. He was of regular built,unshaven and quite pale perhaps on account of his confinement, but was visibly composed and serene.
Amidst the silence,Rizal began to move his head very slowly up and down,his lips moving as if in prayer. Then the commanding officer,by means of a saber,signaled the firing squad to aim.The saber dropped and there was a simultaneous crackle of rifle-fire.Jose Rizal wheeled in one last effort and toppled forward with a thud,his face turned toward the sky and his derby hat thrown forward.He had fallen facing the bay.

Then suddenly ,as if from nowhere ,a small dog appeared and ran in circles around the body of Rizal,barking and whimpering.The Capitan Militar de Sanidad,or medical officer, knelt before the fallen man ,and felt his pulse.Looking up ,the medical officer beckoned a mmember of the firing squad to come forward and give the body the 'tiro de gracia': a shot done at close range. I thought I saw a faint haze rise from Rizal's coat,but it might have been a wisp of morning mist.Seeing the body before me,I felt faint.

I wanted to see the face of the man for the last time.Rizal lay dead on the dewy grass.The day had started and little did I realize that I gazing on the face of the greatest Malayan of them all,that I was witnessing history in the making."

A British writer ,Howard W.Bray(3),an eye witness commented:"Never while life last,shall I forget that awful morning nor the whrilling sensation I felt when the rifles cracked and his mangled body fell on the public promenade amid the jeers of Spaniards and monks,thus consummating one of the most cold blooded crimes registered in history since the tragedy of Golgotha".

Additional notes:

Rizal was found by the military court guilty of the crimes of rebellion,sedition and illegal association and was sentenced to death on December 26,1896.On December 28,Gov.Gen.Camilo de Polavieja fixed the date of execution for the date of execution,December 30 at 7:00 in the morning. It was only on December 29,that he officially informed about the court's decision.(4)

6;30 A.M start of the death march to Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park).Rizal wore a white shirt with a black tie,black coat and black pants.He was bound elbow to elbow,accompanied by Jesuit priests.Villaclara and March and his counsel Lt.Taviel de Andrade.(5)

Simultaneous with the firing of the Remington rifles,Rizal shouted his last words."Consumatum Est"(6).His last word,echoed one of the seven last words of Jesus Christ in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Gospel of John 19:30:"Cum ergo accepisset Jesus acetum,dixit:Consumatum est."(7)translated by Mons.Knox,as"It is achieved"(8)

The Firing squad was composed of Filipino soldiers belonging to Regiment No.70. at their back was an squad of Spanish "cazadores" ready to fire at them if they,the Filipino soldiers,disobeyed their superior's command to fire.(9)

Well known Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno gave the title "El Cristo Tagalo" (10) or the "Tagalog Christ"/ "Kristong Kayumanggi" in the vernacular to our martyred hero. Rizal was secretly buried without a coffin in an unmarked grave at the Paco Catholic Cementery,in an area where the government buried those who died outside of the grace of the Church among them were the Filipino priests Mariano Gomez,Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora ,executed in as alleged leaders of the 1872 Cavite Mutiny. During the American Regime,his remains was transferred to Bagumbayan/Luneta and buried with honors under the present Rizal Monument a few feet where he was executed. The park now bears his name-Rizal Park. FOOTNOTES:

(1)Palma,Rafael. "Diary"(Excepts) in Gene Cabrera."Rizal and Josephine".Manila.1960.p.26
(2)Mendoz,Alberto B. "Account on Rizal's Execution" in Bantug,Asuncion Lopez,"Lolo Jose: An Intimate and Illustrated Portrait of Jose Rizal".Manila.2008,pp.164-165.
(3) Howard W.Bray.quoted by Cabrera,p.21
(4)Baron-Fernandez."Jose Rizal:Filipino Patriot and Doctor" p.355
(6)Poblete,Pascual."Buhay at Gunawa ni Dr.Jose Rizal...."p.111
(6)"Sacra Biblia:Juxta Vulgatam Clementinam" . Belgium.1956
(7)"The Holy Bible: A Translation from the Latin Vulgate in the Light of the Hebrew and Greek Originals".London.1963
(8)Poblete,Pascual "Buhay at Ginawa ni Dr.Jose Rizal:At Ipinalimbag ni G.Nene Rizal,Kapatid na panganay ni Dr.Jose Rizal."(ca.1909,Reprinted 2006).,p.110
(9) Poblete,p.110
(10) Unamuno,Miguel de."Epiilogo" in Wenceslao E.Retana."Vida y Escritos del Dr.Jose Rizal.Madrid.1907/Reprinted in Manila.1960 .p.496.