The Philippines a Century Hence by José Rizal

A plant I am, that scarcely grown,

Was torn from out its Eastern bed,

Where all around perfume is shed,

And life but as a dream is known;

The land that I can call my own,

By me forgotten ne’er to be,

Where trilling birds their song taught me,

And cascades with their ceaseless roar,

And all along the spreading shore

The murmurs of the sounding sea.

While yet in childhood’s happy day,

I learned upon its sun to smile,

And in my breast there seemed the while

Seething volcanic fires to play;

A bard I was, and my wish alway

To call upon the fleeting wind,

With all the force of verse and mind:

“Go forth, and spread around its fame,

From zone to zone with glad acclaim,

And earth to heaven together bind!”

From “Mi Piden Versos” (1882),
verses from Madrid for his mother.

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The Philippines
A Century Hence

[Contents]

“In the Philippine Islands the American government has tried, and is trying, to carry out exactly what the greatest genius and most revered patriot ever known in the Philippines, José Rizal, steadfastly advocated.”

From a public address at Fargo, N.D., on April 7th. 1903, by the President of the United States.

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A sketch map, by Dr. Rizal, of spheres of influence in the Pacific at the time of writing “The Philippines A Century Hence,” as they appeared to him.

Most of the French names will be easily recognized, though it may be noted that “Etats Unis” is our own United States, “L’Angleterre” England, and “L’Espagne” Spain.

[Contents]

 

 
Noli Me Tangere Quarter-Centennial Series
Edited by Austin Craig
The Philippines
A Century Hence
Manila: 1912
Philippine Education Company
34 Escolta
[Contents]

Copyright 1912

By Austin Craig

Registered in the Philippine Islands.[9]

[Contents]

Introduction

As “Filipinas dentro de Cien Años”, this article was originally published serially in the Filipino fortnightly review “La Solidaridad”, of Madrid, running through the issues from September, 1889, to January, 1890.

It supplements Rizal’s great novel “Noli Me Tangere” and its sequel “El Filibusterismo”, and the translation here given is fortunately by Mr. Charles Derbyshire who in his “The Social Cancer” and “The Reign of Greed” has so happily rendered into English those masterpieces of Rizal.

The reference which Doctor Rizal makes to President Harrison had in mind the grandson-of-his-grandfather’s blundering, wavering policy that, because of a groundless fear of infringing the natives’ natural rights, put his country in [10]the false light of wanting to share in Samoa’s exploitation, taking the leonine portion, too, along with Germany and England.

Robert Louis Stevenson has told the story of the unhappy condition created by that disastrous international agreement which was achieved by the dissembling diplomats of greedy Europe flattering unsophisticated America into believing that two monarchies preponderating in an alliance with a republic would be fairer than the republic acting unhampered.

In its day the scheme was acclaimed by irrational idealists as a triumph of American abnegation and an example of modern altruism. It resulted that “the international agreement” became a constant cause of international disagreements, as any student of history could have foretold, until, disgusted and disillusioned, the United States tardily recalled Washington’s warning against entanglements with foreign powers and became a party to a real partition, [11]but this time playing the lamb’s part. England was compensated with concessions in other parts of the world, the United States was “given” what it already held under a cession twenty-seven years old,—and Germany took the rest as her emperor had planned from the start.

There is this Philippine bearing to the incident that the same stripe of unpractical philanthropists, not discouraged at having forced the Samoans under the ungentle German rule—for their victims and not themselves suffer by their mistakes, are seeking now the neutralization by international agreement of the Archipelago for which Rizal gave his life. Their success would mean another “entangling alliance” for the United States, with six allies, or nine including Holland, China and Spain, if the “great republic” should be allowed by the diplomats of the “Great Powers” to invite these nonentities in world politics, with whom she would still be outvoted.[12]

Rizal’s reference to America as a possible factor in the Philippines’ future is based upon the prediction of the German traveller Feodor Jagor, who about 1860 spent a number of months in the Islands and later published his observations, supplemented by ten years of further study in European libraries and museums, as “Travels in the Philippines”, to use the title of the English translation,—a very poor one, by the way. Rizal read the much better Spanish version while a student in the Ateneo de Manila, from a copy supplied by Paciano Rizal Mercado who directed his younger brother’s political education and transferred to José the hopes which had been blighted for himself by the execution of his beloved teacher, Father Burgos, in the Cavite alleged insurrection.

Jagor’s prophecy furnishes the explanation to Rizal’s public life. His policy of preparing his countrymen for industrial and commercial [13]competition seems to have had its inspiration in this reading done when he was a youth in years but mature in fact through close contact with tragic public events as well as with sensational private sorrows.

When in Berlin, Doctor Rizal met Professor Jagor, and the distinguished geographer and his youthful but brilliant admirer became fast friends, often discussing how the progress of events was bringing true the fortune for the Philippines which the knowledge of its history and the acquaintance with its then condition had enabled the trained observer to foretell with that same certainty that the meteorologist foretells the morrow’s weather.

A like political acumen Rizal tried to develop in his countrymen. He republished Morga’s History (first published in Mexico in 1609) to recall their past. Noli Me Tangere painted their present, and in El Filibusterismo was sketched the future which continuance upon [14]their then course must bring. “The Philippines A Century Hence” suggests other possibilities, and seems to have been the initial issue in the series of ten which Rizal planned to print, one a year, to correct the misunderstanding of his previous writings which had come from their being known mainly by the extracts cited in the censors’ criticism.

José Rizal in life voiced the aspirations of his countrymen and as the different elements in his divided native land recognized that these were the essentials upon which all were agreed and that their points of difference among themselves were not vital, dissension disappeared and there came an united Philippines. Now, since his death, the fact that both continental and insular Americans look to him as their hero makes possible the hope that misunderstandings based on differences as to details may cease when Filipinos recognize that the American Government in the Philippines, properly approached, is willing [15]to grant all that Rizal considered important, and when Americans understand that the people of the Philippines, unaccustomed to the frank discussions of democracy, would be content with so little even as Rizal asked of Spain if only there were some salve for their unwittingly wounded amor propio.

A better knowledge of the writings of José Rizal may accomplish this desirable consummation.[16]

“I do not write for this generation. I am writing for other ages. If this could read me, they would burn my books, the work of my whole life. On the other hand, the generation which interprets these writings will be an educated generation; they will understand me and say: ‘Not all were asleep in the night-time of our grandparents’.”

The Philosopher Tasio, in Noli Me Tangere.

[19]

[Contents]

Jagor’s Prophecy

The Prophecy Which Prompted Rizal’s Policy of Preparation For the Philippines

This extract is translated from Pages 287–289 of “Reisen in den Philippinen von F. Jagor: Berlin 1873”.

“The old situation is no longer possible of maintenance, with the changed conditions of the present time.

“The colony can no longer be kept secluded from the world. Every facility afforded for commercial intercourse is a blow to the old system, and a great step made in the direction of broad and liberal reforms. The more foreign capital and foreign ideas and customs are introduced, increasing the prosperity, enlightenment, and self respect of the population, the more impatiently will the existing evils be endured.

“England can and does open her possessions unconcernedly to the world. The British colonies are united to the mother country by the [20]bond of mutual advantage, viz., the production of raw material by means of English capital, and the exchange of the same for English manufactures. The wealth of England is so great, the organization of her commerce with the world so complete, that nearly all the foreigners even in the British possessions are for the most part agents for English business houses, which would scarcely be affected, at least to any marked extent, by a political dismemberment. It is entirely different with Spain, which possesses the colony as an inherited property, and without the power of turning it to any useful account.

“Government monopolies rigorously maintained, insolent disregard and neglect of the half-castes and powerful creoles, and the example of the United States, were the chief reasons of the downfall of the American possessions. The same causes threaten ruin to the Philippines; but of the monopolies I have said enough.[21]

“Half-castes and creoles, it is true, are not, as they formerly were in America, excluded from all official appointments; but they feel deeply hurt and injured through the crowds of place-hunters which the frequent changes of Ministers send to Manila.

“Also the influence of American elements is at least discernible on the horizon, and will come more to the front as the relations of the two countries grow closer. At present these are still of little importance; in the meantime commerce follows its old routes, which lead to England and the Atlantic ports of the Union. Nevertheless, he who attempts to form a judgment as to the future destiny of the Philippines cannot fix his gaze only on their relations to Spain; he must also consider the mighty changes which within a few decades are being effected on that side of our planet. For the first time in the world’s history, the gigantic nations on both sides of a gigantic ocean are beginning to [22]come into direct intercourse: Russia, which alone is greater than two divisions of the world together; China, which within her narrow bounds contains a third of the human race; America, with cultivable soil enough to support almost three times the entire population of the earth. Russia’s future rôle in the Pacific Ocean at present baffles all calculations. The intercourse of the two other powers will probably have all the more important consequences when the adjustment between the immeasurable necessity for human labor-power on the one hand, and a correspondingly great surplus of that power on the other, shall fall on it as a problem.”

“The world of the ancients was confined to the shores of the Mediterranean; and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans sufficed at one time for our traffic. When first the shores of the Pacific re-echoed with the sounds of active commerce, the trade of the world and the history of the world may be really said to have [23]begun. A start in that direction has been made; whereas not so very long ago the immense ocean was one wide waste of waters, traversed from both points only once a year. From 1603 to 1769 scarcely a ship had ever visited California, that wonderful country which, twenty-five years ago, with the exception of a few places on the coast, was an unknown wilderness, but which is now covered with flourishing and prosperous towns and cities, divided from sea to sea by a railway, and its capital already ranking among the world’s greatest seaports.

“But in proportion as the commerce of the western coast of America extends the influence of the American elements over the South Sea, the ensnaring spell which the great republic exercises over the Spanish colonies will not fail to assert itself in the Philippines also. The Americans appear to be called upon to bring the germ planted by the Spaniards to its full development. As conquerors of the New World, [24]representatives of the body of free citizens in contradistinction to the nobility, they follow with the axe and plow of the pioneer where the Spaniards had opened the way with cross and sword. A considerable part of Spanish America already belongs to the United States, and has, since that occurred, attained an importance which could not have been anticipated either during Spanish rule or during the anarchy which ensued after and from it. In the long run, the Spanish system cannot prevail over the American. While the former exhausts the colonies through direct appropriation of them to the privileged classes, and the metropolis through the drain of its best forces (with, besides, a feeble population), America draws to itself the most energetic element from all lands; and these on her soil, free from all trammels, and restlessly pushing forward, are continually extending further her power and influence. The Philippines will so much the less escape the influence of the [25]two great neighboring empires, since neither the islands nor their metropolis are in a condition of stable equilibrium. It seems desirable for the natives that the opinions here expressed shall not too soon be realized as facts, for their training thus far has not sufficiently prepared them for success in the contest with those restless, active, most inconsiderate peoples; they have dreamed away their youth.”[31]

[Contents]

The Philippines A Century Hence

[Contents]

I.

Following our usual custom of facing squarely the most difficult and delicate questions relating to the Philippines, without weighing the consequences that our frankness may bring upon us, we shall in the present article treat of their future.

In order to read the destiny of a people, it is necessary to open the book of its past, and this, for the Philippines, may be reduced in general terms to what follows.

Scarcely had they been attached to the Spanish crown than they had to sustain with their blood and the efforts of their sons the wars and ambitions of conquest of the Spanish people, and in these struggles, in that terrible [32]crisis when a people changes its form of government, its laws, usages, customs, religion and beliefs the Philippines were depopulated, impoverished and retarded—caught in their metamorphosis, without confidence in their past, without faith in their present and with no fond hope for the years to come. The former rulers who had merely endeavored to secure the fear and submission of their subjects, habituated by them to servitude, fell like leaves from a dead tree, and the people, who had no love for them nor knew what liberty was, easily changed masters, perhaps hoping to gain something by the innovation.

Then began a new era for the Filipinos. They gradually lost their ancient traditions, their recollections—they forgot their writings, their songs, their poetry, their laws, in order to learn by heart other doctrines, which they did not understand, other ethics, other tastes, different from those inspired in their race by their [33]climate and their way of thinking. Then there was a falling-off, they were lowered in their own eyes, they became ashamed of what was distinctively their own, in order to admire and praise what was foreign and incomprehensible: their spirit was broken and they acquiesced.

Thus years and centuries rolled on. Religious shows, rites that caught the eye, songs, lights, images arrayed with gold, worship in a strange language, legends, miracles and sermons, hypnotized the already naturally superstitious spirit of the country, but did not succeed in destroying it altogether, in spite of the whole system afterwards developed and operated with unyielding tenacity.

When the ethical abasement of the inhabitants had reached this stage, when they had become disheartened and disgusted with themselves, an effort was made to add the final stroke for reducing so many dormant wills and intellects to nothingness, in order to make of the individual [34]a sort of toiler, a brute, a beast of burden, and to develop a race without mind or heart. Then the end sought was revealed, it was taken for granted, the race was insulted, an effort was made to deny it every virtue, every human characteristic, and there were even writers and priests who pushed the movement still further by trying to deny to the natives of the country not only capacity for virtue but also even the tendency to vice.

Then this which they had thought would be death was sure salvation. Some dying persons are restored to health by a heroic remedy.

So great endurance reached its climax with the insults, and the lethargic spirit woke to life. His sensitiveness, the chief trait of the native, was touched, and while he had had the forbearance to suffer and die under a foreign flag, he had it not when they whom he served repaid his sacrifices with insults and jests. Then he began to study himself and to realize his misfortune. [35]Those who had not expected this result, like all despotic masters, regarded as a wrong every complaint, every protest, and punished it with death, endeavoring thus to stifle every cry of sorrow with blood, and they made mistake after mistake.

The spirit of the people was not thereby cowed, and even though it had been awakened in only a few hearts, its flame nevertheless was surely and consumingly propagated, thanks to abuses and the stupid endeavors of certain classes to stifle noble and generous sentiments. Thus when a flame catches a garment, fear and confusion propagate it more and more, and each shake, each blow, is a blast from the bellows to fan it into life.

Undoubtedly during all this time there were not lacking generous and noble spirits among the dominant race that tried to struggle for the rights of humanity and justice, or sordid and cowardly ones among the dominated that aided [36]the debasement of their own country. But both were exceptions and we are speaking in general terms.

Such is an outline of their past. We know their present. Now, what will their future be?

Will the Philippine Islands continue to be a Spanish colony, and if so, what kind of colony? Will they become a province of Spain, with or without autonomy? And to reach this stage, what kind of sacrifices will have to be made?

Will they be separated from the mother country to live independently, to fall into the hands of other nations, or to ally themselves with neighboring powers?

It is impossible to reply to these questions, for to all of them both yes and no may be answered, according to the time desired to be covered. When there is in nature no fixed condition, how much less must there be in the life of a people, beings endowed with mobility and movement! So it is that in order to deal [37]with these questions, it is necessary to presume an unlimited period of time, and in accordance therewith try to forecast future events.

 

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