Friday, March 04, 2005

Other unfinished Rizal manuscripts

Other unfinished Rizal manuscripts

Posted 00:08am (Mla time) Mar 02, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the March 2, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

SOME readers have e-mailed to ask for more information on the two unfinished works of Jose Rizal summarized in last Friday's column. For those who want to read "Reminiscences of a Cock" and "The Lord Gazes at the Philippine Islands," these can be found in a little-known compilation called "Rizal's Prose" (Vol. III Book 2 of the Writings of Jose Rizal series published by the Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission in 1962 and recently reprinted by the National Historical Institute).

Another volume in the series of similar interest is "Miscellaneous Writings" of Rizal, which contains a mixed bag ranging from his medical notebooks, to "Rules for the Determination of the Dimensions of Parapets," and a list of shells he collected in Dapitan. "Prose" is basically on literary works while "Miscellaneous Writings" is just that, stray pieces on a variety of topics not easily classified: notes on Tagalog orthography, the treatment of the bewitched (or how to cure a victim of a “mangkukulam” or witch), and one of the few articles Rizal originally wrote in English, this being his re-telling of the famous Philippine folktale "The Monkey and the Turtle." As everything is translated from the original Spanish or French or Tagalog, some people are misled into thinking that Rizal wrote some fairy tales that include "The Ugly Duckling" because the compiler forgot to mention that these tales by Hans Christian Andersen were translated into Tagalog and illustrated by Rizal for his nephews and nieces. These are best read in Rizal's original Tagalog.

It is truly unfortunate that a hero who left so much writing is so seldom read by his people. Maybe we are so conditioned to associate Rizal with nationalism and holidays that we forget he can be an engaging writer on a wide range of topics. To read him is to rediscover not just another aspect of the hero but a way to understand ourselves as Filipinos.

Before we go any further, I must correct a mistake in Friday's column that said Rizal placed the last period on the "Noli Me Tangere" in Berlin at 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 25, 1887. I checked with my offset copy of the manuscript and realized two things: first, the date should be Feb. 21, 1887, and, second, that my memory is starting to slip. Nevertheless, opening the above volumes of Rizal's writings brought out more forgotten material, like a fable that is worth reprinting here:

"Once two friends found a clam near the sea. They debated as to who would have it.

"'I,’ one said, 'saw it first.'

"'But I picked it up,' replied his friend.

"They went to court and asked the judge to settle the question. The judge opened the shell, ate the meat, and divided the shell between the litigants. A reminder to those fond of resorting to the courts of justice."

Another unfinished story or novel is quite similar to George Orwell's "Animal Farm." First published in 1946, Orwell set the story in a place called Manor Farm, renamed Animal Farm after a successful revolt of the animals that drove out the humans. The leader of the animals was a pig named Napoleon.

In Rizal's story the leader of the animals is also a pig, named Botiok. In this farm lived an efficient farmhand named Suan, who produced healthy and productive animals. One day, for some unknown reason, the animals turned sickly. Egg production dropped, the turkeys lost the sheen on their feathers and the other animals grew thin. This was strange, because there was no epidemic of animal disease at the time. The narrator, who was born on St. Solomon's Day, had the gift of understanding the language of animals, so he climbed and hid in a makopa tree to eavesdrop on the animals. Here he discovered that the animals, like humans, had a social structure of their own, with the pig at the head of their society. The great grand pig who had been castrated two years earlier and awaited slaughter for the Christmas table, was named Botiok and asked the other farm animals to obey him. "We the pigs are the superior race; you're an inferior race. Who will deny it? None of you has a snout as long and mobile as ours."

A turkey countered with "Ticaticatoccatoc!" which in translation meant "But we have a long and hanging red chest!"

Botiok replied: "But you don't have our broad ears."

"But we have a beard," replied another turkey.

Botiok, unimpressed, said: "Of course, you have a chest and beard, but you don't have the high honor of having been touched by Suan, our God and Lord. You aren't consecrated, that is, you aren't castrated like us; in this, you're inferior!"

A hen interrupted by saying: "There are also castrated cocks!"

Yet again Rizal left the manuscript unfinished, and on this note, the untitled work now known as "Suan's Animals" comes to an abrupt end.

Orwell left us with a fable on the failure of totalitarianism by showing Napoleon the pig living off the toil of other farm animals, walking on its hind legs and entertaining the very same humans they had booted out of the farm. Orwell showed that a line dividing pigs from men had been blurred, while Rizal's anti-clerical story seems to point to the fact that the line that divided pigs from friars was also blurred.

How this fable would have turned out, we will never know. But sometimes it is in the what-ifs that history becomes quite lively. Happy reading.


Post a Comment

<< Home