Correspondence of Rizal to his Family 1876


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Correspondence of Rizal to his Family

Calamba, 26 March 1876

My Dear Grandma Illang, (1)

     After an exceedingly tiresome trip we arrived at Calamba at eleven o’clock at night. So that you may have an idea of how distressful was my trip I tell you we were detained at Napindan until six o’clock in the evening.

     (2) Receive from José two bags of cacao which are equivalent to twenty-five gantas, that is, one cavan. (3) If the photographers bring you proof, as you know how to distinguish the good from the bad, you may decide and if you are not sure, you may sent it to me. My sister Saturnina requests you to give her a lottery list for the month of December ’76.

     Nothing more, regards to you and my dear aunts and command your obliging and affectionate grandson who cherishes you.



     (1) Mrs. Basilia Bauzon de Leyba, an elderly relative residing at Manila.

     (2) In Rizal’s time one went from Manila to Calamba and vice versa on small steamers via the Pasig River. Napindan is the name of the mouth of the Pasig River opening on the lake, that is Laguna de Bay.
     (3) Ganta and cavan are dry measures, still in use. A cavan is equivalent to 75 liters, one cavan is 25 gantas.

Manila, 2 July 1876

      My Dear Sisters and Brother,

      I received the beaded slippers, which were your birthday gift to me, and I’m very glad because they were made by you and because my first name and surname are on them.

      I’m now studying philosophy, physics and chemistry, natural history, drawing, and gymnastics.(1) I thought that I had to do water-color painting, that is, with colors, but I was mistaken. Nevertheless, I’m drawing a beautiful picture – “Bugler on Horseback” – and I intend to paint in oil when I study at Santo Tomás.

      I’m well, but Panteleón, for the information of his family, has been sick for eighteen days now.

      You’ll receive my grades in my next letter. Tell our father and our mother that I ask them for their blessings and my little sisters (3) to study diligently.

      Regards to all the family, to my other two sisters, (4) to my dear brother-in-law Ranito, (5) and to the little Emilio. (6)

      I hope my brother will give me news about the feast.

      Your little brother,

      José Rizal


      (1) Rizal was then a boarding student at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila in the fifth year of the secondary course.

      (2) Panteleón Quintero who later married his younger sister Soledad.
      (3) His little sisters then Josefa, Trinidad, and Soledad.
      (4) His married sisters Narcisa (Mrs. Antonio López) and Lucía (Mrs. Mariano Herbosa).
      (5) Diminutive for Mariano Herbosa.
      (6) Emilio, the youngest son of Mr. And Mrs. Antonio López.

Rizal’s graduation

* * * * * * * * * *

Tanawan, Batangas
10 February 1877
Mr. Josè Rizal Mercado

My Dear Josè,

      With the object of greeting you and at the same time of asking you for the date of your graduation I permit myself to address you these lines, requesting you to tell me if you wish to make some preparation for the occasion so that I may be able to contribute something to it to show you my affection.

      In the meantime, know that I profess you a great affection, and command your servant in whatever he can be useful to you. A thousand regards.

      Affectionately yours,

      Manuel Timoteo Hidalgo (1)


      (1) Husband of Rizal’s sister Saturnina, affectionately called Menèng.

Calamba, 13 April 1877

My Dear Grandma Illang,

      Receive from the bearer eight and a half ( 8 ½ ) gantas of cacao (1) worth 14 pesos and 7 reales. (2) My mother has not picked more than this until now and she has ordered some from the mountain, that is, from those living in the mountain, so that she can send you some more. We received the day bed of Old Teang, but it was already ruined.

      They say that the picture has a defect or defects and I don’t know if we are going to order any. If that photographer insists, I believe it would be better to take only a dozen.

      Command your most affectionate grandson who cherishes you sincerely.



      (1) Theobrorma cacao, Linn. From which chocolate is made.

      (2) Eight reales made a peso. A real was an old Spanish silver coin.

Regards to Leonor Rivera

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Calamba, Laguna
10 October 1879

Dear Brother,

      Don’t forget the drum and the butterfly that are sold at the Escolta.

      Tell Titay to send me quickly my anchor-ring that I ordered them to make me and see also if our accounts tally.

      With nothing more, my regards to Aunt Betang, Uncle Antonio, Leonor and tell Aunt Betang to remove at once from the basket the mandarin oranges so that they will not be spoiled.



      Compliments to the comedians and circus players and to Apacible and Alberto


[Manila,] 27 July 1880

My Dear Brother

      I received your letter and I’m informed of its contents.

      Anastacio (1) is safe in the college for he has not cracked up. Moreover, the Father Rector does not allow any one to go out.

      My pillow is now almost useless. Let us see if you can send me two new ones, and I say two so that if any of you comes, he may have his own. I would like them also to have their corresponding cases and I would like some sheets.

      I gave two pesos to the Rubios, and I should like you to send me my monthly allowance for August as Nanay and I have agreed. I shall have the greatest pleasure if you can do this great favor.

      Nothing more, love to all, and command your brother.

      José Rizal


      (1) Anastacio Banatin, son of Capitán Juan Banatin, gobernadorcillo of Calumba from 1867 to 1868.


Mrs. Teodora Alonso

My Very Dear Mother,

      Yesterday at 3:10 I arrived at Manila safely and in the finest weather.

      I found my brother-in-law Antonio and Dandoy at the house of his sister and they asked me about you there.

      My classes are beginning. I expect to ask for a few days of vacation to spend them with you there, the only place where I’m happy.

      Nothing more, affectionate regards to my good brothers and friends as well as to my loving sisters and may you and my father bless me.

      Your son who loves you dearly.


      Uncle Antonio (1) sends you regards.


      (1) Antonio Rivera. Father of Leonora Rivera.

A reptile for the Jesuit Fathers

Calamba, 30 July 1880

Dear Brother,

      A message from the Observatory has been received at this station predicting a flood. Find out from the Jesuit Fathers about the truth of this and in case it is true, you ought to come home at once because by then you will not be able to get out of there. Moreover this is the wish of our elders.

      On Monday I shall send you all the things that you ask in your letter by special delivery of Capitán Juan who will bring a very unique reptile that he is presenting to the museum of the Jesuit Fathers.

      Though Dámaso was opposed to the payment that ought to be made to your Uncle Ramón, as I told you in my previous letter, now he has a more conciliatory attitude, perhaps in order to avoid lawsuits.

      Your brother,



Manila, 2 January 1881

Esteemed Friend,

      I received your letter dated 30 of last month and I am informed of its contents.

      If I have not answered your letters, it was not because I’m bored corresponding with you. In fact, twice I wrote replies, but on the day I did so, nobody came to visit me at the college, (1) so I destroyed them, and besides I was already embarrassed.

      I am doubtful if the letter is yours, because the signature is different. Perhaps you have put another name, fearing that I might despise it and if I despise it, it will not be your name that will be despised but somebody else’s. If that is hat you think, you are mistaken for you do not know how glad I am when I receive one of your dear letters; but you did well in putting another name in case, as you say, it may fall into the hands of strangers.

      Command your servant who kisses your hand. (2)



      (1) Leonor Rivera (1867-1893) was then a boarding-student at the Colegio de la Immaculada Concepción, popularly called Colegio de la Concordia, and established in La Concordia, at Sta. Ana, Manila, former country-place of the donor and founder of the colegio, the philanthropist Mrs. Margarita Roxas de Ayala. Here also Rizal’s sisters studied. Though she addressed Rizal as “Esteemed Friend,” the two were blood relations. Her father, Antonio Rivera, was the “Uncle Antonio” in Rizal’s letters. Her letters to Rizal were signed Tamis, her name in cipher. She became Rizal’s fiancée.

      (2) Literal translation of the former closing of a letter in Spanish.

Manila, 28 December 1881

Esteemed José

      I would be glad if on the receipt of this you are in good health and happy.

      I was very much surprised that you had a letter for Papa and none for me; but at first when they told me about it I did not believe it, because he did not expect that a person like you would do such a thing. But later I was convinced that you are like a newly opened rose, very flushed and fragrant at the beginning, but afterwards it begins to wither. Before, however, when I did not write you, you wrote me, but now no more. It seems that you have imitated my example when I went to Antipolo (1) and you have done wrong, because I was not at my own house, and besides you know very well that you cannot hide any thing from those girls. I could very well write to Papa, but in order that you might not say anything, I did not, though Mama had ordered me to do so. You cannot have these pretexts because you are at your home and nobody meddles with you. Truly I tell you that I’m very resentful for what you have done and for another thing that I’ll tell you later when you come.

      Excuse the writing and all the mistakes you find in it. Command at your pleasure your true servant who kisses your hand.



      (1) A town, now in Rizal Province, famous for its miraculous Virgin of Peace and Good Voyage and as a summer resort.

Manila, 1881

Mr. Paciano Mercado


My Dear Brother,

      The survey (1) which I have to make is as unreliable and informal as so many are said and thought to be. At any rate I’ll go there to spend two days.

      I have my license signed by the Office of Forest Inspection.

      Your brother,

      J. Rizal


      (1) Rizal studied surveying at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and received a surveyor’s diploma in 1881. Apparently his brother had asked him to survey a piece of land belonging to the family.

Rizal would prefer that his brother-in-law Ubaldo devoted himself to farming

Madrid, 17 January 1882

Mr. Silvestre Ubaldo (1)

My Dear Brother-in-law,

      I received your letter of 23 December and I’m informed of its content. I thank you for your perseverance in writing me, but I wish you to know that I’ve already answered your two letters, which I appreciate very much. I guess you have not yet received my reply on account of the great distance separating us.

      I regret exceedingly your inability to return to our town so that all of you can be together, which is one of my wishes. That is the disadvantage of being in the king’s service.

      I’m gladdened by your news that Sra. Ipia went home to Calamba, about Christmas bearing my best wishes of the season.

      I’m not going to tell you anymore about the various things that have happened to me because I have already related them in my letters home. In case you go home, you can ask for them.

      I’ll see if I can do something for you at the ministry, but my acquaintances are still few. If you didn’t expect much from the post you hold, I believe it would be much better if you would devote yourself to farming. However, it is a pity to give up a thing that ought to bring you honor.

      It’s good that I’ve nothing more to wish with regard to my present situation as well as my health; that is also what I wish you and your wife. Give my regards to your brothers, and Sra. Ipia, who turned out to be stout as I believed. Tell her to stop wriggling.

      This is all.

      J. Rizal


      (1) Husband of his sister Olimpia (Sra. Ipia). He was then an employee in the government general office of communications (Inspección General de Communicaciones), being stationed in Bulacan. He asks Rizal to work for the transfer to Calamba.

Effect of Rizal’s departure – Grief of his parents – Comments of the friars – The Diariong Tagalog – The real purpose of Rizal’s departure for Europe

Manila, 26 May 1882

Dear Brother,

      Yesterday I received at the town hall of Calamba through Maneng your letter dated at Singapore. As I was going to Manila, after reading it, I sent it to our house. I cannot tell you in this letter then the impression it produced there. As for me, I’m glad that you have had a happy voyage until the first port of call and above all that your fellow passengers did not continue treating you with indifference. I’m only sorry not to have set right that Alcalde, for you could stay in Italy on your own means.

      When the telegram informing us of your departure was received in Calamba, as it was natural, our parents were grieved, especially the old man who became taciturn, always staying in bed, and weeping at night, and the consolation offered by the family, the curate, and strangers was of no avail. He made me go to Manila to find out with what means you were able to undertake the voyage. On my return I assured them that your expenses were defrayed by some friends of yours in Manila, hoping that this would calm them. Notwithstanding, he remained always sad. Seeing this and fearing that his taciturnity might degenerate into a malady, I told him everything, but to him alone, begging him to keep the secret and he promised to do so. Only since then have I seen him a little gay and return to his usual ways. This is what occurred in the family.

      With regard to the friends, acquaintances, and strangers in the town and environs, your trip was the topic of conversation for many days. They conjectured and guessed, but nobody hit the bull’s eye.

      Yesterday I was with the friars. Some approved your departure; others did not. As we have adopted this measure (because in my opinion it is the best), we should stick to it.

      Day before yesterday the brother of B. Teodoro arrived at the house in order to go around Laguna and Batangas in search for subscribers to the Diariong Tagalog, carrying many copies of the prospectus of that periodical. I helped him in everything I can and I believe, and also according to his own report, our town will not be behind any in the province, so that you have a better idea of what it is in reality.

      Tacio has been suffering from typhoid fever for two weeks now and the physician is attending him. Lucino entertains no hope of saving him. Twice the lad sent his servant to our house to call you, for he was sure you have already returned from your trip.

      As I said, I went down to Manila after your departure where your letters were delivered to me. I have forwarded them to their respective destinations. I will not take home yet your things here in Manila, but I’ll do so later, as Uncle Antonio and I have agreed. With regard to your other orders, I see no inconvenience in following them.

      I have delivered to Uncle Antonio a sum that he will send you in draft. Read this letter that is enclosed.

      They have assured me that you have accepted a letter of credit from certain persons from here. You have not said anything on this matter in any of your letters.

      It is said here that you will finish the medical course at Barcelona and not at Madrid. To me the principal purpose of your departure is not to finish this course but to study other things of greater usefulness, or that to which you are more inclined. So I think that you ought to study at Madrid, center of all the provinces, because though it is true that there is more life, more work, and better education at Barcelona, you have not gone there either to take part in that kind of life or much less to work. And as regards good instruction, in case it is not found in Madrid, the diligence of the student will make up for it. It is therefore, convenient for you to be there beside our fellow countrymen who can guide you while you are not familiar with things. I don’t know if this suits you. As for me, I would be very glad if it did. At any rate, don’t fail to answer this point, because I’m very much in favor of it.

      On the 22nd of this month I finished the work on the sugar with a harvest of less than one-half of last year’s but I hope to sell it at a double price, so that we shall lose nothing.

      Yesterday I left the whole family in good health at Calamba, getting ready for our town fiesta. I’m at Uncle Antonio’s house where I am writing this letter. Your dear brother is also in good health.



      Yesterday, when I left our town, the engineers were tracking the railroad to the south, and it is said that wherever it will pass, they will not respect either houses or plants. I don’t know if the warehouse and the plants in Real (1) will be among them. Nothing is said about compensation.


      (1) Real is the name of a barrio of Calamba where sugar-cane plantations were found.

Travel impressions -- Aden -- The Desert -- Suez -- The Canal -- His good health -- Expecting letters from home.

Suez Canal, 7 June [1882]

My Dear Parents,

      The last letter I wrote you was at Aden before disembarking. This will inform you about the rest.

      I went down at Aden, which, as I have told you perhaps, is a town of little importance by itself, but it is important to the steamers that take on coal there. The town is composed of numerous hillocks and rocks, all bare and arid, without even a plant, on which stand some lonely and gloomy houses, white indeed, but with a funeral aspect. The ground, like its sun, is hot and hard; the wind, loaded with burning sand, disturbs now and then the quietness of its well-made but deserted streets. At intervals and as if forcing itself to enliven those places, can be seen camels walking majestically and rhythmically, tall and big, forming a contrast to the humble asses, some of which are very short, like a hog, of abrupt and somewhat hasty pace. Everywhere is death, neither a root nor a leaf. Only man, perhaps in order to give a proof of his power, lives there, plants cannot; but, alas, it’s only to give a spectacle of his poverty and degradation, compelled as he is to contend with the granite for his existence. But English power is worthy of its name and it opens two beautiful tunnels there, one of which is as long as the distance from Capitana Danday’s house until that of my brother-in-law Mariano, and the other is one half less. These bore through live rock and when one is in the middle of the first, one finds himself in complete darkness. If by any chance one sees a space of ground as large as a dish in which a little grass grows, it is a phenomenon that attracts everybody’s attention. Within the town proper can be seen some limp and rickety trees of which the tallest is not more than three varas. Besides the tunnels there are other things that call the attention of the travelers and they are the cisterns or reservoirs. These are some large cavities, whitened with stucco, formed by the mountain and a wall that, with the rock, form a receptacle. Imagine some five dams with the wall that, instead of being of stone like that we have there, is of very hard granite, there being a granite mountain here, but all whitened, with stone railings and very well made stairs of granite also. Beside this, instead of abaca plants as we have there, there are tiny plants whose leaves can be counted and some signs that prohibit the picking of a flower or leaves. Instead of water and its beautiful and boisterous falls, there’s nothing but complete aridity, not even a drop of water, and the hottest sun. At one place there is a well of about one hundred varas deep whose bottom cannot be seen and from where five Negroes get water, which takes two minutes to come up to the surface.

      In the shops are found skins of lion, tiger, panther, and leopard, ostrich eggs and feathers, and some children whose occupation is to fan the travelers.

      From Aden, town of great divers and swimmers who pick up small coins thrown into the water, we headed for Suez through the Red Sea. On the first day it was so terribly hot that many fainted, even a waiter of the ship. In the following days it was fairly cool and the sailing was good. We saw Mount Sinai, Egypt, etc. We also met many ships. On the 2nd June we arrived at Suez.

      A little steamer came alongside and placed us under quarantine for 24 hours. We were embarrassed. It was because of the Dutch on board who came from Java. On 3 June the Turkish physician came up to inspect the ship and the sick and to fumigate and disinfect us.

      The physician informed us of the revolt in Egypt led by Arabi Bey, Minister of . . . (1) who imprisoned the Khedive in his palace. It seems that there is a coup détat. Like the entire army he is a partisan of the minister. I conversed with him in French and I learned that he was educated in Paris where he studied medicine; he had been in London and traveled through Italy, and Germany. He held advanced ideas and when he was satisfied with my replies, he responded by saying, "Bravo." He asked me how Japan was, believing I was a Japanese. Finally we left Suez and entered the Canal, not without having been visited first by the peddlers of Suez, selling figs, dates, and other things, like postcards, rosaries, etc.

      The Canal, opened in the middle of that desert of sand and stone, is 85 kilometers long and probably some 80 veras wide. A boat that was grounded in the middle obstructed our way and we stopped three days -- three days of ennui and grumbling. At last this morning we went on and I believe we shall arrive at Port Said. Probably we shall not reach Marseille until the 15th.

      I’m in very good health and the intense cold which we have had since we arrived at Suez five days ago has made me stout. I’m so stout that I’m bursting. I do nothing else but stroll continually, because one cannot remain seated for a long time.

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