Correspondence of Rizal to his Family 1876


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New Year celebration -- Madrid in the rain -- Fall of the Ministry -- Masquerade ball at the Alhambra -- Feast of San Antonio Abad -- Canon, a guitar celebrity -- Asks for picture of his parents -- Rizal tells brother to save the clay bust of their father made by him

Madrid, 11 January 1883

My beloved parents and dear brothers,

      Since my last letter of 30 December of last year to this date I have seen some things that I should tell you to give you a little idea of this capital city and its people.

      On the first day of the year everybody pays calls, sends cards, greetings, gifts, etc., etc. The 6th day of the Three Kings is celebrated by going around the streets, shouting, making noises, looking for the Three Kings they say, insulting passers-by. Thanks that the good Count of Aguilera, governor of Madrid, has forbidden it, and so there have been not many disgraceful scandals.

      With the fall of the ministry and the resignation of León y Castillo, (1) which was much felt, the board of directors of the Cículo hispano-filipino went to him to bid him goodbye and express to him our regret. A few days later we were again at the ministry of colonies to congratulate the new minister, Mr. Nuñez de Arce. Thus, “The king is dead! Long live the king!” The woes of life.

      I received Silvestre’s letter and I’m very sorry that I can’t do anything for him now. I’m still very new here and I don’t have yet sufficient knowledge of how to begin. Moreover, here money and position are necessary. The king himself who has recommended to Martínez Campos, the minister of war, a military man for a post in the Philippines seems to be waiting for his turn. Patience and hope. On the 8th classes were opened and we returned to our classes to resume our interrupted scholastic tasks. It began to rain, which was a pleasure, but it was a fine rain, ticatic as we say over three, lasting one week. The streets were filled with dirty and thick mud, the ground was slippery and between the holes in the old and worn-out pavement were pools of water and little marshes like the lubluban ng mga carabao. (2) Afterwards a cold that penetrates through the marrow of the bones ensues, which is the limit. How ugly was Madrid! The sidewalks and the streets are full of umbrellas whose merciful points left many one-eyed. When least expected a wind would blow turning the unfortunate umbrella inside out, placing the owner of such a flexible gadget in a ridiculous and serious embarrassment. At least over there (Philippines), when it rains, it rains heavily enough to wash the streets, and the houses have eaves under which one can take shelter, but here the rain is very fine like matang Europa. Then the newspapers speak of storm; but my God, what storm?

      On Monday, the 15th, we had a little celebration at the home of Mr. Pablo Origa (3) whose saint’s day it was. Those of us who foregathered there like a family were in the majority Filipinos: Calero, Ripoll, Figueroa, Lete, Paterno, Villanueva, Gonzalez, and I. Only four were not Filipinos.

      Last night there was a masquerade ball at the Alhambra and I went together with other compatriots. There we saw (and they attracted the attention of everybody in the theater) three young women wearing very elegant Filipino dresses, one with tapis (4) and the others without it. Although I suppose they didn’t know how to wear it well as the true daughters of Malate, Ermita, Sta. Cruz, and Binondo, for only two of them were Filipino women, nevertheless, they seemed to us divine and elegant. They walked about dragging along their shirts of bright red and white, yellow and white, violet and white, topped with jusi blouses, piña neckpieces that everybody stared at them. Undoubtedly, many didn’t know what kind of costume that was, whether Russian or Canadian.

      Today is the feast of San Antonio Abad, and donkeys, mules, horses, and other animals, bipeds and quadrupeds are brought before the saint’s image to be blessed. They are lavishly decorated. I don’t know what use to the little donkeys are blessings and indulgences since, as they say, they have no soul nor can they offend or defend God. In short, they say that he is the patron saint of animals. One fine day even the stones will have a saint to whom to commend themselves. Civilize yourselves over there and look for a patron saint for the carabaos who will free them from . . . (illegible) and taxes.

      We are going to imitate these enlightened customs. That the men and above all the women here should commend themselves to the devil is all right; that is why they are animals. (5)

      Today, being the saint’s day of Antonio Paterno, he gave us a little dinner.

      We are going to have a guitar celebrity, Canon, (6) within a few years he may become perhaps the best in Manila.

      I received another fifty pesos from Uncle Antonio for the month of January. I don’t know if you know it.

      May father and mother have their picture taken and send me their pictures so that at least I shall have before me their images that they may not be erased from my memory. Keep the clay bust that I made so that when I return I may see how much my beloved father’s face has changed.

      May they bless me and believe me that I don’t forget them. An embrace to all my brothers-in-law and brothers, kisses to my numerous little nephews, greetings to all my friends, acquaintances, and others.



     (1) The noted literary man Gaspar Nuñez de Arce succeeded Leon y Castillo as the Minister of Colonies.

     (2) Water buffalo wallow.
     (3) Mr. Pablo Ortiga y Rey, a Spaniard, member of the Council of the Philippines.
     (4) Tapis is a kind of over-shirt, generally black, either silk or cotton, that Tagalog women used to wear. The women of the southern Visayan Islands were said to be suelta, that is, they didn’t wear tapis.
     (5) A bit of Rizalian satire.
     (6) A native of Biñan, Laguna, friend of Rizal. It was he who introduced the Noli me Tángére in Spain. He married a Spanish woman at Barcelona. When he returned to the Philippines, he joined the Revolution of 1896. He was also a notable chess player.

Silk handkerchiefs from the town of Baliwag for Rizal -- The friars hate Rizal for his article published in Dariong Tagalog

Bulacan, 19 January 1883

Mr. José Rizal

Esteemed Brother-in-law,

      You have not answered two letters of mine. I don’t know if you have received them or not because your address then was Sauco Street, according to your letter when you were in Barcelona. Now they tell me at home that you have not received my letter, for since then, I have not received any letter of yours.

      This is my third letter. Until now we are still in Bulacan. Receive the ten Baliwag silk handkerchiefs that are our present to you on your forthcoming birthday. Only I don’t know whom Brother-in-law Paciano asked to take them to you. They wrote me that they have already sent them to you.

      I wish to tell you that I got sick of cholera on the 31st of December. With God’s mercy I recovered from it soon.

      I have heard that the friars are indignant at you for an article you published in Dariong Tagalog, so that you be careful there. It is advisable that you be careful, for it seems that you are on their black list.

      Tell us also about your life there.

      Find out at Sauco Street if my two letters are there, because that is the address that I put on them.

      Your brother-in-law who loves you,

      S. Ubaldo


      If possible, do something for us there, so that I shall be returned to Calamba.

      Dear Brother,

      I wish to let you know I’m here in Bulacan. I’m stout and it seems that the place agrees with me.

      We wrote you last October, but you have not answered whether you have received it or not. In it I told you who among our relatives had died like Gregoria, the daughter of Cova Ticio and Pedro, the son of the Ate Culasa.

      Olimpia Rizal

Fine weather -- Death of the Circulo -- Balloon tragedy -- Declines a Christmas present --Studying Italian -- To perfect his French at Paris, English in London, German in Germany -- Ignorance about the Philippines in Spain

Madrid, 29 January 1883

My Dear Parents and Brothers,

      I have already written four very long letters and although I’m quite tired, I have the greatest pleasure and satisfaction of writing you and I feel that my pen is lighter and my ideas are freshened and quickened.

      We are going through a most delightful season: a cloudless and blue sky, almost like the Philippine sky, a bright moon, less cold, a weather so pleasant that I have gone out without an overcoat, a cuerpo, as they say here. I’m in good health, they say I’m stout; I’ve only a slight cold. I don’t know if I’m growing, but my face must have changed a little.

      Felix, who arrived last night from Redondila (Galicia) where he painted a great deal, says that he will paint my picture and if true, I’ll send it to you. He is the same in figure, in stoutness, in everything.

      Our Circulo has died! I proposed its dissolution although I was its most tenacious supporter.

      Last night, or better yesterday, while the aerostat balloon bearing Captain Mayet and a businessman or contractor was descending, its basket got caught in a chimney and Captain Mayet, in trying to save his companion, fell on the street below from the fifth floor, dying within a few hours. This Captain Mayet was a Frenchman who had already gone up numerous times for the entertainment of those who could not go to the theater. He was very winsome to the people of Madrid and a good man. He was recently married to an Italian woman. His death was keenly felt, for it was the result of his generous act. His companion escaped unhurt; he was one of the many who had gone up with the captain to enjoy the view of the earth from above.

      I have found out that Tonino and Sra. Sisa are sending me fifty pesos as a Christmas present. I’m very grateful to them; but see how they can be returned, because such a token of affection may compel tacitly my other brothers-in-law to do the same and I don’t want such a thing ever to happen.

      I hope that you enjoyed Christmas, the New Year, and the Day of the Three Kings with all your grandchildren whose number I should like to see tripled upon my return so that I can put up a school for them alone.

      I’m now studying Italian and I bet that I shall speak it in two months. It is very easy. That being so, I reckon that you would permit me to go to Paris to perfect my knowledge of French. Afterwards I shall go to Rome, and I expect also to live for sometime in London for English and in Germany for German. I wish to be back home after three or four years.

      Here in Spain they have very false notions about the Philippines and there are many people who are so ignorant of that country that it is not strange that they should take us for Chinese, Americans, or mulattos, and many, even of the young students, do not know whether the Philippines belongs to the English or to the Spanish. One day such a one asked one of our countrymen if the Philippines was very far from Manila, and the like. One told me that he had been in my country . . . . . .

      Trinidad Rizal

Water treatment for infant's not always advisable - - Grateful for gifts -- Asks for the names of acquaintances and friends who have died of the plague and beriberi - Italian is sweet - Reasons for declining a Christmas gift.

Madrid, 29 January 1883

Mrs. Saturnina Rizal

My beloved Sister:

      I received your letter of 14 December and I thank you for it and the enclosure.

      I'm waiting for the picture of Freding (this nickname sounds German or English) and I'm hoping I would see him still a baby.

      I fear greatly that this letter would not find José the son of Marianito, alive because you said that his feet and hand were already cold. I presume that water should not always be used in the treatment of infants and those who know say so also; for really, if we apply a strong medicine to a young life, which is like a light that has just begun to flare, it will so weaken the patient that what is intended as remedy might only lead to the grave. We also use water often but only in cases where the patients are older, in treatment of women's diseases and others, and the treatment is not too prolonged. The death that results from water cure is not far from death caused by cold that is not obvious and painful but slow, like a candle burning.

      May God save him and the water heal and not drown him. May my fear be merely a dream.

      I thank you for the gift of a ring, handkerchiefs, and sandals. Don't expect any return just now.

      Please send me a list of friends and acquaintances who have died of the pest and beriberi.

      I read in your letter that you are residing in the south because the house has been bought by Compadre Andres. Which house in the south?

      Remind Ursula and Victoria of the saving, of what use is forage if the horse is already dead. Even if they sang in church last Christmas, I regret that they thought of doing it when I was no longer there. I should like to thank them but not for this. Sweeter to my memory was the past when she could be urged to sing and play the harp. The name given by Father Ingó (Boema, Traford) is something I did not expect from such a priest. It is either too much or too little.

      Also I praised Loleng's new industry; it is different from her former industry. Only I cannot understand why when I was there and we used to play revesino (card game) she did not think of making bibingka (rice cake). I have received conflicting news, but one stands out, unchanging. I thought that her most becoming dress is blue and gold stripes. Please tell her this.

      I'm studying Italian and I can speak now a little. It is so very sweet that one is obliged to sing the words. When I go home, I'm going to teach it to Icang so that her tongue would become a little soft. If you only know it, we can correspond in it, instead of Tagalog, which is very difficult to write. Besides I'm a slow writer in Tagalog; I'm forgetting it; and my Tagalog is being spoiled by the pathetic way my companions speak it. I forget my Florante (1) in Barcelona. There is no one around with whom I can speak it properly. I read your letter again and again. I’m tired of the Spanish language.

      I’m very, very grateful to Tonino and Sra. Sisa for the money they sent me. However, if I’m to be believed as I wish to be believed now, I beg you not to send me any more money. The source of this money is good but the effect is saddening. My other brothers who cannot send me money will be sorry because of their inability to do so. And if they would also send me, following the example of the others, I cannot accept it, except with regret, knowing that it has meant a great sacrifice for them. I don’t know if they can understand what I’m trying to say or if I say it correctly. Please try to explain it. Another thing is that for me even a little suffices. Why should they retrench to give me money? If I need money, I'm going to ask for it. Between us brothers, it is unnecessary to express our desires; we understand one another.

      Ordinarily, not all good desires and generosity produce sweet fruits. Your affection is enough for me. Take good care of yourselves so that we may meet again, like olden days when we used to go out fishing, to take a bath in Pansol (2) and Prinsa, go on a stroll, drink tuba (3) or visit Mainit. I don't know why all these things come back to my mind. I'm also very, very careful, as I don't wish to cause our father and mother any anxiety. Yesterday when I was returning from the barbershop a man who tried to rob me accosted me. All I did was wave him away, pushing him. In former days I cannot say what I would have done, especially as I was carrying a cane.

      Kiss for me the hands of father and mother and embrace our brothers for me. Give a kiss to Millong (if he is no longer cross-eyed), Icang, Toño, Delfina, Chabeng, José and Freding. Handsome lad or European eyes?

      Regards to our relatives and to all the young, ladies I know, especially to Loleng, Sula, and others, to Dandoy, the Curate, Father Ingó, Ate Colasa, Coya Sinforoso.

      This is all and your brother embraces you.



     (1) Florante at Laura, a story in Tagalog verse by the celebrated Tagalog poet Francisco Baltazar (1788 -1862), or Balagtas, who according to Rizal, “was as good a poet as a thinker.” (Noli Me Tángere, Berlin, 1887, p. 149).
     (2) Near Calamba where there is a spring noted for its medicinal waters, and a popular picnicking place.
     (3) A beverage made from the sap of palms, like the coconut palm, generally.

European politics -- Nunez de Arcc, minister of colonies -- General Jovellas to the Philippines -- Proposed land reforms -- Pleasant weather.

Madrid, 29 January 1883

Mr. Manuel T. Hildalgo

My Dear Brother-in-law:

      I have read your letter together with that of my sister and I’m very much pleased that you have written also even if your wife has already written me. The letters I have written have written to our parents and to my good sister, Nening have exhausted the mine of my verbosity and news. However, I believe I have something to your taste.

      The French ministry is going through a crisis that indicates either death or convalescence. I fear very much that the lamentable events of ’93 might recur. Because of the excitement and tendency to exaggerate things such as outcome would not be surprising.

      Neither does the present (Spanish) ministry offer large guarantees of stability. Nuñez de Arce, the minister of colonies has great plans. Let us hope that they would not be mere smoke and passing wind.

      The general who is going there is Jovellar. He is good, they say, but he has a secretary . . .

      According to a lawyer, the proposed land reforms will never be carried out: First, because they are reforms; second because we are in Spain; and third, because the mind of everyone is occupied with politics. Such reforms will be carried out with time -- the great hope of the patient and lazy; and judging by the current trends, it seems that they will reform the reforms.

      The weather here is very pleasant, like that of Christmas there. Two days ago I went out without an overcoat.

      I send greetings to my friends in Batangas, and kisses to Freding I suggest good, regulated, and reasonable hygiene for him.

      Your affectionate brother-in-law,

      José Rizal

Improvement of the land at Pansol -- Do not displease the priests -- Fine arts instead of law, says the curate.

Calamba, Laguna, 1883?

      As the rains are keeping me at home and do not permit me to begin the work on the sugar cane, I’ll take advantage of these days of the year to write you and will not do so again during the work in the sugar-cane fields.

      The object of the present letter is to speak to you a little about our family interests and a little about yours in particular. I’ll begin with the first.

      The land in Pansol is improving and much can be expected from it in the future, provided I enjoy good health. The land is good and extensive.

      This land, which did not cost us any thing and was ceded by the Corporation to us in preference to anybody else, deserves to be appreciated a little. We ought to be a little grateful to the Corporation that, without owing us anything, desires the welfare of our family. Undoubtedly you will tell me that I overlook the work involved and the rent paid. I agree with you, but you will also agree with me that these priests have no obligation to give us exclusively the Pansol land, ignoring others who were eagerly soliciting it. It does seem that they are trying to grant our family all the favor within their power to give. Knowing this, it behooves us to refrain from displeasing them in the least with our behavior, in view of the needlessness of our services. If sometime you get to talk to Father Martínez, assure him that there are the sentiments that animate us.

      With regard to your personal interests, I believe that it does not suit you to study law but fine arts. In this matter I follow the opinion of our parish priest and truly a lawyer here performs the duties of landlord, teacher, farmer, and contractor, that is, all the professions except that of the lawyer. On the other hand, lawyers charge honorariums for defending cases whether they are right or wrong, which your conscience will not admit. Persons who practice medicine and the fine arts are rare, but they advance here and live peacefully, the only thing that we ought to desire in this world. This is a mere advice, as I do not intend to exercise any compulsion on you. But I would be sorry if you do not hold the same opinion as I do. The joy of our parents may perhaps depend on this.

      Your brother,

      Paciano Mercado


      Translated from the Spanish by Encarnación Alzona, 22 July 1958.

Sinking of the Lipa -- Eagerness for home news -- Horseback -- riding at Barcelona -- Remembering the Calamba singers -- a sample of his Tagalog -- Scandals at the Madrid Court -- Inquiring about the reaction to a Filipino who married a Spanish woman -- Dinner at the home of the Paterno brothers.

Madrid, 13 February 1883

Mr. Paciano Mercado

My Dear Brother,

      Two days ago I received your letter of 29 December, one day after that of Uncle Antonio which Left that place on the same day of the disaster of the Lipa. We were exceedingly terrified by the news and we were making a thousand conjectures; but your letter has calmed me somewhat because written as it was on 29 December, it doesn't mention any trip to or going down to Manila of any member of our family, besides the fact that being the 2nd January many families would be at home. I had been there, perhaps having to accompany Tasio to Manila as his guardian and then to return immediately in order to enjoy a few days at home would have cost me very dearly. When I think of this, I remember so many events in my life that I'm inclined to believe that a divinity watches over me. However, the case of Tasio should not worry me, for Capitán Juan has the habit of remaining at Manila for a few days to do some shopping, specially now that his house is perhaps about to be finished.

      Your letter pleased me very much on account of the many news you give me in it -- news that makes my voluntary exile not altogether complete, because so long as we share, however imperfectly, the manner of life of a people, so long as their news reaches our ears, so long as we perceive their joys even from distant countries, we ought not to consider ourselves exiles and dead to the country. This is then the reason why I'm so eager to know the happenings in that country, the only way that I have of transporting myself to that land through the imagination, so that as much as possible the old pleasant impressions may not be erased.

      Tell Mother that as a true celandora, (1) she should see to it that the Hermanas do not seek the Franciscans when they want to seek God. All the Franciscans when they want to seek God. All the friars, Jesuits, and clergymen here wear the same black habit or cassock, for if they were any other attire, which is forbidden, they would be stoned. God for the feast of St. Francis. Had I been there perhaps I would have enjoyed it too. With respect to the gods of Greece and Rome, I don't know if you have continued the subscription that I left in the middle; what a pity it would be not to finish it.

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