Every Rizal Day—on the hero’s birth or death anniversary—the nation pauses to honor the man, even if only his memory.
When we were based in Manila and served as commander of the Knights of Rizal in Quezon City, we used to be active in Rizalista functions and—thank our stars—the opportunity allowed us to gain access to the hero’s life and the nation’s leaders professing fealty to his teachings or whatever he stood for. Foremost among these is incomparable love of country. Who could beat his being shot by musketry at the Luneta, then called Bagumbayan?
We were later appointed editor-in-chief of Bagumbayan, the Knights’ official organ, during the leadership of the organization by former chief Justice Hilario Davide.
What luck, we thought, because we would later collaborate with another chief justice, Reynato Puno, who was only recently replaced as KoR supreme commander.
Actually, we were ushered into the patriotic organization by our fellow Rotarian Roger Quiambao at the Metro Cubao chapter. We were both past presidents of that club.
We would later be re-introduced to the “supreme of supremos’” in the Knights of Rizal who is none other than our very own fraternity brother at the MLQU University—lawyer Lamberto “Bert” Nanquil.
We met Bert when we were freshman at MLQU where he was a past president of the Arts Student Council and one of the pillars of the Knights of the Golden Fleece or Gamma Kappa Phi, which at the time was the revered exclusive scholars fraternity.
Brod Bert had as inducted into the frat, making us a brod of many of the nation’s great—the likes of then Mayor Antonio “Yeba” Villegas, Justice Ricardo Puno, Presidential Assistant Gino de Vega, Amado Gat Inciong, Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, Danny Florida, RTC Judge Marino dela Cruz, Jr., and others.
The “and others” should include lawyers non pareil Augusto Macam and Rudy Tacorda, and fellow writers Ave Perez Jacob and Roger Ordonez.
Why are we indulging in these historical notes?
It’s our way of giving an idea of our intimate access to the life of our National Hero and every appurtenance attached to his memory.
In Pangasinan, where we are now based, we would be in touch with Rizal’s kins and relatives, the likes of the Ventinilla sisters—writer-educator Margarita “Tita” V. Hamada, who has written incisive articles on Rizal, and Ms. Anabelle Arcinue, president of Pangasinan Heritage Society, who recently joined us in a Bombo Radyo symposium on Rizal and especially his Pangasinense relatives.
In that radio symposium, we were joined by Dindo Bengson who is related to Leonor Rivera.
The Rizal and Rivera kins over the radio disputed a news report published in a national paper and in the Sunday Punch claiming Rizal never set foot in Dagupan or anywhere in Pangasinan despite his well-known trysts with beloved cousin Leonor who lived in Dagupan City.
It is on record that Leonor Rivera and Charles Kipping were married in the Roman Catholic Church in Dagupan on June 17, 1890.
Tragic, you’d say? But is not tragedy one of the elements of greatness.
Speaking of tragedy, who can beat the emotions involved on what happened to Josephine Bracken, the wife of our National hero, after his bloody end in Bagumbayan.
On Rizal’s birthday last week, lawyer Mike Datario, well-known member of the local Masons in Dagupan and who has built a reputation for being an orator on Rizal, gave a moving account of Josephine Bracken after the hero’s physical demise.
Bracken, Datario said, had a morbid, tragic end, totally crushed by loneliness and tuberculosis.
Joy and tragedy are, indeed, strange bed-fellows as richly shown by the dark side of the great and the famous.
Tragedy, indeed, should remind us our human frailties but towering exaltations in the stars.
Aside from our national hero, who can beat the volumes of pathos poured into his martyrdom, the treacherous end of another national hero, Andres Bonifacio, and the dark hand of treachery by Emilio Aguinaldo?
Mourn the history of our nation.
Cry, people, cry!
Jun Velasco used to write for Bulletin Today among other national and international publications.