HISTORICAL COMMENTARY `Marcha de Cadiz’ and José Rizal’s Execution

The composer of Marcha de Cadiz (March of Cadiz) – supposedly meant to celebrate the victory of Spain – could not have foreseen that his work would one day be played by a brass band at the execution of the national hero of a Spanish colony.

Contributed to Bulatlat

As soon as a work of art leaves the hands of the artist, it is entirely out of his hands and takes a life of its own. The same applies to scientific discoveries and to most inventions.

Marcha de Cadiz (March of Cadiz), for example, is a beautiful victory march, very charming and old, dating way back to the Napoleonic wars. Its composer couldn’t have known that it would one day be played by a brass band in a far corner of the Spanish empire. It was meant, after all, to celebrate the victory of “Mother Spain.” However, the circumstances made it more of a victory of the “forces of darkness” over the “true, the good and the beautiful.”

On the early morning of December 30, 1896, the band played “Marcha de Cadiz” amid cries of “Viva España!” (Long Live Spain!) as the lifeless body of national hero José Rizal fell to the ground. Nothing is said in the history books about how this affected the Filipinos present at the execution. It is not necessary; it’s easy enough to visualize how the Filipino patriots, including Rizal’s sisters, must have felt.

Rizal was charged with sedition to which he pleaded absolute innocence. He denied all connections with the revolutionaries. Let’s assume he was telling the truth in all sincerity. Then, let us recall the two novels he wrote, the Noli me tangere (Touch me not) and El Filibusterismo (The Filibusterer). Rizal wrote that the novels would serve as mirror for his countrymen to see themselves and what is ailing the country. The mirror was too good that the Spanish saw themselves in the caricatures; they vowed revenge. The mirror was so bright that it awoke intense patriotism in the slumbering souls of the Filipinos. The Katipunan was thus conceived and born.

His two novels can be regarded as a debate that Rizal conducted with himself through his unforgettable characters – Crisostomo Ibarra, Pilosopong Tasyo, Elias, Simon, Isagani and Basilio. In the end, Rizal concluded that although a revolution was inevitable, the country and the people were not ready. They simply had to wait. Elias and Simon, in the person of Andres Bonifacio, couldn’t wait. Once the first battle of the Katipunan was launched, nothing could have stopped the momentum.

As the author of the two novels that inspired a revolution, was Rizal culpable? That is like asking if Albert Einstein had to bear part of the guilt for the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima because his scientific mind made it possible to create the first atomic bomb. Same thing with Karl Marx; he wrote Das Kapital but it is absurd to blame him for how the Leninists and Stalinists created the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

In a short story titled “The Socialists”, the author (Gilda Cordero-Fernando, I think) described how “socialists” from Manila celebrated May 1, Labor Day, among the “socialists” in a small town just outside the capital city. During the program, one of the “socialist peasants” went up to the little makeshift platform and began reciting Edwin Markham’s “The Man with a Hoe.” Markham’s poem was inspired by the painting of Jean-Francois Millet with the same title. (See Figure) Its first lines give a vivid and powerful image:

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back the burden of the world.

There is little doubt that the peasant on the stage was incapable of holding a discourse on socialism. Yet, there can be no doubt that what little English he knew gave him a full understanding of the theme. We can well imagine a change in the intensity of his voice when he recited the last lines:

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
How will the Future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake the world?
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings–
With those who shaped him to the thing he is–
When this dumb Terror shall reply to God,
After the silence of the centuries?

Rizal loved Spain, but he loved Las Islas Filipinas (The Philippine Islands) more. The mirrors that he created were for Spain to correct the wrongs; and, for his countrymen so that they could lift themselves up through education. Rizal couldn’t have foreseen how all the Eliases and the Simons would use his writings, just as Jean-Francois Millet couldn’t have known how his painting would inspire Edwin Markham’s famous poem.(Bulatlat.com)

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