Friday, June 3, 2011

Rizal@150. Survey of the Rizal Day issues of The Philippine Republic, 1923-27

The Philippine Republic was a monthly magazine that Clyde H. Tavenner edited and published in Washington DC in the 1920s "to tell the American people facts about Filipinos and Philippine independence that they ought to know, but do not know."

Tavenner was a newspaper writer (1908-1912) who "championed the cause of the Filipino people in articles printed throughout the United States" before he was elected as the representative of the 14th district of Illinois to the 63rd and 64th Congresses (1913-1917) when he "cooperated with then Commissioner Manuel L. Quezon [for] the passage of the Jones Law, advocating it in the public press [and] doing missionary work among members of Congress."  He visited the Philippines in 1919, and worked with the Philippine Press Bureau in Washington DC (1919-1923).

Jose Rizal was a rallying "Greatest Filipino" icon in the monthly magazine's campaign in support of Philippine independence.  He was its forceful argument against the prevailing cultural and racial prejudices of the opposition in the independence movement.

First Issue (left, December 1923); Rizal Number (December 1925)

The magazine felt it fitting "that the first issue of this journal [December 1923], which aspires to be of assistance to the people that Rizal loved so devotedly, should be featured with Rizal’s likeness on the cover page.” The same picture would be on the cover of the Rizal number of December 1925 with the caption "Greatest Filipino".

Cover, December 1924 Issue.

The December 1924 issue featured his full-body figure surrounded by pictures of monuments, which we believe were either of the entries to the Rizal monument competition before or those that Tavenner saw during his visit to the Philippines. The caption reads "He Gave His Life For His Country".

At that time, JP Rizal was not known by many Americans. Thus, The Philippine Republic was selling the national hero alongside campaigning for sympathy and support for the grant of immediate independence to the Filipino people. It also ensured that the memory of the hero's sacrifices were kept alive among the Filipinos in the United States who were working or studying in colleges or universities across this country.  The December numbers would be followed in the next two months by accounts of Rizal Day commemorative programs organized by Filipino associations in America.

The Rizal campaign in America, if we can call it that, used both materials written by the hero himself, and Filipino and American Rizalists.  Of the latter, the most notable was Pulitzer prize winner Charles Edward Russell, author of the books "The Outlook for the Philippines" and "The Hero of the Filipinos".

The Charles Derbyshire translation of "My Last Farewell" was the centerpiece of the Rizal campaign.  Parts of it were widely quoted in the arguments for Philippine independence.  Three Rizal numbers had one-page spreads for it.  The 1924 issue had the Rizal bust, while the 1925 and 1927 numbers boxed the the photograph of the execution and the eye-witness account of Sir Hugh Clifford, as shown below.

"My Last Farewell" spreads in the 1924 (left), 1925 and 1927 issues (right).
The magazine called it the "An Immortal Poem" in the framed editorial feature of December 1925.  In the same issue, then Director Vicente Bunuan of the Philippine Press Bureau in Washington DC mentioned in his "Rizal as a Poet" article how this poem was read into the proceedings of the US Congress in 1902.

Editorial feature, December 1925.

To appreciate the growing up years of the hero, the magazine published "Rizal’s Own Story” in the December 1926 number with the note that Rizal wrote the first three chapters in 1878 when he was seventeen years old, referring to Chapter 1 ("My birth and earliest years in Kalamba") to Chapter IV ("The injustice done my mother"), and that Chapter IV and the next one were written in 1879 when he was 18.  The second installment of his story came in December 1927 including his "My First Reading Lesson" with the note that Rizal wrote them several years after the previous chapters.”

In December 1923, readers got to know Teodora Alonso through “The Story of Jose Rizal’s Mother” by Camilo Osias, which was reproduced from the Philippine Readers. Sidelights from this work would appear again in the 1925 issue.

Aside from the famous poem that he instructed his sister Trinidad in English to look for inside his reading lamp, which they had a hard time locating and extricating with a hairpin, some of his poems were also featured in The Philippine Republic.  The article "Sadness Permeates All of Rizal's Poems" (December 1927) included the translation of his "A la Virgen Maria" by Charles Edward Russell.  It should be very interesting to compare the later translations like Nick Joaquin's with Russell's "Sonnet: to the Virgin Mary":

           Dear Mary, soul of peace, our consolation, 
           That to the heavy-stricken heart doth bring
           The cool sweet waters from the all-healing spring, 
           From that skied throne where since thy coronation 
           Our hearts are bowed in tender adoration, 
           Lean down to hear my griefs vague whispering, 
           And o'er me, bruised and broken, deign to fling 
           The shining robe of thy serene salvation. 
           Thou art my mother, placid Mary; thou 
           Mine only hope, my one sure source of strength. 
           Wild is the sea and inky dark the night. 
           One beacon shinesl--the star upon thy brow.
           Sharp sin assails me; but thy look at length 
           Puts sin and grief and thoughts of death to flight!

Russell was a major drum beater in the JP Rizal and independence campaign. He wrote a long poem as tribute to "Jose Rizal" (December 1923, reprinted December 1925).  He also penned “Rizal the Absolute Master of Himself”(December 1924) and “Dr. Jose Rizal Embodiment of Filipinos’ Independence Aspirations” (December 1927).  He and E. B. Rodriguez collaborated on the "Hero of the Filipinos" (1923), published in New York City and sold at $3 each, the first book about JP Rizal by an American author.

There were other interesting materials on the Philippines and JP Rizal in the December issues of The Philippine Republic, among them ---  

  • “Jose Rizal/His Place in History Is Steadily Rising”(1924)
    • Rizal Day Speech of Hon. Parley Parker Christensen before the Filipinos of Chicago (1924)
    • "Rizal and Del Pilar—A Comparison” by Teodoro M. Kalaw (1925)
    • "American Poets Pay Tribute in Verse”(1925)
    • “Why Rizal’s Death Is Commemorated by Filipinos” by Clyde H. Tavenner (1925)
    • "A Washington Man [Stephen Bonsal] Who Knew Rizal”.(1926)
    • "Father Burgos, Who Also “Fell in the Night”/Story of the Martyr Whose Unjust Execution Influenced Rizal’s Entire Life” by Clyde H. Tavenner (1927)

    That was Jose Rizal in the propaganda for full Philippine independence then when his death was still fresh in the collective memory of the Filipinos here and in America.

    Today at his 150th birthday, who is he in the nation's life? Who is he outside the classroom where his Noli and Fili are required readings? Who is he to the surviving Filipino veterans of America's foreign wars waiting in South of Market, San Francisco, the survivors of the martial law regime, EDSA I and II, and those trying hard to find the "daang matuwid"?

    References for those who want to pore through the Rizal numbers of The Philippine Republic (1923-27) at the University of Michigan digital collections:

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