Another speech I thought I had already posted here. This one was from December 6, 2012, for that year’s Philippine PEN Congress. I ran excerpts in my column of December 11.
“Condensados en un libro”
Fr. Vicente Garcia, the Noli, and Rizal’s Theory of ‘Intellectual Tradition’
It is something, when you come to think of it: how many, and how often, priests and friars figure in Rizal’s life and work. The early champions, the first tormentors, the iconic characters, the dedicated enemies, the secret supporters; even, at the end of his life, the eager revisionists.
To discuss one aspect of our session’s theme, of the writer and the Philippine intellectual tradition, I would like to call attention to, or invoke the example of, one of Rizal’s secret supporters: the priest who was among the first to defend the Noli.
I would like to do so because, in Rizal’s extensive correspondence, the letter he wrote the priest seems to me to best sum up his theory of a Philippine intellectual tradition. The basic elements of the general idea weren’t new; they can be found in many of his other letters. But in this particular letter, from the beginning of 1891, we find the most felicitous phrasing of his theory.
First, though, I need to set the context of the correspondence; please bear with me.
ON OCTOBER 6, 1888, writing from Barcelona, Mariano Ponce brought Rizal some needed good news. He told the thrilling tale of “an illustrious fellow countryman, recognized in Manila as a profound theologian and great philosopher,” who had taken a stand against the hated Fr. Jose Rodriguez and parried the Augustinian friar’s attacks on the Noli. (It was well over a year since the first copies of Rizal’s first novel reached the Philippines.) Continue reading