‘December 30, 1896’
Letters to the editor (The Philippine Star) - December 28, 2019 - 12:00am

My friends and I are producing a movie series titled “Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken: Untold Stories.” And so we know the importance and significance of Dec. 30 in our nation.

Dec. 30 is a very special and important date in the Philippines because we commemorate on this day the martyrdom of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, whose real name is Jose Protacio Alonzo Mercado.

Some “historians” wrote that Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken were married by a Spanish priest in Fort Santiago on Dec. 30, 1896 at 5 a.m. or two hours before the execution of Rizal at Bagumbayan Field by eight infantrymen composed of Filipinos who enlisted in the Spanish colonial army.

But Josephine Bracken, when she was interviewed in Hong Kong in late 1897 by Rounseville Wildman, then the American’Consul in Hong Kong, said that the supposed wedding on Dec. 30, 1896 did not materialize. This wedding was the agreement between Rizal and two Spanish priests present in Rizal’s cell when Josephine Bracken, Trinidad Rizal, and Jose Aseniero visited the hero for the last time in the afternoon of Dec. 29,1896.

She said that she and one of the sisters of Rizal were not allowed by the Spanish sentry to enter the gate of Intramuros (near the present site of Lyceum and Letran) in the early morning of Dec. 30, 1896, for the guards told her that the wedding in Fort Santiago at 5 a.m. that morning would no longer take place. Josephine Bracken told Consul Wildman that she cried when they were not allowed to enter the Intramuros gate, but she could not do anything except to proceed to Bagumbayan Field with Rizal’s sister, and waited for Rizal there. She and Rizal’s sister witnessed the execution of the hero at 7:03 a.m. that day.

These “historians” also claimed that Dr. Jose Rizal was shot in the back by the eight infantrymen, and Rizal turned after the bullets hit him, then fell to the ground.

While I was writing the book “Prepare for Eternity”(go to Google), which is about the execution of Dr. Jose Rizal, I met the grandson of Dr. Bienvenido Silva, the medical doctor who witnessed the execution of Rizal on Dec. 30,1896. The grandson of Dr. Silva, Joey Silva who is currently residing in the US, told me that when he was a boy and his grandfather was still alive, the latter related to him and his cousins how Rizal was executed.

Dr. Silva told his grandchildren what he witnessed: the Spanish commanding officer hurriedly shouted: Preparen!!! (Prepare) Apunten!!! (Aim). (Before the Spaniard could shout the third and final command, Rizal turned to face his executioners! The final command was Fuego!!!(Fire) .

When the Spaniard shouted “Fuego!!!”, Rizal was already facing his executioners.

The bullets hit him in the chest. Rizal feU to the ground, but still breathing. The Spanish commanding officer angrily pulled out his revolver from its holster, approached the dying Rizal, and shot him in the head. That’s how Rizal died.

That’s what Dr. Bienvenido Silva told his grandchildren about how Rizal was executed.

I checked the accuracy of Joey Silva’s story . It is accurate.

The traditional story of the execution of Rizal tells us that a few minutes before the execution, the Spanish commanding officer Capitan Escalante asked Rizal for his last wish before they would shoot him. Rizal replied that he didn’t want to be blindfolded; and his second request was he wanted to face his executioners.

The first request was granted, but the second request was denied.

Capitan Escalante told Rizal In at he could not grant his second request since the military order given to him was to shoot Rizal in the back because Rizal was a traitor to Spain !Traitors were shot in the back! Rizal protested. “I’m not a traitorl”, he exclaimed. Just the same, his second request was denied, and Capitan Escalante angrily told him to go to the execution spot.

The photo taken by a Spanish photographer shows Rizal’s arms tied; his back was to the front of his executioners who were just about four to five meters away.

Now we know why Rizal turned to face his executioners : he wanted to prove to all that he was not a traitor to any man or race!

Now we also know why the Spanish commanding officer angrily shot Rizal in the head while the latter was dying on the ground : he was angry because he was accountable to his superior officers who would later know that the deadly bullets hit Rizal in the chest, not in the back!

Rizal bravely faced his executioners and proved to the Spaniards, to the Filipino people, and to the whole world what kind of man he is – a man unafraid of death. When a Spanish military doctor checked Rizal’s pulse moments before the execution, he was surprised to find out that Rizal’s pulse is normal! He was calm in facing death because he read in his King James Bible which he bought in London,England in 1888 what the Lord Jesus Christ promised :” I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me shall live even if he dies” .

Rizal is a child of God, a follower of Jesus Christ . He wrote in the second to the last stanza of his last poem ,”Mi Ultimo’Adios” : II Voy donde no hay esclavos, verdugos,ni opresores / La fe no mota, que el rein a es Dios”. ( “/ go to where there are no slaves, tyrants, nor oppressors / Where faith does not die, where God alone reigns” ) – by Dr. Norberto L. Mercado, MNSA, DD, DSM

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