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Dumalaw si Rizal

Copyright 2003 by Isabel de Ilocos. All Rights Reserved. Posted with the author's permission.
No part of this story may be reproduced in print without the author's written permission.



When he heard the knock on the door Butch Cojuangco called out, “Come in!” without looking away from the HD set that he was watching the DVD movie “Jose Rizal” on. Later he realized how odd it had been. A knock -- not the doorbell ringing. He reached for the door remote and pressed a button to release the lock.

A man walked in, saying
“Permiso…” then added, “Buenas tardes, Señor…Disculpe, me puede decir por favor, ¿si acaso estoy en el Hotel Oriente?”

Butch, his eyes still fixed on the TV screen, thought he had heard something in … Spanish? He then looked in the direction of the door and saw him. A rather short man in a dark suit, a black bowler hat in his hand. His hair was parted on one side and the neatly-combed, thick black hair waved above his right temple. The features were regular and pleasing. The eyes had a serious expression, though with a lively sparkle to them. He wore a brief mustache.

“¿Habla usted castellano?” he asked.

Butch sat up on the sofa where he had been half reclined. He understood that the man was speaking to him in Spanish, and took in his odd-looking hat, odd-looking suit. Automatically he answered in English.

“Who are you?” he answered, somewhat rudely, because he was surprised. Where could the man have come from? He, Butch, was in his condominium in Bonifacio Village. There was short circuit television downstairs, in all the hallways. A concierge did not allow people in whom he didn’t know unless they identified themselves first.

“Good afternoon,” the man replied in carefully articulated English. “My name is Dr. Rizal -- José Rizal Mercado, at your service. I seem to have lost my way…”

Butch heard what he said but it did not quite register. “Who?” he asked again.

“Dr. José Rizal Mercado,” and the man walked up to him until he was about three feet away, his right hand extended, bowler hat in his left.

Butch hurriedly got up and held out his hand. The man’s shake was firm but his hand felt cold. Butch looked at “Dr. Rizal’s” face. The skin was that of a brown-complexioned man who had not been out in the sun for a long time, but he looked very healthy, and young.

“Is this a joke? Are you an actor?” Butch asked.

“I am exceedingly sorry to disturb you, kind sir. I see you are occupied…” and he looked at the TV and the images on it. It was the scene of Leonor Rivera in the parlor of her house, receiving young José, who was courting her.

“Who are you? Is this a practical joke? Did my friends put you up to this?” Butch insisted.

“I’m very sorry indeed, I believe there has been some misunderstanding,” the man who introduced himself as Dr. Rizal replied. His voice was firm, of a pleasing timber, but mild. He spoke a strongly-accented British English, sometimes emphasizing his vowels like a Tagalog speaker: Also like a Tagalog, his English was exaggeratedly articulated as if he had learned it in school. It wasn’t modern – meaning it wasn’t American.

He continued.

“I arrived in Manila this morning from overseas, went out of my hotel for a stroll along the Luneta after lunch, and have just returned. However, this is not my hotel – Hotel Oriente, on Calle Espronceda, Intramuros, is it?”

“You bet it isn’t! This isn’t even Manila!” Suddenly a shiver ran down Butch’s spine. “Oh my God,” he said to himself. “What the hell is happening? Is this a ghost in front of me?!” His face turned pale and his eyes opened wide as if they would pop out. He looked behind him at the TV, then back at the man, and putting out his hands as if he might fall down, started backing up diagonally to the right, bare feet feeling their way across the plush beige carpet of his living and dining room, till the bookcase lining the wall behind the TV stopped his retreat. He leaned against it, staring rudely at the unexpected visitor.

The man who said he was Dr. Rizal also went through a change of expression. His face went blank for a moment and his right hand rose and reached for the pocket on the left side of his vest, that a gold chain looped into. He drew out a small wooden box, and looking down at it, pressed a dark metal button on its side and out popped a small dial, a watch.

“It can’t be,” he said, “my watch reads five o’clock, but…” he looked beyond Butch at the large glass doors that led out to a balcony, beyond which the sky above Makati was already dark and lit up with lights, of homes, of streets – “it is already night!” His forehead furrowed and his face took on an expression of alarm.

When he saw the man look at his watch Butch looked at his own in a reflex action and saw that it was just a few seconds past 8:00 in the evening.

“Sino ka!?” [Who are you?] Butch yelled at him, because he was now very frightened. His body coiled and his hands grabbed the polished dark wood of the bookcase behind him as if to steady himself.

The man’s face softened when he heard the words in Tagalog and said, holding out his right arm in a gentle gesture,
“Maginoo, cong ano man ang inyong pangalan, ipagpaumanhin at huwag matacot, sapagka’t aco rin ay nalilito’t lubos na nababagabag.”

Then he spoke again, this time in English, seeming to detect the young man’s state of near panic and the puzzlement on Butch’s face when he heard the phrases in old Tagalog. He spoke gently as though to reassure him, saying, once again: “My name is Dr. José Rizal. It would seem that something irregular and anomalous is happening at present. Please accept my apologies and do not fear. I mean you no harm, upon my honour.”

Butch noted that his English was really strange – it sounded stilted and false, as if he were reading from a script in a play, but he delivered his lines with complete naturalness, as if he spoke that way all time.

Finally Butch realized that it was no practical joke, and the man was not a robber. Could he be some kind of lunatic? He walked over to the intercom and buzzed the concierge. A voice answered,

“Yes sir?”

“Jaime, sino ang pinapasok ninyo na lalaking naka-amerkanang itim at may dalang sombrero?”

“Wala po kaming pinapasok, ser.”

“Ano? Eh di sino itong lalaking nakatayo sa living room ko?”


“Hindi po namin alam, ser -- Gusto po ninyong tawagin ang Sikyuriti?”

Butch looked at the man, who was quietly standing there and slowly looking around with an expression on his face that seemed a mix of surprise and…the faintest hint of amusement.

“Huwag na, okey lang,” and he let go of the speaker button. He turned to “Dr. Rizal”.

The “doctor” was now staring at the television.

“¡Qué maravilla!” he exclaimed softly.

“It’s called ‘television’,” Butch said, watching him cautiously and closely observing his every reaction.

Dr. Rizal turned to Butch with happy amazement. “Teh-leh-VEE-shon?” Then he was silent awhile, as if lost in thought, then asked, “Is it a type of reception apparatus?”

“Basically, yes.”

Dr. Rizal asked him the inevitable next question.

“When was such an apparatus invented?”

“A long way back, before it was ever sold to ordinary people like me. In 1922, more or less.”

“1922!
¡Madre mía! And what year is this?”

Butch looked at him steadily as he answered.

“2003. The 21st century.”

The man in the dark suit, the false collar over an immaculate white shirt, light blue silk tie with gold tiepin in the shape of a bee, visibly flinched when he heard the words. But he bounced back immediately. He had amazing aplomb, poise. A cool dude.

“Así es que…he viajado al futuro,” he said in a low voice.

“I don’t understand Spanish,” Butch told him.

“Ah, please excuse my rudeness. You speak English. So… May I sit down, please?” Dr. Rizal asked.

“Of course,” Butch gestured awkwardly to the sofa that was cluttered with the Sunday newspaper and DVD jewel cases, then rushed forward. “Please,” he added, after clearing away the mess.

Rizal sat down on one end of the huge sofa. He looked at the movie playing out on the screen. Now it was the scene in which the boy Rizal cried out as the Guardia Civil escorted his arrested mother out of their house.

“What is this story in images that you are watching, Mr. ….”

“My name is Butch Cojuangco…” Suddenly he felt he should be more formal, and added, “Fernando Cojuangco, but they call me Butch.”

“Bootch,” Rizal said, somewhat uncertainly.

“Yes, this is what we call a ‘movie’ – it’s about you.”

Goddamn, I’ve gone mad, Butch said to himself. But Jaime answered the intercom! And nothing had changed. But suddenly this personage had appeared who said he was Jose Rizal. Butch began to observe him with total attention. He did not look like most of the representations that circulated in books and the press. He was handsomer, though he did not have a “pretty” face; he had the rather broad, Malay nose, but he had very regular features, a squarish, determined-looking set in the jaw, and a very intelligent look in his eyes. His mouth was well shaped and his teeth, when he smiled, were even and white. He held himself erect, but not in a tense way. Well, after all, the man was an athlete, Butch said to himself. You could tell he was comfortable in his body, with who he was. The Filipino Superman.

Butch decided to play along with the bizarre thing that had happened, on any Sunday in his life when he was as usual, bored, and about to plunge back into the tense working routine of Monday. He had put on the movie Jose Rizal, one he had seen at least five times, but he had been paying more attention to it this time than usual. He decided to ask the authority about it. He had his doubts.

“About my person?” Rizal asked, and seemed amused. “Why would anyone go to the bother?”

“You’re the most important Filipino who ever lived,” Butch answered earnestly…then he realized Rizal was joking. He thought, “Does he even know he died?” He would have to be very careful. If they had met because a time warp catapulted Rizal into the future, he, Butch, had a responsibility not to tamper with Rizal’s consciousness. He was no Rizal scholar, but he remembered a few things about the national hero. Well, that he died. Obviously, this Rizal hadn’t died yet. He looked as real and alive as he, Butch, did. Except that his hand had felt cold…

“Am I indeed? Many Filipinos would tell you otherwise,” he responded, and the merest hint of sadness flitted across his face. “You are a Filipino, are you not? I am in my country, las Islas Filipinas, ¿no es verdad? Ah, pardon me, you said that you did not understand Spanish!”

“Please, no problem, I can understand some Spanish, yes, yes, you are in the Philippines…in Filipinas,” Butch added quickly.

“Might I have a beverage to drink, if you would be so kind?”

“Oh, surely, what would you like….ah, Coke? No, you don’t know what Coke is…Ah…coffee? Tea?” Of course, this Englishman-sounding Filipino would be used to drinking tea, or coffee.

“Yes, thank you very kindly, a cup of tea would be most welcome, especially as I feel rather cold.”

“For awhile, please,” Butch said, gesturing with his hands as he headed for the kitchen, as if to beg Rizal to stay there, and not go away.


As he nervously prepared a cup of tea as fast as he could, Butch’s mind buzzed as he tried to figure out how to deal with the strangest, most bizarre event of his life. Was he dreaming? Was this a nightmare? Some kind of black magic that someone had hired someone else to practice as revenge against him? He was amazed at himself, that he could even think such a thought! He was a postmodern dude, he wasn’t even interested in the past, in genealogy, any of those things! He was IT manager for his family’s investment firm – really a glorified computer nerd. He never bought books on history – in fact, he stayed away from them because they were so boring. They were written by people who seemed to have trouble saying anything straight out, and he was convinced it was because they had nothing to say. Philippine history was a bore. It was the Rizal movie that piqued his interest in Rizal again, because after all, the Noli was a fun book! It was fashionable to ignore everything connected to history these days, but he wasn’t one of those texting-crazed young kids, oblivious to anything but their toys and parties. He was an old guy of 33. Wanting to have space just to be. Not quite ready to get married and settle down. He’d do it eventually, but it would surely focus the family’s attention on him, which would mean a whole new level of pressure – and what he wanted and needed for a little longer, with all his soul, was simply to be left alone.

He put a teacup with water inside the microwave and hunted around for some decent tea. He found some Oolong, thank God, and green tea. Poking his head around the corner toward the living room – where he saw “Rizal” absorbed by the movie – he called out,

“Sr. Rizal – Would you like oolong, or green tea?”

“Oolong tea, please, thank you.”

He thought: this guy is English so I’d better bring him some milk too. And sugar.

He brought out the cup of tea, sugar and milk on a tray. Rizal saw him and smiled, looked back at the TV screen then looked away to speak to him.

“Thank you, yes, a bit of milk and sugar please.”

Butch sat down on the sofa a short distance from Rizal, placed the tray on top of the coffee table, put one teaspoon of sugar and a drop of milk in it, and handed the cup on a saucer to Rizal.

“Would you like anything else? Crackers? Biscuits?”

“No, thank you,” he answered gravely. Then,

“This ‘moo-vee’ as you call it, tells about my person?”

“Yes.”

“It seems that they have mixed up my biography with my books.”

“Yes, the director did that.”

“Why? It is rather confusing, is it not?”

“Well, yes, but I suppose it was an artistic device.”

“Ah, yes, a dramatic artifice.”

“Exactly.”

“But…now I am watching myself in prison, and it seems I am with my legal counselor.”

Gulp! He was going to see himself executed!

“Excuse me, Sr. Rizal, but I must turn this off now.” And Butch took the remote and turned the TV off.

Rizal looked at the remote with surprise.
“¡Formidable!” he exclaimed. “Con permiso,” he said, and took the remote from Butch’s hand.

“How did you do that?”

Butch showed him, and he began to switch the TV on and off. Then Butch showed him how to turn off the movie and switch to the channels. But Rizal seemed to lose interest suddenly and asked,

“What is the present situation of my – our – country?”

“Do you really want to know?” Butch replied. “No, you don’t want to know. I don’t want to be the one to tell you.”

“So,” Rizal said, in a low voice. “Everything I saw and tried to warn them against has come true, has it not.”

“I don’t know what you saw,” Butch answered.

“May I speak to you with complete frankness?” Rizal asked. He put down his cup of tea and sitting on the edge of the sofa turned his body toward Butch.

“Go ahead. What I know is a lot worse than anything you can tell me.”

“This moo-vee is very strange. Seeing it, I have a queer feeling that there is a great deal of ignorance and confusion in people’s minds.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I have not seen all of it. Perhaps I should see it completely before I confirm my intuition.”

Butch didn’t want him to watch his own future execution.

“Don’t worry, I know I will die,” he said, as if he had heard Butch speak aloud.

Butch looked at him in amazement. “Can you read my thoughts?”

“It isn’t difficult, my friend. I know what will happen to me. Though I had always clung to the hope that my worst fears would be proven false.”

“But how can you tell that just from seeing a little bit of a movie?” Butch asked.

Rizal answered, “It is merely an intuition, but…” he added, though seemingly with reluctance to reveal something so intimate, “…I have been cursed -- or blessed -- with a very strong one.”

Suddenly he asked Butch, out of the blue, “Are you fond of reading literature, poetry?”

“I used to read literature as a kid because I had to. American literature. And poetry – well, some Tagalog, we had to read Plorante at Laura in high school, and of course, American poetry.”

“You don’t study any other kind of literature? No Spanish literature? French? English?”

“No, unless you seek it out on your own.”

“Ah, I see…and you have attended the university, have you not?”

“Yes, I studied Economics, then Computers.”

“Com-pi-YU-ters?”

“They’re machines with circuits that do this,” he punched the buttons on the remote – “And just about everything today uses computers.”

“Do women die of childbirth?”

“No, not anymore, unless they are way out in the boondocks where there are no doctors.”

“BUUN-docs? Bundók?”

“Right.”

“The word is now an English word?”

“Yes. The Americans adopted it.”

“Ah…” He looked past Butch as if he had seen something far away. “Was there great suffering? Under the Americans, I mean.”

“Suffering? No! The Americans modernized the Philippines! They were our saviors.”

Rizal flashed a look at him.

“What do you mean by ‘saviors’ – the Americans saved Filipinas?”

“Oh, sorry – I mean the Americans saved the Philippines from the Japanese invasion during World War II. --- That was in 1945,” he added, realizing that Rizal had no idea.

“But that was in 1945. What happened before? Was Filipinas still under Spain? Did Japan invade Filipinas and the United States saved her because Spain was unable?”

“Nooo….the United States became our rulers after Spain.” Then, because he didn’t want to bring it up but had to say something, he explained, “It happened at the beginning of the 20th century.”

“I see. And the Tagalog Revolt?”

“What do you mean?”

“Was there no armed revolution by the Tagalogs?”

“Yes there was.” Butch was silent and looked down at the carpet. “It didn’t work. Just like you said in El Filibusterismo.”

“Therefore Filipinas did not liberate herself.”

“Well yes, she did!” Butch protested. “It just happened a bit later – in 1946 we were declared a Republic by the United States! We were the first democracy in Asia!”

Rizal stared at him, aghast. His entire body went rigid. Butch had expected him to be pleased, and was startled by the reaction.

But Rizal did not explain. He realized that Butch had not expected his reaction and recovered his calm.

“And this is why you speak English today?”

“Exactly.”

“What about Spanish? It was forgotten?”

“Oh, the Filipinos never spoke Spanish.”

This time Rizal became livid. He stood up suddenly, looking down at Butch with anger in his eyes. Suddenly he was no longer short, he towered above Butch, who realized that he had committed some kind of serious
faux pas.

“¡Qué estupidez! Who has told you such a lie?”

Butch held out his hands in a gesture to defend himself from Rizal’s ire, or to calm him down.

“But this is what my family told me, what my teachers taught me. It’s what our historians, journalists say – everybody says it!”

“And your grandparents? Did they not speak Spanish? What did they tell you?”

“My grandparents? Well, my mother spoke a little Spanish, her parents spoke Spanish. So did my father’s grandfather. But you know, we were always told that only 6% of the Filipinos spoke Spanish….” Then he added something he had never really given much thought to. “My grandparents never spoke of the past.”

Rizal, who had been pacing on the plush beige carpet of the spacious living room, now stopped and turned to Butch. His eyes glittered like polished black marble.

“Do you know that the friars must be very happy now?” Rizal told him with bitter irony in his voice.

Then he added, “And the Church? Tell me, is the Church still all-powerful in this land?”

Butch was silent.

“What about the rich? Ah – don’t tell me, there is no need. If all of you speak English today, and you only study –“

Butch interrupted him – “But we speak Tagalog -- English is only our official language for communications with the outside world, we are giving emphasis to Tagalog now! Well, it’s actually Tagalog, but now it’s called ‘Filipino’.”

Rizal smiled. “So now a Filipino, who is an inhabitant of Filipinas, has a national language that is also called Filipino? But does this mean then that the other languages are not deserving of the term ‘Filipino’? Why the insistence on one dominant language, when we have so many? Language is wealth, and if you imply by this that the Filipino only has one true national language, you are advocating cultural impoverishment! Aside from this, I know that the other regions with their languages must take exception to such a forcing – for, with all due respect, it reeks of favoritism. Oh la la, ça va mal, ça va très mal... ”

As he said this he approached the bookcase and began to survey the titles there, quickly. He turned to Butch and asked:

“Despite what you say, you do not seem to have any books here in Tagalog -- or “Filipino” as you call it -- or in any other language. All I see are books in English.”

“There are newspapers, movies, radio shows in Taga – I mean, Filipino.”

“And do you read those newspapers?” He looked at the pile of papers – “Is that newspaper in -- a pause -- ‘Filipino’?”

“No.”

Rizal walked slowly back until he stood in front of Butch.

“Do you believe that I wrote my books only for the Spaniards?”

“I don’t know, Lolo José,” Butch replied. For some inexplicable reason, his eyes started to tear. There was something in the presence of the man that moved him, that made him feel different. He began to sense things that his rational mind could not, could never compute. “Lolo José” jumped out of his mouth, he did not know where from.

He volunteered more information that he thought Rizal would approve.

“The Filipinos still read
Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Lolo.”

“In Spanish? In ‘Filipino’? Or only in English?” he asked bitterly.

“Lolo…a famous writer who is known as a nationalist, once wrote in a news column that you would have favored the change of language to English, because you spoke English.”

“¡Qué ridiculez! Yes, indeed I speak English – but I would never consent to speak English on the condition that I abjure Spanish! Ah! So the persecutors are alive and well in Filipinas, I see! The persecutors of culture and education!”

“But Lolo José, we hated the Spanish, and we hated the arrogant, rich Spanish mestizos! Look at me!” -- and Butch found himself saying things he had never said to anyone in his life – “I am Chinese!! What’s worse, I have the name of Chinese billionaires and people think I am an oligarch, but I’m not. I reject the belief that Chinese Filipinos are Chinese first and last! I don’t want to continue that! I am a Filipino! But even my fellow Filipinos discriminate against me, even if they don’t say it to my face. Is it my fault that I was born to a well-off Chinese family? We worked hard to become who we are, to have what we have!”

Butch stopped speaking abruptly, somewhat shocked at his own outburst. He had noticed how Rizal, as he spoke, had scanned his body with his gaze, slowly and calmly. For a long moment, there was silence between the two men. Rizal’s habitual tone of tranquilness had returned, and Butch quickly felt it come over him as well. There was now a detached kindness in Rizal’s eyes.

“It is not your fault,” he said slowly, with tiredness in his voice. “However, there is still an historical debt to pay. The Chinese in my time do not love anything but themselves. And because they do not love, they are not loved. I have thought it over many times, why these conflictive relationships amongst the many ethnic groups plague my land…and I have reached one conclusion only: because we must all learn that conflict and contempt can only destroy us and this wondrous Motherland.”

Butch began to cry. Tears rolled own his cheeks and he was helpless to stop them. “I am sorry, Lolo José. Please forgive me. Please forgive my parents…my grandparents.”

Rizal remained standing, looking down at Butch, who sat upright on the sofa and had covered his face with both hands.

“Sosiéguese muchacho. Tranquilo. Let me ask you this: if I did not speak English, could you talk to me now? Could we have this conversation in Tagalog, for example?”

Butch had wiped his eyes with Rizal’s paper napkin and looked up with a sheepish smile.

“No, Lolo. My Tagalog sucks. I only speak Taglish.”

Rizal’s face went blank and registered puzzlement.

“Tag-LEESH?
¿Qué es eso?”

“It’s a mixture of Tagalog and English, Lolo.” Butch looked down as he spoke.

“Raise your head. Look at me when you speak to me,
hijo.”

Rizal walked over to a chair by the dining room set, took it over to where Butch was sitting on the sofa and sat down on it, his legs circling the backrest.

Calmly, he said: “Spanish is your language. Much more than English.”

Butch gave a start, his eyes wide open with surprise and something of indignation.

“But it’s the language of the oppressors, Lolo, this is what we were and are still taught in school.”

“Oppressors oppress without any need of speaking a special language for oppressing anyone. You with your com-piYU-ters – where do these com-piYU-ters come from? I imagine they have content – what is that content? Who decides what that content will be? These MOO-vees, this ridiculous story of my life and my novels – who decided to tell that story in such a way that even I cannot understand? It is clear to me, even as I sit here, that these marvelous machines have tricks, they play tricks on the mind. The language they speak in is the least of concerns. One knows when one is lied to. And if one no longer knows, then one has been taught not to know the difference between lies and truth.”

Butch got an idea, and excitement lit up his face.

“Lolo, would you go to the TV station with me to talk to the Filipinos tomorrow?”

His rational mind had suddenly intruded in on the spell with a practical consideration. He had to do something to somehow make it possible to share what was happening here with others.

“TV station? What is that?” Rizal asked. Another unknown term of this fascinating future world.

Butch waved his arms about, enthused.

“So that you could come out in that big box and talk to all the Filipinos watching at that moment, and tell them the things I have learned from you tonight.”

Rizal glanced at the TV and was silent. Then he answered, to Butch’s disappointment, “I cannot.”

“Why?”

“Because you must do it. This is your time, not mine. I must go back and fulfill my part.”

Brushing aside his disappointment – though at the same time Butch knew such a thing could only happen in a fairy tale, besides which, it would surely upset his entire life -- Can you imagine what the family would think? It would violate the iron-clad law of the Chinese Filipino colony: Invisibility. – he found another burning question and struck.

“How did you arrive here, Lolo? By what magic?”

Rizal was silent for a long moment before he replied.

“I remember that I went out for a stroll to the Luneta…I do not know what Intramuros looks like today, or the Luneta…I expect there have been many new edifications…”

“Intramuros was carpet bombed by the Americans in 1945, Lolo.”

Dios mío. Carpet-bombed. I think I can see what that means in my imagination. And what of La Hermita, Tondo, Binondo?”

“Not as badly. But you wouldn’t recognize any of those places today.”

Rizal looked down and continued speaking, as if describing something from long memory:

“Outside the walls of Intramuros there is Luneta,
el Campo de Bagunbayan, and the Malecón where people promenade on foot, on horseback or in carriages, by the sea, along the beach. Manila is one of the loveliest cities in the Orient, much lovelier than Singapore or Hong Kong. Intramuros is somewhat crowded and so many buildings and lack of greenery make it unpleasant in the hot season. But it has many fine churches with spires, old houses, schools, cafés and hotels. And the río Pasig is a beautiful river where the people still fish and swim.”

“It’s filthy today, the water is black and pestilential. Though there have been efforts to clean it up, dredge it…”

“How sad that the Filipinos have not known how to take care of their own treasures.”

“Even I can remember that as a boy, Manila was much more beautiful than today.”

Butch realized that he had interrupted Rizal and added, “Please go on, Lolo. What do you remember...”

“I was walking along the
Malecón, it was a lovely afternoon and there were only a few carriages and strollers about. An old woman suddenly appeared, it seemed from nowhere, she appeared to be one of those street vendors that are very common all over Manila and in every city, town and village, women who walk about with a folded cloth on their heads and a basket under their arm. I thought that she was perhaps selling cakes, cuchintá or poto. She had a pleasant expression, her clothing was clean and decent, and she was walking toward me from the opposite direction. That is, she was walking toward the sea; I was returning to my hotel. As we passed each other, she suddenly said in a low voice within my hearing, as though addressing me but not daring to speak directly, “¡Dios le bendiga, Dios se lo pague!” This means: May God bless and repay you! And at one and the same moment, she did something quite curious: she knelt beside me, covered her head with the cloth, and took something out of the basket and offered it to me with both hands, as she kept her eyes to the ground.

“I told her, ‘Rise, elder sister,’” but she merely held up her hands, and I understood it was an offering. I then saw in her cupped palms a tiny booklet and I recognized it – it was an
anting-anting, such as the tulisanes are known to wear around their necks inside a tiny cloth bag. Inside such booklets are prayers in garbled Latin and gibberish to guard against all manner of dangers – against poisonous snakebites, the bullets of the Guardia Civil, unfaithful women, ill-intentioned neighbors, and so on. She was offering me the amulet.”

Butch was no longer in Makati City in 2003. He was on the
Malecón, watching an old woman kneel before a Hispanic-Filipino gentleman – his hero, the hero of all Filipinos.

Rizal continued.

“I then said to her,
‘Bakit po ninyo ibinibigay ito sa aquin?’ And I looked around to see if there might be a Guardia Civil patrol in the vicinity, or even curious passersby, but we were strangely alone. She said that she recognized me, because she had seen me in Calamba, where she had relatives. And that all the people feared for my safety because it was said that the friars were taking revenge against all my family, and especially against me.

“Naturally to reassure her I told her, ‘No need to give me this, kind older sister, I am safe.’ But she would not move. ‘Take it, my son,’ she said, ‘On page 103 you will find a prayer to see the future of those you love.’

“This of course opened up my curiosity. I have studied native Filipino superstitions at some depth, as well as the work of healers and sorcerers. My curiosity got the better of me, and besides, such anting-anting are extremely rare. I pretended to be amused and accepted her offering, also so that we should not call attention and perhaps get in trouble – especially the old lady. Besides which, I suspected that I was being followed.

“And so I took the booklet and dropped it in my coat pocket.”

At that moment he seemed to remember it was there and he patted his pockets. He found something in the left one. It was the booklet!

Rizal handed it to Butch. It was the size of a large scapular and quite thick, its pages thin bluish paper with tiny, neat writing in black ink. Butch opened the miniature pages and saw strange drawings and writing in a mixture that looked like Latin and native language. Butch opened it at random and read:

b R G t
l b x t
______

I l c g
s l b s

_ _ _ _ _

Sanen bog ca lot nitan
biniagan say ngaranto
Sionto sia

Say Dasalen 3 Pdre
Nuestro Saquey a siac
nebos trebolacionis
Amin


“It’s nonsense,” Butch said.

“She had told me to read the prayer on page 103 to see the future of my loved ones. I put the booklet in my pocket and of a sudden -- she was gone. I walked back to Hotel Oriente, turning over the odd encounter in my mind, and once I was inside the lobby and had climbed the stairs to the second floor where my rooms were, I felt safe enough to take the booklet out of my pocket. Curiosity did me in – I opened it to page 103 just as I reached the door to my room. And that is all I remember. Suddenly I was in front of that door.” He pointed to the door to Butch’s apartment.

“I see. I don’t dare look at page 103,” Butch said. He gave Rizal back the booklet, and it was returned to the coat pocket.

“I imagine there is only a certain amount of time I shall be here,” Rizal said.

At the mention of time, Butch once again looked at his watch in a reflex action, and got a shock: It was two thirty in the morning! He looked back at Rizal as he quickly asked:

“You mean, you’ll be going back again at some point….?”

The question was left hanging in mid-air. Butch was alone.

Putangina! Butch shot up from the sofa like a pebble triggered by a slingshot, crying out in wrenching distress.

He was gone!

Butch ran through the entire apartment to see whether Lolo José hadn’t just materialized in some other room. He was nowhere.

With a heavy step and in a daze, Butch walked back to the living room.

Suddenly a thought flitted into his mind and he looked at the sofa.

The bowler hat was still there, like a visiting card.

The End


La visita de Rizal

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