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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rizal and his Love Letters


MANILA, Philippines - Judging from the number of his girl friends (ten at least), José Rizal must have been a world class love letter-writer.

The deleted chapter of Noli me Tángere (“Elías y Salomé”) hints at the hero’s modus operandi. The text is in the handwritten manuscript (in Spanish) but not in the published work. What follows is romantic me, reading.

Salomé is 17-20 years old, graceful, attractive, lively. Elías is the strong, silent type and Salomé has a hard time prying anything out. And there is a lot to tell—he was among the boatmen who rowed María Clara and her barkada on a lake picnic; he caught a crocodile and would be dead had Ibarra not dived in support. Salomé asks about those present, what happened, etc., etc., and gets her answer, “they went … fished … sang … enjoyed …”

Elías bids goodbye as evening approaches. Salomé also says farewell—recently orphaned, she has decided to stay with relatives in Mindoro. It is not proper, she says, for a single girl like her to live alone although, “to leave the home where one was born and raised is almost like dying … the flowers, the garden, my doves, to abandon all to the mercy of typhoon and flood.”

Elías asks if he had ever behaved out of turn and she replies, “No, no, …. If only I could erase you from my thoughts. … All day and all night, I await the afternoon hour when we’re together. Before I met you … mornings and evenings were the best of times in God’s creation. Mornings for I see the rising sun reflected on the lake where my father rests, when I greet my flowers, doves and chickens … Evenings because they give me rest, allow me to forget reality and dream to the music of whispering bamboos …

“But after I met you, mornings and evenings lost enchantment. Now, afternoons alone are wondrous, as if mornings were created as prelude to the happiness of afternoons, and evenings meant to savor afternoon memories. If only such would never end. God knows that I am content with my lot. I ask no more than health enough to work, … I envy no one for I have your affection.”

Elías repeats what she already knows—how his grandparents, parents and he and his sister suffered for a crime his grandfather did not commit, how their love will be blamed for the sufferings will also doubtless befall their own children.

“Then,” sighs the tearful Salomé, “when I am gone, make this your home. Stay here and remember me. And from wherever I am, I would not think of my home as forlorn and in ruin, but as standing and sheltering you, my beloved. Sleep here where I have lain and dreamed ... It would be as if I were still here, by your side.”

A final embrace and Elías vanishes in the evening shadows, the sound of his footsteps slowly fading.

Now tell me, what nubile young lass can resist such lines?


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