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Noli Me Tangere Quarter-Centennial Series
Edited by Austin Craig
A CENTURY HENCE
By JOSÉ RIZAL
Philippine Education Company
"In the Philippine Islands the American government has
tried, and is trying, to carry out exactly what the
greatest genius and most revered patriot ever known in
the Philippines, José Rizal, steadfastly advocated."
- From a public address at Fargo, N.D., on April
7th. 1903, by the President of the United States.
As "Filipinas dentro de Cien Años", this article was originally
published serially in the Filipino fortnightly review "La Solidaridad",
of Madrid, running through the issues from September, 1889, to
It supplements Rizal's great novel "Noli Me Tangere" and its sequel
"El Filibusterismo", and the translation here given is fortunately by
Mr. Charles Derbyshire who in his "The Social Cancer" and "The Reign
of Greed" has so happily rendered into English those masterpieces
The reference which Doctor Rizal makes to President Harrison had in
mind the grandson-of-his-grandfather's blundering, wavering policy
that, because of a groundless fear of infringing the natives' natural
rights, put his country in the false light of wanting to share in
Samoa's exploitation, taking the leonine portion, too, along with
Germany and England.
Robert Louis Stevenson has told the story of the unhappy
condition created by that disastrous international agreement
which was achieved by the dissembling diplomats of greedy Europe
flattering unsophisticated America into believing that two monarchies
preponderating in an alliance with a republic would be fairer than
the republic acting unhampered.
In its day the scheme was acclaimed by irrational idealists as a
triumph of American abnegation and an example of modern altruism. It
resulted that "the international agreement" became a constant cause
of international disagreements, as any student of history could have
foretold, until, disgusted and disillusioned, the United States
tardily recalled Washington's warning against entanglements with
foreign powers and became a party to a real partition, but this time
playing the lamb's part. England was compensated with concessions
in other parts of the world, the United States was "given" what it
already held under a cession twenty-seven years old, - and Germany
took the rest as her emperor had planned from the start.
There is this Philippine bearing to the incident that the same stripe
of unpractical philanthropists, not discouraged at having forced
the Samoans under the ungentle German rule - for their victims and not
themselves suffer by their mistakes, are seeking now the neutralization
by international agreement of the Archipelago for which Rizal gave
his life. Their success would mean another "entangling alliance"
for the United States, with six allies, or nine including Holland,
China and Spain, if the "great republic" should be allowed by the
diplomats of the "Great Powers" to invite these nonentities in world
politics, with whom she would still be outvoted.
Rizal's reference to America as a possible factor in the Philippines'
future is based upon the prediction of the German traveller Feodor
Jagor, who about 1860 spent a number of months in the Islands and later
published his observations, supplemented by ten years of further study
in European libraries and museums, as "Travels in the Philippines",
to use the title of the English translation, - a very poor one, by the
way. Rizal read the much better Spanish version while a student in the
Ateneo de Manila, from a copy supplied by Paciano Rizal Mercado who
directed his younger brother's political education and transferred to
José the hopes which had been blighted for himself by the execution of
his beloved teacher, Father Burgos, in the Cavite alleged insurrection.
Jagor's prophecy furnishes the explanation to Rizal's public life. His
policy of preparing his countrymen for industrial and commercial
competition seems to have had its inspiration in this reading done
when he was a youth in years but mature in fact through close contact
with tragic public events as well as with sensational private sorrows.
When in Berlin, Doctor Rizal met Professor Jagor, and the distinguished
geographer and his youthful but brilliant admirer became fast friends,
often discussing how the progress of events was bringing true the
fortune for the Philippines which the knowledge of its history and the
acquaintance with its then condition had enabled the trained observer
to foretell with that same certainty that the meteorologist foretells
the morrow's weather.
A like political acumen Rizal tried to develop in his countrymen. He
republished Morga's History (first published in Mexico in 1609) to
recall their past. Noli Me Tangere painted their present, and in El
Filibusterismo was sketched the future which continuance upon their
then course must bring. "The Philippines A Century Hence" suggests
other possibilities, and seems to have been the initial issue in the
series of ten which Rizal planned to print, one a year, to correct the
misunderstanding of his previous writings which had come from their
being known mainly by the extracts cited in the censors' criticism.
José Rizal in life voiced the aspirations of his countrymen and as
the different elements in his divided native land recognized that
these were the essentials upon which all were agreed and that their
points of difference among themselves were not vital, dissension
disappeared and there came an united Philippines. Now, since his death,
the fact that both continental and insular Americans look to him as
their hero makes possible the hope that misunderstandings based on
differences as to details may cease when Filipinos recognize that
the American Government in the Philippines, properly approached,
is willing to grant all that Rizal considered important, and when
Americans understand that the people of the Philippines, unaccustomed
to the frank discussions of democracy, would be content with so little
even as Rizal asked of Spain if only there were some salve for their
unwittingly wounded amor propio.
A better knowledge of the writings of José Rizal may accomplish this
"I do not write for this generation. I am writing for other
ages. If this could read me, they would burn my books, the
work of my whole life. On the other hand, the generation which
interprets these writings will be an educated generation; they
will understand me and say: 'Not all were asleep in the night-time
of our grandparents'."
- The Philosopher Tasio, in Noli Me Tangere.
The Prophecy Which Prompted Rizal's Policy of Preparation
For the Philippines
This extract is translated from Pages 287-289 of "Reisen in den
Philippinen von F. Jagor: Berlin 1873".
"The old situation is no longer possible of maintenance, with the
changed conditions of the present time.
"The colony can no longer be kept secluded from the world. Every
facility afforded for commercial intercourse is a blow to the old
system, and a great step made in the direction of broad and liberal
reforms. The more foreign capital and foreign ideas and customs
are introduced, increasing the prosperity, enlightenment, and self
respect of the population, the more impatiently will the existing
evils be endured.
"England can and does open her possessions unconcernedly to the
world. The British colonies are united to the mother country by the
bond of mutual advantage, viz., the production of raw material by
means of English capital, and the exchange of the same for English
manufactures. The wealth of England is so great, the organization of
her commerce with the world so complete, that nearly all the foreigners
even in the British possessions are for the most part agents for
English business houses, which would scarcely be affected, at least
to any marked extent, by a political dismemberment. It is entirely
different with Spain, which possesses the colony as an inherited
property, and without the power of turning it to any useful account.
"Government monopolies rigorously maintained, insolent disregard
and neglect of the half-castes and powerful creoles, and the example
of the United States, were the chief reasons of the downfall of the
American possessions. The same causes threaten ruin to the Philippines;
but of the monopolies I have said enough.
"Half-castes and creoles, it is true, are not, as they formerly were
in America, excluded from all official appointments; but they feel
deeply hurt and injured through the crowds of place-hunters which
the frequent changes of Ministers send to Manila.
"Also the influence of American elements is at least discernible
on the horizon, and will come more to the front as the relations of
the two countries grow closer. At present these are still of little
importance; in the meantime commerce follows its old routes, which
lead to England and the Atlantic ports of the Union. Nevertheless,
he who attempts to form a judgment as to the future destiny of the
Philippines cannot fix his gaze only on their relations to Spain;
he must also consider the mighty changes which within a few decades
are being effected on that side of our planet. For the first time in
the world's history, the gigantic nations on both sides of a gigantic
ocean are beginning to come into direct intercourse: Russia, which
alone is greater than two divisions of the world together; China,
which within her narrow bounds contains a third of the human race;
America, with cultivable soil enough to support almost three times
the entire population of the earth. Russia's future rôle in the
Pacific Ocean at present baffles all calculations. The intercourse
of the two other powers will probably have all the more important
consequences when the adjustment between the immeasurable necessity
for human labor-power on the one hand, and a correspondingly great
surplus of that power on the other, shall fall on it as a problem."
"The world of the ancients was confined to the shores of the
Mediterranean; and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans sufficed at one
time for our traffic. When first the shores of the Pacific re-echoed
with the sounds of active commerce, the trade of the world and the
history of the world may be really said to have begun. A start in that
direction has been made; whereas not so very long ago the immense ocean
was one wide waste of waters, traversed from both points only once a
year. From 1603 to 1769 scarcely a ship had ever visited California,
that wonderful country which, twenty-five years ago, with the exception
of a few places on the coast, was an unknown wilderness, but which is
now covered with flourishing and prosperous towns and cities, divided
from sea to sea by a railway, and its capital already ranking among
the world's greatest seaports.
"But in proportion as the commerce of the western coast of America
extends the influence of the American elements over the South Sea, the
ensnaring spell which the great republic exercises over the Spanish
colonies will not fail to assert itself in the Philippines also. The
Americans appear to be called upon to bring the germ planted by the
Spaniards to its full development. As conquerors of the New World,
representatives of the body of free citizens in contradistinction to
the nobility, they follow with the axe and plow of the pioneer where
the Spaniards had opened the way with cross and sword. A considerable
part of Spanish America already belongs to the United States, and has,
since that occurred, attained an importance which could not have been
anticipated either during Spanish rule or during the anarchy which
ensued after and from it. In the long run, the Spanish system cannot
prevail over the American. While the former exhausts the colonies
through direct appropriation of them to the privileged classes, and
the metropolis through the drain of its best forces (with, besides, a
feeble population), America draws to itself the most energetic element
from all lands; and these on her soil, free from all trammels, and
restlessly pushing forward, are continually extending further her
power and influence. The Philippines will so much the less escape
the influence of the two great neighboring empires, since neither
the islands nor their metropolis are in a condition of stable
equilibrium. It seems desirable for the natives that the opinions
here expressed shall not too soon be realized as facts, for their
training thus far has not sufficiently prepared them for success in
the contest with those restless, active, most inconsiderate peoples;
they have dreamed away their youth."
THE PHILIPPINES A CENTURY HENCE
Following our usual custom of facing squarely the most difficult and
delicate questions relating to the Philippines, without weighing the
consequences that our frankness may bring upon us, we shall in the
present article treat of their future.
In order to read the destiny of a people, it is necessary to open
the book of its past, and this, for the Philippines, may be reduced
in general terms to what follows.
Scarcely had they been attached to the Spanish crown than they had to
sustain with their blood and the efforts of their sons the wars and
ambitions of conquest of the Spanish people, and in these struggles,
in that terrible crisis when a people changes its form of government,
its laws, usages, customs, religion and beliefs the Philippines were
depopulated, impoverished and retarded - caught in their metamorphosis,
without confidence in their past, without faith in their present and
with no fond hope for the years to come. The former rulers who had
merely endeavored to secure the fear and submission of their subjects,
habituated by them to servitude, fell like leaves from a dead tree, and
the people, who had no love for them nor knew what liberty was, easily
changed masters, perhaps hoping to gain something by the innovation.
Then began a new era for the Filipinos. They gradually lost their
ancient traditions, their recollections - they forgot their writings,
their songs, their poetry, their laws, in order to learn by heart
other doctrines, which they did not understand, other ethics,
other tastes, different from those inspired in their race by their
climate and their way of thinking. Then there was a falling-off,
they were lowered in their own eyes, they became ashamed of what was
distinctively their own, in order to admire and praise what was foreign
and incomprehensible: their spirit was broken and they acquiesced.
Thus years and centuries rolled on. Religious shows, rites that
caught the eye, songs, lights, images arrayed with gold, worship in
a strange language, legends, miracles and sermons, hypnotized the
already naturally superstitious spirit of the country, but did not
succeed in destroying it altogether, in spite of the whole system
afterwards developed and operated with unyielding tenacity.
When the ethical abasement of the inhabitants had reached this stage,
when they had become disheartened and disgusted with themselves,
an effort was made to add the final stroke for reducing so many
dormant wills and intellects to nothingness, in order to make of
the individual a sort of toiler, a brute, a beast of burden, and to
develop a race without mind or heart. Then the end sought was revealed,
it was taken for granted, the race was insulted, an effort was made
to deny it every virtue, every human characteristic, and there were
even writers and priests who pushed the movement still further by
trying to deny to the natives of the country not only capacity for
virtue but also even the tendency to vice.
Then this which they had thought would be death was sure
salvation. Some dying persons are restored to health by a heroic
So great endurance reached its climax with the insults, and the
lethargic spirit woke to life. His sensitiveness, the chief trait of
the native, was touched, and while he had had the forbearance to suffer
and die under a foreign flag, he had it not when they whom he served
repaid his sacrifices with insults and jests. Then he began to study
himself and to realize his misfortune. Those who had not expected this
result, like all despotic masters, regarded as a wrong every complaint,
every protest, and punished it with death, endeavoring thus to stifle
every cry of sorrow with blood, and they made mistake after mistake.
The spirit of the people was not thereby cowed, and even though it had
been awakened in only a few hearts, its flame nevertheless was surely
and consumingly propagated, thanks to abuses and the stupid endeavors
of certain classes to stifle noble and generous sentiments. Thus when
a flame catches a garment, fear and confusion propagate it more and
more, and each shake, each blow, is a blast from the bellows to fan
it into life.
Undoubtedly during all this time there were not lacking generous and
noble spirits among the dominant race that tried to struggle for the
rights of humanity and justice, or sordid and cowardly ones among
the dominated that aided the debasement of their own country. But
both were exceptions and we are speaking in general terms.
Such is an outline of their past. We know their present. Now, what
will their future be?
Will the Philippine Islands continue to be a Spanish colony, and if
so, what kind of colony? Will they become a province of Spain, with
or without autonomy? And to reach this stage, what kind of sacrifices
will have to be made?
Will they be separated from the mother country to live independently,
to fall into the hands of other nations, or to ally themselves with
It is impossible to reply to these questions, for to all of them
both yes and no may be answered, according to the time desired to be
covered. When there is in nature no fixed condition, how much less
must there be in the life of a people, beings endowed with mobility
and movement! So it is that in order to deal with these questions, it
is necessary to presume an unlimited period of time, and in accordance
therewith try to forecast future events.
What will become of the Philippines within a century? Will they
continue to be a Spanish colony?
Had this question been asked three centuries ago, when at Legazpi's
death the Malayan Filipinos began to be gradually undeceived and,
finding the yoke heavy, tried in vain to shake it off, without
any doubt whatsoever the reply would have been easy. To a spirit
enthusiastic over the liberty of the country, to those unconquerable
Kagayanes who nourished within themselves the spirit of the Magalats,
to the descendants of the heroic Gat Pulintang and Gat Salakab of
the Province of Batangas, independence was assured, it was merely a
question of getting together and making a determined effort. But for
him who, disillusioned by sad experience, saw everywhere discord and
disorder, apathy and brutalization in the lower classes, discouragement
and disunion in the upper, only one answer presented itself, and it
was: extend his hands to the chains, bow his neck beneath the yoke and
accept the future with the resignation of an invalid who watches the
leaves fall and foresees a long winter amid whose snows he discerns the
outlines of his grave. At that time discord justified pessimism - but
three centuries passed, the neck had become accustomed to the yoke,
and each new generation, begotten in chains, was constantly better
adapted to the new order of things.
Now, then, are the Philippines in the same condition they were three
For the liberal Spaniards the ethical condition of the people
remains the same, that is, the native Filipinos have not advanced;
for the friars and their followers the people have been redeemed from
savagery, that is, they have progressed; for many Filipinos ethics,
spirit and customs have decayed, as decay all the good qualities of
a people that falls into slavery that is, they have retrograded.
Laying aside these considerations, so as not to get away from our
subject, let us draw a brief parallel between the political situation
then and the situation at present, in order to see if what was not
possible at that time can be so now, or vice versa.
Let us pass over the loyalty the Filipinos may feel for Spain;
let us suppose for a moment, along with Spanish writers, that there
exist only motives for hatred and jealousy between the two races;
let us admit the assertions flaunted by many that three centuries
of domination have not awakened in the sensitive heart of the native
a single spark of affection or gratitude; and we may see whether or
not the Spanish cause has gained ground in the Islands.
Formerly the Spanish authority was upheld among the natives by a
handful of soldiers, three to five hundred at most, many of whom were
engaged in trade and were scattered about not only in the Islands but
also among the neighboring nations, occupied in long wars against
the Mohammedans in the south, against the British and Dutch, and
ceaselessly harassed by Japanese, Chinese, or some tribe in the
interior. Then communication with Mexico and Spain was slow, rare
and difficult; frequent and violent the disturbances among the ruling
powers in the Islands, the treasury nearly always empty, and the life
of the colonists dependent upon one frail ship that handled the Chinese
trade. Then the seas in those regions were infested with pirates,
all enemies of the Spanish name, which was defended by an improvised
fleet, generally manned by rude adventurers, when not by foreigners
and enemies, as happened in the expedition of Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas,
which was checked and frustrated by the mutiny of the Chinese rowers,
who killed him and thwarted all his plans and schemes. Yet in spite of
so many adverse circumstances the Spanish authority has been upheld
for more than three centuries and, though it has been curtailed,
still continues to rule the destinies of the Philippine group.
On the other hand, the present situation seems to be gilded and
rosy - as we might say, a beautiful morning compared to the vexed and
stormy night of the past. The material forces at the disposal of
the Spanish sovereign have now been trebled; the fleet relatively
improved; there is more organization in both civil and military
affairs; communication with the sovereign country is swifter and surer;
she has no enemies abroad; her possession is assured; and the country
dominated seems to have less spirit, less aspiration for independence,
a word that is to it almost incomprehensible. Everything then at
first glance presages another three centuries, at least, of peaceful
domination and tranquil suzerainty.
But above the material considerations are arising others, invisible,
of an ethical nature, far more powerful and transcendental.
Orientals, and the Malays in particular, are a sensitive people:
delicacy of sentiment is predominant with them. Even now, in spite
of contact with the occidental nations, who have ideals different
from his, we see the Malayan Filipino sacrifice everything - liberty,
ease, welfare, name, for the sake of an aspiration or a conceit,
sometimes scientific, or of some other nature, but at the least word
which wounds his self-love he forgets all his sacrifices, the labor
expended, to treasure in his memory and never forget the slight he
thinks he has received.
So the Philippine peoples have remained faithful during three
centuries, giving up their liberty and their independence, sometimes
dazzled by the hope of the Paradise promised, sometimes cajoled by
the friendship offered them by a noble and generous people like the
Spanish, sometimes also compelled by superiority of arms of which
they were ignorant and which timid spirits invested with a mysterious
character, or sometimes because the invading foreigner took advantage
of intestine feuds to step in as the peacemaker in discord and thus