Rizal’s Execution in the Eyes of a Guardia Civil

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By Robby Tantingco

Peanut Gallery

Monday, September 19, 2011


LAST WEEK, I chanced upon a rare eyewitness account of the execution of Jose Rizal. It was told by Blas Hizon, a member of the Guardia Civil who was assigned to play the bugle during the execution.

Hizon, a native of Binanongan, Rizal, was rocked with so much guilt that he defected to the Katipunan the very next day. Twelve years later, in 1908, he finally told his story to writer-lexicographer Antonio K. Abad of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, whose second wife Leticia Palad was a Kapampangan from Floridablanca.

I read Hizon’s story in a commemorative pamphlet published by the Knights of Rizal-Pasig Chapter in 1968, during the national hero’s 72nd death anniversary. Apparently, the article never made it to any national publication, which explains why no recent historian picked it up and why you won’t find it on Google (but I may be wrong).

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If you want a photocopy of the original text (in Tagalog), you may contact me at the Center for Kapampangan Studies. I want to share it so that you’d feel what I felt when I first read it.

Like you, I grew up being fed the same old clichés about our national hero; so that by the time I reached college I thought I already knew everything there was to know about Rizal, which was why I just ignored books containing new research about him.

I am glad that on his sesquicentennial birth anniversary, I rediscovered Rizal. It took me this long to realize it, but yes, Rizal is truly head and shoulders above most other heroes that these islands, or even this planet, have produced.

My friends have always told me that Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios would make me love my country more, but in my case, it didn’t. It was this simple, unadorned eyewitness’ account of his execution, told by a Guardia Civil no less, which did it for me.

Aside from patriotic stirrings, the narrative also aroused anger in me anger for the Spaniards who probably knew he was innocent and yet executed him anyway to douse cold water on a brewing revolution.

I had always thought that the Spaniards who supervised the execution gave him the dignity and respect befitting a cultured, highly-educated man despite being an enemy of the state. This Guardia Civil’s account, however, reveals that the Spaniards had nothing but arrogance and contempt for Rizal.

One colonel, for example, ordered the brass band to play loud music before the execution to make sure the crowd didn’t hear Rizal’s final words, and afterwards, as Rizal lay bleeding, ordered the same brass band to play a lively tune to celebrate the death of a traitor.

He also threatened anyone caught saying even one word of support for Rizal would be shot on the spot.

The captain of the firing squad, for his part, spoiled Rizal’s serene final moments by trying to provoke him into a shouting match.

According to Blas Hizon, this captain demanded that Rizal turn his back on his executioners and kneel down—two things this proud and innocent man would never do.

“Ang mga taksil lamang ang binabaril nang patalikod!” Rizal said.

“Ako’y hindi taksil sa aking bayan at hindi rin nagtaksil sa Espanya, kaya ibig kong mamatay sa harap ng mga punglo!”

An argument ensued, forcing an agitated Rizal to raise his voice. The colonel managed to convince the captain to give in, but a Spanish friar butted in and bore down his full clerical weight to make the two military officers change their minds again.

“Ang magigiting lamang ang binabaril nang paharap,” the priest told the officers. “Siya’y kaaway ng mga prayle at masugid na Mason at kalaban ng pamahalaan!”

So the condemned man was forced to turn his back on the firing squad, but when they made another attempt to make him kneel, an already stressed-out Rizal dismissed them, saying, “A, wala na akong kinikilalang kapangyarihan! Hindi ako makaluluhod, hinding-hindi!”

At that point, Blas Hizon narrated, the crowd grew restless. The captain repeated the colonel’s warning that anyone objecting to Rizal’s execution would be shot.

Only arrogance can make people in authority issue a threat as extreme as that. According to historian Austin Coates, the Spaniards were almost giddy over the prospect of liquidating not merely a traitor but The Arch-Traitor himself, “the principal organizer and living soul of the insurrection.”

The captain, according to Blas Hizon, was so irked by Rizal’s stubborn refusal to kneel that he ordered him (Hizon) to sound the bugle call for “Silence!” and proceeded with the execution. Eight Filipino soldiers fired eight shots at Rizal, and the suspicious captain afterward checked each gun to make sure they all unloaded. Any soldier found with an unfired gun would have been shot on the spot, according to Hizon.

Hizon also testified that Rizal did turn around at the moment of firing and fell on his left side: “Biglang pumihit si Rizal at ang mga punglo’y naglagusan sa kanyang katawan. Patagilid na bumagsak ang kanyang katawan.” When the captain saw that he was still alive, he pulled out his revolver and finished him off. The he shouted, “Viva España, viva!”

To which the Spaniards and the friars in the crowd shouted back, “Viva! Death to all traitors!”

The Spaniards could hardly contain their glee. The most dangerous man alive was dead at last! They ordered the brass band to play Marcha de Cadiz, while Rizal’s sisters wept over his corpse. The band played on until the carriage arrived and took away the lifeless body for disposal in an unmarked grave.

Look the Marcha de Cadiz up on YouTube and listen to it like I did. This was what the Spaniards played while Rizal lay on the grass bleeding. You will not be prepared for the profound emotions that will sweep over you.

For all we know, it was that outrageous display of arrogance, more than Rizal’s death itself that made Filipinos cross their threshold of tolerance. (In three years’ time, the Spaniards were out of the Philippines.)

Blas Hizon, who left the Guardia Civil and defected to the Katipunan the very next day after Rizal was executed, eventually turned over his historic bugle to Gen. Guillermo Masangkay.

In 1907, Gov. Sergio Osmeña (later President) recruited Hizon to become the maestro of the Cebu municipal band and arranged his reunion with another eyewitness, Rosauro Morales, who had kept with him a handful of soil stained with Rizal’s blood.

In 1908, when Antonio Abad went to Cebu to interview Hizon for this eyewitness account, he (Abad) claimed to have personally seen the bloodied soil encased in glass.

Where in the world could that be now?

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 20, 2011.

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