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What ever happened to the estate of Jose Rizal?

(Article published in the Dec 28,2005 issue of Manila Standard Today)

          One hundred years ago, Rizal biographer, Wenceslao Emilio Retana was given permission to transcribe, long-hand (for his was obviously an age prior even to the portable typewriter), the official files pertaining to the trial of national hero, Jose Rizal.

           His transcript was years later was requested of him by Don Epifanio de los Santos (whose initials “EDSA,” for the information of the young, is borne by the original circumferential road around what was thought to be already big Manila area) who published it in 1913.  EDSA’s son, José P. Santos, presented them in 1931 to Professor Gabriel A. Bernardo who then presented it to the Ateneo de Manila Archives in 1961. 

           Fr. Horacio V. De La Costa, of the Society of Jesus, under the joint sponsorship of the Ateneo de Manila and the Ateneo Alumni Association as their contribution to the Rizal Centennial celebrations, published the manuscript  on 29 June 1961 under the title, “The Trial of Rizal.”  The Spanish text was published with minor modifications to make it understandable to those not familiar with the syntax and textual symbols of the time.  And for the benefit of those among us, myself included, whose Spanish go no further than “yo te amo”, it was followed by the good historian’s translation. 

           Following my teacher, I too prescind from making any evaluation of either the legality or justice of the trial, preferring “to let the record speak for itself.” In way, res ipsa loquitur.  My sole intent is to determine what the properties of Rizal were at the time of his death, and how they were disposed of.


 It appears that 11 December 1896, Rizal was asked by Captain Rafael Dominguez, the investigating officer, to make a declaration of what he owns or nominate a bondsman.  The obvious purpose was to identify the source of payment of the civil indemnity attached to the conviction, in the event Rizal would be found guilty, of the crimes of rebellion, sedition and illegal association.  Government bureaucrats then and now try to make things easy for themselves.

           But Rizal, like most of us, complied, but not at all making it easy for his tormentors by not itemizing.  He said he had properties and assets only in Dapitan; in Hong Kong he had professional books and instruments, and with his family was a letter of credit which he was willing to turnover to the authorities.  Other than these, “he had nothing to declare for the purposes indicated.”

          The authorities then and now were skeptical and engaged in a search themselves by seeking “third party information”.  The search yielded some results, but understandably some responses from government officials were out of time.  For instance, after Rizal was executed the Register of Deeds of Laguna certified on 9 January 1897 certified that he had no record of Rizal’s possessions there. 

           The assets Dagupan turned out to be several parcels of land.  One was in the sitio of Daanglungsod of the town of Lubungan, with an area of about 34 hectares, 47 ares and 50 centiares with a stand of 2,000 abaca plants.  Another in the same area was about 58 ares and 58 centiares with a stand of 1,000 abaca plants.  Both properties were purchased from Don Sixto Carreón for 110 pesos. 

           Rizal also had a piece of hilly and stony land of about 18 hectares.  Improvements consisted in a light-material house of bamboo and palm-leave thatch with wooden posts and plank flooring, 10 meters and 5 centimeters long and 11 meters and 40 centimeters wide and a light-material shed of bamboo and palm-leaf thatch about 15 meters long and 7 meters and 10 centimers wide.  Both were in good condition.  Planted on the land were 31 coconut trees, 10 bamboo trees and a number of fruit trees.  This property was bought from the public domain, with the exception of a small portion that was purchased for 8 pesos.

           He had a small boat called a vilus, unfinished containing various items of no commercial value.

           The letter of credit was in the amount of seventy-three thousand pesos and seventy-six centavos issued in Manila by a certain Juan Velasco dated 29 August 1896.  On the back was written, “Received the amount of P25, Teodora Alonso, by Josefa Rizal”

           Personal, as in really personal, properties included a pair of cull-links of gold with little pearls and two amethysts and a tie-pin of gold with the pin itself of silver, the ornamental figure that of a bee.

           The real properties were all confiscated by the state upon Rizal’s conviction, apparently in satisfaction of the civil indemnity judgment of One Hundred Thousand Pesos.  The letter of credit, the cuff-links and the tie pin were handed over to the investigating officer.

           But the state had a human face: on 20 January 1897, Rizal’s parents asked the investigating officer for the return of the cuff-links and tie-pin as their keepsakes.  On 21 March 1897, the Judge Advocate General recommended granting the request.  Then as now, the bureaucratic process was long.  One year later, on 20 January 1898, the request was granted and the cuff-links and tie-clip were given to Rizal’s mother (his father had by then died). Since her health prevented her from leaving her house, the investigating officer brought it to her.

           Obviously, Rizal was not aware of the modern device now popular in off-shore jurisdictions known as the “asset-protection” trust.  More about that in a later column lest I be accused of aiding and abetting the commission of sedition by senior citizens whose words and actions, to my mind, are far from inciting to anything and exciting to no one other than the Secretary of Justice.