I am a Filipino. In my blood runs the immortal seed of heroes—seed that flowered down the centuries in deeds of courage and defiance. In my veins yet pulses the same hot blood that sent Lapulapu to battle against the alien foe, that drove Diego Silang and Dagohoy into rebellion against the foreign oppressor.
That seed is immortal. It is the self-same seed that flowered in the heart of Jose Rizal that morning in Bagumbayan when a volley of shots put an end to all that was mortal of him and made his spirit deathless forever; the same that flowered in the hearts of Bonifacio in Balintawak, of Gergorio del Pilar at Tirad Pass, of Antonio Luna at Calumpit; that bloomed in flowers of frustration in the sad heart of Emilio Aguinaldo at Palanan, and yet burst fourth royally again in the proud heart of Manuel L. Quezon when he stood at last on the threshold of ancient Malacañan Palace, in the symbolic act of possession and racial vindication.
—Carlos P. Romulo, I am a Filipino
To commemorate the sesquicentennial of the birth of Jose Rizal, the website of the Presidential Museum and Library makes its debut today, June 19, 2011. Rizal himself was familiar with Malacañan Palace, as the extract we are publishing online from the official history of the Palace explains (1); we are also republishing extracts from Rizal’s diary and letters, recounting his visits to the Palace, as well as a telegram quoted by one of his early biographers (2).
The official history tells us that Rizal’s sisters went to the Palace to plead for the life of their brother; and that they were turned away. The legend that arose from this event is even more heart-rendering, and is recounted by the first Filipino to reside in the Palace as the elected head of his people. Manuel L. Quezon, in his autobiography, The Good Fight, wrote,
From the grandstand, I went through streets crowded with people acclaiming their first President, on to the Palace of Malacañan, the great mansion on the bank of the Pasig River which had been the seat of power of foreign rulers for many decades past. As I stepped out of the presidential car and walked over the marble floor of the entrance hall, and up the wide stairway, I remembered the legend of the mother of Rizal, the great Filipino martyr and hero, who went up those stairs on her knees to seek executive clemency from the cruel Spanish Governor-General Polavieja, that would save her son’s life. This story had something to do with my reluctance to believe that capital punishment should ever be carried out. As a matter of fact, during my presidency, no man ever went to the electric chair. At the last moment I always stayed the hand of the executioner.
Since the time of the Commonwealth, a portrait of Rizal has been prominently displayed in the Palace. The largest and most prominent room in the Palace today, the Ceremonial Hall, is named after the nation’s foremost hero and man of letters.